The Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs got underway Saturday night with the AFC’s top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs in action against the Indianapolis Colts. A week off did nothing to slow the Chiefs’ offensive momentum.
Led by Patrick Mahomes, who did not find his first career playoff start nearly as intimidating as the pundits thought he would, the Chiefs jumped out to a 24-7 lead in the first half, and never looked back. The Colts hardly looked ready to play, nothing like the team that rode a 10-1 streak into the weekend. The Chiefs went on to win by a final score of 31-13.
The Cowboys and Rams met in the late game on Saturday night to decide the first of the NFC Championship entrants. The Rams’ running game was no match for the Cowboys defense, which got rolled over in a 30-22 win.
The Rams signed C.J. Anderson in mid-December, when Todd Gurley was dealing with a knee injury. Anderson had been released by both the Panthers and Raiders earlier in the season and was really just supposed to be a warm body while Gurley could heal up.
Instead, Anderson bulldozed defenses. In two games to end the season, he carried the ball 43 times for 299 yards and two touchdowns — that averaged out to 7 yards per carry. But that was against two of the worst teams in the NFL, the Cardinals and 49ers. Next up was the playoffs — and a Cowboys defense that ranked fifth in the league against the run during the regular season. Last week, they held the Seahawks’ top-ranked rushing offense to just 73 yards on the ground.
Anderson had more than that in the first half alone: 12 carries for 78 yards. Even with a healthy Gurley back in the lineup, Anderson was a force in the Rams’ first playoff win in 14 years. He used his big frame to help the Rams dominate the time of possession and scored what proved to be the game-winning touchdown.
Anderson was the leading rusher with 123 yards and two touchdowns. Plus, he did this:
Loser: “In the grasp”
On third down late in the second quarter, Dak Prescott was trying to buy some time to find an open receiver. HIs teammate La’el Collins tried to help him stay upright and avoid a Dante Fowler sack:
Prescott never touched the ground, but the ref blew the whistle.
The Referee must blow the play dead as soon as the passer is clearly in the grasp and control of any tackler behind the line, and the passer’s safety is in jeopardy.
And the Cowboys were forced to punt yet again.
Winner: Going for it
On the Cowboys’ first drive of the game, Jason Garrett, surprisingly, went for it on fourth-and-1 at midfield. They easily picked it up with Ezekiel Elliott. One play later, it paid off with an Amari Cooper touchdown to put the Cowboys, temporarily, ahead.
The Rams countered on their next drive by going for it on fourth-and-1 and Jared Goff got 3 yards out of it. They’d later add a field goal.
The Cowboys faced a similar situation in the third quarter, but this time they REALLY needed a score, trailing 23-7. Once again, it was fourth-and-1 at midfield and once again, Elliott got it. They scored a touchdown (and two-point conversion) on the drive to get it to a one-score game.
In the fourth quarter, the Rams basically sealed the game on fourth-and-goal. Sean McVay could’ve kicked a field goal to go up by 9. But this is OFFENSIVE GENIUS Sean McVay and he wanted a touchdown. C.J. Anderson obliged.
Loser: Going for it when your play call sucks
The Cowboys were riding a bit of momentum after FINALLY forcing the Rams to punt for the first time all game — in the second quarter. Trailing by 8, they faced another fourth-and-1. At this point, they were perfect on fourth downs. Going for it was the right call. The play call was not, though:
That was where the Cowboys’ hope really ended. The Rams scored a touchdown on the next drive to turn an 8-point game into a 15-point one.
Loser: The Cowboys’ playoff history
The Cowboys haven’t been past the Divisional Round in 23 years, since their Super Bowl XXX win. They’ll have to wait a little longer.
Winner: Celebrity sightings
The stars showed up LA Saturday night — fans of both teams. LeBron James moseyed on over from the Staples Center to cheer on his Cowboys. So did Post Malone. John Daly and Dennis Quaid, too. Sure, why not.
Peyton Manning and his son were in attendance, the latter sporting a Todd Gurley jersey:
Danny Trejo and Ty Burrell — the guy from Modern Family who isn’t a Chiefs fan — were there for the home team, too.
For the Chiefs and their fans, it was impossible to escape talk of last year’s loss to the Titans and a brutal 28-point lead frittered away in a 2014 Wild Card game against the Colts. Kansas City made it clear on its first possession of the game that this was a new day. The Chiefs covered 90 yards in five plays to jump out to a 7-point lead and never looked back.
When the Colts finally cut into the lead with a touchdown on a blocked punt in the second quarter, the Chiefs responded with a touchdown to make it 24-7.
Winner: Patrick Mahomes
Not bad for his first every playoff game. People who need things to talk about because they’re paid to talk about football nonstop spent the last two weeks warning us about Mahomes’ lack of postseason experience. Surprise, everything you heard on TV was a waste of time.
Winner: The Chiefs defense
The Chiefs haven’t had much of a defense to speak of all season. Maybe they were just saving it for the playoffs. They had Colts receivers blanketed in man coverage, leaving Andrew Luck nowhere to go with the football. Justin Houston had two sacks. Dee Ford had another. Chris Jones pressured Luck all night and batted down three passes along the way.
If the Chiefs defense can play this well next week, this is going to be a tough team to beat, maybe impossible.
Loser: Fun and sexiness
A few young people (old enough to drink, obviously) in the stands at Arrowhead decided to throw a few snowballs. Chiefs coach Andy Reid wanted NONE of that. It started when someone almost hit the Colts punter with an impressive 25-yard bullet. They delivered more icy artillery later in the first half when Reid shut it down.
Stopping fans from throwing snowballs onto the field kind of makes sense. Flagging a player for a sexy hip shake does not.
Colts defensive lineman Demico Autry decided to do a little celebrating after a fourth down sack of Patrick Mahomes in the third quarter. Apparently the smooth grind of his hips were just too much for the prudish refs.
He did do it right in front of the ref, though.
It was a rough night all around for the Colts, but Adam Vinatieri had the worst of it. He missed an easy 23-yard field goal at the end of the first half that would have cut the Colts’ deficit to 10 points. It was the shortest miss of his entire long-ass career.
The 23-yard try was the shortest missed field goal of Adam Vinatieri’s career.
He was 97-of-97 on field goal tries from 23 yards and in entering today’s game (including playoffs). https://t.co/pPlXFVNE5u
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 12, 2019
When the Colts offense finally scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter, he missed the extra point. It was the first time he’s missed an extra point in the playoffs (70 for 70 before that). Sorry it was 17 years too late, Charles Woodson.