No shortage of bad coaching in divisional games

John Turner
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What teams will advance to Super Bowl?

Wow, what a great bunch of playoff games last weekend, which really made up for the lack of drama during wild-card weekend. 

For The Freak, it has been a very different experience this time around as the Giants didn’t make the playoffs, so you can just sit back, put the feet up and enjoy the games as a fan and a coach without all the tension and stress of watching your own team.

However, The Freak would prefer for Big Blue to be in the playoffs, and hopefully it will be a stressful run this time next season. 

Here were some of the many interesting things The Freak noticed in the divisional games last weekend:

- First, whether you think this read-option offence is “donkey ball,” it may be here to stay for awhile considering the success the 49ers, Seahawks and Redskins had with it this season.

NFL teams may start looking for these athletic quarterbacks in the draft after watching how sophomore Colin Kaepernick and rookie Russell Wilson performed last week. Really exciting to watch these guys run with the football, and what a nightmare for defensive co-ordinators. Wilson looked so poised in the pocket and almost pulled off one of the biggest comebacks in playoff history.

- Second, was it just The Freak, but didn’t you think there was some bad coaching last week?

The Freak was shaking his head as Denver coach John Fox made three big blunders in the last two minutes of its game. The first one happened when the Broncos had the ball with two minutes left in the game (Ravens had no timeouts), and on third-and-seven they run the ball instead of putting the game in Peyton Manning’s hands. You paid the guy $20 million a season, and these are the situations you pay him for. If you get a first down on this play, game over. 

However, it didn’t happen, which is fine, as Denver still has the lead and a good defence, but he forgot to tell his players to play as deep as the deepest player on the Ravens, which is something they learn back in Pop Warner football.

The final blunder was on the ensuing kickoff. Denver got the ball at its 20-yard line with 31 seconds left and two timeouts – enough time for at least five plays. Instead, you take a knee rather than trying to get into field-goal range. With that light air and Matt Prater’s leg, Denver had enough time to still be in the tournament.

In the Seattle-Atlanta game, it was bad enough that the Seahawks came back from 20 points down to take the lead, but for Falcons coach Mike Smith to squib-kick the ball to only the Seahawks’ 45-yard line, it gave Seattle an “opportunity” to make one pass and a game-winning kick.  Seattle should not have been given any “opportunity.”

Finally, Packers coach Mike McCarthy is an offensive guy, and it was obvious because the game plan he devised with defensive co-ordinator Dom Capers was crazy. Why in the world would you play man-to-man coverage against a great running quarterback like Colin Kaepernick? 

Your defence has no chance to defend this guy with their backs to him, and it showed on scoreboard.

 Stat of the week

Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is now 0-4 (won-lost) in playoff games when the weather is below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and 9-11 overall. He might need a few tips from little brother Eli on how to win in the playoffs.

Pet peeve of the week

The continuous delays in the games by these all-star officiating crews who only work together in the playoffs. In the Denver-Baltimore game, it felt like we were back to the dark days of those replacement officials.

Bonehead play of the week

The Freak is no doctor, but it seems very obvious Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski’s arm was not fully healed as he re-broke the same arm on a very harmless play. Perhaps New England rushed him back into action.

AFC Championship

Baltimore (12-6, Road 5-4) vs.

New England (13-4, Home 7-2)

In a rematch of last season’s AFC Championship game, a game many believed the Ravens should have won if Lee Evans doesn’t drop the sure touchdown late in the game.

However, playoff games come down to one or two plays, and the Ravens just didn’t make them. The one thing we know that will happen in this game is Tom Brady will be great. He continues to amaze how accurate he is, and if he has time you have no chance in holding the Pats under 30 points.

The only way to slow down New England’s offence is to get pressure from your D-line, especially up the middle as you have to get Brady off his spot and make him hold the ball for that extra second to disrupt their timing.

Baltimore, on the other hand, has a quarterback that, when hot like the last two weeks, can be one of the best in the league. But if that other quarterback shows up, which happens more often than not, the Ravens are in deep trouble.

We know this quarterback as Joe Flacco. He has some big weapons in speedster Torrey Smith, possession receiver Anquan Boldin, tight end Dennis Pitta, who works the seams and the middle of the field, and off course running back Ray Rice, who is a threat both on the ground and air.

X Factor Ravens

NT Haloti Ngata needs to have a career game and needs to get pressure up into Tom Brady’s face, which will disrupt his timing.

X Factor Patriots

DB Aqib Talib cannot allow Smith to run free all over the field, which he did against Champ Bailey.

Truth be told

The truth be told, that unless you are a true Pats’ fans, there are no other football fans cheering for this team. This should be a very competitive game that will come down to who wins the fourth quarter. 

Pats’ fans are saying they won’t miss Gronk as the team did well without him during the regular season. Well, they lost to San Fran and beat teams like Jacksonville and Miami twice, which is nothing to write home about.

However, it’s tough to bet against Brady at home, and you have to believe he will make one more play than Flacco. Patriots head to another Super Bowl, but are hoping it’s not the 49ers.

NFC Championship

San Fran (12-4-1, Road 5-3)

vs. Atlanta (14-3, Home 8-1)

The 49ers have another chance at getting to the Super Bowl as they travel to Atlanta. 

San Fran’s offence looks to be peaking at the right time, and they will need to score as the Falcons can move the ball as well with their eighth-ranked offence.

Atlanta almost blew a big lead last week, but Matt Ryan made two clutch throws to set up the game-winning field goal. They face a very good defence this week as the 49ers have the third best D in the NFL. 

Coach Harbaugh seems to make all the right moves while Coach Smith’s decisions seem to be criticized, especially in the playoffs, and this game may come down to a critical coaches decision.

X Factor 49ers

Defensive end Justin Smith is a force and the Falcons will need to double-team him, which allows Aldon Smith to get pressure on Matt Ryan.

X Factor Falcons

Atlanta gave up a lot of draft picks to draft Julio Jones a couple of years ago for a game like this, and he has to be that game-breaker on Sunday if the Falcons want to be in New Orleans in two weeks.


The Freak said last week the winner of the Packers-49ers’ game will win the Super Bowl, and will take the red and gold again this Sunday as they have a solid all-round team, and defences are having great difficulty shutting down this read-option offence. San Fran heads to New Orleans to meet New England in Super Bowl XlVII.

Last week: 2-for-4.

Season: 89-for-127.

Organizations: Ravens, Seahawks, NFL Giants Big Blue Redskins Seattle-Atlanta Denver-Baltimore

Geographic location: Denver, New England, Seattle Atlanta Baltimore New Orleans San Fran Jacksonville Miami

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