10 biggest disappointments of the NFL divisional round
It wasn’t the greatest divisional round for competitive games, nor was it the finest weekend for some players, either. The four games offered a lot of memorable moments, but there are some who factored into the four results who will want to put this weekend’s action behind them as quickly as possible.
Here are ten of the biggest disappointments from the divisional round of the playoffs.
Andrew Luck, QB, Colts
The weather seemed to effect Luck more than anyone else on the field in Kansas City on Saturday. It wasn’t entirely his fault — his protection was not up to standard — but he had several passes tipped at the line and avoided a number of interceptions that Kansas City defenders just dropped. His 203 yards were lower than usual, and it’s impossible to look at this as anything but a disappointment, especially against a Kansas City defense that seemed vulnerable.
Los Angeles Chargers’ offense
Philip Rivers was probably the least to blame for the Chargers’ misfortunes on Sunday. He was hurried for most of the game, taking two sacks and getting hit seven times by the New England defense. That was largely on the offensive line, and it doesn’t count the amount of times he was flushed out of the pocket, which was essentially a death sentence for plays it happened on. Melvin Gordon also proved useless, grabbing just 15 yards on nine carries as the Chargers were forced to the air by their early deficit. Rivers never had the time to make plays despite being the one tasked with doing it. That’s a bad combination.
Dallas Cowboys’ run defense
It was the Rams’ run defense that was supposed to be more vulnerable in this one. Instead, Dallas got thoroughly gashed by two Los Angeles running backs. Todd Gurley was his usual self with 115 yards on 16 carries, but C.J. Anderson was the real surprise, going for 123 yards on 23 carries. In total, the Rams posted 273 rushing yards on Dallas, and all three of their touchdowns came on the ground. The Cowboys had no answer for the two-headed monster of Gurley and Anderson.
Los Angeles Chargers’ pass rush
It’s a lot easier said than done, but the key to beating Tom Brady has often been to put him under as much pressure as possible. On paper, it looked like a Charger line led by Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram would be able to do it. Ultimately, Brady found himself under little pressure all day, taking zero sacks and only being hit twice. Ingram had just two tackles and Bosa didn’t even touch Brady — or anyone else — all day. The lack of pressure allowed the Patriot quarterback to pick apart the defense and was a thorough failure on their part.
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys
Elliott was seen by many as the key to Dallas’ gameplan against the Rams. If he did well, Dallas had a good chance given his opponent’s vulnerabilities. Unfortunately, Elliott did not do well. He ran for just 47 yards, his second-worst tally of the entire season. He caught just two passes for 19 yards, meaning he wasn’t a big factor in the passing game either. Elliott has been so good all year that everyone figured he’d be a big part of any Dallas playoff performance, but he was not in this one.
Philadelphia Eagles’ offense
It’s fair to say that when the Eagles jumped out to a 14-0 lead on the Saints, it looked like they were, at the very least, going to push New Orleans as far as they could go. To an extent, they did, but they could’ve won had the Philadelphia offense not completely gone to sleep after the first quarter. Nick Foles ended up throwing for 201 yards, and he got no help from a running game that produced just 49 total yards. You simply can’t stall out after one quarter, but that’s what Foles and and the Eagles ended up doing, culminating in his crushing interception with 1:52 left in the fourth to extinguish their hopes for good.
Desmond King, CB/PR, Chargers
An All-Pro known for his coverage and his return work, King failed at both Sunday against the New England Patriots. His blown coverage played a role in New England’s third touchdown to put the Chargers behind 21-7. King was also responsible for perhaps the most backbreaking play of Sunday’s game, fumbling a punt return late in the first half. Had the Chargers received the ball and scored, they could have made it a two-score game at the half, but the Patriots instead went up 35-7 and effectively put it to rest. This is not a game King will want to remember.
Alvin Kamara, RB, Saints
Statistically, Kamara didn’t have a terrible day, picking up 71 yards on 16 carries to go with 35 receiving yards. However, when the Saints called on him to run clock and gain yards, he struggled to get it going and was contained for much of the day by the Philadelphia defensive front. Kamara remains an all-purpose threat, but he also had a hard time icing the game, losing three key yards ahead of Will Lutz’s missed field goal that left the door open for a Philadelphia comeback, even if it didn’t come to fruition. He did have one last burst that iced the game, though that was perhaps his most memorable contribution of the day.
Indianapolis Colts’ offense
Luck was singled out, but the entire Indianapolis offense did not do their job against a Kansas City Chiefs defense that looked vulnerable. The offense scored just six points Saturday as the Chiefs forced an uncharacteristic number of three-and-outs. The offensive line did a poor job of protecting Luck, there was little in the way of a running game, few receivers were able to find separation downfield, there were several drops, and even in key moments they were doing things like throwing short of the marker. Everything went wrong in this one in a game that they probably expected to do well in.
New Orleans Saints’ offense
Full credit to the Philadelphia defense, which handled the Saints quite well overall on the day, even if they couldn’t hold a 14-0 lead. On the whole, though, even in victory, the Saints were held in check. They scored 20 points, Drew Brees barely made it to 300 yards, and the running game never turned into a big factor. Michael Thomas had a great day for New Orleans, but this was not the Saints at their most dangerous or high-flying.