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Sunday, December 16, 2018

10 biggest disappointments of NFL wild-card weekend

Andy Reid

NFL wild-card weekend is complete, and we’re down to eight remaining teams in the postseason. Four teams are going home after suffering losses. That means plenty of goats will have an entire offseason to reflect on what went wrong for them at the worst possible time.

Here’s a list of 10 big disappointments from the first weekend of the NFL playoffs.

Andy Reid, Chiefs

The Chiefs’ second half collapse on Saturday will do nothing to dispel Reid’s reputation as a guy who can consistently get you to the playoffs, but doesn’t know how to win there. Up 18 points at halftime, the Chiefs sleepwalked through the second half, ultimately losing out to a Titans team that some viewed as the worst in the playoffs. Not everything that happened was Reid’s fault, but he ultimately bears responsibility — especially since this keeps happening on his watch.

Officiating in Chiefs-Titans game

A series of reports on Sunday indicated that referee Jeff Triplette, who headed the crew that worked the Chiefs/Titans game, was retiring. If he is, he certainly didn’t go out on a high note. His crew made several bizarre decisions during the game, most notably ruling Marcus Mariota down by forward progress, wiping out a fumble that could have changed the entire game. The explanation for that ruling was woefully insufficient. Playoff referees are supposed to get these assignments on merit, but it’s hard to see how Triplette and his crew got that assignment, especially after a performance like that.

Pharoh Cooper, Rams

More than any other Rams player, Cooper seemed particularly rattled by the high-stakes playoff environment on Saturday night. He was caught in two minds on a short punt that ended up bouncing in front of him and hitting teammate Blake Countess, resulting in a turnover. Seemingly rattled by the first mistake, he fumbled a kickoff later in the first quarter, and seemed to be fighting the yips every time he went out there afterward. The Rams have had issues with special teams turnovers, and Cooper’s night put Los Angeles at a huge disadvantage early on.

Buffalo’s offensive playcalling

Offensive coordinator Rick Dennison’s number may be up after a stinker of an afternoon in Jacksonville. Yes, the Jaguars have an elite defense that unquestionably factored in the outcome, but he did little to help Tyrod Taylor and the Bills. The key moment came late in the second quarter, when the Bills had first-and-goal at the 1-yard line. For some inexplicable reason, Dennison elected to throw instead of handing the ball to LeSean McCoy, the team’s top offensive weapon. After an offensive pass interference penalty, the Bills had to settle for a field goal and ended up not scoring a touchdown all game. That series will haunt Buffalo. The Bills were not good, but they almost held themselves back at times with their playcalling.

Kaelin Clay, WR, Panthers

Clay’s huge first quarter drop was a study in momentum. If he catches the Cam Newton pass in the end zone, the Panthers go up 7-0 on the road and feel a whole lot better about things. It was an easy catch, too, and one that every NFL receiver should be making. Clay dropped it, though, and the Panthers were forced to settle for a 25-year field goal attempt, which Graham Gano shockingly missed. To make matter worse, the Saints immediately went downfield and scored a touchdown. Carolina losing by just five ended up being the icing on the cake. Clay won’t sleep well tonight.

Cam Newton hit

Concussion protocol and handling of Cam Newton

Get ready to hear more about the NFL’s concussion protocol. The Panthers blaming Newton’s brief exit on an eye issue after taking a vicious hit to the head did not sit well with many, especially since the QB returned to the game very quickly. It’s pretty easy to cook up a theory in which the Panthers, facing a do-or-die drive in a playoff game, came up with the explanation to get Newton back on the field as quickly as possible. Many people think the NFL’s concussion protocol doesn’t work. This will do nothing to quiet them.

Darrelle Revis, CB, Chiefs

It was almost sad watching Revis play on Saturday. Once the game’s most feared defensive back, he was a shell of himself against the Titans. It was his deflection that enabled Marcus Mariota’s bizarre touchdown pass to himself, which was more bad luck than anything else. However, Revis only has himself to blame for his lack of effort on Derrick Henry’s game-clinching first down run. This may well be the end for Revis. He hasn’t exactly lit the world alight since coming back to play for the Chiefs.

The Rams’ composure

Many wondered how the Rams would deal with the bright lights of the playoffs. They’re a very young team led by a second-year quarterback and a 31-year old head coach. Ultimately, it did seem that the occasion caught them by surprise. The Rams struggled in the first half against the more experienced Atlanta Falcons, with the aforementioned Pharoh Cooper’s struggles seemingly indicative of the team’s tightness. In the future, it will be less of an issue, but the Rams seemed to learn how different the playoffs are the hard way.

Devin Funchess, WR, Panthers

Funchess rebounded a bit from his late season malaise, and his surface numbers look fine. He caught four balls for 79 yards, but his day could have been much more. Cam Newton looked his way as a big play threat, but it didn’t happen for him — he was targeted eight times and missed a few 50/50 balls that could have really put the Carolina offense in motion. While he certainly wasn’t Public Enemy No. 1 in the defeat, he will probably have his share of regrets after this one.

Tyrod Taylor, QB, Bills

The odds are high that Sunday’s game was Taylor’s last as a Buffalo Bill. Jacksonville’s smothering defense limited his time and options, but he did have chances, and demonstrated the shortcomings in his decisionmaking. He didn’t spot open receivers several times and missed a few other throws, completing just 17 of his 38 passes for only 134 yards. For the Bills to take the next step, they simply need a better quarterback than Taylor has shown himself to be.



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