Wildcard Weekend: Saturday Recap

Quest To Hoist The Lombardi Trophy Kicks Off With Wildcard Weekend

The quest to crown a new Super Bowl champion is officially underway. There were two games on Saturday to kick off the postseason festivities; The Oakland Raiders going to Houston to take on the Texans and the Detroit Lions traveling to CenturyLink Field to battle with the Seattle Seahawks.

Oakland Raiders 14 Houston Texans 27

Wildcard Weekend started Saturday with the Oakland Raiders traveling to Houston to take on the Texans. For the Raiders and their fans, it was a bittersweet moment as it was the first time the Raiders had appeared in a postseason game since they lost to the Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVII, but they would have to play the game without the main player who brought them to the playoffs in the first place, quarterback Derek Carr.

Carr went down in week 16 against the Indianapolis Colts with a broken fibula. When Carr was lost, many felt so were the Raiders chances of making a run in the playoffs. To make matters worse, the Raiders with Matt McGloin fell flat against the Denver Broncos in week 17, giving away the division and a first round bye in the process.

The Raiders at 12-4 would have to play on the road against the Houston Texans.

With Matt McGloin playing poorly on top of suffering a shoulder injury in the loss to the Broncos, Oakland decided to roll into the playoffs with rookie Connor Cook behind center. It would be the first time a rookie’s first NFL start came in the playoffs. Cook playing in his first NFL game in the playoffs against the top rated defense in the NFL wasn’t exactly a recipe for success. Cook threw for only 161 yards on 45 attempts with a touchdown and three interceptions.

The Texans came into Wildcard Weekend with quarterback issues of their own. After benching Brock Osweiler in week 16 for poor play, the Texans were forced to return to him after an injury to his replacement Tom Savage. There was also added pressure on the Texans as there were pleanty of reports floating around that a loss by the Texans would cost head coach Bill O’Brien his job.

The Raiders spent there first few offense drives playing an ultra-conservative style of football that just wasn’t flying against the Texans. All Oakland playing conservative accomplished was warming up the Texans defense to be a force to be reckoned with all game long. By the time the Texans decided to open the playbook, the Houston defense had already put claim to the direction of the game.

After a rough, injury plagued beginning to his career, Jadeveon Clowney finally showed the world this season why he was the number one pick. If the world wasn’t paying attention, he made sure they got to see why on Saturday. Clowney’s stats sheet may only read one tackle and one interception, but make no mistake about it, Connor Cook will be seeing Clowney in his nightmares tonight. Clowney tipped multiple passes on Saturday, including a interception that resulted in a Lamar Miller four yard touchdown just one play later.

Speaking of Connor Cook’s nightmares, Whitney Mercilus had an absolute monster game from the outside linebacker position. Mercilus accounted for seven tackles and two sacks. What you don’t see on the stat sheet is the numerous times Cook was running for his life with Mercilus giving chase from behind.

Although neither team really got the passing game going, Brock Osweiler did what he had to do to get the job done playing behind a stellar defense. He was responsible for a pretty touchdown drive in the closing minutes of the first half, thanks to a good connection with receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Osweiler would add another touchdown with his legs in the fourth quarter to put the Texans up by three scores.

Connor Cook would have his playoff moment on the following drive when he connected with an eight yard touchdown strike to Andre Holmes. The touchdown would give the Raiders a glimmer of hope pulling them to within two scores, but Cook would throw interceptions on the two ensuing Raiders possessions sealing the Raiders fate.

One of the unsung heros in this game would have to be Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph. Joseph was all over the field on Saturday accounting for ten tackles and breaking up passes all day long.

The Texans will await the winner of the Dolphins-Steelers game to see if they will travel to Kansas City or New England for the Divisional Round.

Detroit Lions 6 Seattle Seahawks 26

In case there was any doubt to anyone outside of Seattle, the Seahawks ‘Legion of Boom’ defense is still alive and well. The late Saturday game featured a team, the Seahawks, that acted like they been in the playoffs before, and another team, the Lions, who didn’t. It was only their third playoff appearance in the last 17 years.

Detroit had issues on both sides of the ball. The Lions offense was never able to sustain a drive, and were held to just 231 net yards when they were averaging 338.8 yards per game during the season. Even the two field goal drives they put together weren’t all that impressive as Lions’ kicker Matt Prater had to connect from over 50 yards away on each one. The defense didn’t exactly bail out the offense either giving up 387 net yards to the Seahawks offense that has struggled at times this season, especially on the ground.

For all that the Lions’ defense did wrong in this wildcard matchup, credit needs to be given to Seattle offense as well. Russell Wilson was efficient completing 23 of his 30 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns. Although 224 yards isn’t an eye-popping number, Wilson  made plays when he needed to and more importantly played mistake-free football. One of Wilson’s most impressive plays Saturday evening came when he didn’t have the ball, making his way downfield to throw a block on a big run by Thomas Rawles.

When Marshawn Lynch retired from the Seahawks last season, it was to be expected that the rushing attack would take a hit. No one gave that memo to Thomas Rawls, who broke tackles, showcased his speed and spun his way to a big game. Rawls used Wildcard Weekend to actually set the Seahawks playoff rushing record by recording 161 yards on the ground, breaking Marshawn Lynch’s record of 157 set in 2014. Not too shabby, especially since issues with injuries have cost Rawls time in both of his NFL seasons.

The stat sheet will tell you that Doug Baldwin was Wilson’s top target Saturday evening, but it was receiver Paul Richardson who stole the show. Richardson made recieving look on Wildcard Weekend, making a pair of one-handed catches that included a touchdown catch that could very easily take catch of the year honors. Richardson finished with three catches (all of which were impressive) for 48 yards and a touchdown.

The victory by the Seahawks sets them up with a Divisional Round matchup against the Atlanta Falcons. These two teams put up quite a show the last time they met up with Seattle winning 26-24.