NFLOL – Wild Card Round
The NFL kicked off its post-season this week with the wild-card round of playoffs. They’ve resisted my repeated suggestions to partner with Hasbro and make this the Uno!-themed Draw Four Wild Card Round. Imagine the excitement! Announcers already incorrectly refer to most end-around plays as “reverses,” which is a great sponsorship opportunity. Players with jersey numbers containing a 6 or a 9 will have them underlined to avoid confusion, just like with the playing cards. Any rapid-fire passing sequence will be known as an “Uno Attack.” For Spanish-language broadcasts, they can just call it “One.” Saca dos, amigos!
Even without the deal, the Arizona Cardinals followed the spirit of the card game. They played a “Skip” card nearly every second down, facing only five third downs the entire game. And Arizona was forced to play overtime after Neil Rackers forgot to say “Tres” before his potential game-winning chip shot field goal. Rackers’ uniform number is, of course, Uno.
New York Jets 24, Cincinnati 14
Last week, the Jets blew out the Bengals in New Jersey, though the Bengals had nothing to play for, other than the chance to eliminate the Jets from the playoffs. In a manner reminiscent of the 2007 Dallas Mavericks versus the Warriors, or the Earl of Gloucester in King Lear, the Bengals rolled over, and for their trouble, received a severe eye-gouging. Rookies Mark Sanchez and Shonn Greene, along with second-year Dusitn Keller, made the Bengals look old and slow, and in the wake of “Jersey Shore,” gave the nation new hope regarding young people who work in New Jersey.
In Week 17, Carson Palmer completed only one of his eleven passes, for a total of zero yards. In the playoff game against the Jets, he may have been worse. He completed 18 of his 36 passes, but even the completions were high, or behind his receivers – it’s no coincidence that two of his three primary receivers were injured in the first half. Palmer has to be thankful for kicker Shayne Graham, who shanked two different field goal attempts, and ensured that Palmer would not be the most inaccurate man on the Bengals on Saturday. Maybe those two can go house-hunting together in the off-season.
Cedric Benson had a solid game, but aside from him, the Bengals offense was quite subdued. They got a boost late in the game with the substitution of Quan Cosby, who had three big receptions, drew a personal foul penalty, and performed an impressive lip-sync routine to “The Night Time Is the Right Time” on the sidelines.
Dallas 34, Philadelphia 14
For a brief moment, it looked like the controversy and hassle of the Michael Vick experiment were going to pay off for the eagles. After a year where he was barely used, making more of an impact on PETA donations than wins and losses in Philly, Vick had his moment to shine in the second quarter, connecting with Jeremy Maclin on a 76-yard catch-and-run TD. Ten minutes and ten Dallas points later, pit bulls across America erupted in cheers as Vick fumbled a simple handoff to Leonard Weaver, leading to another Dallas TD. Weaver managed to make Eagles fans regret another free agent signing minutes later, as he fumbled and handed Dallas another three points. It was 27-7 and the game was effectively over.
Dallas ran for almost 200 yards, they sacked McNabb four times and hit him another nine, and even connected on both field goals. The only thing marring this dominant performance was the presence of George W. Bush in the owners’ box. Though Dallas owner Jerry Jones’ face is red and shiny from chemical peels, tightened and distorted from God knows how many face lifts, and while in close-ups, Jones’ face occasionally appears to be oozing Vaseline, looking at George W. Bush is far more repulsive. After Dallas scored to make it 7-0, Bush shouted “Mission accomplished!” and attempted to rush onto the field wearing a replica Cowboys jersey. At least there’s no chance of W sitting in the owner’s box for the championship game against New Orleans – it would be played in the Superdome, and Bush wouldn’t leave his ranch until two or three days after the game had been decided.
Baltimore 33, New England 14
I woke up minutes before the opening kickoff, and before I’d even finished peeing, Ray Rice had scored to make it 7-0. I was still brushing my teeth when Tom Brady was strip-sacked, and I still had sleep crust in the corners of my eye when LaRon McLain ran in Baltimore second TD. At this point, I thought about going back to bed, but reconsidered; many of the Patriots players appear to have made the opposite decision. No one has been humiliated as badly in Boston, or wussed out quite so hard, since Will Hunting asked that ponytailed dude if he liked apples. Joe Flacco completed four passes, the fewest ever for a winning playoff QB, and his team still won by 20. That may have embarrassed Bill Belichick even more than his goofy hat.
With Baltimore up 27-7, Tom Brady threw his second touchdown pass of the game to Julian Edelman. Edelman was fired up! He ran to the back of the end zone, holding the ball in front of him and pointing it to the cheering fans. As they stretched their arms out, reaching for a souvenir, Edelman walked to the retaining wall, as if to hand it off, but then dropped the ball, and it bounced away from the fans.
This play combined two things we saw a lot of Sunday: an inaccurate pass, and disappointed Patriots fans. It could have only been more emblematic of the game as a whole if Ed Reed had picked off Edelman’s toss and then lateraled it to a waiting Ravens fan, while Randy Moss stood and watched with his hands on his hips.
Arizona 51, Green Bay 45
There’s a Simpsons episode where Homer skips church to watch football, and sees the most thrilling NFL game imaginable. (“Oh, Doctor! A 98-yard triple-reverse ties the score at 63–63! We have seen nothing but razzle-dazzle here today, three visits from Morganna the Kissing Bandit, and the surprising return of Jim Brown!”) I would posit that Arizona-Green Bay was even more exciting than that mythical game. The teams combined for 96 points (just barely nudging above the Over/Under) and over 1,000 yards of offense. How electrifying was this game? Joe Buck’s voice occasionally displayed signs of emotion.
Green Bay sparked their comeback with a well-timed 3rd quarter onside kick, down fourteen, and in hindsight, they should have done that on every single kickoff, since they weren’t slowing down Arizona from anywhere on the field. Kurt Warner threw five touchdown passes, which is one more than the number of completions logged by Joe Flacco. If Homer’s game made him start his own religion, watching Warner may have made thousands of non-Christians think, “Maybe Jesus really does care about the outcome of sporting events.” Aaron Rodgers proved he was a worthy successor to Brett Favre as Packers QB, both with his stellar passing (422 yards, four TD passes) and his game-killing OT fumble. Was he like a kid out there? Yes, Green Bay, yes he was.
The game should have ended in regulation, but Cardinals kicker Neil Rackers shanked a 34-yard field goal with seconds remaining. Lucky for him, his family, the windows of his house, and the tires of his car, the defense bailed him out in overtime. I like to think Lawrence Tynes called Rackers after the game, to commiserate about being bailed in OT after blowing big field goals against the Packers. Somewhere far away, Gary Anderson sat alone in his home, drinking whiskey in the dark. A tip for Shayne Graham, and for Rackers, if he screws up next week and has to skip town: Scott Norwood is a licensed realtor.