Remember the days when the NFL playoff games were compelling?
The first three this weekend contained not a lick of drama.
The Bonnies’ tense 68-65 victory over Saint Joseph’s on Saturday night at the Reilly Center, and the introduction of the 1970 Final Four team at halftime was considerably more compelling. Best of all, that game spared me watching the second half of New Orleans’ evisceration of Arizona, and the opening 30 minutes of Indianapolis’ workmanlike dispatching of Baltimore.
Minnesota’s 34-3 domination of Dallas in Sunday’s first game wasn’t a lot of fun either … unless you were a Vikings’ fan.
But as with Arizona’s 51-45 overtime triumph against Green Bay a week ago Sunday, the final game saved the weekend.
The Jets’ stunning 17-14 victory over the Chargers in San Diego was the stuff of which playoff memories are made.
Herewith are some observations from a weekend of three blowouts and a nail-biter.
LET ME GET this straight, Marty Schottenheimer, in his last three seasons coaching the Chargers, went 35-13, including 14-2 his last year, only to be fired after a three-point playoff loss to underdog New England in San Diego.
In his three seasons guiding the Chargers, Norv Turner went 32-16, 13-3 this year, and lost to the long shot Jets in a divisional playoff game.
Will general manager A.J. Smith, former Pro Personnel Director for the Bills, pull the trigger on Turner as he did on Schottenheimer?
It would be on merit.
Yeah, it could be argued that the Jets were lucky.
Nate Kaeding, the Chargers’ Pro Bowl kicker, missed three field goals, any one of which might have sent the game to overtime.
Darrelle Revis, one of the NFL’s premier cover corners, made an amazing interception on a Philip Rivers pass that pin-balled off Charger receiver Vincent Jackson’s hands and thigh and his own leg and foot.
But a lot of it was on Turner.
The undisciplined Chargers committed 10 penalties, all hurtful, but three killers.
A foolish head-butt infraction on Shaun Phillips set up the Jets’ first touchdown, an unsportsmanlike conduct call on Jackson for kicking the Jets’ challenge flag wasted some critical time and yardage late, and a needless block-in-the-back by Malcolm Floyd nullified a 23-yard pass play that had the Chargers at New York’s 15-yard-line and already up 7-3.
But his biggest blunder was mishandling the last two-plus minutes after the Chargers had closed the deficit to 17-14.
San Diego had a timeout remaining and the two-minute warning to stop the clock.
But instead of kicking off deep, trying to get a stop, and forcing the Jets to punt from deep in their own territory, Turner opted for an unsuccessful onside kick. As a result of the great field position, on fourth down, rather than punting - as the Jets would have done had San Diego kicked off deep - they went for it and made the game-clinching first down.
Turner might not be fired, but you could make a case for it.
THE GAME between the Saints and Cardinals, which appeared to be this round’s best, was over in the second quarter.
Luckily, I had Arizona plus-32 … ah, maybe not.
Yeah, it was high-scoring, but New Orleans accounted for most of it.
And, watching the Saints take immediate control, I was reminded of something that occurred to me last week.
To be sure, Arizona’s OT victory in Glendale was this season’s best playoff game … indeed, one of the greatest of all time.
But what struck me in that offensive explosion was how many Packers’ receivers ran free in the secondary, and how poorly the Cards’ defense tackled.
And on this day, it cost Arizona.
THERE’S not much to say about the Cowboys-Vikings.
But can we close the book on Shaun Suisham?
After the fourth-year place-kicker helped wreck the Redskins’ season, he let down Dallas by missing two key field goals against the Vikings while it was still a game.
The worst performance, though, was by Fox play-by-play man Joe Buck. Incredibly, he totally blew the call on a Vikings’ running-into-the-punter call. Buck made it sound as if Minnesota erred it making Dallas punt again, never realizing it was the Cowboys’ call and a no-brainer for a second kick.
It was a mistake a college broadcaster wouldn’t make.
The game’s best performance was by Vikings’ defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, supposedly the “leader in the clubhouse” for the Bills’ head-coaching job. If that’s true, his unit’s performance against Dallas was an impressive addition to his resume.
The only game that went exactly as anticipated.
It wasn’t exciting … but it was predictable.
(Chuck Pollock, the Times Herald sports editor, can be reached at email@example.com)