The WheelHouse discusses some hit or miss NFL Playoff topics like whether the Ravens’ postseason run is better than the 2007 Giants’ run.
From Jon Wagner / SNYGiants columnist
One decade after being a rookie a kicker right in the middle of perhaps the most excruciating defeat in New York Giants history, kicker Matt Bryant was handed a fortunate reprieve on Sunday afternoon and became an instant hero.
Bryant responded by saving the Atlanta Falcons from being ridiculed as the worst chokers in recent NFL playoff history.
Taking full advantage of a blunder by Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, who negated Bryant’s 49-yard miss with an ill-advised time out, Bryant booted a game-winning kick from the same distance as time expired, to give the Falcons a thrilling 30-28 victory and a trip to next week’s NFC title game, interestingly against the San Francisco 49ers.
The irony in facing that particular opponent is that the former undrafted kicker out of Baylor who began his career in 1999 with the arena league Barnstormers (made famous by another ex-Giant, quarterback Kurt Warner) and then NFL Europe’s Frankfurt Galaxy, was in his first year in the NFL while trying to kick the Giants past the 49ers and into the NFC championship game in San Francisco back on January 5, 2003.
That game never should have come down to a potential game-winning kick as the Falcons’ win over the Seahawks did.
The Giants were coasting with a 38-14 lead late in the third quarter, but 25 straight 49er points later, San Francisco had remarkably gone up 39-38.
With just over three minutes remaining, Bryant had a chance to give the Giants a 41-33 lead on a 42-yard field goal, but long snapper Trey Junkin, who at just 18 days away from his 42nd birthday at the time, was having trouble getting a clean snaps to holder Matt Allen, who happened to play for the Falcons in the preseason that year.
A bad snap by Junkin threw Bryant’s timing off, causing him to miss the kick. The 49ers went 76 yards in just 1:56 after that to take the lead for good, even though the Giants very nearly gave Bryant one last chance at winning the game.
New York got a 33-yard return on a short kickoff and moved to the 49ers’ 23-yard line. But, once again, Junkin botched the snap, leaving Allen to throw a desperation heave downfield to offensive lineman Rich Seubert, who was flagged for being an illegal man downfield.
What the referees ignored was that Seubert was mauled before the ball arrived, and the offsetting penalties that weren’t called would have allowed Bryant yet another chance that never came. The NFL later admitted that it blew the call, something that didn’t help the Giants at all.
Since that time, after bouncing around between Dallas, Indianapolis and Miami in 2004, Tampa Bay (2005-2008), the UFL’s Florida Tuskers in 2009, and finally to Atlanta later that same year, where he has remained, Bryant had waited his whole career to reach the stage he’s at now, just a game from the Super Bowl.
He didn’t have any field goal attempts in Tampa Bay’s 24-14 wild-card loss that spawned the Giants’ unlikely march to s Super Bowl victory five years ago, nor in the Falcons’ 48-21 home divisional playoff loss that sparked Green Bay’s equally surprising run to its own Super Bowl title two years ago, nor in Atlanta’s 24-2 wild-card loss in New York last year, which again started the Giants on their way to another NFL title.
Last year, Bryant was a very accurate 27-for-29, and in his 11th year this season, he’s 36-for-41, including a perfect 2-for-2 in the Falcons’ 34-0 thrashing of the Giants Week 15, and making all three kicks to beat Seattle on Sunday — that is, once Carroll allowed Bryant the opportunity to avoid the biggest miss of the Falcons’ season.
FOXSports.com’s J.J. Stokes, Curtis Conway, and Jill Arrington recap the NFC Divisional Playoff matchups.
Ray Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens head to Foxborough to take on the Patriots in a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship. Will Lewis and company get their revenge? James Brown and the guys from The NFL Today preview this intriguing matchup.
Three of the four participants in last year’s NFL Conference Championships have made their way back to the big games. Baltimore, New England and San Francisco are all in.
The team that isn’t all-in this year? Yup, it’s the Giants.
The Atlanta Falcons will host the 49ers next Sunday at 3:00pm on FOX. The Ravens will travel up to Foxborough for a rematch with the Pats at 6:30pm on CBS.
The FOX NFL Sunday crew look ahead to the NFC Championship Game.
Last year, the San Francisco 49ers’ offense was a lunchpail unit that plodded and pounded their way up and down the field. This season, they just might be the most dangerous and explosive offense in the NFL Playoffs.
In last night’s 45-31 throttling of Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Divisional round at Candlestick Park, second-year QB Colin Kaepernick led a diverse, well-oiled offense with speed and accuracy – a far cry from the station-to-station crew that made it to the NFC Championship Game last year behind QB Alex Smith.
Smith suffered a concussion in Week 10, opening the door for Kaepernick and San Francisco has become a fun team to watch ever since. Initially, Smith was slated to resume his starting role once he recovered, but head coach Jim Harbaugh liked what he saw from Kaepernick and sent overtures that he would be going with “the hot hand”.
Harbaugh’s decision to switch from the efficient Smith to a read-option style with Kaepernick in November may have been prompted by the success of Washington’s Robert Griffin III. Since Week 11 vs Chicago, San Fran has gone 6-2, including a shootout win vs the Patriots in New England.
Kaepernick. s postseason career got off to a slow start vs Green Bay, throwing a pick six on the Niners’ opening possession but then recovered to reward Harbaugh with a stellar performance (17/31, 263 yds and 2 TD). He set the all-time NFL single-game record for most rushing yards by a quarterback (181) in any NFL game, shattering Michael Vick’s record of 119 set in 2005.
San Francisco advances to the NFC Championship Game for the second straight season. Last year, they lost to the Giants in overtime at home. They will either head to Atlanta to face the top-seeded Falcons, or host their most-heated rivals – the Seattle Seahawks. The Niners defeated the Seahawks, 13-6, in Week 7 at home but were brutally beaten up Week 16 in Seattle, 42-13.
The NFL on FOX crew recaps Colin Kaepernick’s epic playoff performance in the 49ers’ win against the Packers.
Fennelly on Football: Ross to Jets? Vikings, Redskins Make Questionable Moves
John Fennelly , Executive Editor
Good morning. The first Monday in many months we come to you with very little Giants-related news. A little depressing, I know…..
**The Giants announced over the weekend they were no longer going to hold training camp at the University of Albany. Camp will be held at the Timex Performance Center beginning this summer. We like this move. I had said last summer that the Albany trip was becoming inconvenient for everyone: players, coaches, the team and the media. The fans were the only ones who benefited. It no longer made sense from financial and logistics perspectives to uproot the entire infrastructure for 14 practice sessions.
**Marc Ross, the team’s director of college scouting, will interview for the Jets’ GM vacancy today and for the same position with the Panthers tomorrow. In both cases, Ross would be inheriting the prior regime’s head coach: Rex Ryan with the Jets and Ron Rivera in Carolina. Both owho ners have stated the coaches would be back in 2013.
If Ross is as smart as advertised, he’ll steer clear of the Jets and their quarterback clusterbuck. The Jets are also locked into some horrible contracts and Ross would have to put on a magician’s cap in order to make any kind of dent in free agency.
Ross may end up back with the Giants anyway. Another Giant exec, Dave Gettleman, the team’s senior pro personnel analyst, is also being considered by the Panthers. The Jets are apparently favoring Tom Gamble, the 49ers director of player personnel, who interviewed with them this weekend.
**This week’s NFC WildCard games were contrasts in head-scratching decision-making. The Vikings decided to shelve QB Christian Ponder with a tricep injury in favor of Joe Webb. Tough break. Webb was awful, and the Packers just stacked the box and locked down Adrian Peterson.
Why did the Vikings choose not to at least dress Ponder? Starting Webb against the Packers was like brining a knife to a gunfight.
From the AP:
He (Ponder) completed nearly 71 percent of his throws in a win at St. Louis on Dec. 16, avoided the big mistakes in a win at Houston the following week and came up with his best game as a pro in the biggest game of the season — 234 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Green Bay that go the Vikings into the playoffs.
NBC and the viewing audience were gypped out of a night of football. If I were a Vikings fan, I’d feel shortchanged.
As it turns out, Ponder probably could not have played. He said after the game, the decision on whether he would play was “close”, but they could have left him active to at least keep the emotional balance in place until the game began. Once he was ruled out before the game, the Packers not only had the physical advantage, but the emotional and psychological edges as well.
I understand the ramifications of dressing a player who has no chance of playing. It takes away a body from another unit. But in this case, not dressing Ponder was almost like forfeiting. Webb had not thrown a pass all season. If Ponder was in uniform, Green Bay would have the possibility of him entering the game in the back of their minds. They would have had to prepare.
In Washington, Robert Griffin III came into the game with a knee issue. Playing in a brace, Griffin was operating at about 50% of capacity. When the Redskins went up, 14-0, in the first quarter and Griffin re-injured the knee, many felt it was perhaps time to switch to backup Kirk Cousins.
Seattle shut the Redskins out the rest of the way for a 24-14 win and brutally battered the visibly hobbled Griffin, who could not avoid the rush nor push off on his right leg to throw the ball with any accuracy. Cousins finally came in late in the game, but the momentum had already swung heavily in Seattle’s favor. Head coach Mike Shanahan left the decision to allow Griffin to continue in Griffin’s hands. Questionable move, but Griffin said after the game there was no way he was coming out and apparently he’s the boss in DC.
From our man Rich Tandler of CSNWashington:
Griffin was determined to stay in the game. Asked after the game how he would have reacted if Shanahan had taken him out of the game, Griffin answered defiantly.
“I probably would have been right back out there on the field,” he said. “You respect authority and I respect coach Shanahan but at the same time you have to step up and be a man sometimes and there was no way I was coming out of that game.”
Shanahan said that he struggled with the decision to keep his Pro Bowl quarterback in throughout the game. “It’s a very tough decision,” he said. You have to go with your gut and I did.”
The NFL goes on, even of the Giants do not. The playoffs kickoff this Saturday with the WildCard round. In the AFC, Cincinnati is at Houston and Minnesota plays the Packers for the second week in a row, this time at Lambeau.
On Sunday, the Colts go back to Baltimore while the Seahawks travel to Washington. Atlanta, San Francisco, New England and Denver drew first round byes.
Let’s make this as easy as possible. First, don’t get your hopes up. Second, get ready to do some scoreboard watching.
If Seattle wins tonight, they are still alive for the division and can win it next week. The 49ers will get at least a wildcard. The other will be either Minnesota, Chicago, Washington or the Giants.
If Seattle loses, the Niners win the West and they will be part of the wild mix that will be sorted out next Sunday.
If the Redskins beat the Cowboys, they win the NFC East. Dallas can only win the division. They cannot win a wildcard berth.
In order for the Giants to get into the playoffs, they first need to win their final game. They play the Eagles at MetLife next Sunday and the way things have been going, that will be no lay up.
The Giants cannot win the division. Dallas can still win it, though. The tiebreakers for two or more clubs are as follows:
- Head-to-head (best won-lost-tied percentage in games between the clubs).
- Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the division.
- Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games.
Each team is will be 2-2 in games between the clubs. The Giants get eliminated after the second tiebreaker. They will be only 3-3 in the division, the others, 4-2. Dallas would win the division on the third tiebreaker. They are 9-3 in common games. The Redskins are 8-4.
The Giants can gain a wildcard if they win, Dallas loses or ties and Minnesota and Chicago both lose. Other than Dallas, the others will be 9-7 and the tiebreaker is conference record. The Giants only have four conference losses. The Bears and Vikings will have six.
The Giants can also qualify if Minnesota or Chicago win. They would need to win and have Seattle lose tonight and next week.
Going into today, the Giants could have clinched a playoff spot with a win and losses by Chicago, Minnesota, Dallas and Washington. A Redskins tie also would have sufficed.
Some of that happened….
Minnesota (9-6) defeated Houston, 23-6. Washington (9-6) got by Philly, 27-20. Dallas (8-7) lost in OT to New Orleans and Chicago (8-6) plays Arizona in the late game.
So….there will be no playoff berth decided for anyone today. The Giants still control their playoff destiny with two wins. They also cannot be eliminated today.
Washington could have clinched a playoff spot had the Giants, Chicago and Minnesota all lost. They can win the NFC East with a victory over Dallas at home next week.
They could also could have gotten a spot if they won and Chicago, Minnesota, Washington all lost and Dallas tied, but that’s out the question now as well.
The Giants are 8-6 and find themselves in a very familiar position: fighting for the playoffs in Week 16 for the eighth consecutive season. If you’re a fan, you can’t really complain. Unless you’re spoiled, of course. Here’s how they’ve fared over the years…..
The Tom Coughlin era began in 2004 with a 6-10 finish. They were 5-4 with Kurt Warner at QB when Coughlin decided to make a switch to the rookie, Eli Manning. The Giants lost six in row before winning the finale against the Cowboys. It is the last sub .500 season the Giants have put their fans through.
The next season, the Giants were 10-4 after fourteen games and went on to win the NFC East with an 11-5 record. They lost 23-0 to the Panthers in the divisional round, the only time the team had been shut out under Coughlin until last week.