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Saturday Wild-Card Open Game Discussion

Derrick Henry
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

Here's our thread for live discussion of Saturday's wild-card playoff games: Buffalo at Houston and then Tennessee at New England. We've now started a second, separate thread for Sunday's two games and you'll find that thread here.

Comments

212 comments, Last at 06 Jan 2020, 9:14am

1 Pibdm ar

Bills 24 texcan 28
Titlan 27 petas 17 brady throws 3 ints

Minnesotya 19 new orlwba 21
Sewtle 44 philrafbphea 23

4 My guesses

Bills, Titans, Saints, Eagles.
Though as a 49ers fan I would rather Vikings win.

165 Nice

Buf-16 Hou-13 (OT)

Ten-31 NE-21

Not precisely on the dot, but these two predictions really do a good job anticipating what happened in the games. Texans-Buffalo really was decided by a FG in OT. Tennessee really did solidly surpass the Pates, even holding them scoreless for the final 32 minutes.

6 Picks

BUF 20 @ HOU 17
TEN 20 @ NE 30
MIN 23 @ NO 28
SEA 16 @ PHI 21

Out of those, most confident about Buffalo, least confident about the Pats I guess.

Should be a good weekend. Don't remember the last time I was this pumped for a set of Wild Card games.

8 Even though I'm a Jets fan,…

Even though I'm a Jets fan, I find it hard to root against this Bills team. You run a quarterback sweep and an end-around throw back to the quarterback on the first drive. Still have my doubts about Allen though.

10 Do the Texans fans not…

Do the Texans fans not understand how to act in a game, or was the stadium invaded by the Buffalo mafia? Why is it so loud when the Texans are on offense?

11 Bills opening drive…

Bills opening drive touchdown didn't involve Allen throwing a ball beyond the line of scrimmage, but did include a designed QB run and a WR to QB touchdown pass.

This is exactly the type of playcalling that was missing in the Bills loss to NE in Foxborough a few weeks ago.

12 Obviously, if things had…

Obviously, if things had played out the same way in Week 17 that game would've been huge for the Bills. But at the time it was hard to imagine NE losing to Miami. Saving a few tricks for the playoffs (if that's what the Bills did) made sense under the circumstances.

19 The WR to QB pass I agree…

The WR to QB pass I agree with you about.

Designing more of the offense around Allen's legs is less a trick play and more something I think the Bills should focus on.  Maybe now that the playoffs have started, they will.

14 Houston pass rush is utterly…

Houston pass rush is utterly non-existent. Fortunately for the Bills, Josh Allen's blunders haven't proven costly. Buffalo's receivers are good.

16 They definitely appear to…

They definitely appear to lack explosiveness without Fuller. Hopkins is still a fine receiver, but is more of a possession guy these days. I don't understand why they are so reluctant to utilise Duke Johnson. 

17 Ok now the bills score a td…

Ok now the bills score a td on the kickoff. Because apparently houston forgot to down the ball

Edit nevermind..still a weird play

20 I was just about to say JJ…

I was just about to say JJ Watt had been invisible all game (understandably, given the injury), then he blows up the RT and sacks Allen single-handedly to keep it to a FG and a 2-possession game. Damned impressive.

The Bills defense is quite good but I really can't believe how little Houston has managed to do on the other side. I think this is only the second time they've even crossed midfield (first being a decision to punt from the 37 - well, delay-of-gamed to the 42).

UPDATE: They did something! Deshaun Watson trucked some fools, specifically. 'twas awesome.

23 Now is when Allen has to…

Now is when Allen has to protect the ball. A Bills turnover here after Houston made it an 8-point game could be a killer.

A drive for points could be a killer the other way.

EDIT: LOL  I swear, I hit "Save" to post the above less than 60 seconds before Allen fumbled the ball away.

27 You're a witch! There was…

You're a witch!

There was always going to be some implosion potential with Allen, but he'd been mostly stable the second half of the season. Every QB gets stripped now and again; the game/season likely comes down to whether he can keep it together now, or goes full meltdown.

28 He looked worse on that…

He looked worse on that first quarter 'drive' near his own end zone, when he threw two consecutive near pick-sixes.  That last throw to Williams was off but low, where no one could pick it off at least.  He hasn't played that bad today.  Granted, Houston doesn't have a good defense.

30 Agreed.  Allen's helped the…

Agreed.  Allen's helped the Bills win a few games late in the season that I thought they'd lose, mostly by not trying to do too much and not turning the ball over.

He might be behind by the next time he gets the ball, but this game's still winnable as long as Allen plays the way he did in the first half.

26 Sadly, the turning point of…

Sadly, the turning point of this game was probably the called back kickoff-fumble.

I was cautiously optimistic at 13-0, but FGs probably aren't going to win this

38 O'Brien gut check time. …

O'Brien gut check time. Kick everyone's favourite FG to make a 3-point lead a 6-point lead, or go for it on 4th-and-1 … and he's going for it!

44 Honestly, given the quality…

Honestly, given the quality of the Buffalo defense and general lack thereof of the Houston o-line, plus the way the Bills have generally been able to move the ball pretty well between the redzones, the downside risk was relatively high and I think I would've kicked the FG to make them try to get the TD.

Of course, the fact that the opposing QB is Josh Allen, in full meltdown mode now, has to be factored into the calculus...

47 I agree, and I think Allen's…

I agree, and I think Allen's struggles make O'Brien's decision even worse.  There's almost no chance Allen could lead a TD drive, especially with no timeouts.  Letting him drive for a FG lets the Bills off the hook.

50 Why, because he's been bad…

Why, because he's been bad for the previous two drives? Did you see what happened at the end of the second half against the best defense in the league two weeks ago? Josh Allen certainly has big play potential, whatever his many faults.

59 I think a big play for a TD…

I think a big play for a TD is still a much heavier lift than a big play to get into FG range. I'd still like my chances to keep him out of the end zone much more than those to (convert or keep out of FG range).

39 It's not his fault that they…

It's not his fault that they gave up fairly quick pressure, but by choosing to react by running backward, Josh Allen lost a total of 36 yards on consecutive plays. That was... Not good.

42 Did Josh Allen just have a…

Did Josh Allen just have a stroke??? He throws an out of control lateral while picking up a first down at midfield with a minute left, down by only 3. He's bailed out by a teammate who alertly bats the ball backward and out of bounds, letting the Bills keep possession and avoid a penalty.

McFarland: "Hopefully, (Allen) makes smarter decisions down the stretch." What an understatement!

48 Am I having a stroke? His…

Am I having a stroke? His knee hit the ground, then he jumped up, guy touched him in midair so he's down the next time his knee/elbow hits the ground... but the announcers wanted to mark him down where the guy touched him in midair??? That rules expert guy (Blandino I think?) has been massively wrong on down-spots twice now (the Watson touchdown run).

Anyway, credit where it's due, that was a very solid play by Allen and a nice run by the receiver to keep them alive.

49 I'm impressed with Joe…

I'm impressed with Joe Tessitore, he's called a great game today. Booger has continued his year of mostly competent work too.

53 I saw multiple NFL writers…

I saw multiple NFL writers on Twitter acting as if the game was definitely over after the Bills terrible fourth down turnover, saying things like "The Bills streak of not winning a playoff game extends for another year." They still had three timeouts. How can you write professionally about a sport and have such a poor understanding of the basic mechanics of the rules?

55 OT rules question...if you…

OT rules question...if you lose the coin flip and have to kick off to start overtime, what if you do an onside kick and recover it? Can you then win the game with just a FG? Or does it still require a TD? In essence when the kicker kicks the ball does a possession start for the other team so that recovering the kick allows you to win with just a FG.

60 Right, that's kind of what I…

Right, that's kind of what I thought. If you have a good D, it seems like it might be worth it to try it. I guess it depends on how much more likely the receiving team is to score a TD if they get the ball at the 50 instead of the 25.

58 I'm pretty sure they use the…

I'm pretty sure they use the wording "the opportunity to possess" for precisely this reason, or, more likely, for the occasion when the receiving team fumbles the ball to the kicking team. Receiving a kickoff counts as an opportunity to possess so it's first score wins in such scenarios.

62 Glad they caught that…

Glad they caught that illegal block after whiffing completely on the headshot two plays prior

86 Full ruling

According to language in a video posted to the Twitter account of the NFL Football Operations staff, a blindside block “is a foul if a player initiates a block in which he is moving toward or parallel to his own end line and makes forcible contact to his opponent with his helmet, forearm, or shoulder.”

65 What an insane contrast of…

What an insane contrast of quarterbacks. You've got top-level drama on one side with Watson clinicly fighting against a top defense, and comedy on the other, with Josh Allen's avante garde take on playing offense.

What an entertaining game. I've been rooting for the Texans all night, but now I kinda want the Bills to win so we get another week of complete insanity.

82 Your description of Allen's…

Your description of Allen's play as "avante garde" got a pretty good laugh from me.

I actually ended up going the other direction with my rooting interests. I started the game rooting for Buffalo for the sake of their long-suffering fans, but I felt like Allen should be further punished for his insane attempted lateral, and wanted to see Watson given more opportunities to make brilliant plays.

66 how the fuck were the bills…

how the fuck were the bills called for a blindside block when cody ford was looking the guy in the fucking face as he blocked him from the front/side. fucking horseshit. the bills cant beat the god damn refs and the texans both

71 They changed the rule this…

They changed the rule this year. "Blindside" is a confusing misnomer, but the block actually was illegal. You can't block towards your own end zone now, and they call it a blindside for some reason.

75 This seems like a rule in…

This seems like a rule in need of some amendment.  I get the intent of it, but when you're actually face-to-face with the guy you're blocking and even pull up to only block him, not flatten him, there's no actual player injury risk.

On the other hand, maybe simpler rules are better in that they're easier for players to follow and easier for officials to enforce consistently.

Anyway, when the rule was changed, they should have dropped the old name for it.

70 Finally this game is over

Finally this game is over.

But this should have been a bills win. Allen has to learn to protect the ball and play smarter

74 Well that turned into one of…

Well that turned into one of the most entertaining games I've ever seen. Congrats to the Texans! Watson is special.

78 Brady gets away with grounding.

And it was identical to the play where Josh Allen just earlier got called for grounding. Once again, Brady gets to break the rules.

83 The Fog

Is that frozen breath in the air, or did the fireworks go off prematurely?

167 Good Thing

In reply to by alljack

It's a good thing they fired off the fireworks before the game.

85 Brady playing much more like…

Brady playing much more like a game manager than a superstar and Ben Watson leading the Pats in receiving yards... Did we time warp back to 2004?

91 Looks like the Patriots…

Looks like the Patriots offense is having one of its good weeks. I don't like the Titans chances having to score a lot on that defense.

93 Romo Taking a Step Back

His comment on how the Titans offense just need 100 yards from Henry seems like the average bad commentator logic, and really dumbs down the game. Does it seem to anyone else like he's doing more of that this year? I have a vague feeling he's been worse this year but can't remember specifics.

95 Yeah, but I don't think it's…

Yeah, but I don't think it's unique to him.  New commentators often get worse over time.  I'm not sure if it's just laziness, or if they are being actively encouraged to "dumb down" their analysis.

97 Well it is a degree better…

Well it is a degree better than the classic "give the running back xx carries" announcer fallacy, as it at least implies Henry has achieved some success (rather than simply volume). But yes, not intelligent commentary. 

98 New England is something…

New England is something like 3-3 vs teams that run for 120 yards and 14-0 against teams that don’t.

Part of that is don’t play from behind, but some of it is staying balanced and playing to the weakness of the NE defense.

104 Perhaps Nitpicky Point

I guess this is the part that annoyed me the most about this.  You can actually make a reasonable "running game matters here" argument.  You could mention the success of Tennessee running the ball with Henry this year, or that the past few years running against the Patriots defense has been excellent against the pass and relatively beatable by the run, or say that you expect a low scoring game here, so even a decent amount of running game success could be enough (though it would seem now you need more than a decent amount), but instead they bring up these numbers as if they are magic numbers.

94 NE has the 11th ranked…

NE has the 11th ranked offense by DVOA and Tennessee the 16th ranked defense, but the gap looks larger than that. The Titans are just barely hanging in this game thanks to a few third down stops. It could easily be a much larger lead.

100 Henry has touched the ball…

Henry has touched the ball 15 times for the Titans. Outside of Tannehill, no one else on the team has touched it more than once.

101 The lesson from the first 1…

The lesson from the first 1.5 games today is that the team being outplayed can still be leading (and maybe end up winning) if they repeatedly hold their opponent to FGs while scoring TDs on their own relatively few successful drives.

102 1 (one) single penalty…

1 (one) single penalty during that half of football, as the the NFL apparently continues to referee playoff games according to an entirely different rules standard.

103 New England used “Lion” as…

New England used “Lion” as an audible call on that 3rd-6, and then didn’t get the borderline DPI.

That’s because the Lions don’t get those calls. Rookie mistake.

105 I was going to say the…

I was going to say the Titans better try passing since the running game hasn't done much since halftime, but then they do and the result is an interception. They are still leading but I don't like their chances to hold on to that lead, or regain it once its lost.

106 Wow, a fourth and three punt…

Wow, a fourth and three punt that nets 27 yards of field position. Talk about a questionable call and a poor result.

107 I was getting pretty annoyed…

I was getting pretty annoyed at the announcers for ignoring the game at the beginning of this drive in favor of speculation on Brady's future. Romo may be good, but this is a playoff game with Tennessee up by one point. I want your take on the game, not views of your face instead of the field.

109 I feel this is heading…

I feel this is heading towards a 16-14 Patriots win. Half the reason the Patriots don't have more point is Belichick has twice punted when he shouldn't have near midfield. That probably won't happen again with this amount of time left.

110 Deliberate delay of game…

Deliberate delay of game. Deliberate delay of game. Encroachment. All to waste clock time. That is one of the most bizarre sequence of plays I've ever seen.

116 It's karma.  Belichick did…

It's karma.  Belichick did it to the Jets earlier this year, while leading by 30 points.  Gase and Darnold were probably hoping they'd just run the clock out.  It was the "seeing ghosts" game.

111 Thoughts on win probability…

Thoughts on win probability before and after this weird sequence where I would have expected anything but a punt, but burned a minute plus with multiple penalties?

I still think they should have gone for it.

112 4th and 4 is long enough…

4th and 4 is long enough that I get not going for it, although all things considered I'd be tempted. 54 yards is long enough for the FG that I get not attempting it. But holy hell, penalizing yourself 15 yards (well, attempting to) so you can avoid the touchback on a punt (and net about 25 yards of field position, realistically) is the worst of all worlds. Most of all, for the fans. I wonder if Belichick instructed that guy to get the NZI intentionally and put an end to that nonsense.

113 I bet Tennessee is going to…

I bet Tennessee is going to end up regretting trying to burn clock as they will be the ones who need to mount a very late drive.

118 Very nice play in how they…

Very nice play in how they went outside when he was doubled to the other direction. 

Thought they should have stopped the clock though, looked like he went out down he was down.

120 I think I tuned in JUST…

I think I tuned in JUST after whatever the bizarre penalty-taking / clock-burning sequence was. Can someone fill me in with a little more detail about what happened?

123 Smart coaching by Vrabel…

Smart coaching by Vrabel taking multiple penalties of different sorts prior to the 5:00 mark on 4th down on the Patriots side of the field, where they didn't care about backing up before punting.  Burned almost 1:30 off the clock.

136 After the 5:00 minute mark,…

After the 5:00 minute mark, the clock stops after a penalty.  Before then, it doesn't.  Just keeps running until the penalties stop.  I guess after one or two more it starts to cost field position even after a punt.

148 How long can this go?

If a team is up by 14 at the half, say, and gets pinned back at their 1 by a punt early in the 3rd quarter and gets stuffed on 1st to get 2nd and 10 so that the clock is running, could they essentially burn off the entire 3rd quarter and 10 minutes of the 4th and still have 2nd and barely over 10?

155 Different penalties

I believe it has to be different penalties for the clocl to continue to run.

Essentially you can't just keep taking false starts.

157 Right, but false start and…

Right, but false start and delay-of-game are both easy to commit intentionally so you could just alternate them.

I do hope they tweak the rules to take away the penalty-burn tactic, since it's excruciating to watch from a fan perspective. Maybe the clock stops on the second consecutive penalty by the same team (outside 5 mins).

I also hope they take a page from MLB and allow the offense to just take the 5 yard penalty and reset the clock 40 seconds lower (assuming it's running) for the intentional delay-of-game, rather than make us sit through the guys standing around for 40 seconds. There's basically no chance of anything happening, so at least don't waste our time (I'm not talking about the hard-counts to get a cheap conversion on 4th and < 5, which teams would probably try anyway, but the cases where they're clearly not even going to try, like 4th and 10 at the 37).

159 THe fact that the clock…

THe fact that the clock continues to run after a delay of game penalty has to be the most assinine rule I've ever heard. 

 

My opinion? If Team A commits a penalty, let team B decide whether the clock runs or stops. 

171 Sooner or later the penalty…

Sooner or later the penalty turns into an unsportsmanlike conduct and 15 yards and is assessed on the coach. I suspect if you carry on after that then the wonderfully named “palpably unfair act” penalty is still on the books, and that could result in forfeiture of game in extremis.
 

In this case the third penalty was actually a neutral zone infraction by the Patriots so there was no repeating of a sequence of penalties. If I were refereeing I think after a delay/false-start combo (in whatever order) I’d warn the coaching staff that a third in a row is unsportsmanlike, and a fourth could be worse... there are plenty of both of those penalties that are deliberate so as long as you can act a little it is hard to see getting called out for before you repeat something.

As an aside this seems similar to the old “throw a twelfth or thirteenth defender on in goal line/2 point plays” trick that from memory folks like Granville and Ryan used to sometimes do.

122 How many punts have the…

How many punts have the Patriots blocked this season? I remember it being a lot. Might be there best chance.

131 But it's actually not…

But it's actually not... Because he DID score instead of going down. Now Tennessee decides to go for two for reasons I don't understand. This is another confusing sequence.

127 McDaniels as a hot HC…

McDaniels as a hot HC prospect seems like a disjointed story line after watching this game.

138 Perhaps I'm biased as a…

Perhaps I'm biased as a Broncos fan.

I just don't get him as the end-all HC candidate. He flopped in his first chance and he's probably coming to get personnel control, which he was terrible at. And then the stuff with Indy last year. He benefited from being around one of the best head coaches and best QBs of all time.

But from his perspective, it seems like apart from ownership being good (admittedly a VERY big deal), I'm not convinced waiting for the job in NE is a better opportunity at this point than somewhere else, given Brady is mostly done at this point.