Snap Judgments (cont.)
Anybody seen Dwayne Bowe, he of the 15 touchdowns and 1,162-yard receiving regular season? The Chiefs top pass-catcher was completely invisible against the Ravens, and it's pretty apparent Kansas City needs to find some receivers who can get open and create some separation against quality cover men. The Chiefs got just two receptions for eight yards from their wide receivers Sunday, and even started the newly signed Kevin Curtis over Chris Chambers, who was deactivated.
On defense, the Chiefs' weakness showed up rather glaringly, as well. I didn't see Kansas City cover anyone in the middle of the field all day. Joe Flacco found tight end Todd Heap a franchise-playoff record 10 times for 108 yards, and the Ravens picked apart the Chiefs underneath, rarely even taking a shot to throw downfield.
Don't forget, Heap missed all but the first play of the Ravens' home loss to the Steelers last month with a hamstring injury, and his presence in Pittsburgh this weekend will be a big addition.
What a pushing and shoving street fight the Baltimore-Kansas City game morphed into for most of the day. Every other play featured at least a few guys mixing it up, talking smack and putting their hands on each other. I get there being some excess bravado in the playoffs, but it bordered on the ridiculous at Arrowhead.
The young-and-improved Chiefs probably overachieved just to get to 10 wins and earn the AFC West title, but their history of one-and-done playoff appearances still has to be maddening for Kansas City fans. Since the Chiefs last won a playoff game, in 1993, when Joe Montana took them all the way to the AFC title game against Buffalo, Kansas City has lost its playoff opener six consecutive times. More gallingly, four of those defeats came at home. All told, the Chiefs' seven consecutive playoff losses is an NFL record.
Sunday's 23-point loss to Baltimore follows in the wake of: a first-round loss at Indy in 2006, a divisional-round home loss against the Colts in 2003, a divisional-round home loss to Denver as the AFC's top seed in 1997, a divisional-round home loss to Indianapolis as the No. 1 seed in 1995, and a first-round loss at Miami in 1994. That's an era that spans the Chiefs coaching tenures of Marty Schottenheimer, Dick Vermeil, Herm Edwards and, now, Todd Haley.
Speaking of the one-and-done trend in the playoffs, that's seven of 'em in 11 career trips to the playoffs for Colts quarterback Peyton Manning. Indianapolis had little reason to believe it was going anywhere in January this season, and just getting to the playoffs and winning a division title passes as a success story given how many injuries Indy had to overcome.
But still, seven out of 11 times the Colts have made the playoffs in the Manning era, they've failed to advance, and there's no way to sugarcoat that. The Jets have now beaten them twice in the first round (2002 and 2010), tying them with San Diego (2007 and 2008) in that department. Tennessee (1999), Miami (2000) and Pittsburgh (2005) have knocked out Indy as well.
Manning is now just 9-10 as a playoff starter, and the last-second loss to New York only adds another frustrating chapter to his mediocre body of postseason work.
So much for the Charlie Weis distraction storyline. You can't really pin an entire 23-point, home-field loss on the Kansas City offensive coordinator's decision to jump to the University of Florida at season's end. Baltimore was the primary distraction for the Chiefs on this day. Weis' offense was only part of the problem.
Reggie Wayne threw a pout-fest after the loss to the Jets, but maybe the Colts' Pro Bowl receiver needs to look in the mirror. Wayne had only one catch for 1 yard, with Manning throwing just that lone pass in his direction. But, after the game, Wayne blamed Manning for his lack of impact, rather than citing the fact that Jets all-world cornerback Darrelle Revis had him completely blanketed.
"It's bull. It's bull, man,'' Wayne said, according to the Indianapolis Star. "I give everything I've got no matter what. Every day, I give it everything. And ....one ball, that's all. I shouldn't have even suited up. I should have watched the game like everybody else. I was irrelevant.''
What's more likely, that Manning purposely wanted to avoid throwing to the team's leading receiver, thereby hurting Indy's chances to win, or that Revis did what Revis does, completely taking away an opponent's top receiver? Playing with Manning is the best thing that has ever happened to Wayne, who wouldn't be a Pro Bowl perennial if he suited up just anywhere in the NFL. What a weak act that was by No. 87 late Saturday night.
That wasn't exactly a paid advertisement the Saints defense put together on behalf of New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams in Seattle. Giving up 41 points and 415 yards of offense to a Seahawks team that had only scored more than 31 points once all season isn't going to enhance Williams' head coaching candidacy. Williams' defense gave up 24 points in the first half -- the most Seattle had scored in any half this year.
After the Seahawks threw a first-possession interception, they went touchdown, touchdown, punt, field goal, touchdown, touchdown, field goal -- scoring on six of their next seven drives. After giving up just 13 touchdown passes all season, the Saints gave up four to Seattle by the mid-point of the third quarter.
Well, I guess all Saints onside kicks aren't golden in the playoffs. The Saints' Super Bowl touch badly escaped them inside of two minutes in Seattle. Kind of the same way New Orleans' two-year magic carpet ride officially ended with that galling upset loss to the 8-9 Seahawks.
Seattle played a gutsy and inspired game and deserved its 41-36 upset win over the defending champion Saints. But I still don't believe the Seahawks "deserved'' to have a home-field advantage in this round. You can't convince me it wouldn't have been a very different outcome had the game been played in the din of the Saints' Superdome. Home field is a real advantage everywhere, but few places more so than Seattle and New Orleans, where the noise is so much a part of the environment.
For me, the Saints' loss only strengthens the argument the league shouldn't automatically reward a division winner with a home game when it has an inferior record than its wild-card opponent (let alone a vastly inferior record). New Orleans (11-5) should have gleaned some sort of advantage for having finished four games better in a stronger division than the one Seattle won at 7-9.
But I realize that proponents of leaving the current playoff seeding format as is came away from Saturday's Seahawks upset believing it proved their point as well. I just happen to think Seattle's home-field advantage was one of the key deciding factors in its memorable win, and it was too big of an advantage for a team that didn't accomplish anywhere near as much as its opponent did in the regular season.