Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Divisional playoff wrap

It was a sad football weekend for me as the Eagles' season came to an end. In a seesaw game the Eagles, via a gift fumble, had the opportunity to deal the final, victorious blow but Andy Reid inexplicably punted the ball away. So devoid of reason was his decision to give the ball back to the Saints, who had overpowered the Eagles' at the line of scrimmage all day and would be one first down away from being able to run out the clock, that even Andy Reid -- obviously no maven of logic -- was able to immediately recognize how much he screwed up.

But there were a group of players who had a much better weekend than myself or Andy Reid's good sense: The kickers.

I have preached the vastly underrated importance of good place kicking
before on this space, but never has it been displayed so starkly in a slate of playoff games.

Kickers went 16/17 over the weekend and their highlights included Robbie Gould's 49 yard kick to clinch it for the Bears in overtime and Adam Vinatieri kicking five field goals -- including a 51 yarder, his longest in over four years -- to account for all of Indianapolis' points in their 15-6 win over Baltimore.

For the Colts, Vinateiri's performance was a reversal of fortune from being bounced from the divisional playoffs last year because their previous kicker, Mike Vanderjagt, missed a 35 yarder late against the Steelers. So maybe Adam Vinatieri really was the biggest off season acquisition, as many had provocatively (although not entirely seriously) suggested when the season began.

Although Vinatieri's replacement in New England, rookie Steven Gostkowski, wasn't so bad himself, kicking a key 50 yarder on the way to Patriot's victory.

Nine of the 16 made kicks this weekend were over 40 yards, but why would you even assume the chip shots during a weekend when Devin Hester, the league's best return man, muffed three punts and Drew Brees and Reggie Bush botched an easy backfield pitch when they were in the process of running out the clock?

The one solitary missed kick was Neal Kaeding's 54 yard attempt for San Diego. 54 yards is a lot to ask for, and while nobody would ever accuse Kaeding of choking, if he had made the kick, sending the game to overtime, maybe San Diego -- football's best team during the regular season-- would still be playing.

And with one swing of his foot, the guy an old school football coach wouldn't even acknowledge as a "football player" would have made up for every mistake his teammates had made during the game.


Anonymous said...

Do you think Reed would have let McNabb go for it on 4th and 15? It’s possible in three years pundits will site Manning/Dungy and the Brandy/Belichick postseason records with and without Vinatieri.

JT said...

I think he would. But he let Garcia go for it (and make it) on 4 and 10. So the whole thing makes no sense.

As for the second point -- we'll know on Sunday.