Four teams played Saturday in the first day of NFL Wild Card playoff competition. Only one seemed like they deserved to be there.
The "New York" Jets beat the San Diego Chargers 20-17
in overtime in a game that neither team really wanted to win. The picture above says it all, as it is from a key fourth-and-goal do-or-die moment for both teams.
Lining up behind center was the worried and tentative Chargers quarterback Drew Brees, who looked like a deer caught in headlights throughout the fourth quarter.
This was it. One play to tie the game. Score a touchdown or go home.
Did Brees have that John Elway/Joe Montana ( or hell, Doug Flutie) look in his eyes? That "this is my team and we're going to score" focus about him?
Luckily for Brees, he was facing a Jets defense that seemed confused as to where to line up, with players holding their hands on their hips. In one of the most exciting moments in sports...the potential last play of the game, most of the guys on the field seemed scared as to what was going to happen next.
Drew Brees drops back to pass and is pressured immediately by two Jets defenders. The QB lofts a pass in the end zone, which falls to the ground in an apparent incompletion. Game over right?
Nope. This is Jets football. The choke tradition must live on.
Jets linebacker Eric Barton decided to do his best Tito Santana impression, hitting Brees with a flying forearm and committing a roughing the passer penalty. It's first down Chargers with only a few seconds left.
Only the Jets. Really. Only the Jets.
Brees would throw a touchdown on the next play. The game would be tied up, and it is going into overtime.
So would the Jets collapse, as per tradition?
Nope. Because the Chargers are one of the few franchises in the NFL that can match New Jersey's finest in the choke factor.
Overtime would begin with the Chargers winning the coin toss. I thought the Chargers were in trouble when Brees came onto the field with his head down, like he was very nervous. They do nothing with the ball and punt.
The Jets would get it, and go nowhere as well.
Then things began to get interesting. The Chargers would rely on the only guy on the field who seemed to be playing with any kind of energy...LaDainian Tomlinson. Tomlinson ran inside and out, as well as caught some impressive balls. The Chargers marched down the field, getting to about the 20 yard line.
Then the really bad coaching began. With eight or nine guys in the box, the Chargers ran up the middle twice, going nowhere. On third down, being right of center on the field, decided to send Tomlinson right, giving rookie kicker Nate Kaeding a really bad spot to try to win the game.
Why not, in three attempts, at least take one shot at the end zone? Or, at the very least, with the Jets defense stacked against the run, go for a slant route that might have led to a touchdown?
Instead they relied on Kaeding, who looked younger than Anthony Michael Hall did in 16 Candles. He barely warmed up for his winning kick attempt.
A second or two after he goes for the kick, I have a flashback, hearing Al Michaels say the words "wide right". (F you Parcells, where ever you are.) The Chargers miss their chance.
At this point, the Chargers decide to give up the game.
The ghost of the not-dead-yet Wade Phillips emerged. Phillips, the Chargers defensive coordinator, decided to play a soft zone against Jets QB Chad Pennington...which is about the only defense Pennington really plays well against.
With no pressure on the Jets QB, and some inspired running by Lamont Jordan, they marched down the field and scored the winning field goal.
Two teams with no recent winning tradition battled it out, and one of them had to win.
In the playoffs, they don't let you tie.
The San Diego Chargers turned out to be a very average team, and one could say they were the most over-rated team in the NFL.
Except for the third team that didn't seem to want to win today...the Seattle Seahawks.
Clinching the St. Louis Rams' 27-20 defeat of the Seattle Seahawks
, Bobby Engram failed to catch what would have been the tying touchdown in an uninspiring performance by the "sure bet" Super Bowl Seattle team.
Seahawks star wide receiver Darrell Jackson dropped so many key passes, it made me wonder why Jerry Rice hardly got any attention. It also made me wonder why so many people, myself included, thought the Seahawks were a sure-fire bet to go to the big game.
The St. Louis Rams played with fire and intensity, like a team who knew how to win in the playoffs.
The other three teams just seemed happy to be there.
Nevertheless, it was an exciting start to the NFL playoffs. I'm looking forward to Sundays games.
With guys like Favre and Manning on the field, I know I will be watching players who believe they can win.