What a weekend of playoff football to start the decade. Wildcard weekend was incredible. From the Patriots losing at Foxborough to Kirk Cousins beating a Drew Brees lead Saints team, at the Superdome. Yes, I know!
What the hell happened? Well let’s take a look at a few things we learned on wildcard weekend
Deshaun Watson is Special
Things were looking rough for the Houston Texans, down 16, with most of the third quarter off the clock, guess who stepped up, Mr. Deshaun Watson. It was an MJ-esque performance from the Clemson graduate, making THE special play, at THE right time. Heading into the fourth quarter, he led Houston on a nine-play, 75-yard drive, which was topped off with a 20-yard rushing touchdown, and a successful run on a 2 point attempt, to bring the game to within 8 points, at 16-8.
Now full of momentum, his defense stepped up, forcing a fumble and a 3 and out, in Buffalo’s next 2 drives, while also scoring 3 points of their own, to bring the game to within 5 points. Another Watson touchdown, this time through the air was added, followed by another successful 2 point attempt, which gave the Texans a 19-16 lead, with little to go on the first game on Wildcard Weekend. A tying Bills field goal took the game to overtime.
On the game-winning series, in the first wildcard game, in overtime, the former Tiger stepped up to the plate and delivered. First off he converted a huge 3rd and 18, before completing some absolute sorcery. The magician came to play, Watson, heading for a certain sack, and facing the ground, spotted an open Taiwan Jones, executed a spin move to lose the Buffalo defense, before gifting the pigskin to the running back, who himself performed some trickery, picking up 34 yards, to put Houston in the RedZone. That was enough for the Texans, who won the game the very next play, thanks to a Kaimi Fairbairn field goal.
Back to the Jordan comparisons, back before the 2017 draft, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney compared his then QB, to the 5 time NBA MVP, stating if Hue Jackson, whose Cleveland Browns had the number 1 pick, that “passing on him, is like passing on Michael Jordan”. But that’s not the only time Watson has been compared to the great. He’s also hailed the same praise from Raiders coach, Jon Gruden. In fact, Deshaun’s play from the wildcard game on Saturday was similar to one he made against Oakland earlier in the year, a video of the play is available above. And I certainly agree with them, he is one special player, making plays on a special wildcard weekend.
The Patriots dynasty could be over, like seriously.
I know, it feels like we’ve been here before, and then Emperor Belichick goes and wins another Super Bowl, but this time it’s different, for real, they just lost a wildcard game in Foxborough. It feels like we’ve finally reached the end of the Brady/Belichick era, which is fitting, as the Skywalker Saga also ended in 2019. The Star Wars franchise is hands down the greatest in movie history, just like the Patriots dynasty is the biggest sports dynasty, ever. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to go on forever, people get old. Star Wars as we know it is finished, the main characters from the original trilogy are dead, gone, finito. As the franchise moves, to a new direction under Disney, just as the Patriots will without Tom Brady.
Belichick isn’t 35, and Tom’s play is declining, just as the talent on offense has dwindled out over the past few years, and they’re facing an uphill battle to keep key foundations to the empire. Those mentioned include TB12, Josh McDaniels, Nick Caserio, Joe Thuney and Kyle Van Noy. All 5 of them have their contracts expiring this offseason, and more than likely, over half of them will leave Foxborough. Brady is a smart guy, meaning if he knows something’s up, it’s definitely up. He knows he’s not performing well, he knows the offense is dreadful, he knows he’s not got long left in his career. Tom has to make the biggest decision on his career in the next few months, and it’ll shape the NFL for years to come. Does he stay in New England, with another team-friendly deal, or will he go to a QB needed organization, maybe the Colts or Chargers, or travel down to South Carolina with Josh McDaniels, and make more money, with more talent. Or he could just retire, although the former Michigan Wolverine stated that was “pretty unlikely” at his presser, after losing to the Titans this wildcard weekend. However, he did add “I don’t know what the future looks like, so I’m not going to predict”. Tom may well go down the same route as Joe Montana, Namath and Peyton Manning did towards the end of their careers, we’ll have to see.
Moving away from Tom, the Pats aren’t built like a team that can go deep in the playoffs, let alone the Super Bowl. And it could get even worse. Going into the season, New England had the oldest roster in the league, with a lack of young talent in the making, it may well be coming to an end, the dynasty that is. All-pro guard Joe Thuney is facing free agency, and he’ll be wanting a big deal. Miami will be interested for sure, in fact most of the league will be wanting his services. Kyle Van Noy is one of the best linebackers in the league, and again, will be wanted by the likes of Miami or Detroit. Those two will probably be off. Other impending free agents include Devin McCourty, Matthew Slater, and Jamie Collins, however interest in those three will probably harder to come by, we’ll see how they fare in March. But those players are the foundation. Thuney is their main blocker, McCourty is a big-time player and leader in the secondary. Jamie Collins has had a good year next to Van Noy, that linebacker unit would be depleted if they were both to leave. And Matthew Slater is Mr. Special Teams.
Finally, there’s uncertainty in the coaching staff, I said earlier that Bill Belichick isn’t 35, which is true, he’s 67 and hasn’t got much of a career left. It’s the same with Dante Scarnecchia, the dude’s 71 and has already retired once, they’ve both had outstanding careers, but there isn’t much in left in them. And then there’s McDaniels, he’ running out of chances to become a head coach, and already failed in Denver. He’s the one that knows Tom the best, and I doubt he’s going to want to build a relationship with a new offensive coordinator. I for one am incredibly excited to see what’s gonna go down at Gillette this offseason.
New Decade, New Kirk
When I woke up on Sunday morning, I would have said Ryan Fitzpatrick was more likely to have won a playoff game, in overtime, at the Superdome, against Drew Brees, than Kirk Cousins. Well, blow me! Wrong I was. In fact, I put in our TSD writers group chat that Minnesota would indeed win if Primetime Cousins wasn’t at QB, mere seconds before that absolute dime of a pass to Adam Thielen in overtime. He’s been so atrocious in notable games, only winning one this year, against Dallas, but they weren’t even in the playoffs this year, so that doesn’t really count. Don’t get me wrong, 1 pm Eastern, Cousins, at home, indoors is elite. But not at all in the “big game” where his team has to win. He was a 9-7 QB, until Sunday night.
For all you wondering how bad Cousins’ record is in big games, take a look below.
He’s faced his fair share of criticisms as a quarterback, but most of that’s been deserved. He’s never really rose to the occasion like the Deshaun Watson’s of this world, he’s barely won a significant game in his 8 year NFL career. And some of that will be shaken off this week, well the parts he’s not already done anyway. Cousins has massively improved this year, and powered Minnesota to the playoffs, something he didn’t do last year. What’s better, he went a lot of the year without his best receiver, Adam Thielen. He’s put up a career-high regular-season passer rating of, 107.4, and thrown a career-low 6 picks. He’s been out to prove everyone wrong all year and started the new decade perfectly.
He wants to be seen as a new quarterback, and do you know what, if Cousins keeps this up, he’s got me. Kirk pulled off the drive of his life on Sunday and showed off his strength doing just that, throwing play-action passes. The main play on that magical drive, well for Vikings fans anyway, will be the 43-yard pass to Thielen off play action, to put Minnesota at the goal-line, needing a TD to win in overtime. He lead the team on a 75-yard drive, to prove the doubters wrong, and to potentially create a New Kirk, in a New Decade.