6 Players, Teams and Coaches Who Proved Unworthy of Spot in Playoffs
Liberal arts majors aren't generally known for their arithmetic skills. I proudly stand by my trusty calculator to get me through most mathematical quandaries.
But in this case, I'm going to trust my nascent skills, however rusty they are.
The Wild Card Round of the NFL playoffs brought us one fantastic game and three blowouts. That makes four games total. For the four teams that lost, there are a multitude of questions in the wake of their defeats.
I'll break down two players, two teams and two coaches who proved themselves unworthy of a spot in the playoffs. Two plus two plus two makes six slides total...by the numbers.
Matt Ryan Was a Total Bust Against the Giants
Unfortunately for the Atlanta Falcons, their franchise quarterback has not played well in the playoffs the past couple of years. In successive years, Matt Ryan has followed up a mostly stellar regular season with a dud of a game in the postseason.
With the Giants' pass rush hammering the Falcons' offensive line all game, Ryan had to deal with steady pressure. But even when he had time to make throws, he was rarely accurate. His receivers often had to adjust to his off-target passes.
Ryan's stat line tells the tale. He was 24-for-41 for 199 yards with a 71.1 rating. Even worse, however, is the fact that the Falcons defense outscored their offense (they scored two points on a safety).
The Atlanta Falcons have a talented offensive team. Talented offensive teams need to score points. Ryan, as the unquestioned leader of the offense, needs to step up if the Falcons make it back to the playoffs after the 2012 season.
Hines Ward's Storied Career with the Steelers May Have Ended with a Whimper
The Pittsburgh Steelers' stunning overtime defeat to the Denver Broncos may have been Hines Ward's last game with the yellow and black.
If so, it was an ignominious way to exit. With only two targets and zero catches, Ward was a total non-factor for a Steelers team that could have used a spark from their veteran receiver.
Ward even ended up on the bench in the fourth quarter, with the Steelers' younger receivers getting all the snaps.
Hines Ward is a tough player who may still have some gas in the tank, but after his poor showing against the Broncos, teams may think twice before attempting to sign him in the offseason.
Atlanta's Head Coach Mike Smith Gave Up in the Second Half
While some pundits savaged Mike Smith for his two failed fourth-down attempts in the first half of their game this past Sunday, others (like Gregg Easterbrook in this article from ESPN.com) argued that Smith wasn't bold enough.
With the New York Giants up by 12 points in the third quarter, Smith elected to punt instead of go for it when they were in the Giants' territory. Two other times in the fourth quarter Smith also sent out the punting team when he should have gone for it. With the season on the line, there was no reason for the Falcons to play it safe.
Also, the Falcons coaching staff didn't adequately game-plan for the Giants speedy receivers. Their cornerbacks were burned all day and they didn't provide enough safety help.
Those failures fall on the head coach.
Detroit's Head Coach Jim Schwartz Didn't Throw Any Wrinkles at the Saints
The Lions' fiery head coach, Jim Schwartz, made a few tactical and strategic errors in their game against the New Orleans Saints on Saturday.
The Saints are clearly a beastly good offensive team. An offense with as much firepower as the Saints need to have their timing disrupted by the defense. Bumping receivers at the line of scrimmage and harrying the quarterback are the best ways to push a potent offense.
Jim Schwartz proved himself unworthy of the Lions' first playoff appearance in more than a decade by failing to coach up his defense to jam the Saints receivers.
The Bengals Were Bad from Top to Bottom
The Cincinnati Bengals were totally uninspiring against the Houston Texans on Saturday. A team that ended the regular season with a 9-7 record (with all seven losses coming against teams with winning records) is suspect at best.
In their game against the Houston Texans, the Bengals showed that while they could exceed expectations with a young and speedy defense and a mostly mistake-free rookie quarterback during the season, they were unequal to the rigors of playoff football.
Quarterback Andy Dalton was constantly under pressure. Their miscues on offense and the plethora of sacks allowed by the Bengals overmatched offensive line sealed their fate against the fired-up Texans.
The Bengals made nice progress this season with a most impressive young team, but they are not a Jedi yet. (Or playoff ready yet, as the case may be.)
The Falcons Were Absolutely Wretched Against the Giants
I know that I've picked on the Falcons frequently in this slideshow, but these guys were absolutely awful and deserve all the scorn heaped on their heads.
From missed tackles and a deplorable showing against the Giants' previously anemic running game to bad decision-making and off-target passing from Matt Ryan, the Falcons couldn't put together a competitive game.
Compounding their humiliation was their stunning lack of effort late in the game, when they should have been fighting harder to try to save their season.
The Falcons' failures across the board made them the most unworthy playoff team of the Wild Card Round.