Ranking the 5 Biggest Surprises from NFL Wild Card Weekend

Andrew Tornetta@AndrewTornettaCorrespondent IIJanuary 7, 2014

Ranking the 5 Biggest Surprises from NFL Wild Card Weekend

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    Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

    In typical NFL fashion, the Wild Card Weekend was chock-full of electric moments that had everyone on the edge of their seats.

    With three games decided by a field goal or less, it was nearly impossible to know what was going to happen next.

    Whether it was a top team struggling, a dome team going out and winning on the road or one of the best comebacks you will ever see, the weekend was loaded with surprising moments that very few people could have seen coming.

    These rankings are based off of the most surprising moments of the weekend.

    The San Francisco 49ers going into Green Bay and winning is not considered a surprise because the 49ers were the favorites entering the game.

    However, the heavily underdog San Diego Chargers blowing out the No. 3 seed Cincinnati Bengals in their own house is an entirely different story.

    Here are the five biggest surprises from a crazy Wild Card Weekend.

5. Philadelphia Eagles' Offensive Struggles

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    The best rushing offense in the NFL playing at home against the 19th-ranked run defense and a team that has struggled on the road all season.

    It seemed to be the perfect storm.

    The Eagles weren't terrible on offense—they did score 17 second-half points—but the fact that they struggled to move the ball so much was pretty shocking.

    After averaging 417 yards per game on the season, the Eagles managed just 256 yards on Saturday, including just 80 total rushing yards—half of the 160 per game they averaged on the ground this year.

    LeSean McCoy had nowhere to run all night, recording 21 carries for 77 yards (3.7 yards per carry) with a long run of just 11 yards. 

    The first seven Eagles drives of the game netted seven points and just 113 yards.

    They scored on each of their final three drives with two touchdowns and did seem to find their rhythm as the game went on—which is why they are not higher on this list—but it proved to be too little, too late.

    For a Chip Kelly offense to struggle so much out of the gate in the biggest game of the season was certainly surprising, but it wasn't even the most surprising part of the game.

4. Saints' Rushing Attack

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    The honor of the most surprising aspect of the Eagles vs. Saints game goes to the New Orleans' rushing offense. 

    The 25th-ranked rushing attack in the league—an offense that rushed for just 92 yards per game—ripped off 185 yards on the ground on 31 carries, good for 5.1 yards per carry.

    Mark Ingram led the way, running for 97 yards on 18 carries with a touchdown. The 18 carries was the most he had all season, and the 97 yards was good for second best on the year.

    Common sense would tell you that for the Saints to go into Philadelphia and win their first postseason road game in franchise history, it would have been on the arm of Drew Brees.

    The second-best passing attack in the league going up against the worst-ranked pass defense was clearly the matchup everyone expected to see exploited. 

    Instead, Brees struggled for much of the game, throwing for just 250 yards with one touchdown and a pair of interceptions, and it was the forgotten running game that carried the Saints to a victory.

3. Bengals Getting Dominated at Home

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    While the fact that the Cincinnati Bengals blew a playoff game may not surprise many, the fashion in which it happened had to come as a shock.

    The team that many picked to get to the Super Bowl, both before the season and entering the playoffs, laid an egg against a San Diego Chargers team that struggled to beat the Kansas City Chiefs' backups just to get in.

    The Bengals went 8-0 at home but looked like a team that didn't belong once the playoffs began, playing extremely sloppy football all game.

    Cincinnati turned the ball over four times, three of which came from Andy Dalton, and scored just once on three trips to the red zone. 

    With the team looking to win its first playoff game in 23 years, the Bengals simply fell apart in the second half, getting outscored 20-0. 

    Meanwhile, the Chargers ripped apart the Bengals' fifth-ranked run defense to the tune of 196 rushing yards and 4.9 yards per carry. 

    It was a solid performance from the Chargers, but it was the embarrassing performance by the Bengals that was truly surprising. 

2. Kansas City's Offensive Explosion

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    Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

    Alex Smith and the Kansas City Chiefs put on an absolute clinic in the first half on Saturday. 

    Despite losing Jamaal Charles early in the game, Smith put the team on his back and carried them to scores on each of their first seven possessions, including five touchdowns.

    I have been extremely skeptical of Smith and the Chiefs' chances come playoff time, but he played like an absolute stud early on in Indianapolis. 

    Overall, Smith threw for a season-high 378 yards and four touchdowns, picking apart the Colts defense with short, medium and deep throws. 

    Smith completed a 79-yard touchdown pass to Donnie Avery early in the second quarter, and after getting forced out of the pocket, Smith found Anthony Sherman with a picture-perfect shovel pass to push the Chiefs' lead to 24-7.

    All season long, there were many who doubted Smith's ability to carry his team come playoff time.

    If the Chiefs had held on for the victory, the fact that Alex Smith out-dueled Andrew Luck in Indianapolis in the playoffs would have clearly been the shock of the weekend.

    The problem is the Chiefs couldn't hold on.

1. Indianapolis Colts' Amazing Comeback

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    After Alex Smith found Knile Davis for a 10-yard touchdown to take a 38-10 lead in the third quarter, it would have been nearly impossible to find even the most diehard Colts fan who thought their team would come back in the game.

    The Chiefs were playing like an offensive juggernaut, and Andrew Luck and the Colts offense were struggling in a big way.

    But then Luck and the Colts caught fire.

    It started with a 10-yard touchdown run from Donald Brown to make the score 38-17, and that was followed by two Luck touchdown passes sandwiched around a Ryan Succop field goal.

    Before the fat lady could warm up her vocal cords, the Colts turned a 28-point deficit into 10 points heading into the third quarter. 

    Despite having a huge lead, the Chiefs ran just nine times in the entire second half, compared to 28 passing plays. Even without Charles, that is a shocking ratio for a team that relied so heavily on the ground game all season long.

    Once Luck recovered the Colts fumble at the goal line and ran into the end zone to make it a 41-38 game, the momentum had completely shifted to the side of the home team. 

    Less than six minutes later, Luck delivered one of the biggest throws of his career—a 64-yard pass to T.Y. Hilton—that gave the Colts their first lead of the game.

    Luck finished the game with 443 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions, but more importantly, he finished the day on the winning side of a 45-44 score.

    The Colts' 28-point comeback was not only the biggest surprises of the weekend, but was also one of the most shocking comebacks in playoff history.