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Two Minute Warning: Wild Card Weekend, Indeed

If Deshaun Watson didn’t have a nickname, “Magician” should be his title after Wild Card weekend. If Kirk Cousins wanted to prove his “$84 million” point, one throw answered that question. And if you think the New England Patriots dynasty is entirely over, continue to think crazy thoughts and transfer all your money into bringing back Waffle Crisp because I miss that cereal. 

Pick up a card in Uno, and if it says wild, you’re in for a great night. That’s what the weekend felt like around the NFL with the Wild Card round of the playoffs. Eight teams battled it out, and for the first time in forever (sorry for stealing your thunder Anna from “Frozen”), no one felt out of the mix. 

The Patriots and Titans battled a majority of the game within a simple field goal lead. If not for a pick-six by former New England star Logan Ryan, perhaps the score would have stayed at 13-12 during Wild Card weekend. Meanwhile, is Seattle a real contender this postseason? The Philadelphia defense stalled the Seahawks run game, but then again, what do you expect with an aging Marshawn Lynch as your second back. 

But more on those two games later. 

Houston should have fallen short to the Buffalo Bills at home off NRG Drive. Three-quarters of poor execution from Watson and a Bill O’Brien scheme had the Texans down by 16 with 17 minutes left. 

J.J. Watt returned to his former fashion, sacking Josh Allen for an 8-yard loss and forcing the Bills to settle for a field goal. From there, Watson became his MVP-like self, saying presto to the gameplan set in motion by the puppeteer O’Brien and improvising his way into the end zone in their Wild Card weekend game. 

A 5-yard touchdown pass to Carlos Hyde followed by a two-point conversion gave Houston the improbable lead. Romeo Crennel’s defense would dismantle Brian Daboll’s brilliant play-calling and strike midnight on Allen’s three successful quarters of play. An intentional grounding and Jacob Martin sack should have sealed Houston a victory. 

Yet, O’Brien and the offense found a way to make fans boo through the cheers. This was thanks to a horrendous fourth and short call. It was only after a Stephen Hauschka field goal, several punts, and a few more terrible calls before Watson earned the nickname that will follow him throughout his career. 

Shoving off two defenders nearly twice his size, Watson spun out of the pile of confusion and blunder to deliver a strike to Taiwan Jones. The speedy runner broke into the third line of defense to set up a game-winning 29-field goal from Ka’imi Fairbairn. 

“We never quit, regardless,” Watson said. “Whatever it takes to get the win. I mean, we’re going to keep fighting.”

And the rest is history down at NRG Drive. Despite trying to find every way to lose, O’Brien and the Texans survive another week. And although Allen impressed with his 246-yard playoff debut during Wild Card weekend, his first-year fits in the fourth cost Buffalo another outing. 

The same could be said for Minnesota down in the Bayou. Without even guessing, one would say that the 13-3 Saints were going to be the favorite. They were by eight points, which seems generous to a Cousins’ led offense. 

I only say ‘seems’ because the man looked pretty impressive for the majority of the game. From the start, Cousins did all he could to keep Minnesota afloat. Trusting in the run game and Kevin Stefanski’s play-calling, the Vikings went up by  10 with a quarter left. 

Then again, how does that old song go? When the Saints go where? Oh, right, marching in. Right into the Vikings hearts with a 20-yard Taysom Hill touchdown to put the team down by three. A Will Lutz redo, and the end of regulation (or enough of it) tied things up at 20 during their Wild Card weekend match-up. 

Cousins’ 242-yard day looked to be a fluke as his pumpkin-like status was beginning to show. Starting on offense to begin overtime, it was do or die for the Vikings. Well, they did it. 

Actually, Cousins did it in the form of a 43-yard pass to Adam Thielen. A costly offensive pass interference call against Kyle Rudolph led to a touchdown from Cousins and a Vikings’ victory in the dome. But hey, a referee wouldn’t make that call in the regular so why would they in Wild Card weekend? And a sky cam broke near the spot of the infamous call from last season. 

What did you expect to happen people? 

Are Houston and Minnesota contenders? It’s hard to say. The Texans’ defense was shredded by a rookie running back due to poor tackling. Take out three drives, and it’s one of the worst playoff performances you could ever see from a unit. A healthy Patrick Mahomes offense is going to put up points, which could lead to a shootout if Houston is lucky enough to have a performance like Saturday from Watson again. 

The Vikings will face San Francisco in the Bay, but they might have a better hand defeating the top squad than Houston has in Arrowhead. A near 100-yard outing from Dalvin Cook will be the engine keeping Minnesota alive if they can get past the second-ranked defense. If not, Minnesota will rely on excellent defense to contain a well-balanced 49ers offense. 

In the end, your guess is as good as mine for who is going to be representing the two conferences down in Miami. Here’s one thing we all know; if next weekend is at all like the one we just had, get ready for another great couple of days. 

It’s going to be one not even a tarot card reader could fake predict. 

– – – –

Hi, yes, the Two Minute Warning is back. Look, you get the gist of this intro, but you’d rather read more about what happened and what we’re hearing over the weekend and news coming out of the NFL. Let me stop rambling and let’s get on with our first playoff Two Minute Warning. 

Seriously, that’s the whole intro. Stop asking for more people! 

All hail the King…and his jester

Listen, I know it’s crazy to imagine, but we live in a decade where Cousins beat Drew Brees, and Tom Brady lost to Ryan Tannehill in the playoffs, during Wild Card weekend. If this is what we can expect in the coming future, please, for the love of God, throw in Frank Gore exploding from old age a yard after he passes Emmitt Smith and the 1972 Dolphins’ undefeated season end. 

But back to Tannehill for the majority of this. Although the former Maimi quarterback wasn’t perfect in the postseason, he still made a mark. Throwing for 72 yards and evading pressure to take one sack, Tannehill stepped up in moments as a game-manager and trusted the offense during the Titans’ Wild Card weekend match-up. 

Then again, how hard is it not to trust a human wrecking ball in the backfield like Derrick Henry? I know this meme is floating around, but let me ask you something, does an average of 5.4 yards per carry mean nothing to people!

The former Heisman Trophy winner just showed why against the No.1 defense he finished as the league’s top rusher. Collecting 184 yards on 34 carries, Henry literally carried Tennessee to a 20-13 victory and set up a date against top seed Baltimore. 

“We were just locked in,” Henry said after the game. “That was our mindset, just coming in here doing what we needed to do in all three phases, stay locked in no matter what happens in the game, and I feel like we did that.”  

On his 26th birthday, Henry won his team the game. Keep in mind that 34 carries are well past his average workload. In fact, over the past two weeks in win-clinching scenarios, the former Alabama star has rushed for a combined 393 yards on 66 carries for four touchdowns and has averaged six yards per run. 

In the hit show “Game of Thrones”, one would bend the knee to signify loyalty to one house. In 2007, the New York Giants went on an improbable playoff run as the No.5 to defeat the undefeated Patriots. The Tom Coughlin-led team also had an average quarterback and relied on a burly running back to carry the load. 

As the leader of House Two Minute Warning, I bend the knee to House Tennessee and King Henry. Yes, with the right momentum, you better believe that the Titans are legitimate contenders. 

McCown’s last hurrah 

I wasn’t expecting to enjoy the final game of Wild Card weekend featuring a Russell Wilson Seahawks team against the 9-7 Eagles. As this crow I eat is filled with gamey meat, so might be Carson Wentz’s head after what could only be best described as a low-blow hit from Jadeveon Clowney. 

Hits like that should not be allowed in the NFL for the safety of players and for the respect of the game. That out of the way, did anyone really expect the Eagles to win today? 

Well, they almost did with a living legend in Josh McCown. The 40-year-old backup, who signed a one-year deal this offseason after retiring, entered the game after roughly nine minutes of action. One would think he could be rusty due to his age, but also because he’s hardly seen the field all season. 

A 174-yard performance won’t be worth writing about in the papers, but McCown did his part. Driving down the field and trusting the defense would contain Seattle, the veteran signal-caller set up Jake Elliott for field goals that would keep Philly in the game. In the end, D.K. Metcalf wanted to go home after being passed on twice by the Eagles and called the game with his 36-yard grab. 

But back to McCown. We talk about legends in the NBA like Vince Carter surpassing the four decades mark on Saturday evening. Let’s talk about the 17-year vet for a second. McCown handed off a ball to Emmitt Smith one last time for a touchdown. He threw Larry Fitzgerald, a future Hall of Fame player, his first touchdown pass. Even when nobody wanted him, McCown went to the Indoor Football League and played for the Hartford Colonels for a season. 

McCown is a part of NFL history. And as he cried, knowing he let his team down, instead, he should cry because we haven’t given him the respect he’s earned. Coming out of retirement to mentor another young quarterback speaks character of a man. He kept Philadelphia alive when the game should have been over when Wentz left the field. 

Also, Wentz likely could have done better. For those using the head excuse like that, leave the chat room now. All he did was play a full season, throwing for over 4,000 yards and lead a practice squad receiver squad group to the postseason. 

Both quarterbacks exceeded the expectations on a horrendous team all season, so let them be. And if this is goodbye to McCown, know that you left your mark with everything you left out on the field today. 

Done dynasty? 

New England will call it a season after beginning the year 8-0 and closing it 4-4. Injuries, cuts and roster changes hurt Brady and the offense from meeting the same expectations on the other side of the ball. 

With that in mind, the veteran quarterback is an impending free agent and could be out the door looking for a new team. After his presser Saturday evening, things could end sour for the 199th pick and the team that took a chance over two decades ago. 

“I love the Patriots,” Brady, 42, said. “I would say it’s pretty unlikely, hopefully unlikely. I love playing football. I don’t know what it looks like moving forward.”

Here’s the thing; Brady isn’t leaving Foxborough, and the Patriots will be fine. Not to downplay the G.O.A.T. because he is, well, the greatest, but Brady would be looking for his seventh ring. Outside of New Orleans and maybe Tennessee, should they let Tannehill walk, name another potential contender looking for a quarterback? The reason they’re contending is more than likely due to quarterback play, so one looking for a home isn’t expected.

New England needs to find Brady’s successor and let him learn from one of the best. Resigning the franchise quarterback and looking early at his long-term replacement is the right move. It would also allow someone such as Josh McDaniels to learn one final season under Emperor Bill Belichick before taking over the Empire… uh, I mean, team. 

Throw in the injuries and lack of veteran talent at receiver, Brady was destined to struggle. A bounce-back year from Sony Michel and the growth of young players such as Jacobi Myers and N’Keal Harry will benefit him. Add a long-term tight end, and you’re set to contend in 2021. 

New England won’t be contenders forever, but they’re not out of the race yet. In fact, the white flag has come out, meaning there’s only one lap left before the finish line. 

Cowboys’ conundrum 

Ok, how crazy is Jason Garrett? 

After having perhaps the best roster in over two decades, the former Cowboys coach reportedly asked for his job back after the announcement finally came that he was being let go. 

According to Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer, the team let Garrett know they would be moving on from him Sunday afternoon. In a statement from the organization, Dallas thanked the long-time coach for his tenure, citing he would “always be a cherished member of the Cowboys family”. 

Weird flex, but ok.

According to multiple sources, Dallas has met with former Green Bay Packers’ coach Mike McCarthy about the open position. A veteran leader, the former Super Bowl-winning coach, should be able to establish a promising offense while also working with Dak Prescott should the team resign him. Other names that could be on the list are Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley, Baylor’s Matt Rhule, and Chiefs’ offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. 

No matter who takes over, someone better be up for the task at hand. After the torment of Dallas’ struggles with Garrett, even they deserve a bit of a break. 

Parting Shots 

  1. Alabama wide receiver Henry Ruggs III is expected to declare for the NFL Draft according to multiple sources. Ruggs, who shined with the Crimson Tide with 746 receiving yards and eight touchdowns, likely will be a consensus top-five receiver on draft boards. 

Plays like these should make the speedy wideout a sure-fire first-round selection. 

  1. Speaking of Alabama, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is expected to announce his decision on his future with the program. According to the report, the junior will have a press conference in Tuscaloosa with Nick Saban in attendance. 

Tagovailoa suffered a season-ending hip injury earlier this season. Some believe it could be career-threatening, but others are inclined to believe he will return. Depending on the severity of the injury, that should decide what his intent is. 

Let’s get crazy: Tua declares he is leaving Alabama but will rehab in 2020 and declare for the draft in 2021. Please happen so I can rub it in everyone’s face later on this week. 

8. We all knew this was happening, and don’t you dare say you hate this meme. You love it. Like how can you not?

  1. Credit to Russell Wilson after his victory in Lincoln Financial. Following the win, the Seahawks quarterback met with Doug Pederson and asked about the severity of Carson Wentz’s injury. 

It’s not important, but hey, it’s a class act move by a class act human being. Not quarterback, human being. 

  1. Just a friendly reminder that Taysom Hill can do everything better than you. Like literally, he could probably serenade your significant other into leaving you for him. 

Dear Kierstin (my lady’s name), please don’t leave me for this Swiss-army human! 

  1. And another reminder that D.K. Metcalf fell to the final pick of the second round in April. Shame on you NFL for being afraid of a three-cone drill. 
  1. The Browns are now expected to interview with Bills OC Brian Daboll. This would make sense in the hiring due to his excellent offensive play calling, but his outing late against Houston could have the team worried. I wouldn’t look past the first interview for this guy in “the land”.
  1. Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson, and Patrick Mahomes are likely the future of the quarterback position. This time a decade ago, they were in junior high when Brady was the biggest name in sports. 

I was in high school as a freshman, and yet, I feel as old as anything reading that. 

  1. Zach Ertz played Sunday just two weeks after suffering a kidney injury that had him peeing blood two weeks ago. Give this man all the rest in the world and a medal for the toughest person on a football this week. 

And that includes Josh Allen, who got leveled by Zach Cunningham.

  1. I don’t want to make this the Tom Brady show, but you have to admit, it’s nice that there will be a fifth name to this list now, right?IN

And if you say no, you’re a Pats fan and it’s time to go into hibernation. 

Cole Thompson is the Lead NFL writer for Pro Football Network. Follow him on Twitter at @MrColeThompson.

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