Offseason | 2022

What Stood Out: Writers React To Playoff Games

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Obviously, the plan all along was to be covering the Cowboys during this weekend of the playoffs.

With a home game in the Wild Card round, the Cowboys were at least the favorites to make it to the Divisional round, but the 49ers had other ideas. And they took those ideas to Green Bay, too.

With or without the Cowboys, it was an unreal weekend of football, with the most dramatic finishes you can have in a four-game span.

Our staff writers weighed in with their takes, relating them to the Cowboys and what stood out the most after watching these epic games.

Bengals-Titans:

David Helman: I'll spare y'all the gushing about my guys Joe and Ja'Marr, who I am ridiculously excited for. The thing that'll probably stick with me the longest from this game was Mike Vrabel's decision to go for two after scoring a game-tying touchdown late in the first half. I understand a Bengals penalty had put them on the 1-yard line, but it's still fascinating that we've reached a point where coaches are passing up early opportunities to take the lead in a game. It's impossible to single out one decision during the course of a game, but the Titans theoretically might've been able to play the entire fourth quarter with the lead if not for that decision. I don't want to be too harsh on aggressive decision making, because I think it's good for the game. Still, it's crazy how far we've come in such a short amount of time.

Rob Phillips: My first thought was, "Is the first-round bye really an advantage?" The answer is still "yes" because it's a chance to get healthy before your postseason starts, but man, rust seemed like a factor for Tennessee. This is the second time in the last three years that at least one bye team didn't make it past the second round. Last year's Bucs were the wild-card team that got hot at the right time, and there's something to be said for keeping an edge and continuing to play with no week off. It's why I thought the Cowboys did the right thing by playing the starters in the regular-season finale at Philadelphia. That didn't work out against San Fran, obviously. But maybe the 49ers are that "hot" team this year.

Nick Eatman: I can't tell you that I watch a ton of Bengals or Titans game this year, but every time I hear about Cincinnati, it's either Burrow or Chase. Maybe that's because I'm hearing it from the LSU die-hard David Helman. But no one talks about Cincy's defense. Give them credit for keeping Henry and the Titans in check. And another thing, the Bengals drafted a kicker in the fifth round. Hmm, maybe it's something to look into.

49ers-Packers:

Nick Eatman: They always say that bad weather can serve as a neutralizer and it certainly did here. Despite being a West Coast team, that weather was perfect for the 49ers, who just hung around long enough. I think the Packers probably win comfortably in better weather, but that's why you play the game. Can't help but wonder if that was Aaron Rodgers' final game in Green Bay. Something tells me he's going to be on the Cowboys' 2022 schedule either way.

Rob Phillips: Credit the 49ers: They were the better team against the Cowboys in Round 1, and they might've been the only NFC team that could've beaten the Packers in those wintry Lambeau conditions. San Fran did just enough with their dynamic run game to stay efficient, and Jimmy Garoppolo made enough throws late to win. The Cowboys a had a terrific regular season, but they absolutely would've needed to manufacture rushing yards if they'd made it to Lambeau -- and controlling the line of scrimmage became an issue for them by the end of the year.

David Helman: Hard to think of a game that better encapsulates the cruelty of the NFL playoffs. Aaron Rodgers, for my money, has been the most talented quarterback walking this Earth for most of the last decade. Despite the Packers being loaded seemingly every season, they have reached just one Super Bowl. Rodger's career playoff record is 11-10. This stuff is ridiculously hard. But then, on the opposite side of the equation, the 49ers' win ensures that a wildcard team will play in the NFC Championship Game for a second-straight year. The sheer randomness of this sport makes anything possible. So, with both of those things in mind, it's all the more frustrating to think that the Cowboys haven't been able to piece some sort of run together. The missed opportunities can melt your brain if you think about them too long – which is something I'm sure the Packers can relate to right now.

Rams-Bucs

Rob Phillips: I do think Dallas would've had a better chance at Tampa for the same reasons the Rams won Sunday, specifically quarterback pressure. The loss to San Francisco wasn't the best game for the Cowboys pass rush, but Randy Gregory, DeMarcus Lawrence and Micah Parsons would've had opportunities to affect Tom Brady, particularly against a Bucs O-Line playing without Pro Bowl right tackle Tristan Wirfs. Of course, the Cowboys offense would've had to play much better than the San Fran game. We'll never know, but that's my take.

Nick Eatman: Ok, sorry but I have to ask – where was the ref spotting the ball? I'm not trying to dig this play up again and I'm really not suggesting the outcome of the game would've been any different had the Cowboys gotten off one more snap – but after watching the Rams hurry up to the line after a 50-yard gain, I can't help but wonder why the umpire didn't spot the ball. He definitely didn't get up to the line. Now, some TV angles show that maybe the back judge spotted it and was backing off the line. But if that's the case, why didn't that happen in the Cowboys game? Again, that's the play that sticks out to me even though it was a great game for the ages. It's just another example that officiating crews seem to drastically change week to week.

David Helman: It's amazing the way pressure can make even the most accomplished quarterback in history look human. Tampa Bay's offensive line could not find an answer for Von Miller and Aaron Donald on Sunday, and Tom Brady suffered for it. The book has been out on Brady for a long time at this point – make him uncomfortable and prevent him from stepping up in the pocket, and good things will probably happen. Brady threw for 329 yards against L.A., but he needed 54 throws to get there, as he just rarely had time to stand in and find guys downfield. Does that completely absolve Dak Prescott for a bad game against San Francisco? No. But it's at least a nice starting point when you're debating how to improve this team in 2022.

Chiefs-Bills

Rob Phillips: I can't argue with those who say, "The Rams and Packers find ways to feature their top receivers -- Cooper Kupp and Davante Adams, respectively – so why can't the Cowboys get Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb more involved?" That's a fair point. The counterpoint might be what the Bills did in a losing effort Sunday. Seemed like All-Pro WR Stefon Diggs got doubled a bunch, so QB Josh Allen looked for Gabriel Davis on the other side, and Davis had the game of his life with four touchdown catches. The Cowboys have such belief in their balance and depth in the passing game that for years they've mostly been a "take what the defense gives you" offense. I don't disagree with that, either, but the answer is somewhere in between: don't constantly force-feed things, but continue finding ways to scheme things up for the top guys.

David Helman: I feel a profound sense of pity for all the AFC teams that have to find a way to beat these two aliens over the course of the next decade. Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen are mind-bending types of talented, and I'm guessing neither of them is going away for a long time. Even if you employ a great quarterback like Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson or Justin Herbert, it's hard not to feel defeated by the idea of trying to top these guys – especially Mahomes, who looks like he's playing Madden Franchise Mode on rookie difficulty at this point. I'm being fully sincere when I say, if there's a silver lining for the Cowboys right now, it might be that the NFC seems to be loaded with substantially less quarterback talent than the AFC. That's going to be a meatgrinder for years to come.

Nick Eatman: I don't pretend be a draft expert – we've got a few of those on our staff that do a great job. But I didn't think this was a great upcoming QB class. Well, after watching this game, I bet there are a few prospects who will probably jump up the board just because of the Chiefs-Bills. Right or wrong, I bet teams will evaluate players a little more, and maybe even reach for a quarterback knowing that you can strike gold. Not all Top 10-12 quarterbacks pan out, but some of them are special. We saw two of them going at it Sunday night. It makes me think Allen-Mahomes could be the next Brady-Manning rivalry that could last over a decade.

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