- - Sunday, January 15, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION

Insanity.

Or, as the late great Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke once referred to RFK Stadium BEFORE a playoff game, “This is controlled delirium.”

I’m betting that is what is was like wherever you were watching the Green Bay Packers-Dallas Cowboys Sunday afternoon, a game so deep in drama that it may have saved the “NFL is dying” talk that defined much of the 2016 season.

I’m betting that whether you were at AT&T Stadium, at a local sports bar or in your living room, there were a lot of “Wows” and “Are you kidding me” and some expletives as we watched a heavyweight title bout come down to the last seconds of the final round.

The knockout blow was a 51-yard field goal by Mason Crosby on the last play of the game to give the Packers a 34-31 playoff win over the Cowboys.

Crosby’s field goal came less than two minutes after he had kicked a 56-yarder to put Green Bay ahead 31-28.

But Cowboys rookie quarterback Dak Prescott buried the last remnants of former quarterback Tony Romo when he led his team down the field to tie the game at 31-31 on a Dan Bailey 52-yard field goal with just 35 seconds left.

That sliver of a window was all the opportunity future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers needed.

He would connect while running to his left on a 36-yard pass to Jared Cook, who remarkably kept his feet inbounds, dragging them on the field as he went out of bounds, giving Green Bay the position they needed for the game-winning field goal.

Rodgers may be the most exciting player to watch in all of sports. His level of play now may be the best we’ve ever seen at quarterback.

He had staked his team to a 21-3 lead early, and then responded every time the Cowboys came back to challenge.

He wound up completing 28 of 43 passes for 356 yard, two touchdowns and one interception.

But the numbers don’t do Rodgers justice.

His pulse rate on the field may not even register if you checked it.

If you could take the cool from Rodgers and inject it into Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins, you would have the franchise quarterback that everyone in town is debating about now.

Speaking of the Redskins, the NFL playoffs is a jarring reminder of how far the Redskins have to go to truly be this competitive — how far they have to go talent-wise, coaching-wise and poise-wise.

It’s like most of these teams aren’t even playing the same game that Washington did — well, except for the Houston Texans, who turned in the second straight worst game of these playoffs, thankfully losing to the New England Patriots 34-16 in their AFC divisional playoff game Saturday night.

As great as Rodgers was, the flip side was the the quarterbacking we saw from high-priced free-agent Houston quarterback Brock Osweiler, who completed 23 of 40 woeful pass attempts for a pathetic 198 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.

The shame was that the Patriots were there to be beat, thanks to a Houston defense that pounded New England quarterback Tom Brady, who looked every bit his 39 years, going just 18 of 38 for 287 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

The Texans signed Osweiler to a four-year, $72 million contract last March, $37 million of which was guaranteed (a far better deal than the Redskins reportedly offered Cousins).

I wonder at what point this season did the Texans realized they flushed that money down the toilet?

In the other NFC division game Saturday, the Atlanta Falcons put the winner of Packers-Cowboys on notice that the Falcons will be a tough opponent in the NFC title game.

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan put on an MVP-performance, completing 26 of 37 passes for 338 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in a 36-20 victory over the Seattle Seahawks.

That means former Redskins and current Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who watched another Redskins offensive coordinator, Sean McVay, and others land head coaching jobs while he has been still working in the playoffs, will continue to wait for his interview.

He remains a candidate for the San Francisco 49ers job (his father Mike was a candidate two years ago and was the offensive coordinator there from 1992 to 1994) and may have won it with Atlanta’s impressive 422 yards of offense Saturday night against a tough Seattle defense.

The weekend finale, the Kansas City Chiefs hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers, had originally been scheduled for 1:05 p.m. But because of what the league called “safety concerns” based on bad weather predictions, it was rescheduled to 8:20 p.m.

The bad weather was never a factor, but the NFL got the prime time game that they probably wanted all along — even if it wasn’t necessarily prime-time worthy.

Pittsburgh won a lackluster 18-16 victory over Kansas City, behind a record-setting six field goals by Steelers kicker Chris Boswell and 170 yards rushing by star running back Le’Veon Bell. 

Yes, the winning team failed to score a touchdown in the game, while the losing Chiefs had two of them — and it wasn’t enough. Coach Andy Reid continues to be defined by his playoff failures, now with an 11-12 career postseason record with Philadelphia and Kansas City.

The marquee game, though, was Green Bay and Dallas. The Cowboys came up short (their eighth division game loss since the last time they played in the conference championship game in 1996), but watching them go down swinging had to leave Washington fans with a bad taste — after all, the Redskins likely have to deal with those two great Dallas rookies, Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott, in the NFC East for years to come.

Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast “Cigars & Curveballs” Wednesdays available on iTunes and Google Play.

 

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