DeSean Jackson was inactive for much of the first half of the Philadelphia Eagles’ Wild Card showdown with the Green Bay Packers, but he returned to the game just before halftime and should be ready for the Eagles’ attempt at a third-quarter comeback. Jackson left the game in the first quarter after his knee was pinned under LeSean McCoy; he returned with a few minutes left in the second half.
DeSean Jackson led football with a 22.5 yards per reception average in 2010, catching a career-low 47 balls for an impressive 1056 yards and six touchdowns. Jackson, a second-rounder in 2008, has 172 receptions for 3135 yards and 17 touchdowns. He also serves as a regular punt-returner for the Eagles.
Without Jackson Vick has targeted Jason Avant most frequently—he has three receptions for 31 yards. McCoy is the only other Eagle with more than one reception, managing two for nine yards; he’s got six carries for 22 yards, and one fall for about 10 minutes without DeSean Jackson.
A strong performance from Aaron Rodgers and some just-short drives from Mike Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles left the Green Bay Packers in a strong position moving into the second half of the final Wild Card Weekend game on the 2011 NFL Playoff schedule. Rodgers finished 13-for-18 with 111 yards and two touchdowns.
Mike Vick was solid but couldn’t get the Eagles through the red zone in the first half; he was 7-for-12 with 93 yards passing and 28 rushing yards. The Eagles’ scoring came on a 29 yard field goal from David Akers in the second quarter; he missed a 41-yarder in the first quarter. The Packers got a solid rushing performance from James Starks, picking up eight carries for 51 yards.
The Eagles spent much of the half without wide receiver DeSean Jackson, whose knee was pinned beneath running back LeSean McCoy on a play in the first quarter. Jackson left the field in a lot of pain; his return is currently listed as questionable.
The Chiefs, champions of the AFC West, fell apart after being down just 10-7 at the half. Charles broke away for a 41 yard touchdown run in the first quarter, but the offense just couldn’t get downfield after that; their second back, Thomas Jones, was little-used and ineffective, and Dwayne Bowe was held without a single reception—only Dexter McCluster was struck more than four times by the Chiefs offense.
The Baltimore Ravens will move on to face the Pittsburgh Steelers next Saturday. The Steelers and the Ravens each finished 12-4 in the AFC North, with the Ravens’ 17-14 victory over the Steelers in Week 4 being balanced by a 13-10 loss in Week 13.
Marshawn Lynch, who struggled to crack depth charts with the Buffalo Bills and Seattle Seahawks, pulled off one of the most improbable runs in NFL Playoff history while putting the Seahawks ahead of the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints for good, 41-37. Lynch’s 67-yard run, in which he threw off more defenders than he seemed to in the year to date, was the culmination of a strange win for the Seahawks, who finished the regular season as NFC champions with a 7-9 record and an ugly win over the St. Louis Rams.
As a long-time Marshawn Lynch skeptic I still can’t quite rationalize what happened. The final tackle Lynch breaks looks like someone running into an electric fence, or Professor Quirrell trying to touch Harry Potter and having his hands melt. Lynch, who’s struggled mightily the last two years and seemed strangely sluggish at times, was remarkable. If conditions were already weird enough for the Seahawks to beat the Saints, I guess it might as well have come on a Lynch touchdown sprint.
Shaky video evidence of Lynch’s inexplicable run available here:
The Seattle Seahawks, 7-9 champions of the NFC West, have put together an impressive first half, taking a 24-20 lead over the New Orleans Saints in a wild offensive opening to the NFL Playoff schedule. The Seahawks have matched every Saints drive thanks to a calmly efficient first half from Matt Hasselbeck. The Saints, with Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory out for the postseason, have struggled to get their dangerous running game going, with Julius Jones getting the majority of carries.
Hasselbeck was 13-for-18 with 168 yards and three touchdowns in the first half, outplaying Drew Brees—16-for-27 with 189 yards—after missing last week’s playoff-clinching win against the St. Louis Rams. He’s coming off his worst season as Seahawks starter, but it hasn’t shown in this home game against the Saints.
Strong performers for the Saints include Marques Colston, who has three receptions for 53 yards, and Devery Henderson, who has two for 44. Jones, the Saints’ unlikely starter at halfback, has eight carries for 35 yards and a touchdown.
The NFC West champion, 7-9 Seattle Seahawks and the Super Bowl champion, 11-5 New Orleans Saints kick off the NFL Playoff schedule Saturday afternoon, taking the 3:30 slot on NBC—the only spot, perhaps, where fans in Louisiana and Washington can both enjoy a game without it ending up in a strange time zone. They'll be followed by the New York Jets and the Indianapolis Colts, where Peyton Manning will look to carry his Colts past a Jets team that finished with a stronger record and a WIld Card spot.
Such is the nature of this year's division champions—both the Seahawks and, to a lesser extent, the Colts benefitted from week divisions relative to their round one competitors, who will now seek to redress that imbalance. But the division champs have one last, very strong advantage to their names—the home field advantage. The Saints and Seahawks will be playing in Qwest Field, where the Seahawks have cultivated a strong 12th-Man-styled following—even if they occasionally vote for the Seahawks to lose in playoff polls. The Colts will welcome the Jets to Lucas Oil Stadium, their brand-new, old-looking replacement for the RCA Dome.