My beware the home team mantra bore fruit. It never hurts to play in front of the home crowd. It also doesn’t hurt for your opponent to travel across the country. It also helps if you play better than your opponent.
The Falcons were mighty when they established an early lead with throws from Matt Ryan to Roddy White (I assume they have another receiver) and running later with Michael Turner, who’s like a fast version of LenDale White. This is not a team built to make a big comeback. They made one but were not able to make the second. Down 14-3, Matty Ice rallied the troops to a 17-14 lead. The offense then sputtered for most of the second half, turning the ball over twice, giving up a touchdown and a safety. It would be hard for any defense, let alone the Falcons, to hold the Cardinals to one first down as they expired the remaining time outs. On third and 16 Keith Brooking mysteriously decided to rush Warner, who already had a linebacker approaching him, leaving Stephen Spach wide open. If you give up a 22-yard pass to a third-string tight end, you deserve to lose. But that’s what happens when you’re down six points and the clock’s ticking.
The Colts were the writers’ darlings all week. A nine-game winning streak for a road wild card team is nearly unheard of. Peyton Manning was MVP and the stars were aligned for a Mannings Super Bowl. The national media forgot a few things:
The Colts can’t run the ball.
The Colts have a small, fast defense that can wear down.
Peyton dances like a chess club kid at the prom when there’s pressure.
The Chargers and the Colts were similar teams during the regular season. The Chargers lost almost all of their close games and the Colts won theirs. No one seemed to remember that the Chargers beat the Colts in Indy with a backup QB and RB leading the game-winning drive. That was an even more improbable drive than Eli and the Miracles in the Super Bowl.
The Colts’ vaunted offense did nothing in the second half, save one pass when the Chargers decided to not cover Reggie Wayne. Happens to the best of us. Plays like that make me salivate at the opportunity for the Chargers to come to Nashville next week. LaDainian Tomlinson was “fine” according to the always-on-top-of-things (read: useless) sideline reporter. He didn’t play a snap in the second half. No matter. Darren Sproles, who made himself a few million last night, had more than 300 total yards and scored the winning TD. The Chargers made it interesting by turning the ball over twice in the end zone, but it was the Colts being unable to make third and 2 that ended the game. Instead of running the ball, Manning backpedaled and was sacked when a linebacker came in unblocked. Getting in field goal range was a snap and it was a matter of the Chargers winning the coin toss.
So the Titans will face the Chargers or the Ravens. The Ravens ended the dream season of 2000. The Chargers threw all over the Titans in the second half of last year’s Wild Card win. I believe with a fully stocked defensive line and a bit of Johnson and White, it doesn’t matter.