NFL playoff weekend recap: Who woulda believed?

The Jets's rage was most evident in their defense, which knocked Tom Brady around (five sacks, assorted other bruisings) and wouldn’t let his receivers breathe. (Photo: Associated Press)

Thoughts on Round 2 of the NFL postseason (subtitle: Who Woulda Believed?):


Long story short

The Patriots just didn’t seem ready to handle the Jets’ rage (or their pass rush).


• Consider: We’re two weeks into the playoffs, and both No. 1 seeds – the 14-2 Patriots and 13-3 Falcons – are gone. Neither so much as won a game. Also gone are all five Pro Bowl quarterbacks who made the postseason (New England’s Tom Brady, Indianapolis’ Peyton Manning, Philadelphia’s Michael Vick, Atlanta’s Matt Ryan and New Orleans’ Drew Brees).

Gone, too, are five of the six Pro Bowl wideouts who made it (Indianapolis’ Reggie Wayne, Kansas City’s Dwayne Bowe, New England’s Wes Welker, Atlanta’s Roddy White and Philadelphia’s DeSean Jackson), the two Pro Bowl running backs who made it (Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles and Atlanta’s Michael Turner) and, come to think of it, the only Pro Bowl tight end who made it (Atlanta’s Tony Gonzalez).

That leaves us – offensive-skill-position-wise – with Green Bay receiver Greg Jennings as the Last Pro Bowler Standing. What a wipeout.

But while the marquee offensive INDIVIDUALS have disappeared, the TEAMS playing the best football are still around. Steelers-Jets, Bears-Packers – that’s not a bad Final Four at all. (Translation: At least the Seahawks have been eliminated.)

• You could spend the entire offseason deconstructing the Jets’ 28-21 upset of the Patriots on Sunday and What Went Wrong for New England. Five things worth noting:

1. The Patriots didn’t seem ready to handle the Jets’ rage – which is strange, because they had to know what was coming after their 45-3 beatdown of Rex Ryan’s crew last month. That rage was most visible in the Jets’ defense, which knocked Tom Brady around (five sacks, assorted other bruisings) and wouldn’t let his receivers breathe. New England had similar pass protection problems in its previous two postseason games (against the Giants in Super Bowl XLII and against the Ravens last year). Something for Bill Belichick to ponder in the lonely months ahead.

2. As CBS’s Jim Nantz pointed out near the end, no NFL team had ever lost by 42 points in the regular season and then avenged that loss in the playoffs. And get this: In 1979, the Jets lost 56-3 to the Patriots in Week 2, then beat them 27-26 in Week 15.  (I know because I covered both games.) That’s the biggest bounce-back in REGULAR-SEASON history (53 points).

3. The Jets’ Darrelle Revis is the best cover corner since Deion Sanders. Just a phenomenal player.

4. Down 21-11 with 12:55 to go, the Patriots took nearly eight minutes to drive from their 18 to the New York 34, at which point they lost the ball on downs. I’ve never seen anything like that in all my years covering football. What exactly was the thought process for the Pats? Where, for that matter, was the sense of urgency (e.g. the No Huddle)?

5. Santonio Holmes has now made two spectacular catches in the corner of the end zone – one against the Cardinals to win Super Bowl XLIII (right corner), one Sunday night to all but finish off the Pats (left corner) – that will be relived by Steelers and Jets fans forever.

• If you saw the Packers and Bears lose to the Redskins earlier in the season, you’re probably having a hard time coming to grips with them being in the NFC championship game. While they might have looked vulnerable back in October, though, they’ve clearly become the class of the conference.

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