The NFL playoffs continue, as we are now awaiting today’s AFC and NFC Conference Championship games. There are two good games scheduled for today with the Eagles and 49ers playing first and then the Chiefs take on the Bengals. But before we look ahead, let’s look back at last week’s Divisional contests to see what, if anything, we can take away from those games.
It Takes A Team To Succeed
To me the most important part of Chiefs-Jaguars game was when Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes got injured and missed a portion of the game. The next time the Chiefs get the ball without their star player they find themselves inside the five-yard line. What do the Chiefs offensive coaches do? They show right away that they have faith in the backup quarterback and they do the unexpected and throw the ball on the first play. They then turn to their offensive line and have them to lead the way and they did not let their team down, providing running room for their running backs to pick up over sixty yards on the drive on their way to a second quarter touchdown. Football, like business, is team sport and it takes everyone to succeed. The backup quarterback must stay mentally in the game and be ready any second to go in. Plus when your leader is missing, others need to step up and the line did just that.
On paper the Eagles should walk all over the Giants. The two teams played twice this season, with the Eagles winning both. The Eagles, much like every other team, set a goal of winning the Super Bowl and as the season goes on many of those teams begin to realize that their goal is unrealistic but when you are the top seed with home field advantage, you should have the confidence to know that your goal is achievable. This goal cannot be achieved with this game nor can you look ahead and overlook your opponent. The Eagles understand that this game is part of the process and they need this victory for their ultimate goal. They kept their foot on the gas long enough to suck the life out of their opponent – close games are good for ratings, but their mission is win it all. The goal remains.
Stay Focused on Your Mission
And on paper, the Bengals and Bills match up should be the best game of the weekend. The Bengals and Bills have the same goal as the Eagles, and both also have a realistic shot at achieving it. But you could tell early on what team wanted to earn the next step towards that goal. From the start of the game, the Bengals knew they had to have this victory and they went out and got their opponent to mentally give up fairly early in the contest. By the end of the first quarter, one could tell by the players’ body language which team was going to win and the only question I had was how much the Bills would lose by. Now with this next observation I’m not saying the Bills have weak leadership, since I don’t follow them that closely, but teams, like companies, can sometimes turn things around when things are going bad and I didn’t see anyone appearing to step up and rally the troops. There were times when the camera panned over their sidelines and their quarterback was sitting all alone. Meanwhile the Bengals played with a purpose.
Every Moment is Big
For the Cowboys and 49ers game, there’s one play that sticks out to me. It was an innocent looking play in the middle of the game, but perhaps it could have changed the outcome. It was the middle of the third quarter in a 9-9 tied contest. The Cowboys get the ball inside their ten-yard line and on the first play of this drive quarterback Dak Prescott throws a beautiful deep ball down the left sideline and CeeDee Lamb makes a great catch while being interfered with by the defender. With the long reception, field position is flipped and momentum is with the Cowboys. But then it happened. Lining up on the 49ers side of the field, Prescott throws a catchable ball to the tight end Dalton Schultz who would have picked up at least ten to fifteen yards, move the chains and get closer to scoring, but it is dropped. Schultz was closely covered, but that’s catch that a professional player is expected to make. Following the drop, the Cowboys unsuccessfully try to gain a first down on the next two plays and they find themselves with fourth down and five yards to go on the field where a field goal could be tried or they could go for it or they could punt. With momentum on their side, and their defense playing well to this point, they opt to punt. The 49ers take the ball and the momentum to march eighty-six yards for the go-ahead touchdown and they do not give the lead back.
In sports people always tend talk about the last few plays of a game as the difference between victory or defeat, heck I saw an article written about the Cowboys formation on the last play of the game – that play was a nonfactor to the outcome. But oh what could have been for the Cowboys if that catch was made. In sports, as in business, be prepared to seize the moment when it is presented.
With the divisional round behind us, I can’t wait to see what happens on Championship Sunday.