In Week 11, the Kansas City Chiefs scored 51 points and lost.
The Los Angeles Rams’ 54-51 win over Kansas City on “Monday Night Football” was one of the most thrilling games ever played and officially ushered in a new era of video game-esque offenses dominating the NFL.
Or so we thought.
Wild-card weekend had other ideas.
Defense, ball control win wild-card round
Stout defense was the strategy of choice this weekend for winners, none of which scored more than 24 points. And while not all of the winners ran well, the teams that did succeed on the ground advanced to next week.
Colts show a bit of everything vs. Texans
The Indianapolis Colts came out of the gates on fire Saturday with a pair of touchdown drives to start the game in their dominant 21-7 win over the Houston Texans.
Andrew Luck was excellent, but once they built a lead, the Colts pounded the game away on offense to the tune of 200 rushing yards, 148 of which came on 24 Marlon Mack carries. Meanwhile their defense slowed the Texans to 105 yards on the ground while holding Houston to 3-of-13 third-down conversion attempts.
Cowboys run, stop the run
In their 24-22 win over the Seattle Seahawks, the Dallas Cowboys leaned on 137 rushing yards from Ezekiel Elliott while holding the league’s top-ranked rushing attack to 73 yards on the ground, 87 yards below their average of 160 ground yards per game.
Dak Prescott had an excellent game, but perhaps his most impressive work came on the ground with multiple clutch runs, gaining 29 yards and a touchdown on six attempts.
Chargers defense outshines Philip Rivers
Defense was the name of the game for both teams in the Los Angeles Chargers’ 23-17 road win over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. Neither team found the end zone until the fourth quarter, when a relative flurry of points were scored.
The Chargers continuously stifled Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore offense, holding the Ravens to 229 total yards, 90 of them on the ground. L.A. didn’t fare much better on offense, with neither Jackson or Philip Rivers surpassing 200 yards in the air. But the Chargers’ stingy defense propelled them to victory.
Eagles win defensive struggle in Chicago
Points came at a significant premium in the Philadelphia Eagles’ 16-15 win over the Chicago Bears Sunday afternoon. Philadelphia limited the Bears to 65 rushing yards and a single touchdown that didn’t arrive until the fourth quarter. The Eagles offense wasn’t any better, managing just 42 rushing yards against the stout Bears defense. But their own defense kept them in the game until a late Nick Foles touchdown to Golden Tate secured the win.
Big passers nowhere to be found
When the offensive carnage was complete Sunday afternoon, wild-card weekend had produced a total of one 300-yard passer. And that came in a losing 303-yard effort from Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.
Living up to the old adage, teams that ran well and stopped the run won in the playoffs this weekend. There was nothing that resembled a game of “Madden” in sight.
What happens when the juggernauts arrive?
Of course, none of the league’s most potent attacks were on the field this weekend, with the Rams, Chiefs, New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots all sitting on first-round byes.
But the wild-card trend doesn’t bode well for a team like the Chiefs, who own the league’s 31st-ranked defense and have seen their high-octane offense slowed, if just slightly, since the release of running back Kareem Hunt.
Their matchup with the Colts, who are strong in almost every facet of the game and all-of-the-sudden look like Super Bowl contenders, will be a fascinating test of what wins in today’s NFL.
As will all of the matchups.
Every team that hosts next weekend after a first-round bye sports an elite offense. Every team that advanced this week did so with stifling defense.
We should know by next Sunday night what truly works in the NFL in 2019.
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