American Football Expert & Columnist
NFL Wild Card Pick Six: Cody Parkey's Double Doink, while L.A. and Dallas D impress
Last Updated: 08/01/19 4:59pm
Neil Reynolds picks six storylines from Wild Card weekend in the NFL playoffs, including Cody Parkey's 'Double Doink' missed field goal and impressive defensive showings from the Chargers and Cowboys...
The Wild Card round of the NFL playoffs was not an instant classic, but I found it to be hugely compelling as the Indianapolis Colts, Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles Chargers and Philadelphia Eagles advanced to the final eight.
It might have been the second-lowest scoring opening round of the playoffs since 1990 but the games served up plenty of drama, twists, turns and talking points. So let's get into six storylines that caught my eye over a most enjoyable weekend...
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The 'Double Doink'
You know you have witnessed something pretty memorable and notable in the annals of NFL history when a play or a situation is given a nickname… The Minneapolis Miracle, The Drive, The Catch and The Music City Miracle to name but a few.
On Sunday night, as the Chicago Bears and Eagles rounded out the weekend at a rabid Soldier Field, we were served up The Double Doink!
With the hometown Bears trailing by one, under-fire kicker Cody Parkey lined up for a 43-yard field goal attempt that would decide the game with five seconds left on the clock. He shakily put it through but Eagles coach Doug Pederson had called a timeout just seconds before. At that point, I commented to Jeff Reinebold and Shaun Gayle that Parkey looked like he would rather be anywhere than in Chicago with the eyes of the NFL world staring down at him.
What followed next was no simple miss. It was a memorable and remarkable end to the opening round of the playoffs as Parkey bounced the ball off the left upright and the crossbar before it fell harmlessly to the ground. As field goal misses go, this one was right up their playoffs-wise with Scott Norwood's failure for the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXV and Blair Walsh's miserable chip-shot attempt with the Minnesota Vikings a few years back.
What next for Parkey?
It's hard to see a future in Chicago for Parkey, who should be credited for fronting up to the media after the game and accepting full responsibility for the 16-15 loss to Philadelphia.
I have seen players literally run away from awkward interviews or media sessions they didn't want to attend. I was in the New Orleans Saints' training camp in 2008 and saw tight end Jeremy Shockey, who was on our interview list, sneak out of the back of a building and then run through the woods like a naughty child bunking off school.
Not Parkey, who said afterwards that he "felt terrible" and took "100 per cent" of the blame for the loss. There is enough blame to go around though. The Bears did not produce enough points on offense and after they took a late lead, they couldn't defend their home field in the waning moments with the season on the line.
But Parkey will be the fall guy for this loss, even if there is a chance his final kick was partially tipped. The level of vitriol being hurled in his direction by Bears fans makes it hard for him to move forward in the Windy City.
Parkey missed a league-high 10 kicks in 2018 and hit the upright an unbelievable six times! So his miss on Sunday was not a one-time aberration. If he was to stick with the Bears, his every kick in 2019 would be a pressure-packed sweat-fest and we in the media would blow up his every miss. It is a cold reality that kickers shoulder a lot of the blame in situations like this and Parkey would become a distraction.
I hope he gets another shot, but I would predict that comes with another team in 2019.
Eagles revel in adversity
I could make this part about Nick Foles, as that is the popular narrative when it comes to the defending Super Bowl champions. A relatively average regular-season quarterback, who clearly comes alive with games and the season on the line in the knockout phase.
But this Philly turnaround should be about more than just their quarterback. This is a team playing much better on defense and one that has now won six of their last seven games. That is no fluke.
Foles, of course, is a factor and his throws on the game-winning drive against the Bears showed that he is very comfortable operating in the bright lights and with the season on the line. And that reflects on those around him.
But most important to the Eagles' turnaround is the fact that they know how to confront, deal with and overcome adversity. They pride themselves on doing just that and it's a reason a seemingly lost season now sees them among the NFL's final eight teams.
Chargers deliver defensive masterclass
The Chargers went into Sunday's game against the Baltimore Ravens knowing they faced arguably the most potent rushing attack the NFL has ever seen. It was certainly the most dangerous in recent NFL history.
The Ravens were averaging 45 runs per game for north of 229 yards per contest. So, surely a commitment towards stopping the run was required and surely that would involve placing extra big bodies on the field?
Not in the defensive masterplan put together by Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. He went with seven defensive backs on all but one defensive play in a 23-17 win that only became close when L.A. let down their guard down late in the final quarter.
With faster defenders, the Chargers covered a greater deal of ground and found ways to negate rookie sensation Lamar Jackson as a runner and a passer. On a day when their offense struggled against a tough Ravens D, the Chargers were able to ride their defense to the next round of the playoffs and former Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Bradley deserves a great deal of the credit.
Big D stands for defense!
The city of Dallas can often be referred to as 'Big D' but when it comes to the real Big D in Texas, that should relate to the Cowboys' defense, which played a major role in their 24-22 win over the Seattle Seahawks.
The Cowboys play far too many close games for my liking and their offensive output still needs to go up a notch or three in future years. But their defense is legitimately strong and filled with athletes who can fly to the football.
The linebacker pairing of Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith could dominate the NFL for the next decade and there are active pass rushers ahead of them in DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory. This unit should provide a stern challenge to the Los Angeles Rams on Saturday night.
Another key factor in that game will be Dallas' running game - led by Ezekiel Elliott - chewing up the clock and keeping the Rams' high-powered attack on the sidelines. It will be tough to get a road win against the Rams, but the Cowboys are built to do just that.
Colts get physical
When he took over as general manager of the Indianapolis Colts in 2017, Chris Ballard inherited a team renowned for getting its star quarterback beaten up each week, to the point where Andrew Luck missed that entire campaign. Ballard even saw his chosen head coach - Josh McDaniels - reverse out of the job this time last year.
Ballard said he wanted to make the Colts a physical outfit, get Luck back on the field and stressed that it would take at least two NFL Drafts to make Indianapolis competitive. He began the healing process by hiring Frank Reich to be his new head coach - it was an inspired second choice.
Fast forward just a little way to 2018 and the end of Ballard's second season in charge and you will find the Colts in the final eight of the NFL playoffs. And there might not be a more in-form team, with Indy winning 10 of their last 11.
But it's the way they're winning. Sure, Luck is still a star and ranked second in the NFL this season with 39 touchdown passes. But this is now a physical team that flies to the ball and hits hard on defense, while also running with much more purpose in the second half of the year.
The Colts rushed for an even 200 yards in Saturday's 21-7 road win over Houston. They couldn't repeat the act in Kansas City against the Chiefs this weekend could they? Given their monumental rise back to respectability and beyond, I wouldn't put anything past Reich's men.
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