January 6, 2013

NFL Playoffs Hit the Ground Running

By - Lauren Dundee

Much to the delight of football fans everywhere, the NFL playoffs kicked off Saturday, with the Houston Texans hosting the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Wild Card matchup, and the Minnesota Vikings taking on the Green Bay Packers in the NFC game.

Photo by: Eric Gay
Saturday afternoon in Houston was dark and rainy, but the atmosphere was upbeat inside Reliant Stadium. This was only the second playoff appearance for the Texans (12-4), having won the AFC South for the second year in a row. This would also be the second-straight year that they faced the Bengals (10-6) in the first round.

The game got off to a rather slow start, with both teams being held just short of scoring. Kicker Shayne Graham gave Houston a 6-0 lead with two field goals. Cincinnati took the lead after Texans quarterback Matt Schaub, in his first ever playoff appearance, threw a costly interception that was returned for a score. But the Texans would rebound to take a 9-7 lead just before the half with yet another Graham field goal.

Houston would go on to dominate in the second half.

Arian Foster rushed for a 1-yard touchdown early in the 3rd, and the defense took over from there. The Bengals managed just 6 second half points, as Houston went on to win by a final score of 19-13. Matt Schaub would finish 29-of-38 for 262 yards, while Andy Dalton finished only 14-of-30 for 127 yards. Foster rushed for 140 yards on 32 carries and scored the game's only offensive touchdown.

The Texans move on to play the Patriots in Foxboro next week.

In the late game, the Minnesota Vikings (10-6) were in trouble before the game even got underway. Quarterback Christian Ponder, who previously had a solid outing against the Packers (11-5), was scratched with an apparent elbow injury. He was replaced by Joe Webb, who had not thrown a pass all season.

The game started in favor of the Packers, who quickly took the lead with a touchdown and field goal in the 1st quarter. Green Bay's defense swarmed the inexperienced Webb. He was sacked early in the 2nd and later called for intentional grounding. The Vikings finally got on the board with a field goal, but the Packers answered with another touchdown, making it 17-3 at the half.

The Packers widened their lead with a touchdown in the 3rd. Minnesota finally scored their first touchdown late in the 4th quarter thanks to a 50-yard pass by Webb, but it was too little too late. Green Bay picked up the win by a final of 24-10. The key to the Packers success was holding running back Adrian Peterson to only 99 yards. This was huge, considering Peterson had previously gained 199 and 210 in previous games. The loss of Ponder was also key to Minnesota's downfall. Webb was simply too inexperienced and made poor decision after poor decision all night long.

The Packers advance to play the 49ers next week in San Francisco.

Two more Wild Card games take place Sunday. The Indianapolis Colts, led by rookie QB Andrew Luck, take on the Baltimore Ravens. The winner will take on MVP candidate Peyton Manning and the Broncos in Denver next week.

Over on the NFC side, the upstart Seattle Seahawks take on quarterback Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins. The winner of that contest will play the Falcons in Atlanta next week.

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