After a wild weekend of NFL divisional-round action, four teams remain alive heading into next weekend’s conference championships. Sunday’s two games featured some incredible individual performances, along with some total duds.
The first game saw the Houston Texans go up 24-0 over the Kansas City Chiefs, only to lose by the blowout score of 51-31. The stunning game put one worldwide sports figure to sleep, and his reaction when he woke up later was pure gold.
Later in the evening, the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers took to Lambeau Field for the right to face the San Francisco 49ers next weekend. It was a nail-biter, but in the end the Seahawks are going home, and the Packers are moving on.
Looking at what transpired in the two contests, we’re highlighting the best and worst of Sunday’s divisional-round games.
Stud: Travis Kelce was unstoppable
Patrick Mahomes was unbelievable, and he deserves a ton of credit for his 374-yard, five-touchdown performance. But for the sake of this list, we’re focusing more on Mahomes’ top target, tight end Travis Kelce, who gutted out a historic performance while dealing with multiple injuries.
Kelce hauled in 10 of his 12 targets for 134 yards to lead all receivers on both teams Sunday. Even better, he caught three touchdowns during the second quarter as Kansas City charged back from its 24-0 deficit, setting an NFL record in the process.
Dud: J.J. Watt was pretty much a non-factor
One week after helping spark a stunning win over the Buffalo Bills, Houston Texans star defensive end J.J. Watt had a much different experience at Arrowhead Sunday. Watt barely registered a single stat, logging zero tackles and one pass defensed.
There were a few instances where Watt did impact Patrick Mahomes, but he never got to the quarterback and unfortunately looked absolutely gassed throughout the game. Now, Watt is playing through an injury and it’s remarkable he was out there at all to begin with. But ultimately his presence on the field did nothing to help the Texans, who lost in historic fashion.
Stud: Deshaun Watson did everything he could
In a losing cause, Deshaun Watson had quite a big game against the Chiefs Sunday. Without the benefit of a strong run game (Texans running backs combined for just 52 yards rushing), Watson had to pretty much do it all by himself. That job is always complicated for the Houston quarterback because his offensive line is brutal at pass protection. On Sunday, it was no different as Watson was hit seven times and sacked four times.
Despite all that, the third-year quarterback finished the divisional-round game with 388 yards and two touchdowns on 31-of-52 passing, adding 37 yards and a brilliant touchdown on the ground. If the Texans can give him proper support, this young man is only going to get better and better in the future.
Dud: Bill O’Brien’s decision-making doomed the Texans
A coach who’s known for making the exact wrong decisions in key moments, Bill O’Brien stayed true to form with a couple of unbelievably bad decisions Sunday that ultimately doomed the Texans.
The first huge mistake came early in the second quarter. Houston was up 21-0 and had once again moved the ball with ease deep into Chiefs territory. From Kansas City’s 13-yard line, on 4th-and-1, O’Brien initially signaled for the Texans to go for it. Then, as the play clock ticked down, he called a timeout, capitulated and kicked a field goal instead.
That one decision turned into an avalanche of misfortune for the Texans, who went on to be outscored 51-7 the rest of the game. O’Brien’s second huge mistake was calling for a fake punt on Houston’s next offensive possession. It failed miserably, and the Chiefs quickly scored a second touchdown. The comeback was on, and it turned into an incredible rout. Above all, O’Brien shoulders most of the responsibility for the epic collapse.
Stud: Davante Adams with a legendary night
You know you had a big night when you break a Green Bay Packers playoff record.
Davante Adams hauled in eight passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns. His first touchdown came on the game’s first offensive possession. His second proved to be the game-winner. Then, for good measure, Adams’ 32-yard reception late in the fourth pretty much iced the win for Green Bay.
Dud: D.K. Metcalf was largely shut down
It was probably too much to ask D.K. Metcalf to replicate his NFL record-breaking performance from last weekend on Sunday against the Packers. After all, the Packers possess a much better pass defense than the Philadelphia Eagles.
Still, it’s disappointing that Metcalf was unable to break loose for any big plays on Sunday. The second-round rookie did haul in four passes for 59 yards. But without the big plays downfield, Seattle’s offense was way too dependent upon Russell Wilson to conjure game-winning magic.
Stud: Packers’ pass rush was on fire
It’s very difficult to corral Russell Wilson. In fact, it’s darn-near impossible most of the time. The Packers did as good a job as any defense this year of keeping Wilson from getting comfortable. He was hit 10 times in the pocket and sacked five times.
The Packers spent a bunch of money last spring to sign Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith. They came through in a big way Sunday night, tallying two sacks each while combining for eight of the 10 quarterback hits.
Dud: Marshawn Lynch can score, but that’s about it
Since signing as an emergency addition just before the end of the regular season, Marshawn Lynch punched in four touchdowns in three games. He scored twice on Sunday night for the Seahawks. But other than that, the 33-year-old running back was unable to give the Seahawks much of anything on the ground.
He’s just not the same Beast Mode who earned a spot in Seahawks history last decade. And on Sunday, Lynch provided little help with just 26 yards on 12 carries. Looking a bit more broadly at his impact, in his three games with Seattle the past few weeks, Lynch has carried the ball 30 times for a grand total of 67 yards.