By
Greg A. Bedard
· More from Greg·

The Purple-Chip Report

Like we’ve discussed previously, postseason games in my opinion come down to how many top players each team has and whether or not they perform to that level (as opposed to the regular season, which is more about offense and depth). Performance can be affected by injury, the opponent taking a player out of the game, or just poor performance by the player. But top players need to find a way to perform in the postseason—they are the difference-makers—or else it really hurts their team.

Let’s see how each team’s purple chips, a combination of players that are blue (elite), and red (very good), fared last week.

Seahawks 23, Saints 15

The Seahawks won in spite of Russell Wilson's lackluster performance. His 67.6 rating was the fourth time in the last five games he failed to top 90. (Robert Beck/SI)
The Seahawks won in spite of Russell Wilson’s lackluster performance. His 67.6 rating was the fourth time in the last five games he failed to top 90. (Robert Beck/SI)

Seahawks that met expectations (5): RB Marshawn Lynch, DE Michael Bennett, CB Richard Sherman, S Earl Thomas, DT Brandon Mebane. Didn’t (2): QB Russell Wilson, DL Clinton McDonald.

Saints that met expectations (3): QB Drew Brees, DE Cameron Jordan, OT Zach Strief. Didn’t (4): TE Jimmy Graham, third-down back Darren Sproles, RG Jahri Evans, CB Keenan Lewis.

The Seahawks got away with it for another week, but unless they start making plays more consistently via the pass and Wilson plays better from the pocket, they’re going to have a tough time advancing. They can’t keep kicking field goals in the red zone. Seattle’s defense was again terrific, with Bennett arguably the best player on the field. For the Saints, Jordan’s play waned a little bit in the middle of the season, but he was lights out for the past month. Graham better be working in the offseason on his play against physical defenses, especially if he gets paid as a pending free agent. His team is counting on him to be a difference-maker in these types of games.

Patriots 43, Colts 22

Patriots players who met expectations (6): QB Tom Brady, LT Nate Solder, RB combo LeGarrette Blount/Shane Vereen, LG Logan Mankins, DE Rob Ninkovich, CB Aqib Talib. Didn’t (1): S Devon McCourty.

Colts players who met expectations: WR T.Y. Hilton, OLB Robert Mathis, DT Cory Redding. Didn’t (2): QB Andrew Luck, CB Vontae Davis.

The Patriots were just methodical in this game, which was close on the scoreboard during certain parts even though the Patriots dominated most of it thanks to impressive performances from players in the supporting cast, like Jamie Collins, Alfonzo Dennard, Dont’a Hightower and Dan Connolly. If the Patriots limited some big plays from the Colts, which were equal parts great plays Luck and Hilton and the fault of the Patriots’ defense, this really would have been a blowout. Blount carried the RB combo in this game, but Vereen really needs to get back on the same page with Brady for the next round. The Patriots will need all the offensive playmakers they can get.

49ers 23, Panthers 10

49ers who met expectations (8): WR Michael Crabtree, WR Anquan Boldin, RB Frank Gore, OLB Aldon Smith, ILB NaVorro Bowman, ILB Patrick Willis, DE Justin Smith, S Eric Reid. Didn’t (2): LT Joe Staley, TE Vernon Davis.

Panthers who met expectations (5): QB Cam Newton, DE Greg Hardy, LB Luke Kuechly, DE Charles Johnson, LB Thomas Davis. Didn’t (3): WR Steve Smith, LT Jordan Gross, LG Travelle Wharton.

A case of San Francisco just being too good, especially on defense. The Panthers don’t have enough playmakers on offense to win the day against that 49ers unless Newton is just out of this world. Steve Smith was awesome in the first half, but was blanked in the second half. Carolina isn’t at the point with its roster where that can happen in the postseason and they can expect to win.

Broncos 24, Chargers 17

Broncos who met expectations (6): QB Peyton Manning, RG Louis Vazquez, WR Demaryius Thomas, DT Terrance Knighton, DT Malik Jackson, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Didn’t (3): WR Eric Decker, WR Wes Welker, TE Julius Thomas.

Chargers who met expectations (3): QB Philip Rivers, third-down RB Danny Woodhead, S Eric Weddle. Didn’t (2): TE Antonio Gates, OT King Dunlap.

San Diego was at such a talent disadvantage in this one that it needed almost a perfect performance to win, and it didn’t come close to that. The only reason this was close in the end was because of the Broncos’ self-inflicted wounds. Not sure Denver can have the same type of performance and beat the Patriots. Decker, Welker and Julius Thomas all need to be more consistent or the Broncos will have a tough time moving the ball.

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17 comments
rtrepsas
rtrepsas

Greg,  excellent article, as are all the comments below. One quibble: It's "Devin", not "Devon" McCourty. You oughta know better, being the former Boston Globe NFL writer.

skanee00
skanee00

With quarterbacks getting 50 plus TD passes per year and passing records dropping like flies, I wonder if the defenseless receiver rule has made passing the ball too easy.  It's getting too much like the arena league and the value of a touchdown pass has been cheapened.  I propose dumping the five yard bump rule and returning to the ten yard rule that existed in the 1970's.  That might make football more of a running game again, but the Patriots have shown that can be exciting too.

tarheelfan59
tarheelfan59

Great comments by all but I picked up on the Pats theme. As a diehard Pats fan Peyton still scares the heck out of me each and every time they play. I'm never happy until the clock is at 00:00 and the Pats are leading. That's when you know you've won against Peyton. Yes he throws his share of picks against the Pats but the man is fearless and will keep slinging it until the clock is gone. That's what makes him so dangerous, he will never quit. I've been very impressed with the Pats run game as of late and feel just as some have here in this post that the reason Denver is #9 in run defense is because just about every team they have played is down 14 points by the 2nd qtr. and turn to the pass. Its not hard to be ranked #9 when the team fore goes the run and ends up with less than 15 rushing attempts. Bottomline, if the Pats can run the ball for 200 yards, Peyton will have less chances to beat them and may panic with his well known interceptions.  

westcoastbias
westcoastbias

Perhaps a minor point, but I saw Weddle get run over on a Broncos TD when he was in perfect position, and the only guy who could/should have stopped the play.  He's a safety - he's gotta tackle.  He didn't.  Didn't meet my expectations.

Ocean_State_Patriots_Fan
Ocean_State_Patriots_Fan

I’m far less concerned about Brady & Co. vs. the Broncos’ defense, and much more concerned about Peyton & Co. vs. the Pats’ defense. By now, New England defense should be smart enough to ignore Peyton’s pre-snap act.(It never ceases to amaze me how some fans—not to mention some NFL defenders—get caught up with his theatrics—all the hand signals, body motions, walking side to side on the line, etc.While some of his audibles are undoubtedly legit—a “hot read,” for example, I suspect many of his gyrations have no purpose other than perhaps to get a defense to simply show its hand.)

Speaking of actors, Anthony Hopkins once played a trivia-minded billionaire in the 1997 film, “The Edge.”In an effort to stump him, an Alaskan lodge owner shows him a wooden oar paddle with artwork depicting a black panther on one side, and a rabbit, his prey, calmly smoking a pipe on the other side.The lodge owner asks why the rabbit is unafraid, and Hopkins’ character, referencing the Cree Indian symbol/motif, correctly answers that it’s because the rabbit is “smarter than the panther.”If the Patriots’ defense is smarter, then they’ll trick Peyton by not trying to trick him at all.In other words, they’ll be less concerned with disguising coverages, and more concerned with disrupting Peyton’s TIMING by jamming his wide receivers and tight ends.If the Pats execute well on that, then the team can smoke its pipe on the journey to MetLife Stadium.If not, then Peyton will eat them alive, making New England’s new-found running game moot.

KevinDoucette
KevinDoucette

Denver was great against the run because nobody ran against them. It was the same for the Patriots back when they had Moss and were racking up huge amounts of points. Everyone had to pass as they were always behind. It doesn't really mean they're great against the run. Of course it doesn't mean they're bad against the run either. All it means is that people didn't run against them.

JohnFerguson
JohnFerguson

New England has a huge offensive line; originally to protect Brady.  They have only an average receiver corp.  It makes sense to run the ball when you have a back like Blount.  You reduce the time that the average defense spends on the field and takes at least one and possibly two possessions away from the opponent.  It's a workable strategy because most teams have structured their defense to defend against the pass.

bserious
bserious

@psychsportsI don't know if you care, but I haven't and never will visit your site, due to the fact that you're always annoyingly spamming comments sections, looking for free advertising.

UnishowponyWherebeef
UnishowponyWherebeef

@Ocean_State_Patriots_Fan 


I remember that movie. But you explained the scene differently from what I remember. It's Alec Baldwin who takes down the oar, shows Perkins one side and asks him to guess what's on the other side. Which, after a few moments of contemplation, Perkins does to perfection (a rabbit smoking a pipe).


As I watched it, I thought that that scene had to be the dumbest, most unbelievable, worst written scene in the history of Hollywood films. Completely absurd and laughable.


I still feel that way today.


I won't make any predictions concerning the Pats-Broncos game but I do hope that the Pats win...

westcoastbias
westcoastbias

@Reedster2185 Good analysis as far as it goes.  Missing is the part where NE gets pressure on Manning.  Both teams are injured/flawed in part.  Both teams can run on the other (esp. with Wilfork gone).  For me, game goes to the Broncos with home field crowd & altitude advantages.  Could be a classic.

A1
A1

@Reedster2185 Couldn't have said it better myself, although I still believe that any moment now the bubble gum and tape holding the Patriot offense and defense together will let go.  I think PM has more to exploit in the Patriots than the Patriots have in the Broncos!

UnishowponyWherebeef
UnishowponyWherebeef

@KevinDoucette That's exactly what I was thinking. Same as the Pats in 2007.


Then again... Bedard claims that Denver's run defense is great (9th vs run). He then points out that the Pats ran over the Ravens in Week 16. The Ravens are ranked 10th vs run.


I don't get it...

ThayneEgbert
ThayneEgbert

@KevinDoucette  If they aren't very good than Seattle isn't either.  They have almost the exact same stats.  Denver had 422 rushing attempts against and Seattle had 420.  They both gave up the same amount of yards.  They are tied for 7th for lowest avg/attempt.   

mvd
mvd

@UnishowponyWherebeef@KevinDoucetteIts easy to co-relate the 2 stats between Denver at #9 and Ravens at #10.  Pats ran over / destroyed the Ravens with the new found running game.  Denver looks good at #9 only because teams did not run against them, hence they cannot be all that better then the Ravens.  Pats running game will be the real test for Denver as this is their opportunity to show why they are ranked at #9.  Since Pats destroyed #10 Ravens with the running game, they should have no problem running against Denver, may not be a blow out like Ravens, but Pats dont need a blow out to win.  The play action comes into play with the missing CB Harris and Pats have thrown well against them in the last game and with Von Miller out as well, the passing game for Pats should be better than what they did against the Colts.  OK, Gronk is gone but so are Miller and Harris.  PATs running game will put the Denver run defense where it belongs, in the upper 20s, not like #9.  Pats have 4 RBs with Vereen doubling as receiver as well on 3rd downs, so the climate wont come into play as they rotate them as needed.  They also showed last week that they dont abondon the run just because they got stuffed a few times.  The 3-4 yard gains in first 3 quarters become 10+ yard gains in 4th quarter as defense tires and with Brady picking them apart with the play action, and Peyton's history of throwing picks against the Pats at most critical times, it all points to a Pats win.  They can then take the same game plan against Seattle or San Francisco and stuff them too since it will be a cold winter night in NJ and if any team is equipped to win in cold, its the Pats.

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