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The opening round of the 2014 NFL Playoffs might be one of the best over the last few decades with 3 of the 4 games coming down to the wire. Every single team in the wildcard round showed up with the exception of the Cincinnati Bengals and we'll recap the action with a look back at what unfolded last Saturday and Sunday.
Kansas City Chiefs 44
Indianapolis Colts 45
The Chiefs somehow found a way to lose here despite leading 31-10 at halftime and 38-10 in the 3rd quarter. Not to take anything away from Andrew Luck and his Colts but this was more about Kansas City getting injured and quarterback Alex Smith having to do more than manage a game which he rarely does well.
The Turning Point: Alex Smith had a wide open receiver on 3rd down and all he had to do was make a simple 15-yard pass downfield for an easy touchdown. Smith overthrew his man and the Colts were able to keep the momentum alive for their comeback.
New Orleans Saints 26
Philadelphia Eagles 24
Shayne Graham kicked a field goal as time expired as the Saints advanced out of the wildcard round of the NFL Playoffs. Philadelphia fought hard and their improved defense continued to make things difficult for Drew Brees and company on the road, but ultimately it wasn't enough.
The Turning Point: This one was decided well before the team's hit the field. Philadelphia coach Chip Kelly's offense was figured out by New Orleans and the Eagles never had a chance to move the ball effectively. Many have said Kelly's offense wouldn't work for more than a year in the NFL until teams figured it out and it appears we may have started to see it's decline already.
San Diego Chargers 27
Cincinnati Bengals 10
Cincinnati hadn't lost at home all season long but had nothing to offer against the Chargers. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has developed a reputation for choking in playoff games and he did not dissapoint in the wildcard round with numerous interceptions and fumbles on his resume'. Let's not take anything away from San Diego who moved the ball effectively on offense, but Cincinnati excels at choking away playoff games they should win.
The Turning Point: The Bengals actually had a 10-7 halftime lead in this game but the 3rd quarter was a disaster. Dalton led the team to a 3-and-out on Cincinnati's first drive, fumbled the ball on the 2nd drive, and threw an interception on the 3rd drive. By the end of the 3rd quarter the Chargers led 17-10 and the wheels were falling off for Cincinnati.
San Francisco 49ers 23
Green Bay Packers 20
Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers played a tremendous game but for the 4th time in 2 seasons it wasn't enough to beat the 49ers. The Packers and 49ers went back and forth the entire way through but it was San Francisco and Colin Kaepernick with the ball last as the former Nevada standout used his legs and arm to drive them down the field for the game-winning field goal as time expired.
The Turning Point: Green Bay's offense protected the ball throughout against a turnover-seeking San Francisco defense but in the end it was the Packers' defense that was simply too injured to stop Kaepernick. Already playing without linebacker Clay Matthews, the Packers suffered at least 3 or 4 injuries to defensive starters and simply didn't have the skill on the field at the end to stop the 49ers from driving.