Divisional Round Takeaways: What Went Right, What Went Wrong

The Divisional Round was great to watch. Any football fan has to come away from the week with a satisfaction that the games were good and that the teams matched up well with each other. The aftermath of the four games gives us two great Championship Games and a lot to think about. Let’s look at what went right for the winners and what went wrong for the losers.

Rams Versus Packers

What Went Right for the Packers?

The Packers scored on their first five drives in this game. You can’t script a better start even if you tried. The Packers won in all facets offensively, with Aaron Rodgers finding open receivers in a clean pocket as coverage started to break down to great run calls. A play that summarizes the perfect game planning was on the goal line when they brought Adams in motion to find him wide open in the end zone.

Jan 16, 2021; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams (17) catches a touchdown pass against Los Angeles Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey (20) in the first half of the NFC Divisional Round at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

We also saw how the Packers’ defense isn’t just good, but great with the lead. The pass rush was able to get to Jared Goff numerous times and the Rams could never run the ball effectively. The Packers’ defense’s two biggest strengths are the secondary and the bookends. On Saturday night, we saw both units on full display against a Rams offense that was forced into passing downs.

What Went Wrong for the Rams?

It’s hard to win a game when your quarterback is still recovering from a thumb injury and your best player has a rib injury. Aaron Donald can singlehandedly change games on the defensive front and he had to miss multiple downs in this game with his injury. Aside from the clear disadvantage talent-wise, the Rams had no answer for the Packers balanced attack, which scored on their first five possessions. As great a head coach Sean McVay is and as great a defensive coordinator Brandon Staley is, the Packers coaching staff prepared an ideal game plan and the talent won in the end.

Ravens Versus Bills

What Went Right for the Bills?

This game reminded us of the value of a great defensive coordinator. Leslie Frazier prepared his defense to essentially take out Lamar Jackson‘s rushing ability from the game. The Bills defense played a near-perfect game as they eliminated the Ravens run game and offense to only three points. Watching the safeties in this game both stopping the East-West run game and still forcing tight windows in the passing game was a thing of beauty.

Jan 16, 2021; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Buffalo Bills free safety Jordan Poyer (21) celebrates their win over the Baltimore Ravens in an AFC Divisional Round playoff game at Bills Stadium. The Buffalo Bills won 17-3. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The offense may have struggled for the most part in this game, but it was still a shock to see how they were able to move the ball down the field. Stefon Diggs was constantly open in this game as he kept finding single coverage. Diggs was truly the only receiver to find open targets against the Ravens secondary which forced the Bills to run often. Josh Allen didn’t have the same effect in the run game as he did a week ago but Devin Singletary was constantly able to move the chains behind an incredible offensive line.

What Went Wrong for the Ravens?

Granted, Lamar Jackson had to leave this game early with a concussion, and that completely altered the game. However, we can point to this game as a reminder of how the Ravens need to adapt their offense. The run game is great but the Bills loaded the box and dared Jackson to beat them deep. Yes, the wind was a true factor in this game and nobody could hit a deep pass. However, the Ravens down have that threat downfield, to begin with. One can argue that Mark Andrews is that threat but, as a tight end, he fails to stretch the field the way a true number one receiver can.

Browns Versus Chiefs

What Went Right for the Chiefs?

This game was a reminder that the Chiefs aren’t just the best in the NFL, they have the most complete team in the NFL. The Chiefs scored on their first four drives of the game, reminding us of the unstoppable offense they possess. Once Patrick Mahomes had to leave the game, we saw every other facet of this team at full display. The defense stepped up and made plays needed to win. The skill players around Chad Henne made all the right plays to keep the offense moving. Most importantly, the coaching staff had an offense in place to allow Henne to make all the right plays to once again make it past the Divisional Round.

What Went Wrong for the Browns?

It feels weird saying that the Browns looked great in this Divisional Round loss. Many will criticize them for losing a game that was all but theirs, but this game showed us that Baker Mayfield is here to stay. the obvious thing to point out in the Browns’ defeat is the fumble that went through the endzone. The Browns were unable to keep the Chiefs defense on their heels with their run game. We also saw the offense slow the game down which came back to hurt them by the final quarter. The Browns will be remembered for losing this game on a fumble but this was a winnable game aside from that error.

Buccaneers Versus Saints

What Went Right for the Bucs?

Todd Bowles prepared an ideal game plan for the Bucs defense. Aside from the four forced turnovers, they held Michael Thomas to zero receptions. The defense essentially played the best possible game and the offense just needed to make the necessary plays to win. One of the surprising takeaways is how the Bucs used Leonard Fournette in the passing game. While Fournette struggled at times, he ended up being the X-Factor in this game. Tom Brady couldn’t find many open receivers in this game with the Saints playing excellent coverage. The adjustment to find Rob Gronkowski or Fournette open reminds us why we should have never doubted Brady.

What Went Wrong for the Saints?

This was a sad way for Drew Brees to go out. This game was a reminder that he can’t stretch the field the way he used to. Watching the Bucs defense load the box and dare Brees to throw deep was almost an embarrassment. The Saints came to play defensively but when the offense turns over the ball four times, they will surrender points by default. I was surprised the Saints didn’t call more trick plays or take more deep shots. This Divisional Round game required them to keep the secondary honest, yet they failed to do that consistently.

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