Wonder if the Tennessee Titans are playing a little “what if” this morning and kicking themselves in the process. Why?
Consider this: The New York Jets just squeaked into the AFC playoffs with a 9-7 record, and thanks in part to both the Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals electing to rest key players, certainly aiding and abetting the Jets’ playoff hopes.
Another team that more unwittingly assisted the Jets earlier in the year was the Titans, who literally muffed it when Ryan Mouton lost two fumbles on kicks, costing Tennessee a victory in the Meadowlands, 24-17, back on Sept. 27.
How does that figure in? Well, obviously at 9-7, the Jets needed every regular-season victory they could muster just to get into the postseason fray. But it goes deeper than that for the Titans. Had the Titans been able to hold onto the football and that win in New Jersey that day, Tennessee would have finished 9-7, and the Jets would have been 8-8.
And in the process of that, it would have been the Titans who claimed an AFC wild-card berth instead of the Jets, joining Baltimore in the postseason ahead of Pittsburgh and Houston.
Of course, that’s not to say the Titans would be playing for the AFC Championship on Sunday in Indianapolis, because the postseason bracket would have been entirely different.
But it certainly shows just how razor thin the margin for error in wins and losses in the NFL and the difference between a team now one step from the Super Bowl and one that finished as a .500 also-ran can be.
How about stopping them?
The Minnesota Vikings late touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys in Sunday’s 34-3 divisional round rout has stirred up a bit of a hornet’s nest, especially with Cowboys linebacker Keith Brooking complaining that the Vikings ran up the score with Brett Favre’s TD pass to Visanthe Shiancoe on fourth down.
My take? Tough luck. How about doing your job and playing some defense and preventing the score?
If the Cowboys were so concerned about the game being out of hand, then perhaps they should have punted on fourth down in their own territory with the game out of hand, instead of throwing passes to try and make the score look more respectable down 27-3.
If the Cowboys don’t leave the ball deep in their own territory after the fourth-down flub, then the Vikings don’t have the opportunity to score again.
Perhaps Dallas should have taken a cue from the Titans, when they were demolished 59-0 in New England back in October. At a certain point, the Titans knew it was over, so the sent up the white flag, electing to run the football in the second half, keep the clocking moving and starting up the bus as soon as the game was over.
The onus to wave the flag of surrender and to say when was on the Cowboys, not the Vikings.