The not entirely surprising news flew around the internet this morning that Kurt Warner could be in his last days as an NFL quarterback. The always mysterious ‘anonymous sources close to the situation’ say that Warner’s next loss could be his last. That makes sense in many way given that he is now 38 years old, and he had a concussion earlier this year. The way he played today, though, it’s pretty clear that he plans to go out the right way. Warner was absolutely brilliant today – about as good as a quarterback can be. He was 29 of 33 for 379 yards and five touchdowns. Brilliant. Warner had a good shot at a sixth touchdown as well at the end of regulation. He marched 60+ yards down the field effortlessly, but stopped on first down with 14 seconds left to give Neil Rackers a shot at an easy winning field goal – one that he uncharacteristically missed. The Green Bay defense had strengthened up and found itself in the second half of the season, but Warner just shredded it all day today. A lot of people made the mistake of counting out Warner and the Cardinals last year. Despite getting burned by that, people overwhelmingly made the same mistake today. I’m still not convinced by any means that they have what it takes to win the NFC two years in a row, but I wouldn’t rule them out. No matter what, every remaining NFC game will be played in a climate controlled building, and that’s just what the Cards need. Their defense was a real problem today, but their offense was more than up to the task of making up for that. The Saints have real defensive woes as well, and seem vulnerable on both sides of the ball. Minnesota and Dallas both play good defense on average, but both can have rough days from time to time. No matter what, the rest of the NFC playoffs are going to be brilliant. That should more than make up for an AFC schedule that is frankly a bit boring in my eyes (boring become it seems almost predetermined, and because it seems hard to imagine exciting games next weekend).
Not to drone on and on, but there is another thing that makes Warner’s performance so incredible – he did it with Anquan Boldin out of the lineup. Early Doucet had had just one TD catch all year, but Warner found him in the endzone twice, and made him a huge aspect of the game all day. The more I think about it, the more I am willing to say this – we have seen playoff QB performances at the same level as Warner’s was today, but we have never seen one better.
While throwing kudos at Warner it wouldn’t be fair to ignore Aaron Rodgers. The two teams scored the most points ever in a playoff game, and Rodgers did almost as much to contribute to that as Warner. Rodgers threw for 422 yards and four TDs. His performance was marred by a couple of things (besides losing, of course) – an interception, and the fumble that led to the loss. Rodgers deserved more for the way he played, and it was especially impressive when you remember that it was his first playoff game. He’ll have many more in the future.
Great game. As long as you hate defense. I can’t wait to see more of the same in New Orleans next week.
As for the AFC – well, I haven’t got much to say about that one. What a mess. If you were surprised that the Patriots had the potential to lay an egg in this one then you just weren’t paying attention. If you were impressed by the Ravens’ win or optimistic about them going forward despite the fact that they only got 34 passing yards is almost certainly delusional. This was a lousy, lousy game that almost certainly is irrelevant for the long term AFC picture. Yuck.