TORONTO - The Detroit Lions proved they had the right stuff after all, so kudos to them for their destruction of San Diego on Saturday that clinched a wild-card spot in the playoffs.
The Lions earned their first trip to the post-season since 1999 the old fashioned way — they earned it — as they found a way not only to defeat, but destroy, one of the hottest teams in the league in the high-flying Chargers.
So, this was no back-door entry over one of the dregs. This was a street mugging of what was thought to be one of the best.
But more on the Lions later.
The weekend’s action cleared up a lot of the playoff mess as a number of teams that were clinging to playoff hopes — San Diego, Seattle, Arizona, Philadelphia and Kansas City — were all kicked to the curb.
The game that received the most hype, the one that featured a cacophony of pre-game trash talk — starting with Jets coach Rex Ryan — was the battle of Gotham between the Jets and the Giants with so much on the line for both teams. The Giants won the battle 29-14 thanks to an utterly inept performance by the Jets in the second half.
The game itself was a major letdown and given the shoddy play by both teams — and they both remain in post-season contention — you can’t help but feel that should one or both advance to the playoffs, they will be nothing more than fodder for the teams that they run up against.
No run to glory for those two.
Post-game, though, the bitterness between the two clubs was clearly in evidence and provided what I believe is the quote of the year from Giants running back Brandon Jacobs.
Confronting Ryan on the field after the game, Jacobs was heard to yell: “Time to shut up, fat boy!”
Boy, does that ever say it all.
I’ll bet you that the sharp guys flogging T-shirts down on Canal St. in lower Manhattan are this minute printing T-shirts by the thousands. It may become the Giants new slogan.
Jacobs and Ryan, evidently, had more to say to each other.
Jacobs told the New York Daily News that he apparently went on to tell Ryan to “shut the f--- up,” and Ryan reportedly told the running back to “go f--- himself.”
At least they didn’t throw punches.
The Giants now move on to next Sunday where they play host to the Dallas Cowboys with the winner claiming the NFC East title and the loser packing up and going home for the winter.
It will be the featured game of the final Sunday of the regular season and the game has been flexed into the prime time 8:30 p.m. time slot. No surprise there.
The Jets, meanwhile, dropped to 8-7 with the loss and now sit a game back of Cincinnati, who dusted the Cardinals to move to 9-6 and into possession of the sixth and final playoff spot. If the Bengals beat Baltimore at home, they win the final spot. If they lose, it opens up a path to the playoffs for the Jets, who will have to beat the plucky Miami Dolphins on the road, the Tennessee Titans and perhaps the runner-up in the AFC West, either Denver or Oakland.
Speaking of which, no game was more shocking than the one in Buffalo where the Bills brought Tim Tebow-mania to a screeching halt with a 40-14 blowout victory.
No one saw that coming.
The late afternoon game between Dallas and Philadelphia was one of the featured games, up until the Giants downed the Jets that is. That made the Cowboys-Eagles game totally meaningless.
With the Giants win, the Eagles were eliminated from the playoffs. The Giants win also meant that it mattered not whether Dallas won or lost the contest, that whatever the outcome, the NFC East crown would go to the victor of next Sunday’s game.
That isn’t to say it lacked drama.
Halfway through the first quarter, Dallas quarterback Tony Romo drilled his hand into the helmet of an on-rushing Eagles defender causing a lot of swelling and rising panic in the Cowboys camp.
Romo spent the remainder of the game on the sidelines with the knuckles of his right hand heavily bandaged.
Not to worry, say the Cowboys.
“I’ll be fine,” Romo said after the game, which the Eagles won 20-7. “I think I just took a hit from the helmet. We’re going to be all right though.”
Romo will probably receive an MRI on Monday just to be sure. X-rays taken at the stadium proved negative. The rest is how much the swelling has subsided and whether Romo can grip and throw the ball.
“I have no idea what’s going to happen going forward,” Romo said. “I assume I’ll be good to go for practice and everything.”
Romo’s thumb will be the talk of the town for the following week.
Now about those Lions.
From the opening kickoff they were the dominating team and it was hard to believe that they were manhandling the same Chargers team that the previous week had thumped the Baltimore Ravens.
Under coach Jim Schwartz they have come a long way from the infamy of the 2008 team that posted an 0-16 season.
The Lions will probably end the season as the No. 6 seed. Next week they are in Green Bay and, if they lose, they’ll end 10-6. The Atlanta Falcons, meanwhile, are expected to lose Monday to New Orleans and then hammer Tampa Bay on Jan. 1 and if they follow that script they will also be 10-6 but hold the tiebreaker over the Lions.
In the wild-card round in two weeks time, look for the Lions to face the Saints in New Orleans.
The key to the Lions triumph over San Diego was an impressive performance from quarterback Matthew Stafford who connected on 29 of 36 passes for 373 yards and three touchdowns.
He’ll need another day like that in two weeks time against the Saints.
The matchup against Drew Brees could blow the lid off the Superdome.
IS THIS IT FOR TEBOW MANIA?
The bloom has definitely come off the Tim Tebow rose and the question now is it a sign of things to come or can he reverse the negative trend?
Losing to New England a week ago was one thing but after being blown out 40-14 by the Bills, throwing four interceptions against a team that had lost seven games in a row is something else altogether.
“We knew if we could make (Tebow) one dimensional by stopping the run, there was no way we were going to allow him to come out and throw the ball and beat us with his arm,” Bills safety George Wilson said of Buffalo’s game plan.
Has Tebow’s time come and gone and can he and the Broncos rebound and win next Sunday at home against Kansas City to claim the AFC West crown?
Tebow says he can.
“I have a lot of confidence in my teammates and my coaches, and we believe that,” he said. “We’re capable of pulling off some pretty cool things. We believed all the way to the end. I’m so proud of my teammates, the character that they played with for all 60 minutes to the very end, and that was very exciting to see,
“I’m very proud of them. Same with our coaches, they coached very hard, very well, all the way until the end. You know, you see coach (John) Fox clapping for us second to last play, that’s cool, you have a team that plays with a lot of character no matter what the situation is.”