HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 7: Running back Arian Foster #23 of the Houston Texans congratulates quarterback T.J. Yates #13 of the Houston Texans after the Houston Texans defeated the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2012 AFC Wild Card Playoff game at Reliant Stadium on January 7, 2012 in Houston, Texas.The Texans defeated the Bengals 31-10. (Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images)
The first day of Wild Card weekend is done. We saw the Texans claim a 31-10 victory over the Bengals and the Saints, as usual, explode offensively in a win over the Lions.
The first day of the 2012 NFL playoffs schedule is in the books as we saw two Saturday games. The Houston Texans cruised to a 21-point victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Wild Card game while the New Orleans Saints captured the NFC Wild Card victory over the Detroit Lions, 45-28.
That means the Texans, the third seed in the AFC, will move onto Baltimore to play the Ravens next weekend and the Saints, the third seed in the NFC, will travel to San Francisco to play the 49ers in the divisional round next weekend.
But before we look to next week, let's rewind at what went down on the first day of Wild Card weekend.
Houston's first franchise playoff victory. And it comes in their first franchise playoff appearance. The Texans have been in existence since 2002 and they hadn't made the playoffs until this year, which means they didn't have any playoff wins either. They pick up their first one while extending the Bengals streak another year. The Bengals last playoff win came against the Houston Oilers in 1991.
Texans have the formula to keep winning. Arian Foster had 153 yards and Ben Tate had 37 yards. The defense created turnovers and held Cincy to just 10 points. This isn't the same old Texans where there's a lot of passing and not very much defense. Houston has the recipe so many people talk about in the playoffs -- run the ball well and stop the run.
Arian Foster is obviously the MVP. Andre Johnson had a big game, too. But Foster is clearly the MVP. He touched the ball on 24 carries that went for 153 yards along with a pair of touchdowns. He also added 29 yards receiving. The NBC broadcast had a comparison for him that fits -- Terrell Davis. The former Broncos running back was able to slip through the zones so crisply and that's who Foster reminds me of. Those Broncos, by the way, won a pair of Super Bowls.
Texans move on to face Baltimore. The Texans lost once already to the Ravens earlier this year and they'll meet next Sunday at 1:00 p.m. (ET) in Baltimore for the AFC Divisional round of the playoffs. The Ravens should be favored to win but the Texans are more than capable of winning.
Video highlights: Helmet-to-helmet hit results in penalty; Arian Foster pays homage to Hakeem with the Dream Shake; J.J Watt's interception return for a touchdown; Andy Dalton can't understand J.J. Watt's interception; Andre Johnson's wide open touchdown; Jerome Simpson leapfrogs the Texans; Arian Foster's 42-yard touchdown run.
Saints 45 Lions 28
You can't stop Drew Brees you can only hope to contain him. My goodness -- 466 yards and three touchdowns? Brees and the Saints are playing on another level right now as they rack up their ninth straight win. Of course that passing yardage broke an NFL record for a playoff performance and, just for good measure, the Saints went ahead and broke a 49-year old record with 626 total yards in this one. One more: the two teams combined for 1,038 yards which tied another NFL record. Brees even completed 33-of-43 passes and the Saints, if this play this way, can not be beat (and, yes, I'm aware the Packers are still in this).
So much for the Lions matching the Saints firepower. We talked before the game about Detroit being maybe the only team (outside of Green Bay) that can hang with the Saints offensively. The Lions offense was good scoring 28 points, Matthew Stafford put up 380 passing yards and Calvin Johnson had 211 receiving yards but they weren't good enough. That shows you just how good the Saints are. Not only was the Lions' offensive performance not enough, it wasn't even close. They lost by 17 points.
The Lions hung with the Saints for a half. We wrote at halftime -- when the score was 14-10, Detroit -- that the Lions were playing well enough to win the game, especially if Stafford continued playing turnover-free football. He didn't and the Saints came storming back but it's how quickly they came back that impressed me. The Lions held that halftime lead and within two minutes in the second half the Saints had taken the lead back and within another five minutes they'd put up another touchdown. By midway through the fourth quarter, the Saints had put up four touchdowns to the Lions' one in the second half. It's not just matching the Saints firepower, it's doing it all game long.
The Chargers have to be kicking themselves. Remember Darren Sproles? The guy was pretty good in San Diego but the Chargers let him go last offseason. All he did was break the single-season all purpose yards mark for the Saints this year. On Saturday he picked up 51 yards on the ground (and 34 through the air) along with two touchdowns. His second TD lead Peter King to tweet: "(Chargers GM) A.J. Smith just vomited."
Saints next step is San Francisco. They couldn't get the No. 2 seed from San Francisco during the regular season so they'll travel to the west coast to play the 49ers next weekend. The 49ers are for real with the No. 2 ranked defense in the NFL and a few pass rushers that can get to Brees. They might have the recipe to slow down (but not stop) this Saints offense. Here are the details on the Saints and 49ers on the NFL playoffs schedule.
Video highlights: Darren Sproles first touchdown; Drew Brees' first half fumble; Incredible catch by Robert Meachem; Drew Brees goes deep to Devery Henderson; Drew Brees' second touchdown of the game; Matthew Stafford's bomb to Calvin Johnson sets up Lions score; Darren Sproles scores again; When in doubt, go deep to Calvin Johnson; Drew Brees' final touchdown pass to Robert Meachem