Kansas City 44, Indianapolis 45
Time of Death: There were a lot of plays preceding it that collectively accumulated in Kansas City's jaw-dropping collapse after taking a 28-point lead in the second half, but it wasn't really over for the Chiefs until Alex Smith's last pass fell incomplete. Though the grounding penalty he took right before it to push Kansas City out of even possible field goal range was also pretty important.
Causes of Death:
1. Becoming the second team in NFL history to hold a 21-point lead at halftime of a playoff game and lose requires some level of oddity. Oddity like "Alex Smith joins Warren Moon, Jeff George, Kerry Collins, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees on the list of quarterbacks since 1993 who have thrown four touchdowns in a postseason game and lost." Or like "in that same time period, only Andrew Luck, Kurt Warner, Jay Fiedler, Steve McNair, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have thrown three interceptions in a playoff game and won."
2. Or even "just two players in NFL history have more receiving yards in a single playoff game than T.Y. Hilton's 224." Hilton spent the better part of the season as the sole wide receiver option for Indianapolis, got 40 percent of the targets in this game -- and still destroyed Kansas City.
3. But the most surprising thing the Colts did in the second half was drive the length of the field again and again and again, scoring touchdowns on four drives that started at or inside their own 20. During the regular season, Kansas City's opponents had started with that field position 65 times and scored touchdowns on six drives -- a rate of 9.2 percent.
Philadelphia 24, New Orleans 26
Time of Death: Shayne "Not Garrett Hartley" Graham kicked a 32-yard field goal on the game's final play to send the Saints to Seattle, where they will surely be greeted with welcoBEAST MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOODE
Causes of Death:
1. The Eagles went 3-for-12 on third-down conversions, and most of their struggles came with manageable distances to gain; seven times Philadelphia faced third-and-6 or less, but the Eagles only picked up the first down once and averaged 1.7 yards per play.
2. Philly's rushing game wasn't totally suffocated, but it was put into a very small room with no light and stale air and no asthma inhaler. 3.6 yards per rush was its third-worst average this year, and LeSean McCoy picked up double-digit yardage on just one attempt. Considering McCoy led the NFL in 10+ yard runs this year with 47, that was a major victory for the New Orleans defense.
3. Meanwhile, the Saints had their second-best ground game of 2013 (only their win over Dallas was more productive), averaging 5.14 yards per run. Keep in mind the Saints did this with a rushing attack ranked 25th this year and did most of their damage with Mark Ingram, which is a little bit like saying you got stabbed to death with a grapefruit.
Cincinnati 10, San Diego 27
Time of Death: Despite Andy Dalton's near pick-six on the previous drive that put the Bengals in a 10-point hole, they still had a chance to keep things interesting as they moved the ball from their 11 to San Diego's 35 in seven plays. Of course, then Dalton threw another pick, because sometimes second chances are second failures. (Don't steal that tagline, Nicholas Sparks.)
Cause of Death:
1. Dalton threw 51 passes in this game, and when Andy Dalton throws 40 or more passes, bad things happen. Bad things like a 3-12 record or 17 touchdowns to 24 interceptions. Andy Dalton is a modest but sturdy starter home. Keep it simple and don't overextend yourself, and things will be fine. Take out that third mortgage and you'll be underwater in four months.
2. The Chargers ran for almost 200 yards on the Bengals, but they didn't do it with big plays; the longest two runs went for 58 and 11 yards. This was just a steady dose of 5 yards here, 4 yards there, as San Diego was happy to stay unbalanced and call 24 more runs than passes, tied for their most ground-heavy game this year. The other? Their Week 15 win in Denver, where they head Sunday.
3. Largely because of Dalton's three turnovers, San Diego's starting field position was wildly different between the two halves. In the first two quarters, the average Chargers drive began at their own 15-yard line. In the last two, it began at the 50. A child born on the day the Bengals last won in the playoffs turns 23 today. Happy birthday, Sad Bengals Fan. Maybe think about watching more tennis.
Green Bay 20, San Francisco 23
Time of Death: The Niners drove the length of the field and burned up the remaining 5:06 of game clock, capped by Phil Dawson's 33-yard field goal.
Cause of Death:
1. During the regular season, San Francisco converted 36.5 percent of its third-down attempts, ranking a fairly unimpressive 18th overall, but the team went 6-for-12 against the Packers, including a perfect 4-for-4 in the fourth quarter. Consequently, the Niners had just two three-and-outs, though that hadn't been a strength of Green Bay's all year -- only six teams forced fewer in the regular season.
2. Aaron Rodgers finished with 6.8 yards per passing attempt, and that's just below where he needs to be for the Packers to succeed. In the playoffs, when Rodgers averages at least 7 yards per pass, the Packers are 4-1. When he's below that threshold, they're 1-3.
3. RIC FLAIR.