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The winners and losers from Wildcard weekend

It was a mixed weekend for Marcus Mariota.

***Winners***

Jacksonville Jaguars fans

Source: UPI/PA Images

FOR AS MUCH as Blake Bortles was the butt of many NFL jokes this season — and, indeed, every season — the fans of the Jacksonville Jaguars have had to put up with a lot from their team since it came into existence in 1995.

Indeed, in that time, they’ve reached the postseason on just seven occasions; recording just one winning season in the past 10 years with many tipping the Jaguars to be the team to move if a London franchise ever comes about.

But now their team has a real shot at the Super Bowl on the back of an elite defence, so head coach Doug Marrone awarded the Jacksonville fan base the game ball after last night’s win over the Buffalo Bills as a thank you for all that they’ve put up with.

NFL teams that no longer have to endure Jeff Triplette

The Buffalo Bills may have scored just three points, Pharaoh Cooper may have been responsible for two turnovers that cost his team the game and the Chiefs may have blown an 18-point lead, but by far the worst performance of the weekend came from referee Jeff Triplette.

His worst mistake, in a game of many, was deciding that Marcus Mariota did not fumble the football during this sack from Kansas City linebacker Derrick Johnson:

Triplette said that the play ended the moment the pair came into contact, citing forward progress from the Titans’ quarterback as the reason which is, well, wrong. 99.9% of the time, that play is rightly live until the quarterback is down on the ground (either arm, knee or — as we learned recently — two butt cheeks).

Thankfully for all concerned, Triplette — who is notoriously bad in a league full of below-par officials — announced after the game he was hanging up his whistle.

Drew Brees

Source: Dan Anderson/PA Images

Drew Brees had, statistically, his worst season through the air for New Orleans, averaging 270.8 passing yards per game despite a career high 72% completion rate.

This was, we all believed a different type of Saints offence, one that relied on Brees to make shorter, more accurate throws and let his running backs do the rest.

But after being burned for an average of 148.5 yards per game on the ground in their two previous meetings this season, the Panthers stacked the box on Sunday night keeping Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram to 41 rushing yards.

But the veteran quarterback responded in style, slicing open the Panthers pass defence for 377 yards and two touchdowns, the first time since 2011 he has had a multiple-score postseason outing.

***Losers*** 

The Tennessee Titans

Source: UPI/PA Images

Before their win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday, word leaked that Mike Mularkey would lose his job after the game because, like most observers, the Tennessee head office know how poor his coaching record is and naturally assumed it was a match-up the Titans would lose.

However, in the wake of their 22-21 win — one that saw Marcus Mariota throw a touchdown pass to himself — the organisation was forced to come out and announce that Mularkey would be back next season.

During his time in Tennessee, the team has shown little sign of improvement — moving from 24th to 21st in defensive DVOA and 21st to 18th in offensive DVOA — in his two full seasons in charge.

Indeed, only six coaches with a playoff win have a worse career win-loss ratio than Mularkey and it’s frustrating to think what might have been for Maritoa’s development in particular had he been replaced by an offensive mind like Josh McDaniels.

Young head coaches

Source: Keith Birmingham/PA Images

While it should not take away from how good the Bills, and particularly the Rams were in the regular season, the inexperience of their head coaches showed in the cauldron of the playoffs.

The Rams offence, so good all season, failed to get into any sort of rhythm mostly because they couldn’t get on the field because of special teams mistakes and a defence that couldn’t make the adjustments required to get off the field.

For the Bills, they had the game plan to stop Jacksonville — stuff the run and force Blake Bortles to throw — until the quarterback began using his feet to beat them on the ground and, again, they failed to adapt.

Kansas City’s entire coaching staff

Source: John Sleezer/PA Images

Though you can have all the experience in the world and still make a mess of things.

It’s not the kind of statistic you want on your CV but, on Saturday, Andy Reid became the first coach in NFL history to blow two 18-point half-time leads. To put that in context, only two other coaches since 1933 have lost one 18-point half-time lead.

Without Travis Kelce, the obvious thing for the Chiefs to do — both to move the football and run the clock — was to give the ball to NFL rushing leader Kareem Hunt. Inexplicably, they handed the ball to their rookie star just 11 times.

Under Reid, Kansas City are one-and-done in three of their four playoff appearances and have yet to win a home game in the postseason. While his regular season record is phenomenal — they’ve reached the playoffs in all but one season — there’s no point in being there if you can’t reach and win Super Bowls.

When will the Chiefs’ ownership realise that Reid and his staff might not be good enough to take the next step?

The42 has just published its first book, Behind The Lines, a collection of some of the year’s best sports stories. Pick up your copy in Eason’s, or order it here today (€10):

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About the author:

Steve O'Rourke

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