Quarterbacks clubbed


New York Giants' Eli Manning looks up at the scoreboard late in the fourth quarter of Giants' 23-0 loss to the Carolina Panthers in their NFC wild card playoff football game at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford. N.J., Sunday, Jan. 8, 2006. Manning was 10 of 18 for 113 yards, with three interceptions and no touchdowns.

AP Photo/Kathy Willens
Published: Monday, January 9, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 9, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
First visit to the playoffs? Forget it. Wild-card weekend claimed two more quarterbacks making their first trips to the playoffs Sunday, as the New York Giants' Eli Manning and Cincinnati's Carson Palmer were bounced just like Tampa Bay's Chris Simms and Jacksonville's Byron Leftwich on Saturday.
If Manning never understood his brother's playoff angst before Sunday, he had quite the initiation.
He learned how confounding good, experienced, well-coached defenses can be in the playoffs. He knows how hot the lights feel when asked to describe his part in a lopsided season-ending loss.
Though Eli's poor performance didn't happen on a Super Bowl doorstep, his first playoff experience didn't look much different from Peyton's run-ins with the New England Patriots. And like his brother the last 12 months, Eli will spend a year knowing he played his worst game when it mattered most.
"You prepare and hope that you go out there in a playoff game, in a big game and a big situation, and play well and put your team in a situation to win," Eli Manning said. "I didn't do that today. ... I made too many mistakes for us to win."
Manning - who finished 10 of 18 for 113 yards with three interceptions and a lost fumble in the Giants' 23-0 loss to Carolina - looked jittery in the pocket and was forced into several bad decisions. The most costly of them came midway through the third quarter when, while backpedaling under pressure, he threw a pass across his body to Amani Toomer. It was intercepted by Panthers cornerback Ken Lucas, whose return set up a 12-yard touchdown run by Steve Smith that made the score 17-0.
"That was just a bad decision to throw it," Manning said. "I couldn't see the whole field well enough to see what was over there."
On a more painful note, Palmer tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee when he was tackled low on his first pass during Cincinnati's 31-17 loss to Pittsburgh.
The injury ended a remarkable season for the second-year starter, who led the NFL with 32 touchdown passes and made his first Pro Bowl.
Backup Jon Kitna, who has played sparingly this season and will be a free agent afterward, got the chore of trying to lead the Bengals to a win in their first playoff game in 15 years.
Palmer was on the field for only two plays - a handoff and then a deep pass down the right sideline to rookie Chris Henry. He stood in the pocket for an extra second, giving him time to complete a 66-yard pass - the longest completion in Bengals playoff history. Nose tackle Kimo von Oelhoffen hit Palmer's leg as he released the pass.
Palmer wears a protective brace on the knee, but it still bowed inward. Palmer hit the ground and stayed down for several minutes while the medical staff looked at his knee. His face was downcast as he was carted off the field and taken inside for evaluation.

Do-overs, all over the place

All four of next weekend's playoff games will be rematches from the regular season: Washington vs. Seattle and New England vs. Denver on Saturday, Pittsburgh at Indianapolis and Carolina at Chicago on Sunday.
After the Panthers manhandled the Giants at the Meadowlands on Sunday 23-0, becoming the first road playoff team to post a shutout since 1980, next up is that return trip to frigid Chicago. The Bears beat the Panthers 13-3 at Soldier Field on Nov. 20, one of the NFC North champion's most impressive wins all season.
Washington, which beat Tampa Bay 17-10 on Saturday, goes to the conference's top seed. They met on Oct. 2 in Washington, where Nick Novak's overtime field goal beat the Seahawks 20-17.
The two-time defending Super Bowl champion Patriots moved on with a decisive 28-3 win Saturday night against overmatched Jacksonville. They fell at Denver 28-20 on Oct. 16.
Pittsburgh earned its return to Indianapolis with a 31-17 victory at Cincinnati. On Nov. 28, the Colts took down the Steelers 26-7.

NFC

Redskins (11-6) at Seahawks (13-3) Saturday 4:30 p.m. Seattle was spotless at home in compiling the NFC's best record, but one of its two meaningful defeats came at Washington, 20-17 on Oct. 2. The Seahawks, led by NFL Most Valuable Player Shaun Alexander and an opportunistic defense, took off from there, not losing until the season finale in Green Bay that had no bearing on the standings.
The Redskins are nearly as hot. They won their last five games to get into the playoffs as a wild card, then handled Tampa Bay on Saturday. Washington beat the Bucs with big plays on defense and will need the same against the Seahawks, whose 452 points easily led the league.
And remember that the Redskins gained a mere 120 yards at Tampa Bay.
"You don't care about numbers," quarterback Mark Brunell said. "You don't care how pretty it is, or how effective it is, or how effective you were on offense. To get a win is huge. You are on the road in the playoffs against a very good defense. We will take it."
But they will need more than double those 120 yards against the Seahawks. If Washington can't come close to matching Alexander's production with running back Clinton Portis, it could be a long afternoon in Seattle.
Panthers (12-5) at Bears (11-5) Sunday 4 p.m. Carolina dominated New York, looking much like the team that won three postseason games two years ago to get to the Super Bowl. NFL Co-Comeback Player of the Year Steve Smith scored a pair of touchdowns, DeShaun Foster ran for 151 yards and the staunch defense rattled Eli Manning into four turnovers.
Blanking an offense with such playmakers as Tiki Barber, Jeremy Shockey and Plaxico Burress was impressive, and the Bears can't match such firepower. But Chicago doesn't win with offense, even though it has a 1,000-yard rusher in Thomas Jones.
Indeed, when Chicago ended Carolina's six-game winning string in November, the Panthers gained only 238 yards and Jake Delhomme was sacked eight times.
Eight times! "I knew when we went there that their defense was good," Carolina offensive coordinator Dan Henning said. "We didn't know it was as good as it was."
Still, the Panthers have a big edge in experience and are unafraid in postseason road games. They won two of them after the 2003 season and already have a lopsided one this winter.
"Everybody may say we're a Super Bowl team - we're not," Smith said. "All we are is a one-win playoff team."

AFC

Patriots (11-6) at Broncos (13-3) Saturday, 8 p.m. Nothing will faze the Patriots as they seek an unprecedented third straight Super Bowl crown. Indeed, a snowy night game in January plays right into their hands.
New England's romp past Jacksonville wasn't exactly prime preparation for Denver. The Jaguars were inexperienced in the playoffs, while the Broncos made their third straight trip. Jacksonville also had little offensive spark and Denver can move the ball.
In their last meeting, the Broncos built a big lead, 28-3, only to see the Patriots storm back within eight and begin a drive. But Denver held on.
These Patriots are healthier, especially on defense, and on a roll. But the Broncos were 8-0 at home this season, and teams have run well against New England. Denver ranked first in yards rushing.
Steelers (12-5) and Colts (14-2) Sunday 1 p.m. Indianapolis was still unbeaten when it hit a long touchdown pass to Marvin Harrison on its first play of the Monday night meeting with Pittsburgh. The Colts led the rest of the way, and their defense continually pressured Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger. Pittsburgh struggled just to hear the snap count in the raucous RCA Dome.
The Colts look like a team on a mission, with a vastly improved, speedy defense that can bail them out if the offense sputters. And while the Steelers have won five in a row with solid defense, a potent running game and some trick plays, they will need a sensational performance to eliminate Indy.
Of course, if Pittsburgh's defense can knock out Peyton Manning early the way it did Carson Palmer in Cincinnati on Sunday, who knows?

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

Comments are currently unavailable on this article

▲ Return to Top