AP Analysis: A-Rod’s biggest call in weekend full of them
Aaron Rodgers doesn’t just make the big throws, he designs them.
The Green Bay Packers quarterback went schoolyard and drew up that amazing pass play in the huddle that set up Mason Crosby’s game-winning field goal in Dallas.
Rodgers’ 36-yard strike to toe-dragging tight end Jared Cook on third-and-20 from his 32 was the biggest play in an NFL divisional playoff weekend that was filled with big calls.
Thanks to a first-down spike by Cowboys rookie quarterback Zak Prescott just before Dan Bailey’s 52-yarder, the Packers got the ball back with 35 seconds left.
Just enough time for Rodgers to work his magic.
But this one looked headed to overtime after Jeff Heath’s sack put the Packers back at their 32 with 18 seconds left.
Following an incompletion, Rodgers drew up routes in the huddle before rolling left on third-and-20 and hitting Cook on the left sideline at the Dallas 32.
”It was a heck of a throw,” Cook said.
Heck of a catch, too.
And a great call.
”It’s just kind of schoolyard at times late in the game,” Rodgers told Fox after Green Bay’s 34-31 win.
The mixed officiating crews missed several calls for a second straight weekend, but a pair of yellow flags that were thrown proved critical.
One erased Kansas City’s game-tying 2-point conversion in the Chiefs’ 18-16 loss to Pittsburgh and the other nullified Devin Hester’s 80-yard punt return that turned the tide in Seattle’s 36-20 loss at Atlanta.
There were also some decisions that loomed large on social media.
EVERYONE’S AN INSIDER
One was Antonio Brown filming the postgame scene in the Steelers’ locker room on Facebook Live where coach Mike Tomlin urges his team to ”keep a low profile” heading into New England for the AFC title game and another member of the team is heard saying, ”Keep cool on social media.”
So much for that notion of laying low: Brown filmed for 17 minutes and the video had nearly 1 million views by the time it was removed from his page Monday morning.
The Chargers quickly changed their working logo after widespread panning of the look they unveiled after revealing their move from San Diego to L.A. Changing the color scheme from Dodger blue and white to powder blue and yellow wasn’t enough to halt the mockery, however.
The switch came after the Chargers became the butt of jokes, memes and derision on social media . The NFL tweeted the initial logo Thursday, but later deleted it as the Chargers even got trolled by other pro and college sports teams over the logo that looked like a cross between baseball’s Dodgers and hockey’s Lightning.
After the first half dozen playoff games were decided by an average of 18.3 points and were all won by the home team, Sunday brought road success and nail-biters as the Cowboys and Steelers advanced.
Alex Smith’s 2-point conversion pass to tight end Demetrius Harris would have tied the Steelers with 2:38 left, but left tackle Eric Fisher was whistled for holding ageless linebacker James Harrison.
Smith’s second pass, from 10 yards back, was batted incomplete and the Steelers ran out the clock to preserve their 18-16 win and keep the Chiefs winless at Arrowhead Stadium in the playoffs since 1994.
Hours after Brown live-streamed the Steelers’ locker room, Harrison posted an Instagram video of his workout just after the Steelers landed back in Pittsburgh.
Now, that’s the kind of post Tomlin won’t mind.
In the 90 seconds that he spoke to reporters before the Chiefs’ communications staff cut him off, tight end Travis Kelce ripped into referee Carl Cheffers and his crew after K.C.’s loss. Kelce openly questioned the integrity of the officials and said Cheffers ”shouldn’t be able to wear a zebra jersey ever again.”
”He shouldn’t be able to wear it at Foot Locker,” Kelce said, adding a few expletives.
After watching the film, Chiefs coach Andy Reid said Monday he didn’t think a flag should have been thrown, either.
”They normally let you play, is what they do, especially in key situations,” Reid said of the officials.
But he said he didn’t want to harp on the hooking call because the Chiefs made plenty of blunders before that crucial hooking call on Fisher.
Among them was Kelce’s drop of a long pass and cold-cocking a cornerback on the next play.
HOLD ON II:
The Seahawks appeared to be in excellent position to extend a 10-7 lead when Hester returned a punt 80 yards to the Atlanta 7. But a holding call on Atlanta’s LaRoy Reynolds against Kevin Pierre-Louis pushed the Seahawks all the way back to the Seattle 7.
”I was holding” Pierre-Louis acknowledged. ”I grabbed him a little bit so he wouldn’t get down to Hester. But the referee was able to see it. It cost us.”
Two plays later, Wilson was tripped by backup right guard Rees Odhiambo and fell in the end zone for a safety and the Falcons seized momentum on their way to a 36-20 win.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll called the penalty a ”ridiculously large play in the game.”
With 2 minutes to go and the Falcons facing first-and-goal at the Seattle 2, coach Dan Quinn called for Matt Ryan to take a knee instead of piling it on his old team and his old boss.
”It was a very classy way to end the game,” Carroll said.
Same with the Patriots showing Texans defensive tackle Vince Wilfork on the video screen in the waning moments of New England’s 34-16 win over Houston. Wilfork, who played 11 seasons in New England before spending his past two in Houston, has talked about retiring.
Asked if it was a special moment to get a going-away cheer from the Patriots fans, Wilfork said, ”It’s never special to lose.”
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AP Sports Writers Will Graves, David Skretta, Charles Odom and Jimmy Golen contributed.
Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton