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Tuesday, January 13, 2009
You Did What!?

By Alan Grant, with reporting by Laura Lane

"What do we do?!?!"

1. 2007 Wild Card: Jaguars vs. Steelers Just three weeks after the Jags beat the Steelers 29-22 on the road to the postseason, Pittsburgh was afforded the opportunity for revenge in the playoffs. The game was much like the previous meeting—a rough and tumble affair with explosive plays on both sides of the ball. With 1:56 left in the game, and Jacksonville trailing 29-28, the Jaguars faced fourth-and-two on the Steelers' 43-yard line.

What's your call?
Play action to running back Maurice Jones-Drew and throw the ball to him in the flat. (Drew had just eight carries in the game, but seven of them were for gains. Plus, he already had a 43-yard reception.)

Give the ball to running back Fred Taylor on a dive and trust the guards to win the battle against the Steelers tackles. (Taylor and Drew had split the rushing duties, but Taylor was still the Jaguars' best bet in "go-to" situations. And a 20-play scoring drive during the teams' previous meeting had established the Jaguars confidence against a weary Steelers defensive line.)

Play action fake to Taylor and throw it to tight end Marcedes Lewis in the flat. (If Lewis blocked down on the end for even a half count and released, he would have a chance to get the separation needed for the two yards.)

None of the above.

2. 2006 Wild Card: Giants vs. Eagles  Just as they did this year, the NFC East rivals split their regular-season games. In Week 2, the Giants beat the Eagles 30-24 in a thrilling overtime affair. Three weeks before the playoffs, the Eagles got payback by beating the Giants 36-22 at the Meadowlands. Not surprisingly, the Giants were anything but moved by the Eagles' supposed home-field advantage at Lincoln Financial Field. At the two-minute warning, the teams were tied at 20. On the previous play, Eagles running back Brian Westbrook had run up the gut for a gain of five. Now on first down at the Giants 32-yard line, Philly needed one more play to put them securely into field goal range.

What's your call?
Throw the ball to receiver Reggie Brown on a curl, keeping the ball in the middle of the field. (Brown had already caught seven balls and was still a good bet to get open.)

Line up in the shotgun and give it to Westbrook on a draw. (The Eagles had run shotgun a few times that day. And since Reggie Brown had been such a popular option, the linebackers would have to take generous drops to the middle of the field, taking away the hook and curl routes. This would give Westbrook just the room he needed.)

Set up Westbrook for a sweep to the right. (Westbrook had already notched 129 yards and was clearly coach Andy Reid's go-to guy.)

None of the above.

3.2006 Divisional Game: Saints vs. Eagles The Saints had beaten the Eagles 27-24 back in a Week Six match-up in October. That first game had been a high-scoring one, punctuated by big plays from Donovan McNabb and Reggie Brown. But in the playoff game, the Saints offense was more prolific, rolling up 435 total yards. Trailing the Saints 27-24, a Drew Brees fumble gave the Eagles the ball back on their own 44-yard line. After three unsuccessful plays, and 1:56 left in the game, it was fourth-and-10.

What is your call?
Attack the middle of the field with either a receiver or a tight end. (The Saints safeties—particularly Josh Bullocks—were the team's weakest link.)

Throw it to Brian Westbrook in the flat and let him make someone miss. (While the Saints offense was improving by the day, the defense—especially the backers—were still susceptible to big-play guys like Westbrook.)

Go deep to Donte' Stallworth. (In the second quarter, Stallworth scored on a 75-yard bomb from Jeff Garcia. Even if the two didn't connect again, the receiver might at least force a pass interference call.)

None of the above.

4. 2003 Divisional Championship: Panthers vs. Rams Tied at 23, the Rams held the ball late in the first overtime and were driving into Carolina territory when Panthers cornerback Ricky Manning Jr. stepped in front of a Marc Bulger pass. On the first play of the second overtime period, the Panthers had the ball on their own 31-yard line.

What's your call?
Hand the ball to running back DeShaun Foster and keep pounding the Rams' front four like the Panthers had all day. (Foster had already carried the ball 21 times and was averaging almost five yards per.)

Throw the ball deep to Steve Smith. (Whenever there was single coverage, Smith was a good bet to beat any of the Rams cornerbacks.)

Throw to receiver Muhsin Muhammad on a slant. (Muhammad was having a pretty good day, having caught five balls. And his big, sturdy body was always a safe bet on a slant to move the ball a few yards.)

None of the above.