Great quarterbacks used to win playoff games. This year, awful special teams lose them. The 49ers lost to the Giants because of two fumbled punts. The Ravens lost to the Patriots on a shanked field goal. The week before, the Saints lost to the 49ers because of two fumbled kicks and the Texans lost to the Ravens because of a fumbled punt at their 2.

Great quarterbacks used to win playoff games. This year, awful special teams lose them. The 49ers lost to the Giants because of two fumbled punts. The Ravens lost to the Patriots on a shanked field goal. The week before, the Saints lost to the 49ers because of two fumbled kicks and the Texans lost to the Ravens because of a fumbled punt at their 2.


Meanwhile, the great Tom Brady had a 57.5 passer rating with two interceptions, and he had two other picks wiped out by penalties. Eli Manning had a 82.3 passer rating, but the Giants averaged just 4.6 yards per pass play, converted only 7 of 21 third downs and went 3-and-out on its first two overtime drives. Teams rarely get a third chance in overtime. Brady would have lost if Lee Evans had held on to Joe Flacco’s would-be TD pass in the final seconds.


Falcons lose to Super foes


Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons playoff flops suddenly look less damning. The Falcons are 0-3 in the playoffs the last four years, with teams that were a combined 34-14 losing to teams that were 28-20. But all three have gone on to reach the Super Bowl. Last year’s Packers won it all, this year’s Giants may do the same and the 2008 Cardinals came within 35 seconds of winning it.


Mark Anderson resurfaces


Mark Anderson, who had 12 sacks for the 2006 Bears, is returning to the Super Bowl. Anderson had 10 regular-season sacks for the Patriots and one Sunday. But don’t blame the Bears for letting him go. Anderson is a one-trick pony who isn’t that good at his one trick; he averaged 3.5 sacks his previous four years.


I blame Chicago more for not signing the guy who sometimes blocked Anderson; left tackle Bryant McKinnie signed a two-year, $7.5 million deal after the Vikings cut him and started all 16 games for the Ravens. The 10-year veteran with 147 career starts is not great, but is the type of cheap Band-Aid the Bears desperately needed at tackle.


2nd-and-10 runs


On Sunday, I wrote about the common folly of running too often on second-and-10. Here is an update from the NFL’s semifinal Sunday: The Ravens, Patriots, 49ers and Giants called running plays on 40 percent of their second-and-10 chances. They ran 10 times for 24 yards (2.4 average) and were 8-for-12 passing. Counting one sack and two scrambles as pass plays, they gained 193 yards on 15 pass attempts (12.9 yards).


Running hurts bad QBs


Baltimore “protected” Joe Flacco by running on first down their first three drives and went 3-and-out each time. Flacco threw a 42-yard pass to begin the Ravens’ fourth drive. That’s how you help your quarterback: with play-action rollout passes on first down. When your run when your opponents expect you to run on first down, you put even more pressure on the quarterback you are trying to protect by making him throw on third-and-long.


No receivers, no Super Bowl


If the Bears use the Ravens and 49ers as defensive-first models, please note the Ravens lost because Lee Evans couldn’t hold a pass and wide receivers caught one pass for 3 yards in the 49ers’ defeat. Even defensive teams need good receivers.


Matt Trowbridge’s Quick Shots on the NFL appear Tuesdays. He can be reached at 815-987-1383 or mtrowbridge@rrstar.com.