The NFL’s Divisional Round Wrap-up
“Playoffs? We’re talking about playoffs?” Indeed we are Herm Edwards. Eight teams remained in the running for the Lombardi Trophy. The 12-4 Seattle Seahawks, The 12-4 Green Bay Packers, 11-5 Dallas Cowboys, and the 7-8-1 underdog, Carolina Panthers rounded out the NFC.
As the 12-4 Patriots, 12-4 Broncos, 10-6 Ravens, and 11-5 Colts were in the hunt to represent the AFC in America’s unofficial holiday, the Super Bowl.
The Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots kicked off the weekend, in what might have been the best game of the weekend. Coming into the game, Joe Flacco had won his previous five games, with 13 touchdowns and no interceptions. Just 2 minutes and 42 seconds into the game, Flacco looked to be at it again, as he hit Kamar Aiken for a 19 yard touchdown pass. Baltimore leads 7-0. Later in the first quarter, Flacco hit Steve Smith Sr. for a nine yard pass and before New England showed up, they were down 14-0 with 4:44 left in the first quarter. Tom Brady bends, but he does not break. He led New England to an eight play, 78 yard drive in 3:56, leaving 48 seconds in the first quarter and a 14-7 deficit.
The first the quarter of the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos wasn’t quite as exciting as the Ravens-Patriots game. The only score in the quarter was a one-yard touchdown pass from Peyton Manning to Demaryius Thomas, with 10:00 left in the first quarter. 7-0.
The same situation occurred in Seattle. as the only score was a 16 yard pass to Doug Baldwin from Russell Wilson. Leaving 56 seconds on the clock and capped off a 4 play, 28 yard drive. 7-0.
A better first quarter was in the Cowboys-Packers game. Which could also claim the best game of the weekend. The Packers struck first with a four yard pass from Aaron Rodgers, to Andrew Quarless. 7-0 Green Bay. However, Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys do what they have done all season, they responded. Romo led Dallas to a 12 play, 62 yard drive that resulted in a 1 yard touchdown pass to Tyler Clutts. at the end of the first quarter, it was all tied up at 7-7.
Not a lot happened in the second quarter of the Ravens Patriots game. Nobody even scored until there was 3:37 until half time. But that score belonged to Tom Brady, Danny Amendola and the New England Patriots. Brady hit Amendola for a 15 yard strike, which capped off a 10 play, 67 yard drive and tied the game at 14 all. The patriots then got the ball back, but were forced to punt. And that led to a 6 play, 57 yard touchdown pass from Flacco to Owen Daniels. That drive was :57 seconds, and the Baltimore Ravens were just 30 minutes, from an AFC Conference Championship appearance.
In the Second quarter of the Colts-Broncos game, the Colts decided to show up. Daniel Herron recieved a handoff and ran into the endzone from 6 yards out to knot things up at 7. Later on in the quarter, Andrew Luck found Dwayne Allen for a three yard strike, and suddenly the Colts lead 14-7. The Broncos would add a field goal at the end of the half, as the underdog, Indianapolis Colts, were ahead 14-10.
The Carolina Panthers were the ultimate underdog. They were the first team in NFL history to make the playoffs, after going win-less in the first six weeks of the season. Cam Newton found Kelvin Benjamin for a 7 yard passing touchdown. And the Panthers were tied with the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks, midway through the second quarter. However, Seattle’s Russell Wilson has shown time and time again, that he is not phased by pressure moments. It showed the moment he hit Jermaine Kearse for a 63 yard touchdown pass. The longest in Seahawk playoff history. The Panthers would tack on a field goal in the final seconds of the half, and trailed 14-10.
When the Packers and Cowboys last met in the playoffs, it was -15 degrees, with a wind chill of -48 degrees. The Packers won by a score of 21-17, when quarterback Bart Starr, sneaked it in on fourth down and goal and three seconds on the clock, to lock up the 1967 championship. Trying to erase that memory, the Cowboys took a 14-7 lead in the second quarter. The Packer’s Mason Crosby would tack on a 40 yard field goal, as time expired to go into the half. 14-10, Dallas leads.
In Baltimore’s first drive of the second half, they went 70 yards on nine plays, and took 3:40 off the clock. The drive ended in a Justin Forsett receiving touchdown from Joe Flacco. It was Flacco’s fourth touchdown pass of the game. Which is a Baltimore Raven team record for a playoff game. The Patriots found themselves down by 14 once again. No team in NFL history had ever came back from two 14 point deficits in the same game to win in the playoffs. The Patriots aren’t just any other team. They responded with a 9 play, 80 yard drive when Brady hit his favorite target, Rob Gronkowski for the 5 yard score. 28-21, Ravens were ahead. After forcing the punt, the Patriots responded with some trickery when wide receiver Julian Edelman hit fellow wide receiver Danny Amendola for a 51 yard passing touchdown. And when that lightning struck, the Pats had tied the game at 28, going into the fourth quarter.
The Indianapolis Colts had come out of the locker room from half time with a purpose, don’t let up. The Colts went on an astounding 11 play, 72 yard drive to extend a four point, one possession lead, into an eleven point, two possession lead when Andrew Luck found Hakeem Nicks for a 15 yard strike. 21-10, the underdogs were ahead, and 15 minutes away from moving on…or were they?
The Seattle Seahawks and Carolina Panthers gave me little to write about when it came to their third quarter. Neither team scored. So going into the fourth, it was still a 14-10 Seahawk lead.
The Cowboys-Packers game was quite the opposite however, as the two teams combined for 17 points in the quarter. It started with Green Bay hitting a 30 yard field goal to trail by only one, 14-13. DeMarco Murray had the best season for any Running Back in the NFL. He led the league in rushing yards. Although his 1-yard score doesn’t rack up the yards, it puts the points on the board. And saying that, the Cowboys were ahead 21-13. But Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers, came right back with a 46 yard pass to Devante Adams, and the packers trailed 21-20 going into the final quarter.
The Ravens started the fourth quarter with a field goal, and took a 31-28 lead. The drive was the longest of any team this weekend. 16 plays, 73 yards, and 7:52 taken off of the clock. Tom Brady was looking to get the Patriots to a unprecedented fourth straight AFC Championship game. Brady took the stage as the 2003 Brady, and staged a 10 play, 74 yard drive to score a touchdown and take the lead 35-31. That would be the final score. The Patriots are moving on!
The Colts were trying to knock off the preseason favorite Denver broncos. The Broncos got a field goal early in the fourth quarter to cut the lead to 21-13, and a one possession game. The fourth quarter was a defensive battle. Everything was on the line. Yet the Colts kicked a field goal with 4:06 to extend the lead 24-13, and lock up an AFC Championship berth. The Colts vs Patriots. Super Bowl appearance on the line. Not the first time that has been the story line going into the game.
The Seahawks got a field goal five seconds into the fourth quarter to extend a 14-10 lead, into a 17-10 lead. Four and a half minutes later, Russell Wilson found tight end Luke Willson for a 25 yard score. Next panther possession, Cam Newton, looked to his right, tried to hit what seemed to be a wide open receiver in the flat, and Seahawk defender Kam Chancellor stepped in front of the pass and took it 90 yards the other way for a 31-10 lead. The panthers added a late score, but the game was already decided as the Seattle Seahawks move on to the NFC Championship for the second consecutive year, and became the first defending Super Bowl Champion to win a playoff game since the Patriots, in 2005.
The Packers were 8-0 at home this season, and the Cowboys were 8-0 on the road. One team would continue that streak, and the other would continue to make plans for the offseason. Aaron Rodgers found Richard Rodgers (no relation) for a 13 yard score and 26-21 Packer lead. The two-point conversion attempt was no good. for the final nine minutes of the game, nobody could find a way to put points on the board. And the Green Bay Packers will be moving onto Seattle next week for the NFC Championship.
My predictions for this weeks game:
Seattle Seahawks 38-Green Bay Packers 31
Indianapolis Colts 45-New England Patriots 28