The NFL showcased four very impactful games in this past weekend’s divisional playoffs. We saw two dominant showings from New England and San Francisco, and two epic showdowns which came down to game ending or overtime game winning drives and incredible comebacks in the Falcons vs. Seahawks matchup as well as the Ravens vs. Broncos epic overtime thriller. After somewhat of a flop wild card round, the NFL playoffs are really heating up and figure to get hotter this Sunday.
The Atlanta Falcon's may have been one of the most disrespected number one seeds in divisional round history going into Sunday afternoon's action. Matt Ryan, who was dubbed Matty Ice in college, had been ice cold in his other playoff outings going 0-3 and developing a Tony Romo type of reputation. Ryan looked to be on the fast track of his first playoff win when the Falcons were up by three scores in the first half. Russell Wilson however once again proved to have ice water in his blood, leading the Seahawks back to take the lead 28-27 with less than a minute left in the game. It looked like Ryan and the dirty birds were once again about to go belly up in a big playoff game, when Ryan had his first big playoff moment of the year and lead the Falcons in position for Matt Bryant to hit a game winning field goal, sending Atlanta to its first NFC championship game since the 98-99 season when the Falcons defeated the 15-1 Vikings to go to their first Super Bowl.
The 49ers exercised some playoff demons with an impactful thrashing of the Packers in their 45-31 win this past Saturday evening. Colin Kaepernick rebounded from a pick six on his first drive, to have a record setting playoff showing. The second year QB from Nevada rushed for a QB playoff record 181 yards and 2 scores; he also threw two touchdown passes to Michael Crabtree. Kaepernick continues to play at a high level since stealing Alex Smith's job like thief in the night in November. Kapernick looks to continue his amazing play against former division rival Atlanta this Sunday as the Falcons will host the NFC title game in the early afternoon matchup.
The Patriots smoked the Texans for the second time this season with their 41-28 victory Sunday evening. The weather was unseasonably warm in Foxboro and the Patriots were red hot led by Tom Brady's 344 yards passing and three touchdowns. Houston also had a problem with New England’s running backs who over shadowed Arian Foster and accounted for four touchdowns between Steven Ridley and Shane Vereen. It wasn't all sunny for New England however, as stud TE Rob Gronkowski re-broke his arm and is now out for the remainder of the playoffs. The Patriots will lean to Aaron Hernandez and Brandon Lloyd to pick up the slack as New England prepares to host its 4th AFC championship game since moving to Gillete Stadium.
The Broncos versus Ravens certainly took the game of the week award in their double overtime thriller in Denver Saturday afternoon. Despite two special teams’ touchdowns and putting up a playoff record 35 points against The Raven's defense, the Broncos didn't do enough to keep Baltimore out of the game. Joe Flacco had his playoff defining moment, as he found Jacoby Jones on a 70 yard pass to tie the game up at 35 in the final minute of regulation. The Raven's Corey Graham picked off Peyton Manning in the final seconds of the first overtime, setting Baltimore up to win the game with field goal in the second overtime. The Ray Lewis retirement tour continues as the Ravens will travel to New England for a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship game on Sunday evening.
- Joe Passarelli
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