Tom Brady was almost perfect while Matt Ryan came back late and saved the day. Peyton Manning threw away Denver’s Super Bowl chances while Colin Kaepernick taught the Green Bay Packers a lesson.
It was a weekend off extraordinary offenses against worn out defenses as eight National Football League teams put up 276 points in just four games and some of the best quarterbacks in the game showed why they’re as good as we think they are.
On Sunday, it was Brady and Ryan who got the job done, but it would be pretty difficult to criticize the efforts of the losing QBs, Russell Wilson and Matt Schaub.
On Saturday, Baltimore beat Denver 38-35 in double overtime while San Francisco drilled Green Bay 45-31 in Colin Kaepernick’s magnificent coming out party.
On Sunday, Atlanta beat Seattle 30-28 in a last-minute thriller that was also the lowest-scoring game of the weekend. Then, Brady put on a Brady-esque performance as New England blasted Houston 41-28.
In Atlanta, the Falcons finally buried their history of failing miserably ion the post-season. By coming back in the final minute, they won their first playoff game since the 2004 season and will play host to San Francisco in the NFC championship game next Sunday.
“Nobody flinched,” Ryan told the Associated Press. “We just kept battling, kept doing what we do. That’s been the makeup of our team all season.”
Saturday in Denver, Peyton Manning brought back every horrendous memory that Minnesota Vikings fans had of Brett Favre. He rolled out, threw across his body, had the pass intercepted and watched as the Baltimore Ravens kicked a field goal to win. It wasn’t entirely Manning’s fault. The Denver defensive secondary was embarrassingly bad. But the Broncos could have won the game in overtime if one of the greatest aging quarterbacks in football history didn’t try to be a hero.
Meanwhile, in San Francisco, Kaepernick kicked the crap out of the Packers and as a result, both Harbaughs won playoff games. John Harbaugh’s Ravens got the job done in Denver while Jim Harbaugh’s Niners did it up big at home at Candlestick.
Let’s take a close look at the Divisional Championship games:
AFC Divisional Championship:
New England 41 Houston 28
Tom Brady did what he does best: He won. Brady became the winningest QB in post-season history as he completed 25-of-40 passes for 344 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions as the Patriots won for the 17th time with Brady at QB. With the win, he surpassed his childhood hero, Joe Montana. If Brady can win against Baltimore next Sunday, he will tie Montana with four Super Bowl appearances. Shane Vereen scored two touchdowns for New England while Wes Welker caught eight passes for 131 yards, Matt Schaub completed 34-of-51 passes for 343 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. However, Brady turned Rob Ninkovich’s third quarter pick into the touchdown that put the game away.
NFC Divisional Championship:
Atlanta 30 Seattle 28
Matt Bryant kicked a 49-yard field goal with eight seconds left as Atlanta bounced back after blowing a 27-7 lead – at home — in the fourth quarter. Atlanta will play host to San Francisco in the NFC Championship game next Sunday. Matt Ryan completed 24-of-35 passes for 250 yards and three touchdowns while Michael Turner carried 14 times for 98 yards. Russell Wilson, the outstanding Seattle rookie, brought the Seahawks back from an almost insurmountable deficit in the fourth quarter and with a minute left, pulled Seattle ahead 28-27. Wilson finished 24-for-36 for 385 yards and two touchdowns. He also carried seven times for 60 yards and another TD. Seattle TE Zach Miller caught eight passes for 142 yards and a TD while Golden Tate caught six passes for 103 yards and a touchdown.
AFC Divisional Championship:
Baltimore 38 Denver 35 (2 OT)
The Broncos defensive secondary was so absolutely rotten, it made Joe Flacco look like, well, Peyton Manning. In the end rookie Justin Tucker kicked a 47-yard field goal, 1:42 into the second overtime, to win it for a Ravens team that looked pretty much dead, trailing 35-28 late in the fourth quarter. But the Ravens forced the overtime when Flacco hit Jacoby Jones on a 70-yard touchdown pass against defensive set that was designed to be nothing other than ‘prevent.’ The Broncos sent three rushers and put eight men in the secondary and yet Denver’s horrible secondary fell asleep and allowed Jones to get behind the safeties. Flacco completed 18-of-34 passes for 331 yards and three touchdowns while Manning completed 28-of-43 passes for 290 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Torrey Smith caught three passes for Baltimore for 98 yards and two touchdowns. The big story for Denver was return man Trindon Holliday, who took a punt 90 yards for a touchdown and a kickoff 106 yards for another TD.
NFC Divisional Championship:
San Francisco 45 Green Bay 31
Colin Kaepernick, the man who stole Alex Smith’s job, made Jim Harbaugh look like a genius again on Saturday by putting up some of the greatest numbers in NFL history. Kaepernick completed 17-of-31 passes for 263 yards, two touchdowns and one interception but it was on the ground where he set an NFL rushing record for quarterbacks. He carried 16 times for 181 yards and two touchdowns in a virtuoso performance that made Green Bay defensive coordinator Dom Capers look like an idiot. Aaron Rodgers led Green Bay with 26 completions on 39 attempts for 257 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, but this game was over by the end of the third quarter. The Niners were simply better and they will now play in next week’s NFC championship game.
Next Sunday, San Francisco will play at Atlanta at 2 p.m. CST in the NFC Championship game (Fox) while Baltimore will play at New England at 5:30 p.m. in the AFC Championship (CBS).