Our Thoughts – 2014 NFL Playoffs – Divisional Round Recap

Our Thoughts NFL Recap Divisional Round Games

Just a warning: These are some of our longest recaps yet. Sorry we’re not sorry.

Here’s what we thought about the divisional round games in the NFL…

New England (35), Baltimore (31) – Talk about an emotional roller coaster for a Patriots fan. Where to start?

The Patriots were down by 14 points…twice. No team in NFL history has come back from that large of a deficit twice in the playoffs. The game went until the final second when the Ravens unsuccessfully attempted a Hail Mary pass.

The Joe Flacco-led Ravens came into this game confident, holding a 2-1 post-season win advantage against the Patriots, with both of their victories taking place on the road in Foxboro. Flacco tore up the Patriots defense for the first two and a half quarters, before ruining his 13-0 touchdown to interception ratio over his last five play-off games with two picks.

The Pats’ defense did struggle – cornerback Darrelle Revis was called for multiple penalties after being called for just three throughout the regular season. The Ravens won the battle of the trenches on both sides of the ball, giving Joe Flacco plenty of time to throw and creating running lanes while also shutting down the Pats’ run game and getting lots of hits on Brady. The Patriots’ 14 rushing yards was the fewest ever by winning team in playoffs.

Patriots’ QB Tom Brady had a rough start – he took a sack to push the team out of field goal range, and an interception allowed the Ravens to get another touchdown on the board before halftime. Then Tom went to work and threw a pretty much perfect 23-yard touchdown to wide receiver Brandon LaFell to put the Pats up for good.

Brady broke two records in this game – he became the quarterback with the most postseason yards in history (previously held by Peyton Manning), and passed Joe Montana for the most touchdowns (46) in postseason history. A big difference in this game was the health of Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski – he was either missing or playing injured during the previous two Ravens’ playoff victories against the Pats. He was able to draw extra coverage from the Ravens’ secondary, which many considered their weak spot, to allow other players to get open.

The play of the game might have been the trick-play 51-yard touchdown pass from Patriots’ wide receiver Julian Edelman, who, after taking a lateral pass from Tom Brady, threw the ball to wide receiver Danny Amendola.

Edelman and Amendola have been practicing the play for over five years during off-season training. Edelman was actually a quarterback at Kent State in college. Amendola also had a great game – he had two touchdowns, which was more than he had in the regular season.

The other storyline of this game was the Patriots’ creative use of only four offensive linemen (typically there are five lined up). Ravens coach John Harbaugh was so flustered by this that he walked out onto the field and took a penalty to get the attention of the officials as he felt the personnel use was not appropriate and his team was not given enough time to substitute players. The league has stated the Pats’ tactics were in accordance with the rules. If you want a good explanation, check this one out from our friends at Football by Football.

The Patriots will host the Indianapolis Colts next week in the AFC Conference Championship at 6:40pm EST on Sunday. This time, we’ll be prepared with paper bags to breathe into when the hyperventilating starts.

 


 

Seattle (31), Carolina (17) – This game was close until the fourth quarter because that’s how Seattle rolls. Carolina QB Cam Newton played really well until then, when two of his three turnovers led directly to Seattle touchdowns that put the game out of reach. He has done the best he could all season while lacking skill position players on offense. The Panthers also deserve credit for being prepared for a big road game while dealing with in-house distractions – Head Coach Ron Riveria’s house sustained major damage in a fire on Sunday night. Luckily, his family was able to escape unharmed.

Seattle QB Russell Wilson carried the offense, which they needed since they only got 59 rushing yards from running back Marshawn Lynch. He finished 8-of-8 on third down, threw three touchdowns, and averaged 12.2 yards per attempt with a 149.2 passer rating, which is the fifth-highest in post-season history. However, the most impressive player might have been Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor. He jumped over Carolina’s offensive line twice in a row to almost block two kicks, and then he intercepted Carolina QB Cam Newton and returned it 90 yards for a touchdown – the longest score in Seattle post-season history. This play has since been named the “Kam Quake” as CenturyLink field briefly registered on the Richter scale when the crowd went wild.

Promising Seattle rookie wide receiver Paul Richardson tore his ACL in the game and will miss the rest of the playoffs. This is a story line to watch as Seattle already had a limited receiving corp after letting Golden Tate leave in the off-season and trading Percy Harvin to the Jets. Seattle now prepares for Green Bay to come to town next Sunday at 3:05pm EST.

 


 

Green Bay (26), Dallas (21) – Not a good look for the league when for the second week in a row a game ends with a controversial officiating call. With five minutes left in the game and trailing by 26 to 21, the Cowboys went for it on a fourth down. Wide receiver Dez Bryant caught a 31 yard pass from Tony Romo that would have put Dallas at Green Bay’s one yard line. Packers coach Mike McCarthy challenged the ruling and after review, the refs decided what was originally called a catch was not. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, the technical language of the rule around a catch seems to support this was the right call, and most are saying this needs an update. Tough for the Cowboys’ season to end this way.

(On a side note, some cheeky person manning the Detroit Lions’ Twitter feed enjoyed this after the Cowboys were the beneficiaries of a non-call in last week’s Detroit/Dallas game – Detroit had a similar call go against wide receiver Calvin Johnson several seasons ago based upon the league’s definition of a “catch.”) 

The Cowboys actually jumped out to a 21-13 lead, which was the first time the Packers trailed at home in a game since week 2 of the regular season. QB Tony Romo had a great game – he’s often the scapegoat in Dallas, but can’t be this time around. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers did not look like himself for most of the game due to his calf injury as he struggled to incorporate his legs into his throwing motion. The Cowboys also forced his first turnover at home since week 14 of the 2012 season. Of course, being the MVP candidate that he is, he came back to the tune of 10 consecutive completions for 163 yards, including the winning touchdown. The Packers leaned heavily on running back Eddie Lacy to take some of the pressure off Rogers, and will likely need to take the same approach next week as Rodgers’ injury is one that normally takes two months to heal, so he is not likely to be playing at full capacity next week either.

Dallas has some big names to take care of this off-season – wide receiver Dez Bryant and league-leading rusher DeMarco Murray are set to become free agents, and head coach Jason Garrett’s contract also expires.

As for the Packers, they travel to Seattle next week, where they lost a week 1 game to the Seahawks by a score of 36-16.

 


 

Indianapolis (24), Denver (13) – This game could probably be considered the upset of the weekend, as the fourth-seeded Colts beat the second-seeded Broncos by limiting Denver QB Peyton Manning to 211 passing yards. Peyton will go down as one of the best quarterbacks in history, but the truth is he was not as effective the second half of the season. (There are plenty of teams that would consider themselves lucky to have the less effective Peyton Manning as their QB – he did finish second in the NFL in touchdowns this year.) He’d been dealing with a quadriceps injury, and his arm strength seemed to deteriorate down the stretch. After the game, Coach John Fox insinuated that Peyton was not completely healthy – in fact, reports leaked on Monday morning that Peyton has been playing through a torn right quad. The Colts defended the middle of the field, forcing him to throw to the outside. He finished just 6 for 21 on passes greater than 5 yards. Most of his long throws were off-target. This was his ninth “one and done” playoff appearance, which will undoubtedly be compared to New England QB Tom Brady’s nine AFC Championship game appearances. No other quarterback has lost his first play-off game more than four times.

Expect many changes in Denver this off-season, starting with head coach John Fox parting ways with the team, which was confirmed Monday night.  Offensive coordinator Adam Gase, who is viewed as a better long-term coach for the team, is a possible replacement. Peyton Manning almost seemed to leave the door open for retirement in his post-game press conference. Denver also has some key players set to hit free agency, including wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and tight end Julius Thomas, two of Peyton’s favorite targets.

This was a true team win for the Colts. The offensive line did not allow any sacks or hits to QB Andrew Luck, who continues to make several throws during a game where you just say “wow.” Their cornerbacks played aggressively and their offense has almost been rebooted since the end of the regular season as they’ve transitioned responsibilities to other players starting to show promise, such as tight end Coby Fleener, running back Dan Herron, and wide receiver Donte Moncrief. This has meant less playing time for veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne, and deactivating disappointing running back Trent Richardson, whom they traded a first round pick to the Browns for last year.

The Colts will journey to Foxboro next week to face the Patriots. In their week 11 match-up, the Patriots embarrassed the Colts on Sunday Night Football by a score of 42-20. In fact, the last three times these teams have played each other, including last year’s Divisional Round game, the Patriots have outscored the Colts 144 – 66.The Colts defense has gotten healthier since the week 11 game, but between Peyton Manning and Bengals QB Andy Dalton, the Colts have beaten QBs the last two weeks with a combined 13 “one and dones” in the playoffs, whereas Tom Brady has played in the AFC Championship game nine times.

 


 

The Snap now has a Pinterest if anyone is interested in following us on there. We brought on a Pinterest professional who we just happen to be related to, to get us going and it’s looking pretty good. We’re pinning links to interesting things (game day snacks, inspiring football quotes, football fashion, pugs wearing football gear, etc.) in addition to some our own content that you see here on The Snap in hopes that other people can discover it. So next time you are pinning things (and asking yourself where the last 5 hours went), you should check us out!

– Val and Michelle

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2014 Season Team Profiles: Denver Broncos

 2014 PRESEASON TEAM PROFILES Denver Broncos

Team Name: Denver Broncos

Division: AFC West

Stadium: Sports Authority Field at Mile High (Denver, CO)

2013 Record: 13-3

2014 Record: 12-4

Head Coach: John Fox (2011 – present), used to be the head coach of the Panthers, only the 2nd head coach in NFL history to win four straight division titles since joining a new team

Quarterback: Peyton Manning (2012 – present), Papa Johns owner, TV commercial legend, rapper, and one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game

 

3 Offensive Players You Should Know:

Demaryius Thomas, Wide Receiver (88) – One of the best wide receivers in the league. He became the 3rd receiver in NFL history to have three straight seasons with 1,450 yards and 10 touchdowns. (Other two were Jerry Rice and Marvin Harrison.) Our mom likes picking him for NFL.com’s Perfect Challenge because “he has such a nice smile” in his profile picture. He’s going to be a free agent in 2015 and could command a lot of money on the open market, but he said he would be willing to take a hometown discount to stay with Peyton.

Emmanuel Sanders, Wide Receiver (10) – This wide receiver came from Pittsburgh in the off-season and 2014 with the Broncos was his best year in the league so far with 9 TDs. He’s also a member of the Nice Smile Club.

Julius Thomas, Tight End (80) – Drafted by the Broncos in 2011, Thomas has become one of Manning’s favorite targets. Fun fact – he was primarily a basketball player in college and really had to learn football when he came to the Broncos.

 

3 Defensive Players You Should Know:

Von Miller, Linebacker (58) – Defensive rookie of the year in 2011, Miller was elected to the Pro Bowl in 2011, 2012, and 2014. In short, he’s a beast. He tore his ACL last year. He’s also a super snazzy dresser and known for his fancy glasses.

Aqib Talib, Cornerback (21) – Talib left the Patriots for a big old 6-year, $57 million contract from the Broncos in 2014. He’s had his share of legal and conduct issues, but he’s a pretty darn good cornerback when he’s on the field.

Terrance Knighton, Defensive Tackle (98) – His nickname is Pot Roast and that’s all you really need to know.

 

What Happened This Offseason:

– The Broncos did a lot to prepare for the 2014 season, including beefing up their defense with some big names. They signed Aqib Talib (cornerback from New England), T.J. Ward (safety from Cleveland), and DeMarcus Ware (defensive end from Dallas).

– They released safety Champ Bailey, who went on to sign a deal with the Saints. When he didn’t make their final roster, he announced his retirement in October and then signed a one-day contract with Denver to retire as a Bronco.

– After tearing his ACL at the end of the 2013 season, linebacker Von Miller was back for the 2014 season and recorded 14 sacks on the year.

– They lost wide receiver Eric Decker to the Jets, but they picked up wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders from Pittsburgh.

– They let running back Knowshon Moreno go and he went to Miami. Their whole running back situation was up in the air this year until 2013 free agent signing C.J. Anderson emerged as a beast.

 

Why You Should Cheer for Them: It’s a pretty classy organization and they’re built to win right now, despite their decline toward the end of the 2014 season. It’s hard not to like Peyton Manning.

 

2014 Theme Song: Shake It Off (Taylor Swift) – The 2014 Broncos season has been all about shaking off their embarrassing Super Bowl 43-8 loss to the Seahawks in February. Also, I see a lot of similarities between Peyton Manning and Tay Tay. Peyton is one of the best quarterbacks of all times and has some of the funniest commercials on TV. Taylor Swift has some serious talent as a songwriter and performer. Sometimes it kills us to admit these things, but they’re true. Haters gonna hate.

 

The Last Word: Well, at the time we’re writing this, the Broncos just lost the 2014 AFC divisional game against the Colts. We anticipate significant changes to their roster for the 2015 season. Too soon to say if Peyton Manning will be back and the rumors are swirling around John Fox staying as head coach.

– Michelle and Val