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