NFL 2012-2013 Divisionals Recap
Baltimore Ravens @ Denver Broncos was the Saturday afternoon game. By the time this game was over, many people were saying it was the greatest playoff game they had ever witnessed. It was certainly one of the best playoff games of all time, with an ending that will be talked about for years. Every big play seemed to be topped by an even bigger one.
Baltimore began at their 20, but 2nd and 2 from their 38 meant 2 more plays and 0 yards. They punted the ball, and Trendon Holliday returned it 90 yards for a touchdown. Less than 3 minutes into the game, and the Broncos led 7-0 before Peyton Manning and Ray Lewis even took the field. Baltimore took over at their 6, and soon faced 3rd and 8 from the 8. Flacco went deep incomplete, but defensive pass interference meant 25 yards. On 2nd and 2 from their 41, Flacco threw a perfect bomb to Torry Smith for a 59 yard touchdown as the game was tied 7-7.
Denver’s offense took the field and faced 3rd and 6 from their 29. Manning had a pass deflected and intercepted by Corey Graham, who returned it 39 yards for a touchdown. Only 5 minutes into the game and the Ravens led 14-7 as all 3 phases of football had scored. Denver got it back and faced 3rd and 7 from their 29. Manning hit Jacob Tamme for 21, Eric Decker for 13, Denarius Thomas for 11, and on 3rd and 8 from the Baltimore 15, a pass to brandon Stokley that went for the touchdown as the game was now tied 14-14. The 11 play, 6 minute, 74 yard drive was the fourth score in a game that still had 4 minutes left in the first quarter.
The game slowed slightly but with 11 minutes left in the half the Broncos got it back at their 14. Manning hit Thomas for 9, Moreno for 7, Decker for 10, and Decker again for a 32 yard gain down tot he Baltimore 14. On the next play Manning hit Moreno for the touchdown as the Broncos were back on top 21-14 midway through the second quarter. Baltimore went 3 and out and the Broncos moved from their 19 to a 4th and 8 at the Baltimore 34. Despite terrible conditions including single digit temperatures and a minus wind chill, John Fox brought in Matt Prater for a 52 yard field goal try. Prater has the leg, but again this was a roll of the dice given the elements. Prater hit a knuckleball that went sideways no good. Baltimore got it at their own 42 with 1:16 left. Joe Flacco went to Anquon Boldin for 11, Dennis Pitta for 15, and Torry Smith for the 32 yard touchdown. The defensive breakdown at the end of the half had the game tied 21-21. The second half was just as entertaining.
13 seconds into the third quarter had the Broncos in the lead again as Holliday killed the Ravens again. He started with his punt return, and this time it was a 104 yard kickoff return for his second touchdown as Denver led 28-21. Baltimore quickly moved from their 20 to a 1st and 10 at the Denver 43. Yet Flacco then fumbled the snap and the Broncos took over at their 43. The tams exchanged punts and Denver took over at their 25. On 3rd and 10 from the Denver 46, Manning was sacked and fumbled. It clearly looked like a Tuck Rule incomplete pass, but the officials upheld the fumble call as the Ravens took over at the Denver 37. Ray Rice broke free for a 32 yard gain, and on 3rd and goal at the one, Rice got in just before the third quarter ended to tie the game 28-28.
After an exchange of punts in the fourth quarter, the Broncos took over at their 12 with 12 minutes left in regulation. Manning hit Ronnie Hillman for 11 and Joel Dreesen for 7 and 11, with 15 tacked on for unnecessary roughness. On 3rd and 3 from the Baltimore 33, Manning threw incomplete but defensive holding meant 1st and 10. Manning hit Decker for 8 and Thomas for a 17 yard touchdown as the Broncos reclaimed the lead 35-28 midway through the fourth quarter.
Baltimore moved from their 25 to a 4th and 5 at the Denver 31 when Flacco lost track of the play clock. John Harbaugh had to burn a critical timeout to prevent a delay of game with 3:16 left. Flacco threw incomplete and Denver tried to run out the clock. John Fox played it very conservatively, forcing the Ravens to use their timeouts. Ronnie Hillman gained 5 and 8, and the Broncos were one first down from victory. At the 2 minute warning, the Broncos faced 3rd and 7 at the Denver 47. While Peyton Manning is all world, John Fox called a running play, which was absolutely the right thing to do with Baltimore out of timeouts. Baltimore got it back at their 23 with 0 timeouts and 1:09 on the clock. With 41 seconds left the Ravens faced 3rd and 3 from their 30. They needed a Mile High miracle.
They got one. The original Hail Mary came in 1975 when Roger Staubach hit Drew Pearson as Dallas shocked the Minnesota home crowd in the NFC Title Game. This time somehow the Denver defense let Jacoby Jones get behind them. Jones beat the double coverage and Flacco hit the 70 yard bomb in front of a shellshocked Denver crowd. The game was over except it was not as the teams were tied 35-35. Now came overtime in a game that was tied after each quarter of regulation.
Baltimore got the ball first and moved from their 20 to a 3rd and 2 at the Denver 44. Flacco was then sacked to kill the drive. Denver moved from their 16 to a 3rd and 1 at the Denver 39. Jacob Hester got the carry and got nothing. There was no debate as Denver punted. Baltimore was pinned at their own 6 and faced 3rd and 13 from their 3. A safety would end it, but Flacco found Pitta for 24 yards. Baltimore would punt, but now Denver was pinned at their own 7. With one minute left in overtime, the Broncos faced 2nd and 6 at their 38. The play that would decide the game. came next. Manning rolled out and threw against his body over the middle which every quarterback is taught never to do. Disaster struck as Manning was intercepted by Graham for the second time.
From the Denver 45, Rice gained 11 as the fifth quarter ended. Now there would be a second overtime period. At this point Harbaugh played it very safe, as 3 straight runs set up a 47 yard field goal try for rookie Justin Tucker. Silence fell over the crowd as Tucker nailed it only 80 seconds into the sixth quarter to complete the fourth longest game in NFL history. Flacco was 18 of 34 for 331 yards and 3 touchdowns. Denver in 1984, 1996, and now 2012 went 13-3 and went down in flames one and done in the playoffs. Ray Lewis saw his career extended by one more week. This game is why we watch football, as the fans saw a fine, fine football game. Baltimore is now on the road for the second straight year in the AFC Title Game. 38-35 Ravens
Houston Texans @ New England Patriots was the Sunday afternoon game. A few weeks ago New England throttled Houston 42-14. Dan Shaughnessy called the Texans tomato cans and said this game was a bye week for the Patriots. Danieal Manning took the opening kickoff 6 yards in the end zone and returned it 94 yards to the Patriots 12. Many players would have scored but he got tired down the stretch. The Texans wasted the gift field position as 3 plays netted only 3 yards. Shane Graham hit the 27 yard field goal. Even though the Texans led 3-0, the tone was set and the Texans would soon be facing reality.
Early on the Texans defense did well, but with 4 1/2 minutes left the Patriots took over at their 35. Stephen Ridley gained 14 and caught a pass from Tom Brady for 1 more. Brady then went to Shane Vereen for 25 and Hernandez for 14. Vereen got the last yard and the Patriots led 7-3 after the first quarter. In the second quarter New England faced 3rd and 8 from their 18. Brady went to Wes Welker for a 30 yard gain. Vereen gained 2 more. On 1st and 10 from the 16, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Brandon Lloyd for throwing the ball at the official killed the drive. Steohen Goskowski hit the 37 yard field goal to make it 10-3 Patriots.
The Patriots got it back and faced 3rd and 11 from their 19. Brady went to Welker for 13. From the New England 45, Brady went deep to Welker for a 47 yard gain. On the next play brady went to Vereen for the 8 yard touchdown. With 3 1/2 minutes left in the half the Patriots led 17-3. They were on their way to a blowout.
Manning torched the Patriots again, although not as much by comparison. With a horsecollar tacked on, the Texans began with a short field at the Patriots 47. Foster gained 21, 19, 2, 4, and on 3rd and goal at the one, the last yard to get Houston within 17-10 with 1:20 left in the half. New England went 3 and out and the Texans got it back at their own 38 with 24 seconds left and all of their timeouts. Schaub hit Casey for 9 and Daniels for 11 and 5. On the alst play of the half Shane Graham drilled a 55 yard field goal as the Texans were only down 17-13 at halftime.
New England began the third quarter facing 3rd and 4 at their own 37. Brady hit Hernandez for 6, Welker for 5, and then Hernandez on a short pass that went for a 40 yard gain. From the 12, Ridley gained 4 and then the 8 yard touchdown to make it 24-13 Patriots. With 4 1/2 minutes remaining in the third quarter the Texans moved to a 3rd and 8 at the Patriots 37. Schaub threw over the middle and was intercepted by Ninkovich at that same spot. Ridley gained 9 and Brady hit Hernandez for 14 and Lloyd for 7 more. Ridley gained 5 and 23 and then Brady hit Lloyd for the 5 yard touchdown to make it 31-13 Patriots after three quarters.
On the first play of the fourth quarter the Texans gambled on 4th and 1 from their own 23 and Foster barely got the yard. On 3rd and 9 Schaub hit Walter. Walter also barely made it to the marker but was ruled short. Kubiak blundered by not challenging the spot. So instead of a first down, it was 4th and 1 from the 33. Then Schaub threw deep incomplete. One play later Evil Hoodie Bill Bellichick and Tom Brady were going for the throat with a 33 yard touchdown pass to Vereen to make it 38-13.
Manning again went wild, returning the kickoff 69 yards to the Patriots 37. On 4th and 1 Fostr got 3 and Schaub then went deep to Posey for a 25 yard touchdown. 12 minutes still remained and the Texans were down 38-20. Houston got it back at their 21 with 10 minutes left. They moved to a 1st and goal at the 4 before the defense stiffened. On 4th and goal at the one, Schaub fired to for the score and then went to Johnson for the 2 point conversion. The Texans were only down 38-28, but only 5 minutes remained.
The onsides kick was a good one, but Ninkovich recovered for the Patriots at the Houston 47. On 3rd and 2 Brady had his pass batted down but defensive holding was a killer penalty. On 3rd and 2 from the Houston 26 after the Texans took their last timeout, Brady hit Lloyd for 8. New England would tack on a 38 yard field goal with 1:15 left and then made sure the ensuing kickoff went nowhere near Manning.
The 13 point finish was not as close as the score indicated, vindicating Dan Shaughnessy. You can be sure he will not make the same claim about Baltimore. New England barely survived the AFC Title Game last year in a 23-20 win. This year Baltimore won on the final play in Baltimore 31-30 when a field goal was ruled good. This time it is for all the marbles. 41-28 Patriots
Seattle Seahaws @ Atlanta Falcons was the Sunday morning game. What started out as an awful game turned into one of the all time thrillers as the reason why fans watch football. Atlanta took over at their 25 and Michael Turner ran for 15 and 2. Matt Ryan hit Tony Gonzalez for 9. On 3rd and 2 from the Seattle 41, Ryan hit Roddy White for 13. On 3rd and 3 from the 21, Ryan threw incomplete as the Falcons settled for a 39 yard Matt Bryant field goal and a 3-0 Atlanta lead.
Seattle punted, and Atlanta took over at midfield. On 3rd and 3 from the Seattle 43, Ryan was intercepted by Wagner. Seattle took over at their 33. Russell Wilson ran for 17 and Lynch added 11 more. Yet Lynch fumbled and Babineaux recovered for the Falcons at the Atlanta 39. Ryan hit Julio Jones for 13. A couple plays later a horsecollar tackle added 15 more. On 3rd and 14 from the Seattle 33, Ryan hit White for 16 and Coffman for 16 more down to the one. Ryan hit Gonzalez for the one yard touchdown to make it 10-0 Falcons.
Seattle moved from their 20 to the Atlanta 42 but 2nd and 8 saw a pair of incompletions. Atlanta began the second quarter at their 13 when Jaquez Rodgers ran wild for a 45 yard gain to the Seattle 42. On 3rd and 7 Ryan hit Jones for 9. On 3rd and 1 from the Seattle 21 Turner gained 2. On 3rd and 2 from the 11 a false start and a pass that lost 3 yards meant again Atlanta was settling for a field goal. Bryant hit from 37 as the Falcons led 13-0 with 9 minutes left in the half.
Seattle took over at their 30 and Wilson hit Miller for 34 yards and Golden Tate for 16 more. Yet on 3rd and 1 from the Atlanta 11 Turbin got stopped. Pete Carroll gambled on 4th and 1 and Robinson got blasted in the backfield for a one yard loss. Atlanta took over at their 12. Turner gained 33 and Ryan went bombs away again to White for a 47 yard touchdown. Just like that, instead of a 13-7 game the Falcons were winning a 20-0 laugher.
With 4 1/2 minutes remaining, Wilson moved Seattle to a 1st and goal at the 6 with 25 seconds left in the half as Seattle took their final timeout. After a false start, an incompletion set up 3rd and goal from the 11 with 17 seconds left. Wilson was sacked for a 9 yard loss, and scrambled to get everybody to the line. There was no time to even spike it as Wilson fired to a wide open receiver in the end zone. Yet it was all for naught as game clock expired before the play. Seattle also was not set and would have faced a 10 second runoff anyway. The Falcons took a 20-0 lead into intermission in front of a jubilant home crowd. The Seattle mistake would loom large later on.
Seattle began the second half after a touchback and Wilson hit Sidney Rice for 11. Wilson scrambled for 17 more. On 3rd and 1 from the Atlanta 42, Wilson gained 2. After a sack set up 2nd and 18, Wilson hit Zach Miller for 19 and Golden Tate for a 29 yard touchdown as this time the Seahawks were on the board down 20-7.
Atlanta soon faced 3rd and 5 from their 25 when Ryan hit Gonzalez for 6, Jones for 13, and Douglas for 7 to the Seattle 44. Ryan found Jones for 21 and on 3rd and from the 22 went to Gonzalez for 11. A 5 yard touchdown pass to Jason Snelling had the Falcons up 27-7 after the 14 play, 80 yard, 7 1/2 minute drive. With 2 minutes left in the third quarter the game was a laugher. The home crowd would be crying very late, and not tears of joy. The fourth quarter was a shocker that will be talked about for years.
On 2nd and 5 from the Seattle 25, Wilson went to Tate for 24, Rice for 12, Miller for 26, and Turbin for 7 as the fourth quarter began with Atlanta at the 6 yard line. Wilson ran it in from one yard out to get the Seahawks within 27-14. Atlanta took over after a touchback and soon faced 2nd and 11 from their 31. Ryan went deep and was intercepted again by Thomas at the Seattle 38. Why Ryan was throwing deep rather than winding down the clock is anyone’s guess. On 2nd and 5, a short pass to Turbin saw him barrel over people for a 30 yard gain. On the next play Wilson hit Miller for the 3 yard touchdown. Seattle was within 27-21 and 9 minutes still remained.
Atlanta went 3 and out and Seattle took over at their 40. Yet 1st and 10 at midfield was followed by 3 incompletions. Pete Carroll opted to punt and Atlanta got it back at their 20 with 5 1/2 minutes left. Turner gained 12, but after that the defense held. on 3rd and 8 with 3:15 left, a pass play was called and it was incomplete. Seattle got it back at their 39 with all 3 timeouts left and exactly 3 minutes left on the clock.
Lynch gained 3 and caught a pass for 7 and a first down at the 2 minute warning. Wilson hit Tate for 19 yards and ran for 5 more. With 44 seconds left the Seahawks faced 3rd and 5 at the Atlanta 27. Wilson went to Lynch, who got through tacklers for a 24 yard gain. Lynch got out of bounds with 34 seconds left. It was 1st and goal at the 3 and the Seahawks still had all of their timeouts. Atlanta was called for 12 men on defense, moving the ball to the 2 The last 34 seconds of this game will be talked about for a long time if not forever.
Lynch got the carry and got blasted at the goal line. The ball popped out and landed straight into the breadbasket of an offensive lineman for a Seattle touchdown. Due to the “Holy Roller” rule, the fumble could only have been recovered by Lynch himself. Otherwise it would go back to the spot of the fumble, inches shy of the goal line. Yet the refs looked closely at the replay and determined Lynch just broke the plane of the goal before coughing it up. The touchdown did stand, and when Ryan Longwell hit the extra point, the Seahawks had the 28-27 lead. This was an Atlanta collapse of epic proportions as they blew a 20 point fourth quarter lead. All the demons would chase the Falcons forever.
The Falcons took over at their 28 yard line with only 25 seconds left. They did have 2 timeouts. They also had Matty Ice, who had not performed that way in the playoffs. The shellshocked home crowd just prayed. Ryan went to Douglas for 22 yards to midfield as the Falcons took their second timeout with 19 seconds left. With everything on the line, Ryan went to Tony Gonzalez. The first ballot hall of famer is retiring after this season. He made the biggest catch of his life on the next play as Ryan hit him for a 19 yard gain. Now it was time for the “other” Matty Ice as kicker Matt Bryant came in for a 49 yarder inside the Georgia Dome to win it. Bryant missed it but Pete Carroll called timeout at the last minute. Given another try, Bryant drilled it. Now it was the Falcons celebrating with a 2 point lead. Yet 8 seconds still remained.
Special teams confusion happened.Instead of a squib kick, punter Bosher accidentally tapped it so softly that it was an onsides kick. Seattle got the ball at their own 46 yard line, already in Hail Mary range with 6 seconds left. They decided to run one quick play, and completion from Wilson to Baldwin gained 6 yards. A field goal try would have been 65 yards, so it still came down to the Hail Mary. For those who remember, the Seahawks know how to complete these. Wilson scrambled, fired to the end zone, and an offensive player again came down with it.
Yet this was Atlanta receiver Julio Jones playing defense. The interception finally ended the game as Tony Gonzalez cried his eyes out. This was his very first playoff victory. He, Matt Ryan, and Mike Smith finally got the monkey off their backs. It was not easy, and Pete Carroll has something very special in Russell Wilson. Seattle showed heart, guts, and character. Yet so did Atlanta, who will host San Francisco in the NFC Title Game. This fantastic finish had everything but Alcoa. 30-28 Falcons
Green Bay Packers @ the San Francisco 49ers was the Saturday night game. The 49ers took over at their 28. From their 47, Colin Kaepernick was intercepted by Sam Shields, who returned it 52 yards for a touchdown. Only 2 minutes into the game and the Packers led 7-0. Kaepernick would redeem himself.
The 49ers soon faced 3rd and 2 from their 28 when Kaepernick threw incomplete. Yet defensive holding kept the drive going. On 3rd and 10 from their 33, Kaepernick found Frank Gore for 45 yards. On 3rd and 8 from the Packers 20, Kaepernick rolled out, saw only green grass ahead of him, and raced for the touchdown to tie the game 7-7. Kaepernick would do that all game.
After an exchange of punts the Packers faced 3rd and 1 from their 29 when Harris gained 4 yards. On 3rd and 5, Aaron Rodgers went deep to Jones for a 44 yard gain. On the next play Harris ran for an 18 yard touchdown as the Packers led 14-7. In the second quarter after a touchback, the 49ers had to punt from midfield. The Packers fumbled it, giving the 49ers the ball at the Green Bay 9. On 3rd and goal from the 12 Kaepernick hit Crabtree for the touchdown to tie the game 14-14 with 11 minutes left in the half.
Green Bay took over at their own 7 and soon faced 3rd and 7 from their 26. Rodgers was intercepted by Brown, who returned it 39 yards to the Green Bay 48. On 3rd and 1, James gained 14. On 3rd and 9 from the Packers 24, Kaepernick scrambled for 15 yards and then got called for unsportsmanlike conduct for taunting, giving the 15 back. Yet it was still 1st and 10. Kaepernick would throw a 20 yard touchdown to Crabtree to give the 49ers their first lead of the game 21-14 with 5 1/2 minutes left in the half.
Rodgers came right back and ran for 9 and hit Jermichael Finley for 19 more. Defensive unnecessary roughness and offsides tacked on 20 yards, and Rodgers went to Jones for a 20 yard touchdown. With 2 1/2 minutes left in the half the game was tied for the third time 21-21.
After a touchback, Kaepernick scrambled for 19. On 3rd and 10 from their 42, Kaepernick ran for another 18 yards as the Packers had no answer for his scrambling. On 3rd and 10 from the 27, Kaepernick ran again and came up one yard short. This did not matter since only 3 seconds remained in the half. David Akers came in for the 36 yarder and made it as the gun expired to give the 49ers the 24-21 halftime lead.
Each team went 3 and out to start the third quarter and the Packers faced 2nd and 8 from their 13. Rodgers went deep to Greg Jennings for 30 yards and Nelson for a pair of 8 yard gains. Randall Cobb gained 19. Yet on 3rd and 6 from the 18, a false start was followed by a completion and a fumble that was recovered by Green Bay. After all the chaos, the Packers faced 4th and 1 at the Frisco 13. Mike McCarthy decided not to gamble and Mason Crosby hit the 31 yarder. For the fourth time the game was tied, as this 24-24 matchup had the makings of a thriller.
Before people could blink, the 49ers had struck back. After a touchback, Kaepernick hit Crabtree for gains of 18 and 6. Then Kaepernick on a designed rollout scrambled all the way for a 56 yard touchdown. Just like that, the 49ers led 31-24 midway through the third quarter. Green Bay punted on their next series, and the 49ers took over at their own 7. On 3rd and 2, Kaepernick hit Crabtree for 16. On 2nd and 8 from the Frisco 41, Kaepernick went deep to Vernon Davis for a 44 yard gain. Frank Gore gained 13. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Gore got in from 2 yards out as the 49ers now led 38-24.
Green Bay moved from their 11 to a 4th and 5 just shy of midfield. Mike McCarthy decided to punt with 11 1/2 minutes left. The 49ers were again backed up to their own 7. Gore gained 5 and Kaepernick gained 16 more. Kaeprnick threw to Walker for 17 and Gore gained 26 more. A 3rd and 15 completion to Crabtree set up a critical 4th and 1 at the Packers 18 with 5 1/2 minutes to go. The plan was just to try and draw the Packers offsides, and BJ Raji jumped. That was the backbreaker, as Gore gained 11 and Dixon got the last yards to turn a nailbiter into a 45-24 49ers blowout. Rodgers would throw a 3 yard touchdown to Jennings with one minute left to complete the scoring.
The Packers saw a good season come to an end sooner than many people thought. As for the 49ers, give Jim Harbaugh a ton of credit. He made the switch to Kaepernick, and it was the right thing to do. Kaepernick was magnificent, setting an NFL playoff rushing record by a quarterback with 181 yards, besting Michael Vick by 8 yards. Kaepernick also threw for 263 yards and shook off the early interception. Frisco travels to Atlanta for the NFC Title Game. 45-31 49ers