NFL 2016-2017 Divisionals Recap
Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons was the Saturday afternoon game. The Seahawks began with a 14 play, 89 yard drive that consumed 8 1/2 minutes. Russell Wilson threw a 7 yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Graham to make it 7-0 Seahawks. The Falcons responded by going 75 yards in 13 plays and over 7 minutes. The second quarter began with Matt Ryan throwing a 7 yard touchdown pass to Julio Jones for a 7-7 game. Then came Devon Hester, who returned the ensuing kickoff 50 yards to the Seattle 45. Two plays later Wilson went deep to Paul Richardson for a 52 yard touchdown. Yet the officials ruled that Richardson stepped out of bounds at the Atlanta 19. So instead of a 14-7 lead, the Seahawks ended up settling for a 33 yard Steve Hauschka field goal to lead 10-7. Atlanta punted and Hester returned it 80 yards to the Atlanta 7 yard line. However, a penalty on the return instead had the Seahawks starting at their own 7 yard line. This is where momentum changed.
The Seahawks quickly faced 2nd and 13 at their own 4 yard line. Wilson took the snap and accidentally tripped over his own offensive lineman. Momentum carried him backward into his own end zone where an Atlanta defender fell on him for a gift safety. The Falcons were now within 10-9 and took over after the free kick at their own 43. Ryan then hit Gabriel for a 37 yard gain to the Seattle 20. After the the defense held. Matt Bryant hit the 35 yard field goal to make it 12-10 Falcons. The Falcons got the ball back at their own one yard line with 3:48 left in the half. Ryan came out throwing, as gains to Jones for 8 and Coleman for 5 was followed by a 22 yard completion to Mohammed Sanu. Ryan went to Gabriel for 18 and Sanu for 12. Ryan found Jones, who caught the ball and got up without being touched for a 20 yard gain. Ryan hit a wide open Coleman for a 14 yard touchdown. The 99 yard drive did not feature a single running play as the Falcons led 19-10 with one minute left in the half.
In the third quarter after a touchback the Falcons offense kept firing on all cylinders. 75 yards in 13 plays and 6 minutes Saw Matty Ice remain icy cool. On 3rd and 8 from the Atlanta 27, Ryan hit Jones for 12 yards. On 3rd and 10 from the Atlanta 39, Ryan hit Gabriel for 12 yards. Freeman got in from one yard out to make it 26-10 Falcons. The Seahawks responded by going 80 yards and 14 plays in 6 minutes. Yet on 2nd and 6 from the Atlanta 8, Wilson threw incomplete twice. Hauschka hit a 26 yard field goal to get the Seahawks within 26-13. The Falcons soon faced 3rd and 4 at their own 31. A short pass from Ryan to Devonta Freeman went for 53 yards. On the first play of the fourth quarter Bryant hit from 31 to make it 29-13 Falcons. With 8 1/2 minutes left on 3rd and 16 from the Atlanta 36, Wilson under heavy pressure threw a duck that was intercepted. Ryan threw a 3 yard touchdown to Sanu to make it a 36-13 blowout with 3 1/2 minutes left.
Hester took the ensuing kickoff 9 yards deep in the end zone and returned it 78 yards to the Atlanta 31. One play later Wilson went deep to Baldwin for the touchdown. The Seahawks were back within 16 but the onside kick failed. Seattle got it back at their own 20 with 2:50 left and Wilson went deep to Richardson for a 58 yard gain. Yet Dan Quinn challenged the catch and on further review the calls was changed to an incomplete pass. Wilson then threw a completion to non-relative Willson, but Willson had the ball ripped out of his hands. It bounced off several players before finally being intercepted as Pete Carroll helplessly watched. Ryan finished 26 of 37 for 338 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions to send the Falcons to the NFC Title Game. Even better for Atlanta, Dallas lost the next day, which allows the Falcons to play the NFC Title Game at home. 36-20 Falcons
Houston Texans at New England Patriots was the Saturday night game. Five minutes into the game, the Patriots took over at their own 35. Tom Brady went deep incomplete, but defensive pass interference meant a 30 yard gain. Brady then went deep to Chris Hogan for a 22 yard gain and to Dion Lewis for a 13 yard touchdown to make it 7-0 Patriots. Houston soon faced 3rd and 18 at their own 15. A completion from Brock Osweiler to Deandre Hopkins only gained 10 yards, but an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Patriots after the play kept the drive going. The Texans held the ball for 14 plays and over 8 minutes to go 62 yards. Yet the Texans settled for a 33 yard Nick Novak field goal to get within 7-3. 15 seconds later the Patriots scored again as Lewis returned the ensuing kickoff 98 yards for a score. With the Patriots up 14-3, this game appeared over after the first quarter.
The second quarter began with the Patriots taking over at their own 20. Brady was quickly intercepted, setting up the Texans at the New England 27. Yet offensive holding doomed the Texans, who settled for a 27 yard Novak field goal to get within 14-6. The Patriots then fumbled the ensuing kickoff, setting up the Texans at the New England 12. Osweiler hit CJ Fiedorowicz for a 10 yard touchdown. The Texans were right back in it down 14-13. They came in 16 point underdogs, and were looking to pull off the greatest upset in NFL Divisional Round history.
The Patriots faced 3rd and 10 from their own 18 and Brady went deep to Hogan for a 45 yard gain. Yet on 3rd and 6 from the Houston 33, Brady was sacked to push the Patriots out of field goal range. With 3 minutes left in the half the Patriots faced 3rd and 9 at their own 34. Brady went deep to Julian Edelman for a 48 yard gain. With 43 seconds left in the half, on 2nd and goal at the one, Brady found Develin in the flat. Yet two defenders from the number one defense closed in and made a touchdown saving tackle. On 3rd and goal, LaGuerrette Blount got the carry and got stopped stone cold. With 10 seconds left, on 4th and goal at the one, Bill Belichik opted for the field goal. Stephen Gostkowski hit from 19 as the Patriots only led 17-13 at halftime.
In the third quarter after an exchange of punts, the Patriots were pinned at their own 10 yard line. Brady quickly went to Edelman for gains of 26 and 14 to midfield. On 3rd and 3 from the Houston 19, Brady went to White for the touchdown to make it 24-13 Patriots. Midway through the third quarter with the texans facing 3rd and 4 at their own 46, Osweiler was intercepted. With the Patriots facing 3rd and 10 at their own 44, Brady found Edelman for a 26 yard gain. Yet offensive pass interference killed that drive. Great punt coverage pinned the Texans at their own two yard line.
With the Texans facing 2nd and 8 at the New England 45, Osweiler was sacked and fumbled. Patrick Chung returned it for a touchdown. Yet on further review the play was reversed to an incomplete pass. On 3rd and 8 Osweiler went deep to Fuller in the end zone, and Fuller dropped it. After each team thought it had a touchdown, the Texans just punted. From the New England 23, Brady was intercepted again to set the Texans up at the Patriots 34. The fourth quarter began with Novak hitting from 46 to get the Texans within 24-16. A couple minutes later with the Patriots facing 3rd and 7 at the Houston 45, a pass to Edelman that would have been a first down was dropped.
Houston took over at their own 11 and disaster quickly struck. Osweiler threw a ball high that was deflected and intercepted. Ryan returned it 23 yards to the Houston 6. This time from the one, Lewis broke the plane of the goal to make it 31-16 Patriots. The Patriots got it back and moved from their 33 to the Houston 24. The drive stalled but Gostkowski hit from 43 to put the game on ice. Osweiler then threw his third interception. Brady did not have his best game either, going 18 for 38 for 287 yards, 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Yet the Patriots established another NFL record. For the sixth straight season they will be in the AFC Title Game, and this year they will be at home. 34-16 Patriots
Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys was the Sunday afternoon game. Indoors, this game had the potential to be a track meet. Early on after a touchback the Cowboys moved to a 3rd and 2 at the Green Bay 32. Dak Prescott threw incomplete as the Cowboys settled for a 50 yard Dan bailey field goal to lead 3-0. The packers faced 3rd and 5 at their own 30. Aaron Rodgers threw incomplete but the defense had 12 men on the field. Ty Montgomery gained 15 to midfield and Rodgers went to Randall Cobb for 16 more. From the Dallas 34, the Cowboys jumped offsides. Rodgers, knowing he had a free play, went deep to non-relative Richard Rodgers for the touchdown and the 7-3 Packers lead. In the second quarter Rodgers carved up the Dallas defense like a surgeon. A pair of 5 1/2 minute drives went 90 and 80 yards. Montgomery got in for touchdowns of 3 and 1 yards to have the Packers cruising 21-3.
After a touchback the Cowboys tried to make a game of it. Prescott went deep to Dez Bryant for a 40 yard touchdown to get the Cowboys within 21-10. Dallas got it back and did enough for Bailey to hit a 33 yard field goal as the Cowboys only trailed 21-13 at halftime. In the third quarter Rodgers led another 75 yard drive. A 3 yard touchdown pass to Jared Cook had the Packers up 28-13 after three quarters. Yet by the time this game was over, fans everywhere could say they watched a thriller. Late in the third quarter the Packers moved from their 39 to a 3rd and 8 at the Dallas 38. Looking to deliver the knockout blow, Rodgers was intercepted by Heath, who returned the interception 27 yards to the Dallas 41.
Dallas soon faced 2nd and 21 at their own 30. Prescott hit Bryant for 19 and on 3rd and 2 hit him again for 10 more yards as the Cowboys began the fourth quarter with 1st and 10 at the Green Bay 41 On 3rd and 14 from the Packers 21, Prescott hit Jason Witten for 15 and then hit Witten again for the 6 yard touchdown. With 11 1/2 minutes left in regulation the Cowboys were within 28-20. The Cowboys held on defense and got the ball back at their own 20. with 9 minutes left. With 5 minutes left the Cowboys faced 3rd and 8 at the Packers 27. Prescott threw incomplete, but defensive pass interference meant 1st and 10 at the 15. On 3rd and 2 from the 7, Prescott hit Bryant for the touchdown. With 4 minutes left, Jason Garrett went for 2 and Prescott ran it in himself. After 56 minutes of football, the game was tied 28-28. The remaining 4 minutes were as exciting as any in football history, as each team had all 3 timeouts.
After a touchback Rodgers hit Devonta Adams for 16 yards. At the 2 minute warning the Packers had 1st and 10 at the Dallas 45. Rodgers went deep and was intercepted by Heath again. however, defensive pass interference gave the Packers 10 more yards. With 1:38 to play and the Packers facing 4th and 13 at the Dallas 38, Mike McCarthy had a big decision to make. A missed field goal would give Dallas excellent field position. Mason Crosby came in for a 56 yard try. The kick was good and the Packers led 31-28. After a touchback, the Cowboys still had 2 timeouts.
Prescott is a rookie, but nobody told him. He went deep to Terrence williams for 25 yards and to Witten for 10 more. Prescott spiked the ball with 48 seconds left. The Cowboys were already at the Green Bay 40 and could now go for the win. On 3rd and 3 from Green Bay 33, Prescott’s pass was batted down at the line of scrimmage incomplete. Now it was Bailey coming in for a 52 yard field goal try for the tie. Bailey was good, and now the game was tied 31-31. After a touchback, the Packers had only 35 seconds to work with and 2 timeouts.
Rodgers hit Montgomery for 17 yards but was then sacked for a 10 yard loss. With 12 seconds left the Packers faced 3rd and 20 at their own 32. Since the Cowboys still had one timeout left, the Packers could not take a knee and go to overtime. McCarthy went for it all and trusted his quarterback. One week after Rodgers completed a Hail Mary, he worked another miracle. Rodgers went deep to Cook for a 36 yard gain to Dallas 32. One official ruled incomplete and another official overruled and called it a catch. After a booth review, the catch was confirmed. Cook got both feet down inbounds. With 3 seconds left, Mason Crosby came in for a 51 yard try for the win.
Crosby again was good, sneaking it just inside the upright. 3 field goals in the final 2 minutes sent the Packers to the NFC Title Game at Atlanta. For those who want to beat up Jason Garrett or call this a Cowboys choke job, knock it off. For those who think it is better to play an extra playoff game than have a bye week to get healthy, again knock it off. What won this game for the Packers was experience. The 2007 Cowboys were also 13-3 and went one and done for the same reason. Prescott and Elliott had never played in a playoff game, and Rodgers is a first ballot Hall of Famer. Prescott was fine, going 24 for 38 for 302 yards and 3 touchdowns. Elliott ran for 125 yards on 22 carries, more than 5 yards per carry. Bryant had 9 receptions for 132 yards. There was nothing more the offense could have done. Rodgers torched the Dallas defense for 356 yards and 2 touchdowns, completing 28 of 43 passes to lead the Packers to their 8th straight win. Both quarterback was intercepted once. Two years after an epic NFC Title Game meltdown, the Packers get a shot at redemption. Again, they will be indoors. 34-31 Packers
Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs was the Sunday night game. An ice storm caused this game to be moved from early Sunday to the Sunday night game. With freezing weather, the Steelers were expected to run the ball with LeVeon Bell. This is Mike Tomlin smashmouth Steelers football. Instead, Ben Roethlisberger came out throwing the ball five straight times. Yet on 2nd and 2 from the Chiefs 5, the Steelers were still throwing. After an incompletion, Roethlisberger’s 3rd down pass in the flat was stopped short. On 4th and 1 at the 4, Tomlin opted for the field goal. Boswell hit from 22 to make it 3-0 Steelers, but this would be a problem throughout the first half.
The Chiefs took the short kickoff 25 yards to their own 45. Alex Smith dinked and dunked the Steelers to death, as a 5 yard touchdown pass to Wilson made it 7-3 Chiefs. After that the Pittsburgh defense clamped down. The Steelers soon faced 3rd and 10 at their own 25, Roethlisberger avoided a sack and went deep to Antonio Brown for a 52 yard gain. Rather than run the ball, Big Ben kept throwing as a pair of incompletions meant another field goal try. Boswell hit from 38 to get the Steelers within 7-6. In the second quarter the Steelers moved from their 29 to a 1st and 10 at the Chiefs 17. Again on 1st down the Steelers threw the ball rather than run it. A pair of incompletions meant another field goal try. Boswell hit from 36 to make it 9-7 Steelers.
Midway through the second quarter, an interception of Smith set up Pittsburgh at the Chiefs 44. From the Chiefs 31, a completion to James meant 1st and goal at the 5. Again, the Steelers threw on first down rather than run it. Roethlisberger’s pass was deflected up into the air and intercepted in the end zone for a touchback. A short Chiefs punt gave the Steelers the ball back at their own 45. On 3rd and 9, Bell ran for 17 yards. Bell ran forward, but the passing game was not going well. A sack of Big Ben killed another drive. With one minute left in the half Boswell hit his fourth field goal from 45 yards to make it 12-7 Steelers. The Chiefs then fumbled the ball and the Steelers recovered at the Chiefs 40. Yet only 3 seconds remained. A 58 yard field goal try was too much to ask, so a Hail Mary seemed in the cards. Instead Roethlisberger lobbed a short pass to Brown that gained 29 yards but nothing else.
Despite being give not nearly enough carries, Bell had 101 yards rushing by halftime. In the third quarter the Steelers really started feeding him. From the Pittsburgh 26, Bell broke free for a 38 yard gain. He then ran for 6 and 5 yards. With the running game unstoppable, on 1st and 10 from the Chiefs 25, the Passing game again stalled the drive. Boswell hit his fifth field goal from 43 yards out to make it 15-7 Steelers. The Chiefs had no offense, but a great punt pinned the Steelers at their own 2. On 3rd and 1 from the 11, Bell got stopped. The Chiefs got it back after a short punt at the Pittsburgh 46. On 3rd and 4 from the Pittsburgh 30, Smith threw incomplete. Cairo Santos hit a 48 yard field goal as the Chiefs only trailed 15-10 after three quarters.
In the fourth quarter the Steelers moved from their own 30 to a 2nd and 8 at the Kansas City 19. Again, rather than run the ball and bleed the clock, the Steelers kept throwing. Big Ben fired a ball to the end zone that was high but catchable. It was incomplete. On 3rd and 8 Roethlisberger was sacked. Boswell hit his 6th field goal from 43 to make it 18-10 Steelers with 10 minutes left in regulation.
After a touchback, Smith found Travis Kelce for 24 yards just shy of midfield. An offensive face mask had the Chiefs facing 2nd and 25 at their own 45. Smith found Kelce for 17 yards and then threw incomplete. Midway through the fourth quarter, Andy Reid decided to go for it on 4th and 8 from the Pittsburgh 38. Smith hit Conley for a 12 yard gain. On 3rd and 9 from the 25, Smith went deep to Conley at the goal line and Conley got blasted as the ball fell incomplete. A personal foul for a helmet to helmet hit meant 1st and 10 at the 12. On 3rd and 2 from the 4, Smith threw incomplete. With 3 1/2 minutes left, Andy Reid again went for it. On 4th and 2 from the 4, Smith rolled out and fired a completion to Sherman for 3 yards. On 1st and goal at the one, Ware got in to get the Chiefs within 2 points. Smith fired to Harris for the tying 2 point conversion, but offensive holding on Eric Fisher. From the 12 yard line, Smith fired incomplete.
With 2:42 to play and 2 timeouts, Walrus Lite Andy Reid decided to kick it away rather than go onside kick. A perfectly placed kick pinned the Steelers at their own 5 yard line. On 2nd and 8, rather than keep running, another dangerous pass gained 5 yards. At the 2 minute warning, the Steelers faced 3rd and 3 at their own 19. A run would take 40 seconds off the clock. The Steelers risked it all and went with a pass play. Big Ben rolled to his right and fired to Antonio Brown for a 7 yard gain. Three kneel downs later and the Steelers had the win. They travel to New England for the AFC Title Game. They have a battering ram in Bell, who ran for 170 yards on 30 carries. 18-16 Steelers
The Conference Championships are set. Both games will be played on Sunday, January 22 (Times Eastern).
NFC Title Game, 3:00 pm, FOX: 4.) Green Bay Packers at 2.) Atlanta Falcons (-4)
AFC Title Game, 6:30 pm, CBS: 3.) Pittsburgh Steelers at 1.) New England Patriots (-5.5)