NFL 2016-2017 Conference Title Games Recap
NFC Title Game, Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons — In the regular season the Falcons won a thriller at Green Bay 33-32. This was expected to be another track meet. In the 2010 season the Packers went into Atlanta in the playoffs and belted the Falcons 48-21. Aaron Rodgers got his ring while Matt Ryan kept hearing about not winning the big one. This time Atlanta jumped all over Green Bay at the outset.
The Falcons moved 80 yards in 13 plays and 6 1/2 minutes. On 3rd and goal, Matt Ryan threw a 2 yard touchdown pass to Mohammed san for a 7-0 Falcons lead. The Packers moved from their 25 to a 2nd and 4 at the Atlanta 23. Yet the shootout did not happen. Aaron Rodgers threw incomplete twice and the normally reliable Mason Crosby missed a 41 yard field goal try. Atlanta moved from their 31 to a 2nd and 3 at the Green Bay 5. However, a pair of incompletions sandwiched around a false start meant a 28 yard Matt Bryant field goal as the Falcons led 10-0 after the first quarter.
The Packers again moved the ball well and in the second quarter faced a 1st and 10 at the Atlanta 23. Adam Ripowski got the carry and gained 12 yards. however, at the end of the play the ball was ripped out of his hands. Jamie Collins recovered for Atlanta in the end zone for a touchback. Again the Packers missed an opportunity. The Falcons moved to a 3rd and 10 at the Green Bay 33. Needing a stop, Dom Capers’s defense could not get one. Ryan hit Julio Jones for 19 yards and then ran for the 14 yard touchdown himself for a 17-0 Falcons lead.
In the NFC Title Game 5 years ago, the Falcons blew a 17-0 lead at halftime at home for an agonizing 28-24 loss. Not this time. At the 2 minute warning the Packers faced 3rd and 21 at their own 13. Rodgers went deep, but this Hail Mary was intercepted by the Atlanta defense. The Falcons took over at their own 32 with 1:50 left. On 3rd and 10 just past midfield, Ryan went to Torry Gabriel for 16 yards and Devonta Freeman for 19 more. With 7 seconds left in the half on 3rd and 1 from the 5, Ryan went to Julio Jones, who somehow got both feet down in the end zone. Replay showed he dragged his toes as the Falcons led 24-0 at halftime. The Packers began the third quarter after a touchback with 3 straight incomplete passes. 2 plays later, Ryan threw a short pass to Jones, who broke several pathetic attempts at tackling for a 73 yard touchdown and a 31-0 Falcons lead.
The Packers finally got going as a 12 play, 75 yard drive led to a 3rd and goal at the 2. Rodgers found Devonta Adams for a touchdown as the Packers trailed 31-7. Yet there would be no Atlanta collapse or Green Bay miracle. After a touchback, from the Atlanta 35, Ryan torched Green Bay with a 23 yard completion to Jones. On 3rd and 1 from the Green Bay 19, defensive pass interference meant 1st and goal at the one.After a fumble moved the ball back to the four, Ryan fired to Freeman at the goal line. The referees riled 4th and goal inches short, but replay showed Freeman may have broken the plane of the goal. Dan Quinn challenged the call and the referees reversed the call to a touchdown and a 37-7 Falcons lead.
The extra point was no good, but at this point it did not matter. At the end of the third quarter, Rodgers capped a 75 yard drive with a 3 yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson, who played the entire game with 2 broken ribs. Ripowski ran in the 2 point conversion as the Packers trailed 37-15. The onside kick failed and the Falcons took over at the Green Bay 33. On 3rd and 6 from the 16, Matty Ice hit Jones for 13 yards. Tevin Coleman ran for the 3 yards touchdown for a 44-15 Falcons lead with 12 minutes left in regulation. Rodgers kept fighting. On 4th and 18 from their own 37, Rodgers found Randall Cobb for 34 yards. On 3rd and goal from the 18, defensive pass interference put the ball on the one again. Rodgers threw to Jared Cook for the touchdown. The 2 point try failed as the Packers trailed by 23 with 6 1/2 minutes left in regulation.
There would be no more scoring as Rodgers and Ryan both finished with 27 completions. Yet Rodgers aired it out 45 times for 287 yards, 3 touchdowns, and one interception. Ryan threw 38 passes for 392 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. At this point Dan Quinn still need to teach Matt Ryan how to hold a clipboard. For only the second time in their history, the Atlanta Falcons are going to the Super Bowl. Matt Ryan finally got to exercise the demons and hoist the George Halas trophy. 44-21 Falcons
AFC Title Game, Pittsburgh Steelers at New England Patriots — The Patriots went into Pittsburgh and beat the Steelers 27-16 in the regular season. Now the rematch was in New England. Tom Brady came out hot, moving the Patriots from their 25 to a 3rd and 1 at the Pittsburgh 13. Brady threw incomplete and Bill Belichick played it safe. Stephen Gostkowski hit the 31 yard field goal to make it 3-0 Patriots. The defenses settled in, and midway the Patriots moved from their 20 to a 3rd and 6 at the Pittsburgh 16. Brady fired to Chris Hogan for the touchdown to make it 10-0 Patriots.
The Steelers soon faced 3rd and 10 at their own 16. Ben Roethlisberger found Rogers for just enough. In the second quarter, the Steelers moved to 3rd and 1 at the New England 5. Deangelo Williams got the carry and made it to the end zone. The extra point was no good as the Steelers trailed 10-6. The Patriots took over at their own 18 and soon faced 3rd and 10 at their own 30. Brady found Julian Edelman for 12 yards. On 3rd and 8 from their own 44, Brady went to Hogan for 22 yards. From the Pittsburgh 34, Belichick called a flea flicker. Brady handed off to Lewis, who pitched it back to Brady, who went to a wide open Hogan for the touchdown to make it 17-6 Patriots.
The Steelers moved from their 25 to a 3rd and 8 at the New England 19 at the 2 minute warning. Roethlisberger fired to James for the touchdown, but officials reversed the call and said James was down to force 1st and goal inside the one. A pair of runs lost 4 yards and on 3rd and goal Big Ben threw incomplete. Chris Boswell hit the 23 yard field goal as the Steelers trailed 17-9 at halftime. Ben Roethlisberger was 17 of 24 for 140 yards in the first half, but Tom Brady was 19 of 24 for 222 yards and 2 touchdowns.
In the third quarter the Patriots moved from their 16 to a 1st and 10 at the Pittsburgh 29. The drive died as a 3rd and 10 catch was ruled incomplete because Mitchell’s toe was on the chalk. Gostkowki hit from 47 to make it 20-9 Patriots. The Steelers moved from their 25 to a 2nd and 7 at the New England 39. On the verge of field goal range, Roethlisberger threw incomplete twice and the Steelers punted. The Patriots took over and soon faced 3rd and 7 at their own 15. Brady hit Edelman for 17 yards. On 2nd and 13 from the New England 42, Brady went to Hogan for 39 yards. From the 19, Blount got the carry and appeared stopped at the 9, when the pile moved him all the way to the one. On the next play Blount got in to make it 27-9 Steelers.
One play after a touchback the Steelers fumbled and the Patriots took over at the Pittsburgh 28. Brady immediately hit Edelman for 18 yards. On 3rd and goal at the 10, Brady hit Edelman for the touchdown to make it 33-9 Patriots after the missed extra point. Early in the fourth quarter the Steelers faced 3rd and goal at the 2. After Big Ben threw incomplete, Mike Tomlin went for it on 4th and goal and Roethlisberger threw incomplete again. The Steelers got it back at their own 35 and Roethlisberger was quickly intercepted, leading to another Gostkowski field goal to make it 36-9 Steelers. Pittsburgh got a garbage touchdown and a 2 point conversion but the result was still a blowout. Roethlisberger was 31 of 47 for 314 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Brady was 32 of 42 for 384 yard, 3 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. Brady and Belichick are going to their NFL record seventh Super Bowl. 36-17 Patriots
Super Bowl LI (51) is now set. The New England Patriots play the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, February 5, 2017, at 6:30 pm Eastern Time on Fox.