Pro Football Playoff Recap

Staff Writer

Seattle 31 (13-4) vs
Carolina 17 (8-9-1)
Carolina came into the game riding a 5 game win streak. They were riding a hot defense and an offense that was able to take advantage of mistakes. They would need to play a perfect game to defeat Seattle in their own environment. The first quarter brought out both teams’ hardnosed defenses as neither team could move the ball. Seattle broke through and opened the scoring in the last minute of the first quarter when QB Russell Wilson connected with Doug Baldwin for a 16 yard touchdown pass. They were able to get the ball deep in Carolina territory after Troy McDaniel recovered a Cam Newton fumble at the Carolina 28 yard line. The lead was short lived as Cam Newton directed a 14 play 79 yard drive that was completed on a 7 yard touchdown pass from Newton to WR Kelvin Benjamin. Seattle responded quickly when they scored a touchdown less than 3 minutes later on a Russell Wilson pass to Jermaine Kearse for 63 yards. Carolina responded with a field goal to end the half at 14-10. The third quarter was a defensive battle as neither team got on the scoreboard. Seattle did extend their lead on a field goal on the first play for the fourth quarter to make it 17-10. On their next drive, Seattle quickly navigated their way down the field for a touchdown. They scored on a 25 yard pass to TE Luke Wilson. Carolina started to move the ball downfield and got as far as the Seattle 13 yard like, but Cam Newton was intercepted by Kam Chancellor. Chancellor, who seemed to be everywhere, returned the interception 90 yards for a touchdown to put the game out of reach at 31-10 with 6 minutes to go. Carolina would get a later touchdown to make the score closer, but the outcome was never in doubt by then.
New England (13-4) 35 vs
Baltimore (11-7) 31
Hands down, the most exciting game of the weekend was played in Foxboro, MA. New England was able to overcome 2 deficits of 14 points to take home the win and advance to the AFC championship. Baltimore came out throwing haymakers as they scored touchdowns on their first two drives. They employed a balanced attack as Joe Flacco navigated them down the field with little resistance. Both drives ended with Flacco touchdown passes. New England’s Tom Brady corralled his men and guided them down the field on their next drive to cut the lead to 7. Brady ran the ball in for the touchdown as he got key receptions from Rob Gronkowski to set up the 4 yard score. New England was able to tie the game at 14 in the second quarter on a record setting drive for Brady. During the drive Brady became the all-time leader in playoff passing yards with over 6,600 to his name.  He capped the drive with a 15 yard touchdown pass to Danny Amendola. With 1:11 left in the first half Brady was intercepted to set up Baltimore at their own 43. Flacco made quick work of the drive and connected with Owen Daniels for an 11 yard touchdown with 16 seconds left in the half. On Baltimore’s first drive of the second half, Flacco was effective as he connected with receiver Torrey Smith for a 35 yard reception to the New England 1 yard line. Smith was called for a taunting penalty that brought the ball back 15 yards. However, on the next play Flacco connected with a wide open Justin Forsett for a 16 yard touchdown to once again reclaim a 14 point lead at 28-14. On New England’s ensuing drive they caused great confusion for the Baltimore defense. They deployed a strategy where they only used 4 offensive linemen and would split out an ineligible receiver. They were moving at a quick enough pace that Baltimore did not have time to figure out who the dummy receiver was. The result was a 9 play 80 yard drive that was capped for a 5 yard TD pass to Rob Gronkowski. During the drive, Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh was so frustrated with the New England tactic that he was flagged when he ran onto the field. New England was able to tie the game shortly after on a trick play. Brady threw a backwards pass to Julian Edelman, who then tossed it to a wide open Danny Amendola for a 50 yard touchdown.  In the fourth quarter, Baltimore once again took the lead on a 25 yard Justin Tucker field goal to go up 31-28. New England took time the ball and slowly matriculated it down field as it took up 5:04 on a 10 play 74 yard drive that was capped by a Tom Brady 23 yard touchdown to Brandon LaFell. This play set the record for most post season TD’s for a career. Brady passed Joe Montana with his 46th post season touchdown. With 5 minutes left and Baltimore down 35-31 was unable to come up with some magic as he was intercepted with 1:46 left in the game.
Sunday 1/11/15
Green Bay 26 vs
Dallas 21
Pegged as the Ice Bowl II, it was a rematch of the famous 1967 playoff game where the field was literally frozen and temperatures were well below 0. The weather wasn’t as cold as expected, but Green Bay was still hampered by QB Aaron Rodgers’ torn calf muscle. He was visibly in pain as he limped and skipped around the field. Rodgers struck first as he connected with Aaron Quarless for a 4 yard touchdown to open the scoring. They moved the ball on the drive thanks to a heavy dose of RB Eddie Lacy bulldozing the ball down the field for 6 straight plays to set up the score. Dallas quickly responded with a balanced attack of RB DeMarco Murray and the passing of Tony Romo. They capped the touchdown drive with a 1 TD yard pass to seldom used FB Tyler Clutts. On Dallas’ next possession, Romo connected with Terrance Williams for a 38 yard touchdown to make it 14-7. Green Bay would close the first half with a field goal to make it 14-10. Green Bay connected on another field goal in the 3rd quarter to make it 14-13. However, Dallas would strike back on their ensuing drive. DeMarco Murray set up his 1 yard touchdown run by gaining 26 yards on the previous play to make it 21-13. Green Bay battled right back as Rodgers guided the offense down the field once again to cap the drive with a 46 yard touchdown pass to Davonte Adams. They went for the extra point to make it 21-20. Dallas’ drive was quickly stalled by the Green Bay defense, giving Green Bay the opportunity to take the lead. Green Bay did just that as Rodgers employed a no huddle offense to take the lead. Rodgers went 7-7 on the drive as he connected with Richard Rodgers (no relation) for a 13 yard score to take the lead. They failed a 2 point conversation to make the score 26-21 with 9:10 left in the game. Dallas got the ball back and on the first play, DeMarco Murray ran the ball down the right side for 30 yards to the Dallas 48 yard line. With 4:42 left in the game, the biggest play of the game happened. On 4th and 2 from the Green Bay 32, Romo took a stab downfield and connected with Dez Bryant for a 31 yard pass down to the GB 1. It was a spectacular catch and Bryant leaped over CB Sam Shields and tried to reach for the end zone. Green Bay challenged the play because it appeared that the ball had moved when Bryant reached for the goal line. Ultimately, the call was reversed and Green Bay took the ball over on downs. Although Bryant cleanly caught the ball and was able to have the presence of mind to transfer the ball from one hand to the other, he was not able to control the ball to the ground. The call was right according to league rules; however there will be much debate as to whether the leagues interpretation of the rule is correct. Dallas was deflated after this call and was never able to get the ball back. Next week Green Bay will travel to Seattle for the right to play in the Super Bowl.
Indianapolis (13-5) 24 at
Denver (12-5) 13
The match up featured Peyton Manning vs. his old team and successor Andrew Luck. There may have been a passing of the torch as Indianapolis made work of a Denver team who was Super Bowl or bust. Denver came out on their first possession and moved the ball down field quickly as Manning connected with Demaryius Thomas for a 1 yard score to cap a 7 play 68 yard drive. Indy got on the board early in the second quarter thanks to a 6 yard Dan Herron TD run that capped a 9 play 73 yard drive to tie the game. On Denver’s next possession, Manning was sacked and turned the ball over as Indianapolis recovered at the Denver 41. QB Andrew Luck guided Indianapolis to a touchdown as he found Dwayne Allen for a 3 yard touchdown with 7:28 left in the half. Luck was intercepted by Brandon Roby with under 2 minutes left in the half. Denver took over at the their own 49 yard line and was able to set up a 45 yard field goal for Connor Barth just before the half to make it 14-10. After a quick 3 and out to start the half for Denver, Indianapolis took over at their own 28. Luck later connected on a crucial 3rd and 16 to Coby Fleener for 32 yard to set them up at the Denver 8. After a penalty, Luck connected with Hakeem Nicks for a 15 yard score to make it 21-10. Another Connor Barth field goal cut the lead to 21-13 with 13:55 left in the game. Adam Vinatieri got a 30 yard field goal of his own with 8:14 left to make it 24-13. Neither team would score again as Indianapolis went into Denver at upset them to move on to the AFC Championship game. It was revealed after the game that the great Peyton Manning had been playing with a torn right quad in his leg. As Indy goes on to face New England, Peyton Manning is now at a crossroads and might be considering retirement. Regardless of what he decides to do, he will always be remembered as one of the greatest QB’s in league history.