Pro Football Playoff Round Up

Staff Writer

Saturday 1/3/15

Carolina (8-8-1) 27 vs
Arizona (11-6) 16

Carolina hosted Arizona in the wild card round thanks to winning the NFC South division with a poor record. They also came in hot riding a 4 game winning streak to close out the regular season. Arizona came hobbling in as they had lost 4 of their last 6 games and forced to resort to using third string Quarterback Ryan Lindley. Carolina jumped out to a 10-0 lead thanks receiving great field position in the first quarter. In the second quarter, Arizona struck back with 2 touchdowns, thanks to turnovers created by their acclaimed defense. Both touchdown drives were less than 30 yards. Carolina was able to get a field goal at the end of the half to make it 14-13 Arizona. Carolina took over in the third quarter thanks to a short punt by Arizona that gave Carolina the ball at the Arizona 39. On the first play of the drive, Cam Newton threw a touchdown pass to Fozzy Whittaker. On the ensuing kickoff, Arizona fumbled the ball and Carolina recovered on the one yard line setting up a 1 yard Mike Tolbert touchdown run to make it 27-14. Arizona couldn’t muster a comeback as they only accumulated 78 yards for the game. They added a safety as the game ended to bring us to the final score of 27-16.

Baltimore (11-6) 30 @
Pittsburgh (11-6) 17

These divisional rivals squared off for the 3rd time this year in a rubber match game to extend their playoff lives. Pittsburgh came into the game without their star running back, Le’Veon Bell who was unable to go due to injury. His physical presence in the running game was greatly missed as Pittsburgh was forced to pass a lot without much depth behind Bell. Pittsburgh drew first blood as Shaun Suisham connected on a 45 yard field goal at the end of the first quarter. Baltimore quickly struck back by putting together an 80 yard touchdown drive on the next possession. Bernard Pierce capped the drive with a 5 yard touchdown run. Suisham connected on 2 more field goals in the second quarter and Baltimore’s Justin Tucker also connected on 1 to make it 10-9 Baltimore at the half. Baltimore started to take control in the second half as they scored 10 more points in the third quarter behind another Tucker field goal and a Torrey Smith 11 yard touchdown reception from Joe Flacco. Pittsburgh struck back in the fourth quarter when a Justin Forsett fumble set up Pittsburgh at the Baltimore 45. A long pass play to Antonio Brown set up a 6 yard touchdown pass to Martavis Bryant. Pittsburgh could not complete the 2 point conversion after the touchdown. On their next drive, Baltimore moved the ball 27 yards to set up a 52 yard Tucker field goal to extend their lead to 23-15. After a Ben Roethlisberger was intercepted by Baltimore’s Terrell Suggs giving them great field position at the Pittsburgh 21 yard line. Joe Flacco quickly converted the field position into a score when he connected with Crockett Gillmore for a 21 yard touchdown to give them a commanding 30-15 lead. Pittsburgh would later score a safety with just under 2 minutes left after they blocked a Baltimore punt out of the back of the end zone. They could not do much with the ball when they were down 2 scores with fewer than 2 minutes left. Baltimore hung on to move to the divisional playoff round.

Sunday 1/4/15

Indianapolis (12-5) 26 vs
Cincinnati (10-6-1) 10

Cincinnati travelled to Indianapolis without the services of their two pass catchers AJ Green and Jermaine Gresham. Both injured and not able to go, they were forced to use reserve WR Greg Little and backup running back Rex Burkhead at receiver! Indianapolis drew first blood as they marched the opening possession down the field 71 yards for a touchdown. Daniel Herron was crucial on the drive and punched the touchdown in from 2 yards out. Cincinnati responded late in the first with a touchdown drive of their own thanks to the strong running of Jeremy Hill, who also capped the drive with a touchdown to tie the game at 7. In the second quarter Indy took the lead behind two Adam Vinatieri field goals. Cincinnati’s Mike Nugent added a 57 yard field goal before the half to cut the lead to 13-10. The second half saw Indianapolis assume control. Their defense shut down Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati offense. Dalton finished 18-35 with 155 passing yards and a lost fumble. Indianapolis put another 13 points together after half to seal a game that was hardly in doubt. Indy quarterback Andrew Luck had a strong day guiding his team to victory as he was 31-44 for 376 yards and a touchdown.

Dallas (13-4) 24 vs
Detroit (11-6) 20

Detroit jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead in the first quarter in Dallas thanks to an early 51 yard touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford to Golden Tate and a commanding 99 yard touchdown drive that was capped by an 18 yard Reggie Bush touchdown run. Things were not going Dallas’ way as the Detroit defensive line was creating consistent pressure on quarterback Tony Romo. Romo was able to turn their fortunes when he connected with Terrance Williams for a 76 yard touchdown pass with less than 2 minutes left in the half. However, Stafford used the remaining 1:37 in the half to move the ball 59 yards to set up a 39 yard Matt Prater field goal to make it 17-7 at half. Detroit used their first possession of the second half to get another Prater conversion to make it 20-7. On Dallas’ ensuing drive, Dallas effectively used a balanced attack of running the ball with DeMarco Murray and the passing of Romo to drive the ball 80 yards for a touchdown. Murray capped the drive with a 1 yard touchdown run on 4th and 1. Dallas held Detroit to a 3 and out and got the ball back and Romo was able to guide Dallas into field goal range where Dan Bailey connected on a 51 yard field goal to make it a 20-17 game. Detroit took possession of the ball with 12:16 left in the game and had moved the ball to the Dallas 46. On a third and 1 from the 46, the play that will be long remembered by Detroit fans happened. On that play, Matthew Stafford threw the ball to Brandon Pettigrew and the ball hit Dallas defender Alex Hitchens in the back, but it appeared that Hitchens had committed pass interference. The refs threw the flag for pass interference. Once the flag was thrown and penalty was announced, Dallas WR Dez Bryant (who wasn’t in the game at the time) ran onto the field and started yelling at the referees. According to league rules, a player must keep his helmet on at all times when on the field of play, unless it is forced off of them. Bryant probably should have been called for unsportsmanlike conduct. The refs huddled and ended up picking up the flag for pass interference and no penalty on Dez Bryant. Detroit elected to punt after this sequence of events and things went from bad to worse. The punt was muffed by punter Sean Martin and traveled a mere 10 yards, setting up Dallas with great field position at the Dallas 41 yard line with 8:10 left and a chance to take the lead. Tony Romo magnificently charged Dallas downfield on a touchdown drive that was capped by a Romo 8 yard touchdown pass to Terrance Williams to take the lead. Romo was clutch on the drive as he used a nifty move to get away from defenders and find Jason Witten for a 21 yard gain on a crucial 3rd down. Detroit got the ball back with 2:32 left in the game. On the second play, Stafford was sacked and fumbled the ball. Dallas rookie DeMarcus Lawrence recovered the football, but then had a fumble of his own and Detroit recovered. Lawrence later atoned for his mistake by sacking Stafford on 4th down later in the drive to seal the win for Dallas.