NFL Playoffs! Three incredible comebacks, two in one game, vindication for a coach who made a controversial quarterback change and one game that went pretty much as expected. This weekend is a great example of why the NFL remains so popular. I went 1 - 3 on my picks, but thoroughly enjoyed the games anyway. Let's take them in order.
Baltimore Ravens 38 Denver Broncos 35: I'm not sure what John Fox was thinking in a couple of instances Saturday evening in Denver. The first one was a long field goal attempt as the second quarter was winding down. It was extremely cold, the Broncos were up by a touchdown with the ball on the Ravens 34 yard line and decided to kick a field goal. As they lined up, I told my wife that it could come back to haunt the Broncos if they missed the kick. Well, they did and it did. Instead of pinning the Ravens deep with a punt, going in at the half with a lead and coming out with the ball in the second half, they gave the ball to Baltimore in great field position. The Ravens made them pay. The second one was taking a knee at their own thirty yard line with 31 seconds left in regulation. Really? With Peyton Manning and two time outs left? Ridiculous, but still one of the great games of all time.
San Francisco Forty-Niners 45 Green Bay Packers 31: Okay, I truly thought that if this game was a shootout, it would go to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. So I was wrong. Colin Kaepernick was outstanding and his stats were unbelievable. Now Green Bay isn't a great defensive team, but the 'Niners young QB played a terrific game. Now Jim Harbaugh looks like a genius, which in football terms he may very well be. If I'm Atlanta, I need to be figuring out a way to stop this kid. He's big, fast and can throw the ball. RGIII, Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, Kaepernick and some others are redefining the way the quarterback position is being played in the NFL. Newton gave the Falcons fits this season in both games against the Panthers, leading Carolina to a win in one of them against the team with the best record in the NFC.
Atlanta Falcons 30 Seattle Seahawks 28: For the twenty-nine minutes and thirty seconds sunday afternoon in Atlanta, the Seahwks looked like the best team in the league. Unfortunately, the game had thirty seconds left, allowing Matt Ryan and the Falcons time to get a game-winning field goal with eight seconds remaining. It was a scintillating end to the game and the Seahwks' season. Seattle spotted the Falcons a twenty point lead twice and still came back to take the lead with thirty seconds left. I still maintain that Seattle, along with Denver, are the top two teams this season. But like Oregon, you have to win when it matters. So congratulations to Atlanta for finally getting over the playoff game hump and being rewarded with an opportunity to take on San Francisco for the right to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
New England Patriots 41 Houston Texans 28: This was the one game that went like most people expected. Tom Brady was workmanlike, the Pats were in control from the beginning and the Texans just didn't have enough to compete with New England. The Patriots now gets to host the AFC championship game against the Ravens, a team that has to be a little tired from the last couple of weeks, especially the long game on Saturday. But there is something about the Ravens, so I'll be fascinated to see how they stop the Patriots enough times to stay in the ball game like they did against the Broncos. The Patriots are gunning for their sixth Super Bowl appearance behind Tom Brady. That's an unbelievable run of excellence in the free agency era.