Saints, Packers, Texans, Broncos, all going home:
If you missed any of the games over the last weekend (sans the Saturday Night one), you are probably kicking yourself at the moment like I am (missed all of BAL/HOU and most of NYG/GB), because the set of games this weekend were about as thrilling as we’ve seen in one week of playoff action in a long time.
The Niners beat the Saints in what looked to be a victory that would fall completely in the hands of the Niners defense, as they held the Saints to just 17 points going into the 4th quarter. They forced 5 Saints turnovers (2 INTs, 3 fumbles), and kept the Saints running backs in check, only allowing 37 yards on 14 carries forcing Brees to throw over 60 times. The game exploded during the last 4 minutes, as the Saints scored to take a 24-23 lead, the Niners quickly responded with a long drive that ended in a 28-yard Alex Smith run. The Saints responded again in only 34 seconds with a 66-yard Jimmy Graham reception, putting the Saints ahead 32-29, leaving the Niners in position where they needed a field goal within a minute thirty. Alex Smith showed up again, hitting Vernon Davis over the middle for a 47 yard gain that put them inside the redzone, Smith followed up two plays later with a 14 yard strike to Davis to take the lead with 9 seconds.
If we weren’t sure about Alex Smith, I think we saw him grow up in front of everyone, on one of the biggest stages you can prove it. He outplayed Drew Brees during the entire game and when the game was on the line he put the team on his shoulders, giving San Fran their first NFC Championship Appearance since the 1997 season. He will have to face the Giants and outduel Eli Manning, but at least he’ll be able to do it from the comfort of home, as Candlestick will be the site of the game.
When Eli said he was an elite QB, we should have listened…
Remember way back in the beginning of the season when Eli was interviewed and said he was a Top 5 QB? Remember when most people blew it off and said “yeah okay, Eli, you’re too consistent”, remember when we all counted the Giants out midway through the season after they dropped several games? Yeah, those Giants are long gone, and as we’ve seen over the last few weeks, Eli was right. He went to Dallas, handled the Jets, and beat the Cowboys again, opened up the playoffs with a dominant win over Atlanta, and now a surprising victory over the Green Bay Packers. But let’s not give all the credit to just Eli, the running game for the Giants has returned over the last few weeks as well, add to that the pass rush the Giants can come after you with and you have a team that resembles the 2007 Super Bowl team.
Tom Brady handles the Broncos, doesn’t even blink
6 Touchdown passes, that’s right, six. Tom Brady shredded a defense that was one of the best in the league, while Tebow and the Broncos struggled against one of the worst defenses in the NFL. The Patriots scored quickly, the Broncos fumbled the first drive, and the Patriots scored again off that. After Brady’s only turnover, the Broncos managed a touchdown and made it a game, but it just got out of hand after that, as the next 6 Pats drives were as follows: Punt, TD, Punt, TD, TD, TD, Halftime, TD.
The Broncos failed to muster a drive of more than 7 plays until late in the game when they had two back to back 14-play drives that resulted in only 3 points. The Patriots Defense played well, but they’ll have to do it again next week if they plan to beat a Ravens team that just may sneak its way into a Super Bowl.
Ravens go up early, hold off Texans…
Ray Rice didn’t eat up a lot of yardage, but turnovers set the Ravens up early and they never looked back. They forced young TJ Yates into a few turnovers and although the Texans tried to mount a comeback, in the end, they just couldn’t. It has to hurt the Texans, they were cruising to a #1 seed when Schaub got hurt with a broken foot, they had another legit shot until Leinart broke his collarbone, Yates did the best he could in his situation, but he just wasn’t ready. The Texans have something to build on though, Wade Phillips will more than likely return for a second season as DC, and if Schaub can stay healthy, they’ll make another run.
The Ravens on the other hand take their defense to New England where they have to put a stop to an oh so disrespectful Tom Brady, it will be in their best interest to slow Brady down, and not force Flacco and company to keep up.
Ryan: SF, NE, HOU, GB (2-2)
Daniel: NO, NE, BAL, GB (2-2)
Chris: SF, NE, BAL, GB (3-1)
Conference Championship picks coming up Friday night