New Orleans Saints 15 vs. Seattle Seahawks 23
The Seahawk’s defense dominated the Saints for most, if not all, of the game. Once again, Drew Brees and the Saints demonstrated that they are unable to have any consistency on the road. The game was closer than the early December Seahawk blowout, but it was ultimately the same result.
What else can be said about the depth and talent of this Seahawk team, especially on defense? It does not matter if it is the seven man depth of the front 4, an extremely athletic linebacker core or even the best secondary in the NFL, they are going to give offense problems in every aspect possible.
After an abysmal first half on offense by the Saints, they picked it up in the second. But it was too late. It was not like the Seahwaks offense was rolling in the first half. They only managed field goals on drives with their lone first half touchdown coming off a Mark Ingram fumble.
The Saints for the most part shutdown the Seahawk’s passing game. Russel Wilson only threw for 103 yards, but once again the Saint’s achilles heel was Marshawn Lynch. There were not any Super- Beast- Mode runs, but Lynch still gashed the Saints with 140 yards and two touchdowns, basically sealing the game with the second one.
With the game coming down to its final minutes, the Seahawks up 15 were in prevent mode. Brees threw a touchdown to Marques Colston making it an eight point game with 26 seconds left. They somehow get the onside kick, but of all people veteran receiver Colston blew it. With about two seconds left, Brees completed a pass to him at the 38 yard line and instead of stepping out of bounds with those two seconds left to give the Saints one more chance, he threw a forward pass! Yes, he had one job and he threw a forward pass! That was a penalty, with a clock run off and the game was over.
Indianapolis Colts 23 vs. New England Patriots 43
How does Bill Belichick keep this team consistently as good as it is? Even with all the defensive and offensive injuries the Patriots have suffered they are going to the AFC Championship game. Both starting defensive tackles and two starting linebackers are out for the season and this defense still has the ability to force Andrew Luck into several mistakes.
Luck did not have his best outing. He made some Andrew Luck type plays that we are accustomed to seeing, but the game ended for him like it started, with interceptions. Really that is what cost his team, throwing four on the day.
When the Patriots score 6 touchdowns you usually ask, how many did Tom Brady throw for? However this was not the case. The Patriots have reinvented themselves into a running team. With the lack of outside weapons and big targets they have relied on the running game. Behind the churning legs of running backs LeGarrette Blount, Stevan Ridley, and Shane Vereen, the Patriots have serious depth at that position. The star of the day however was LeGarrette Blount running for 166 and 4 touchdowns.
It was only a one score game going into the fourth, but two interception by Luck and a 73 yard touchdown run by Blount sealed the game for the Patriots.
San Francisco 49ers 23 vs. Carolina Panthers 10
Penalties, bad calls, and missed opportunities cost the Panthers against the 49ers. Two dynamic quarterbacks in Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton and two of the leagues premier defenses were on full display. We expected a physical game.
Apparently the officials did not. On the the 49ers first two drives they were basically given 6 points on two field goals. The referees felt that in two instances that two Panther defensive backs committed personal fouls, both calls were highly questionable, especially since later in the game an exact same occurrence that happened with one of the fouls happened again, but this time with a 49er wide receiver. However, a personal foul was not called in this instance.
Those points became a big factor for how the game was played out by the end. A missed 12 man in the huddle call also helped the 49ers get touchdown before the half ended.
By the second quarter the Panthers offense was hitting its stride. Cam Newton thew a beautiful 31 yard touchdown pass to Steve Smith. They got down to the 1 yard line and were ready to score again, but were stopped and had to settle for a field goal. These were the last points the Panthers would score all game.
The 49ers with their 13-10 lead going into the half kept the pressure on the panthers. It was clear that returning receiver Michael Crabtree has an impact on the offense. Receiver Anquan Boldin benefited from Crabtree’s attention and he went on to have a big day with 8 catches for 136 yards.
The Panthers had their chances on offense in the second half, but the 49er defense locked in and they never sustained anything. In one drive back to back sacks took them out of field goal range and Newton threw a game ending interception in the final minutes to seal the game for the 49ers.
San Diego Chargers 17 vs. Denver Broncos 24
It has been four years since Peyton Manning won a playoff game. After setting records for passing yards and touchdowns none of that would matter in the playoffs. All that mattered was getting to the next round.
After losing in the same game a year a go, this time Manning closed the game with a drive that completely drained the clock and sent the Chargers home. The game was closer in the end than it actually was. A resurgence in the fourth quarter by the Chargers with receiver Keenan Allen catching two touchdowns from Philip Rivers was witnessed by the Broncos as they saw their 17- 0 lead decrease to just seven.
Manning would not be denied. On a third and 17 the Chargers probably expected that they were going to get the ball back with plenty of time left to try and tie the game.
The Chargers suffered injuries to one of their starting and their third safety as well as a starting linebacker during the game. The effect was clearly displayed on the third and 17. Tight end Julius Thomas was wide open for the first down on a clear miscommunication by the Chargers. Manning helped the Broncos convert on two more third downs to run out the clock and win the game.