The NFL playoffs pressed forward this weekend with the remaining eight teams looking to secure their place for Championship Sunday next week.
The excitement began with one of the closest fought postseason battles in recent memory. The Baltimore Ravens, fuelled by the farewell of linebacker Ray Lewis, pulled the upset in double overtime over Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos 38-35 in a game where neither team led by more than seven points. Joe Flacco tied the game with 31 seconds left via a 70 yard heave to Jacoby Jones; but then with two timeouts and Manning under center, Broncos head coach John Fox elected to kneel at the end of regulation. After a 15 minute scoreless overtime, Ravens kicker Justin Tucker ended this one with a 47 yard field goal at the beginning of the second overtime.
Though he threw three picks, Manning finished the regular season of his remarkable comeback from multiple neck surgeries with 4659 passing yards and 37 tocuhdowns. Manning says he is proud of his achievement.
The San Francisco 49ers took over in the second half to defeat the Green Bay Packers 45-31. Second year quarterback Colin Kaepernick, playing in his first NFL postseason start finished with nearly identical numbers as former MVP Aaron Rodgers and gave his team a 31-24 lead with a 56 yard touchdown run in the third qaurter. This is the second year in a row San Francisco has advanced to the NFC title game and head coach Jim Harbaugh says his team thrives under pressure.
Sunday began with another thriller with the Atlanta Falcons scoring a late field goal to beat the Seattle Seahawks 30-28. This is the first career postseason victory for Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan in four tries.
Seattle had mounted a furious second half comeback. Down 20-0 at halftime and 27-7 late in the third quarterback Russell Wilson brough his comatose team back to life, taking a 28-27 lead with 31 seconds left in the game. But Ryan then led his team down the field in just 18 seconds before Matt Bryant nailed a 49 yarder with 13 ticks on the clock. Atlanta head coach Mike Smith talks about the volatile second half.
The weekend capped off with Tom Brady breaking Joe Montana’s record with his 17th playoff victory as the New England Patriots beat the Houston Texans 41-28. Though he struggled early, Brady ended with 62.5 percent of his passes completed, 344 yards, three TDs, and no picks. Advancing to his 7th AFC title game, Brady talks about his role as a leader of the Patriots.
Championship Sunday is officially set. First up will be the San Francisco 49ers at the Atlanta Falcons (3:00 EST), followed by a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship with the Baltimore Ravens at the New England Patriots (6:30 EST).