One play or an unusual formation did not defeat the Baltimore Ravens Saturday evening. New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick simply out-coached Baltimore’s John Harbaugh. The Patriots twice nullified a two touchdown deficit to win the game. Harbaugh complained about the Patriots’ unusual line formation which included six wide receivers, with one declaring himself ineligible; as Tom Brady said in the postgame news conference, he needs to read the rule book. Harbaugh must stop whining.
Brady exposed the secondary of the Ravens, and a trick play left them standing while Julian Edelman took a lateral from Brady and tossed a touchdown to Danny Amendola which was not challenged by a defender.
The game began with Baltimore in charge. Two early touchdowns and no points on the board for New England hinted at a Ravens’ win. Quarterback Joe Flacco completed every pass and easily marched his team down field. The seven year veteran had not thrown an interception in the playoffs since the Super Bowl two years ago. The Ravens’ defense obviously forgot that they were playing against Tom Brady and the Patriots in Foxboro.
The Patriots countered with two touchdowns of their own. The Ravens once again regained a two touchdown lead. Brady led the Pats to another 14 points, and the game was tied at twenty eight.
With five minutes left in the game, Flacco marched the Ravens down the field; the drive stalled and they were forced to kick a field goal; 31-28.
New England was moving the ball until Shane Vereen caught a short pass from Brady; the call on the field was a fumble. A review overturned the call; Vereen’s knee was clearly on the ground before the ball came loose. The Pats continued their drive, culminating in a touchdown pass to Brandon LaFell; 35-31.
Baltimore had two more possessions. One ended with Flacco throwing his second interception of the evening in the end zone. The Pats had the ball with 1:39 left on the clock. Three ‘kneel-downs’ by Tom Brady left 14 seconds on the clock. Flacco’s ensuing ‘Hail Mary’ was knocked down and New England finds itself hosting the AFC Championship Game next Sunday. They will face either the Denver Broncos or the Indianapolis Colts.
The NFC divisional championship was between the Carolina Panthers at the Seattle Seahawks. The final score was Seahawks 31, Panthers 17, but the outcome was never in doubt.
Seattle’s quarterback Russell Wilson used his arm to dominate Carolina’s defense. He threw for 268 yards and three touchdowns. Midway through the fourth quarter Kam Chancellor intercepted a Cam Newton pass and ran 90 yards for a touchdown pass to put the game out of reach. Seattle will host the winner of the game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers for the NFC Championship.
Today’s games present interesting situations.
Peyton Manning will host his former team and the probable quarterback to break at least some of his records; Andrew Luck. The Denver Broncos are favored to defeat the Indianapolis Colts. Denver has discovered a balanced attack, while Indianapolis has no running game, and a sketchy defense.
The NFC game features one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL against the most courageous. Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers will host Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys.
The Cowboys have a history of playoff losses. An improved defense may be the difference in the game. The offense will rely heavily on running back DeMarco Murray to keep Rodgers on the bench. The freezing temperatures and Rodger’s demeanor in the playoffs favors the Pack.
If you’re a true fan, you love the playoffs, but it’s also a little sad; the season goes by too fast.
By James Turnage