Every single team that won this weekend, was favored by the fans, analysts and whatever legal (illegal) betting lines one looks at. Who could have predicted that? For this entire NFL season, there seemed to be some sort of surprise, lurking behind every game that came out to surprise us before the final whistle was blown. That’s the main reason that I went ahead and picked the Chargers to upset the Broncos. Did I really think San Diego would go into Denver and take down the most successful offense in the league’s history? Not necessarily, but judging by this season, it would not have surprised me. The Chargers, showing all the signs of past Super Bowl winners, almost tied the game near the end but Denver played sound football to close out the game. So did New England, Seattle and San Francisco. Maybe that’s what was so chaotic about this weekend: the fact that in a season full of surprises, the teams that were “supposed to win” actually went out and did just that. It sets up for some really good conference title games, with endless story lines, but first let’s just take a quick look at how these teams got in to the final four.
As most people (social media) have made fun of by now, it’s baffling to think about what Marquis Colston was doing at the end of the Saints-Seahawks game. My only guess is that he assumed there wasn’t any time left on the clock but even then, no matter what your position, an NFL-level player should now how to properly execute a lateral. What’s most surprising than that bizarre play is that despite New Orleans not playing all that well, they were still in the game until the final minute. Lots of that goes to Seattle’s defense, who deserve tons of credit for shutting down the Saints the entire first half. Think about this: Drew Brees didn’t find Jimmy Graham until less than a minute was left in the game. Maybe that’s what happens when Richard Sherman decides to follow and hound Graham for the entire game. Marshawn Lynch was the main weapon for the Seahawks (130 yds, 1 TD) and his power running led the way on the offensive side for Seattle.
Things weren’t so close on Saturday night with the Colts taking on the Patriots in Foxborough. I wasn’t surprised about the Patriots coming out with such a dominant win, scoring at will against a Colts defense that just seemed overwhelmed. Who could have predicted that the Patriots would score over 40 points in the playoffs without any of those scores coming from Tom Brady but instead, a power running game? LeGarrette Blount was the feature back for New England, scoring four TDs on the ground as he led the Patriots’ offense. How crazy is that? For the Colts and Andrew Luck, it’s growing pains as this young team continues to progress. Luck’s second year brings him a bit further in the playoffs but his errors (4 INTs) show that he still a lot of time to grow in his young career. The Patriots now advance to their third straight title game against a familiar opponent.
Speaking of third straight conference title games, how impressive were the 49ers yesterday? Out of all teams that won this weekend, San Francisco looked the most impressive, on the road and heading to their 3rd straight NFC title game. It’s a run that also includes a Super Bowl berth and the most impressive stretch for any team in recent years. Even though Carolina led for most of the 2nd quarter, San Francisco just kept playing their style of football and took back control of the game. Kaepernick’s stat sheet didn’t particularly stick out but he played sound football and made the right plays. His main target was Anquan Boldin, who continues to come up big when his team needs it the most. The Panthers were a bit disappointing but when looking at their team, it’s difficult for a team with lack of experience to come out on top against an experienced team like the Niners. Panthers have a nice future but right now, it’s the 49ers time.
Things ended in Denver, where the Broncos took a big lead over San Diego and did enough to fight off a late Chargers comeback that fell short. Peyton Manning led the Broncos, as usual, as they dominated the first half. Not just on the offense but Denver shutdown San Diego’s offense for three quarters, not allowing a score until a couple of minutes into the 4th quarter. It was impressive but as San Diego started to make a comeback, things started to get really interesting. But unfortunately for Philip Rivers and co, they did not get a final attempt to tie the game as the Broncos played very well in controlling the clock and getting key first downs. From there it was a just a couple of kneel downs by Manning, and the Broncos move on to face the Patriots in what should be a great AFC conference title game.View All Photos ›