Photo Credit: NFL.com
The Broncos and Panthers played to their style on Sunday, with the Broncos winning their 11th game that was decided by 7 or fewer points, and the Panthers getting out to a fast lead and blowing out a team by 10 or more for the 8th time this season. One game wasn’t over until the final play of the game, while the second felt over in the 1st quarter yet.
Manning vs. Brady XVII:
As was predicted, this wasn’t QB vs. QB, but more “will the Broncos defense give Brady fits” vs. “Can Manning’s arm hold up enough to let the run game win it for them.” The Patriots shocked all by electing to receive the kick, but had to punt on their first possession. The Broncos then scored a TD on their opening drive which was rare for them this season, and ultimately hold the lead until the end of the game. When the Patriots scored to finish out the 1st quarter, the amazing happened. Stephen Gostkowski, arguably the most accurate kicker in the NFL right now, missed an extra point! The year the rule was changed and everybody was clamoring on how great the rule change was, he missed the extra point!!! Arguably more people are in favor of this rule since it cost the Patriots the game, but I digress….it truly made the difference in the game. The Patriots were down by 8 for most of the game because of it. It also didn’t help that Brady seemed to be getting hit every single play. He looked frazzled. In the 4th quarter, on 3 consecutive drives, the Patriots faced 4th down tries while in FG range. The first 2 failed and they turned the ball over. The final drive of the game they went 3 and out at the 50, and faced 4th and 10 with 1:34 left. Brady amazingly hit Gronkowski for a 40 yard gain, and all of a sudden it was a game with 1st and Goal with a minute left. A few plays later it was 4th and 4, the 4th time the Patriots had a 4th down in the 4th quarter (sorry for all the 4’s). Brady seemed to throw the ball away, in between two Denver defenders, but miraculously Rob Gronkowski jumped through the middle and caught the ball for a TD! It was then 20-18 and the Patriots had a chance to tie the game with a 2 point conversion. Their entire season had come down to one play, only needing 2 yards. You could cut the suspense with a knife! Brady threw the ball to Edelman, it got tipped and intercepted, icing the game for Denver. It was a game for the ages between two of the best QB’s of all time.
Photo Credit: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
With all the Wild games from the first week, with road wins and crazy calls, we have a bit of a normal playoff set, with the #1 and #2 seeds facing off in both conferences. Perhaps a bit boring, but we had another great week of games.
Race against the Clock:
Despite dominating the Patriots in time of possession, yards, and even first downs, New England held the lead the entire day. The first drive, the Patriots had an 11 play scoring drive. What was telling about this is what has plagued the Patriots recently; all 11 plays were passes, not runs. I’ll get into that later, but the lack of a running game proved to be an issue. The Pats ran 14 times for 38 yards, but Brady was efficient enough to win the game for them. The story of the game however came down to clock management. The Chiefs got the ball back with 6:29, all 3 timeouts but down by 2 TD’s. This is feasibly plenty of time, as you can even take your time and score in 4 minutes, then use your timeouts and get the 2 minute warning. Inexplicably, they get down to the 1 yard line with about 2:53 left, but it takes 5 plays to punch it in and the Chiefs huddle for every one. Their score came at 1:13 left in the game; or 5:16 after they got the ball. That’s inexcusable, and they didn’t even give themselves a chance. In true Patriots fashion, needing one first down, Brady throws it to Gronkowski who tips the ball up and into Julian Edelman’s hands getting the perfect amount of yardage for the first down and the win.
Photo credit: NFL.com
11 Seconds In:
Wild Card Weekend opened up with a bang! The Chiefs took the opening kickoff back for a TD, and immediately deflated the raucous Houston crowd. Little did we know, we could have turned the TV off 11 seconds into the game. Houston didn’t show up, and turned the ball over 5 times in the game, 2 of which were in the 1st quarter. It was also the first playoff shutout in a decade. A few of Brian Hoyer’s throws were to a wide open Chief, not a Texan in sight. The Chiefs on the other hand looked dominant and played complete football. They’re on 11 straight wins now.
Photo credit: NFL.com
We’re to playoff time! The season is always fun, but the final 11 games always ramp up the pressure and drama. But first, a few Week 17 notes.
The Jets controlled their destiny and missed out on the playoffs, losing to nemesis Buffalo with only revenge to play for. Feel bad for Ryan Fitzpatrick, who sort of revitalized his career this year and played solid football, but has never seen the playoffs.
Still shocked that the Patriots laid an egg against the Dolphins, and gave up the #1 seed. It’s a good thing that Brady has a BYE, because he looked severely hobbled after the game.
Photo Credit: NFL.com
Falcons Ruin Perfection:
After a hot start and then dreadful losing streak, the final Panthers game was the Falcons Super Bowl this year. It was a bit disappointing to see them get 14 wins and not be able to finish it off. They didn’t even need trick plays or turnovers to lose the game. The Falcons dominated the clock, and they dominated on 3rd down defense. The Panthers only had 8 possessions, didn’t score a TD after their opening drive, and were held to a dismal 113 yards passing. It may be a blessing in disguise though, as now they won’t face the pressure that the 2007 Patriots faced, and they won’t be forced to make the “resting” decision this week.