Football

NFL playoffs: from four down to two

The divisional round of the playoffs, perhaps the most exciting weekend of the NFL playoffs next to the Super Bowl, wrapped up on Sunday January 15, as four teams saw their season come to an end and another four got one step closer to playing for the Lombardi Trophy.

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By Balraj Dhillon (Contributor) – Email

Print Edition: January 25, 2012

This past Sunday was Conference Championship Sunday as both the AFC and NFC Championship games were played by the final four remaining teams. The New England Patriots hosted the Baltimore Ravens in the earlier of the two match ups for the AFC title. It was a classic offence versus defence showdown as the Patriots and their second-ranked offence battled against the Ravens second-ranked defence. However, unexpected circumstances transpired. The second-ranked offence of the Patriots, lead by future hall of fame QB Tom Brady, didn’t have to depend on his arm to secure a win as running back Benjarvis Green-Ellis rushed for 68 yards and the game’s first touchdown. Furthermore, the Patriots defence—which has been criticized all season for their 31st ranking—surprised everyone as they held the second-best running back in the league, Baltimore’s Ray Rice, to just 67 yards and no touchdowns.

The game was a close, hard fought battle which featured several plays that could have changed the outcome. Brady missed his tight end Gronkowski on a wide open touchdown pass early in the game. Patriots returner Danny Woodhead fumbled a punt which lead to three points for the Ravens. However, the most important misplay of the game occurred with two seconds left in the game. Down 20-23 with under a minute left, Ravens QB Joe Flacco led the Ravens into field goal position. Ravens kicker Bill Cundiff lined up for an easy 31 yard field goal which would have sent the game into overtime. Instead, Cundiff hooked the kick wide left which sent Brady and the Patriots to their fifth Super Bowl in 11 years. During the AFC Championship trophy presentation Patriots QB Brady admitted he, “sucked pretty bad,” and gave credit to his defence. Brady finished the game having thrown for 239 yards and two interceptions; he also rushed for the game winning touchdown. Flacco finished the game with 306 passing yards along with two touchdowns. Following the game, Ravens middle linebacker announced that he will not retire after 16 seasons and that he will be back next season anchoring the Ravens defence.

The second game last Sunday was the NFC Championship game in which the San Francisco 49ers hosted the New York. The game was a defensive struggle for the majority of four quarters. Trailing 14-10 in the fourth quarter, the Giants, led by QB Eli Manning, scored the go ahead touchdown on a 17-yard touchdown pass to receiver Mario Manningham. Alex Smith, 49ers QB, was able to lead the offence down the field to kick the game-tying field goal.

With a score of 17-17 at the end of four quarters, the game went into overtime. Both teams traded possessions after failing to gain yards before 49ers punt returner Kyle Williams fumbled his second punt of the game which was recovered by the Giants in field goal territory. Lawrence Tynes kicked a 31-yard field goal which sent the Giants to the Super Bowl. Giants QB Eli Manning finished the game having attempted 58 passes and completing 32 of them for 316 yards and two touchdowns. Alex Smith completed 12 passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns.

The Patriots and Giants will face off in a rematch of Super Bowl 42 on February 5.

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