Patriots v. Ravens
These two teams really don’t like each other. To be fair, they seem to hate each other on a team wide and individual basis. Terrell Suggs refuses to utter Tom Brady‘s name and the Pats QB seems to loathe even being on the same field with the Baltimore club. That was the setting going into this Divisional Playoff game in Foxboro.
Baltimore started off with the ball and struck quickly on their first drive to go up 7-0. Joe Flacco hit Kamar Aiken for a 19 yard TD as the Ravens QB started out hot and stayed that way most of the day.
The next score of the game came from Baltimore once again. This time it was old man Steve Smith doing his thing, namely making big plays in big games. Flacco connected with Smith for a 9 yard score to put his team up 14-0 as the stunned crowd watched in horror.
The Patriots finally got going on their next drive as Brady and Gronkowski connected on a couple of big pass plays. Edelman was in on the action as well. The Patriots capped off the eight play drive with a Brady run up the middle to score, making it 14-7. Life was pumped back into the New England crowd with Brady’s spike.
The next three drives ended in punts by both teams. Brady getting into a mini scuffle with a Ravens defensive lineman was the only interesting moment for a few minutes.
New England marched down the field quickly on their next scoring drive. The little receivers that have not done a thing most of the year, Amendola and Edelman, made some of their best plays of the year. The former caught a 15 yard touchdown to tie this game up 14-14.
The Ravens offense had stalled as they once again punted the ball away. This time they got it back quickly as the Golden Boy threw a pick as he tried to hit Gronk one too many times.
This possession Baltimore would not waste. They got a big penalty on the Patriots’ Darrelle Revis as he grabbed Steve Smith for a pass interference call worth 20 yards. Flacco hooked up with Owen Daniels to make it 21-14 Ravens.
After halftime the Pats punted after they failed to move the chains. Gronk was interfered with on third down but no call came.
Baltimore took advantage of their next possession as they went down the field in about three and a half minutes. Torrey Smith caught a 35 yarder from Flacco to set the Ravens up on the one yard line. However, Smith got dinged with a taunting flag, moving them back to the 15. No matter. Journeyman Justin Forsett took a screen pass to the house on the ensuing play. 28-14 Ravens.
Once again the chowder heads in the stands were getting pretty nervous. They had Tom Brady though, who tied Joe Montana for most TD passes in the postseason with his five yarder to Gronk to make it 28-21, Baltimore still on top.
After another Ravens punt, Belichick got tricky. Brady tossed a backward pass to Edelman who proceeded to shock the Ravens defense for a 51 yard deep ball to Amendola. 28-28 and the Ravens were on the ropes.
Flacco got in a hurry on the next drive as he tossed an interception. He had played near flawlessly up until that play. The Pats failed to score off the turnover and punted it back after a three and out.
Baltimore went on a long drive, and I mean long. They ate up almost eight minutes on a 16 play drive. Only problem was they couldn’t get in the end zone and settled for a FG. 31-28 Baltimore.
Tom Brady knows how to deliver a knockout punch. He was nearly perfect on his next chance at the Baltimore defense. He capped the drive with a 23 yard pass to Brandon LaFell to put his team up 35-31. Touchdowns win playoff games, not field goals. Actually field goals do win playoff games, but not in this case!
Flacco and crew had another chance to make something happen, but as they were moving the ball another pick was thrown by the Ravens’ 100 million dollar QB. Torrey Smith did his passer no favors as he could have broken the play up on the defender.
Brady took a few kneel downs which left Baltimore with about four seconds toheave one into the abyss of the end zone. Flacco got the ball where it needed to be, but no lucky break for the Ravens at the end as the ball fell to the turf with a thud. 35-31 Pats win.
Brady and company find themselves in the AFC Title game once again next week. This team will not go away. Brady is just too good.
Carolina v. Seattle
Let’s be honest. No one gave the Panthers a chance in this game that was played in Seattle. Carolina was in a horrible division that allowed them to squeak into the postseason and got lucky as they played an Arizona team that was down to the team bus driver as their quarterback. And Seattle has looked unbeatable the past few weeks. The Panthers held their own for three quarters however.
The Panthers’ first play on offense went awry as Jonathan Stewart coughed the ball up. Not a good start but Carolina retained possession. Carolina ended up punting the ball away and the teams traded punts for a few drives. Seattle benefited from better field position on almost every punt though.
Make no mistake, Carolina has a stout defense. And Cam Newton is a force to reckon with. His accuracy and passing consistency needs improvement, but he can take over a game with his shear size and running ability. The early going in this one was no easy task for the defending Super Bowl champs.
Newton did give Seattle the ball back on a deep pick to Richard Sherman. But it was such a long pass that it was in effect another punt. And Seattle was unable to capitalize on the turnover.
Carolina got the ball back after the Seahawks punted it. It was a short lived drive as Stewart fumbled again, but lost it this time around. Russell Wilson made them pay for this miscue, hitting Doug Baldwin for a 16 yard score to go up 7-0. Carolina had held Marshawn Lynch in check so far, but Wilson is indefensible.
On Carolina’s next drive they got a huge run from Stewart who has been one of the top rushers the past five weeks. Newton was almost picked, but came back a couple plays later to find rookie sensation Kelvin Benjamin for a score. Seattle was forced to cover the big play rookie with a backup. The result was a tie game 7-7.
Seattle would answer on their next drive with Russell Wilson putting the perfect touch on a deep ball. Jermaine Kearse made just as nice a catch as the pass. He also made sure to get in the end zone with a stretch for the pylon. In a game of inches, there have been untold points left unscored as players failed to get the touchdown when they had the chance. If he is stopped at the one, who is to say the Hawks don’t have to eventually settle for a field goal? 14-7 Seattle.
Carolina’s last drive before the half was quite eventful. Benjamin almost had another TD catch, but failed to get both feet in. Cam was lucky to keep the ball as he carried it like a loaf of bread. OK to do that versus the Falcons….Seahawks are not the Falcons. Earl Thomas had a big INT reversed by the booth and Kam Chancellor damn near killed big Mike Tolbert on a vicious hit. The Panthers finally got a FG after a flag on back to back tries. Chancellor showed the meaning of freak athlete as he leaped over the line twice in a row to try and block the kick. 14-10 Seattle led at the half.
The third quarter started with a Lynch fumble that was saved by Russell Wilson. Wilson is simply a great football player, not just an elite QB.
Carolina got the ball back via a punt, but failed to do much as Newton was way off target on many of his second half passes.
Seattle did not look like a rushing threat most of the game, but that changed in the third period as Beast Mode struck for 25 yards. Lynch’s run got the Hawks sideline fired slap up! Wilson followed that up with a big run to show it was near over for Carolina. Even though Seattle only got three out of this drive, it was a back breaker for the Panthers as the rushing game of the champs was getting in rhythm. 17-10 champs.
Carolina couldn’t move the ball and had to give it right back to the Seahawks. Tight end Luke Wilson made two big time receptions on this drive. The second was a TD catch to make it 24-10 champs.
The game was basically over so Newton had to press the issue if the Panthers had any shot. That resulted in an 89 yard interception by Kam Chancellor who put the hammer down as he crossed into the end zone. Legion of Boom had struck to make it 31-10 Seattle.
Carolina got a late TD to Benjamin that only served to wreck some football pools and point spreads. It made the final 31-17 Seattle. The Hawks will host the NFC Title game for the second year in a row. This team is on fire and appears to be a freight train from Hell, to quote Mr. Chazz Michael Michaels.