August 3, 2015

Super Bowl XLIX

After two weeks of waiting and non stop talk about “deflategate,” it was time for Super Bowl XLIX to start.  This game featured the AFC champion New England Patriots and the NFC champion Seattle Seahawks.  The Seahawks won the toss and deferred to the second half.  Kicker Steven Hauschka sent the opening kickoff five yards deep into the end zone and it was returned by wide receiver Danny Amendola to the 18-yard line.  Short completions from quarterback Tom Brady to tight end Rob Gronkowski and Amendola set up a third and two from the 26.  From the 26, Brady tossed a short pass to running back Shane Vereen that was good for five yards and a first down at the 31-yard line.  After that, they only gained four yards on three plays and were forced to punt.  Punter Ryan Allen got off a nice 49-yard punt and the ball was downed at the Seattle 16-yard line.  There was a flag on the play and the Seahawks were flagged for running into the kicker.  But it wasn’t enough to give the Patriots a first down and they declined the penalty.

The Seahawks went to work from the 16 and didn’t get much done.  Three runs by running back Marshawn Lynch gained eight yards and punter Jon Ryan punted the ball right back to the Patriots.  Starting at the 32, Brady continued to throw short passes.  On second and seven from the 35, Brady tossed a short pass to the left and wide receiver Julian Edelman caught it for a gain of 11 yards.  Two runs by running back LeGarrette Blount and another completion to Gronkowski moved the ball to the Seattle 43-yard line.  Three more carries by Blount and a short completion to Vereen moved the ball to the 26-yard line.  Blount continued to pound the ball and it was looking like the Patriots would get the first score of the game.  On third and six from the ten, Brady fired a pass down the middle that was picked off by cornerback Jeremy Lane.  He ran it out of the end zone and was dragged down out of bounds at the 14.  That was the good news for the Seahawks.  The bad news was Lane was injured on the play and would not return to the game.

The Seahawks still couldn’t get their offense going in the right direction and punted again.  The Patriots took over at their 35 and Brady quickly moved his team into Seattle territory with completions to Amendola, Vereen and wide receiver Brandon LaFell.  On third and nine from the Seattle 35, Brady completed another short pass to Edelman and it went for 23 yards and a first down at the 12-yard line.  Two plays later, Brady looked for LaFell in the end zone and he hauled in the pass for an 11-yard touchdown.  Kicker Stephen Gostkowski made the point after and the Patriots led 7-0 with 9:47 to go in the second quarter.

Both teams punted on their next possessions and the Seahawks got the ball back at their 30-yard with 7:07 remaining.  Two carries by Lynch gained nine yards.  On third and one from the 39, the Seahawks were flagged for a false start.  That moved them back five yards.  From the 34, quarterback Russell Wilson finally completed a pass.  It was to wide receiver Jermaine Kearse and it was just enough for a first down.  Lynch ran up the left side for five yards on first down.  On second and five from the 45, Wilson threw a deep ball up the right side that was caught by wide receiver Chris Matthews for a gain of 44 yards.  Three plays later, Lynch ran up the left side for a three-yard touchdown.  Hauschka made the point after and the game was tied 7-7 with 2:16 to go in the second quarter.

The Patriots started at the 20 and got the drive off to a good start with an 11-yard pass to Amendola.  That was followed by a nine-yard run by Blount, a five-yard pass to Vereen and a seven-yard run by Edelman.  On third and three from the Seattle 48-yard line, defensive end Cliff Avril jumped offside and that gave the Patriots a first down at the 43.  Two passes to Vereen gained 21 yards.  On second and five from the 22, Brady looked for Gronkowski and found him in the end zone for a touchdown.  Gostkowski made the point after and the Patriots led 14-7 with 31 seconds to go in the second quarter.

The Seahawks had all their timeouts and started at the 20.  It was pretty obvious the Patriots were expecting a pass on first down and the Seahawks caught them off guard with a run up the middle by running back Robert Turbin.  It was good for 19 yards and the Seahawks called their first timeout.  From the 39, Wilson scrambled up the left side for a gain of 17 yards.  Two plays later, Wilson went deep up the left side for wide receiver Ricardo Lockette.  He hauled it in for a 23-yard gain.  There was also a flag on the play and cornerback Kyle Arrington was flagged for a facemask penalty.  That put the ball at the 11 with six seconds remaining.  Instead of sending Hauschka in for a field goal attempt, the Seahawks decided to go for the end zone.  Wilson took the snap and quickly threw to the left side.  The ball was picked out of the air by Matthews for a touchdown.  Hauschka made the point after and the score was tied 14-14 at halftime.

The Seahawks started their first drive of the second half at their 20-yard line.  Things got off to a good start as Lynch gained 18 yards on two carries.  From the 38, Wilson went deep for Matthews yet again.  The receiver who didn’t catch a single pass in the regular season hauled in another one.  This one was good for 45 yards and a first down at the New England 17-yard line.  Lynch got the call on first down and gained seven yards.  Turbin carried the ball on second down and gained two yards.  That set up a third and one from the eight-yard line.  Lynch came back into the game.  Wilson was in the shotgun with Lynch on his right side.  Instead of bringing in the big guys for a third and short situation, the Seahawks went with four receivers and no fullback.  I guess this was some kind of deceptive plan to make the Patriots think a passing play was coming.  It didn’t work.  Lynch got the call and the Patriots quickly swallowed him up for no gain.  Hauschka was brought into the game and his 27-yard field goal attempt was good.  The Seahawks led 17-14 with 11:09 to go in the third quarter.

The Patriots took over at their 20 and on third and six from the 24, Brady found Gronkowski for a gain of seven yards.  The next two plays gained one yard and on third and nine from the 32, Brady looked for Gronkowski again.  The pass was picked off by linebacker Bobby Wagner and returned to the 34-yard line.  But cornerback Richard Sherman was flagged for an illegal block above the waist and that moved the ball back to the 50-yard line.  From the 50, Wilson competed a nine-yard pass to Matthews.  Lynch ran up the right side for three yards and the Seahawks had a first down at the New England 38.  From the 38, Wilson scrambled up the left side for a gain of 15 yards.  Cornerback Brandon Browner was flagged for defensive holding and that five-yard penalty was tacked on at the end of the run.  That gave the Seahawks a first down at the 18.  From the 18, Lynch ran up the middle for a gain of 14 yards.  Two plays later, Wilson found wide receiver Doug Baldwin wide open for a touchdown.  After he caught the ball, he was flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.  That penalty would be enforced on the kickoff.  Hauschka made the point after and the Seahawks were up 24-14 with 4:54 to go in the third quarter.

After that score, the defenses for both teams started playing very well.  Neither offense could do much with the ball until the 12:10 mark of the fourth quarter.  That’s when the Patriots got the ball back at their 32-yard line.  On first down, Brady was sacked for a loss of eight yards by linebacker Bruce Irvin.  On third and 14, Brady went deep for Edelman across the middle and that play was good for 21 yards and a first down at the 49.  From the 49, Brady completed a short pass to Vereen who took the ball into Seattle territory.  As he was heading out of bounds, he was greeted rather rudely by safety Earl Thomas.  The flags would fly and that moved the Patriots down to the Seattle 27-yard line.  On third and eight from the 25, the Seahawks once again failed to contain Edelman and he caught another pass for a gain of 21 yards.  Two plays later, Brady found Amendola in the end zone for a touchdown.  Gostkowski made the point after and the Seahawks now led 24-21 with 7:55 to go in the game.

The formula for the Seahawks was simple.  Get some first downs on this drive and take some time off the clock.  They started at their 20 and instead of giving the ball to Lynch, Wilson went deep for Lockette on first down.  The pass was incomplete.  Lynch ran up the middle for a gain of five on second down and that set up a third and five from the 25-yard line.  Wilson had time to throw and Lynch was open, but they obviously weren’t on the same page and the pass was incomplete.  So, instead of grinding out some tough yards and killing the clock, the Seahawks ran three plays, gained five yards and took exactly 1:03 off the clock.  Ryan’s punt went only 39 yards and the Patriots took over at their 36-yard line.

Brady completed two passes to Vereen that gained 13 yards.  From the 49, Brady found Edelman for a gain of nine yards.  From the Seattle 42, Brady completed a six-yard pass to Vereen for what appeared to be another first down.  But Amendola was flagged for offensive pass interference and that moved them back to their own 48-yard line.  From the 48, Brady hooked up with Gronkowski for a gain of 20 and a first down at the Seattle 32-yard line.  Another completion to Gronkowski, a run by Vereen and a pass to LaFell moved the Patriots to the five-yard line.  Two plays later, Edelman beat cornerback Tharold Simon and Brady connected with Edelman for a touchdown.  Gostkowski made the point after and the Patriots led 28-24 with 2:02 to go in the game.

From the 20, Wilson hooked up with Lynch for a gain of 31 yards.  On third and ten From the New England 49, Wilson found Lockette for a gain of 11 yards and a first down at the 38.  From the 38, Wilson went deep up the right side for Kearse.  After the ball bounced all over the place, Kearse somehow managed to keep it from hitting the ground and corralled it for a gain of 33 yards.  That was truly an amazing catch.  The Seahawks called their second timeout with 1:06 remaining.  From the five, Lynch ran up the left side and was dragged down by linebacker Dont’a Hightower.  With 26 seconds remaining, the ball sat at the one-yard line.  I think everyone in the world thought Lynch would get another carry.  It would make sense.  If Lynch was stuffed on the next play, they could call their final timeout.  Wrong.  Russell took the snap and instead of handing the ball to Lynch, he threw for Lockette in the end zone.  The pass was picked off by undrafted rookie strong safety Malcolm Butler.  He was brought down at the two-yard line. I honestly couldn’t believe what I just saw.  Passing from the one-yard line with a timeout remaining made zero sense.  The Patriots were flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and they took over at their one-yard line.

That’s when things got ugly.  The Seahawks were flagged for being offside and a brawl ensued.  Irvin was ejected from the game for throwing a punch.  That resulted in a personal foul penalty on the Seahawks and that gave the Patriots a first down at the 20-yard line.  Brady took a knee and the game was over.  The Patriots erased a 24-14 deficit and won Super Bowl XLIX 28-24.

For the Patriots, Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady completed 37 of 50 for 328 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions.  Shane Vereen led the team in receptions with 11 and Julian Edelman had the most receiving yards with 109 and a touchdown.  The Patriots had little success running the ball.  As a team, they rushed for a total of 57 yards on 21 carries.  LeGarrette Blount was the leading rusher with 40 yards on 14 carries.  Defensively, linebacker Jamie Collins led the team in solo tackles with six.

For the Seahawks, Russell Wilson completed 12 of 21 for 247 yards, two touchdowns and one very costly interception.  He also had 39 yards rushing on three carries.  Chris Matthews led the team in receptions with four and receiving yards with 109 and a touchdown.  Marshawn Lynch led the team in rushing with 102 yards on 24 carries.  As a team, the Seahawks rushed for 162 yards on 29 carries.  Defensively, linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright tied for the lead in solo tackles with ten apiece.

There you have it.  The season is over and the Patriots are now four time Super Bowl champions.  I enjoyed writing these post season articles and I hope to continue to do it again next year.  I’ll be returning in the off season as the Raider Guy and I’ll probably do a write up on Tim Brown.  He’s finally heading to Canton to get his well deserved gold jacket.  Until then, take it easy.

Patriots Destroy Colts 45-7

The AFC conference championship matched up the Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots.  The Colts were coming off a 24-13 win over the Denver Broncos and the Patriots were coming off a 35-31 win over the Baltimore Ravens.  The Patriots won the coin toss and deferred to the second half.  Kicker Stephen Gostkowski sent the opening kickoff nine yards deep into the end zone and return man Josh Cribbs returned it to the 21-yard line.  From the get go, it looked like the Colts would rather be playing a game in their cozy dome.  Heavy rain and gusty winds made it difficult for quarterback Andrew Luck to complete a pass.  The Colts gained two yards on their first possession and were forced to punt.  Punter Pat McAfee got off a nice 53-yard punt that was fielded by return man Julian Edelman at the New England 24.  He returned it 20 yards and the Patriots started their first possession of the game at the 44-yard line.

Just like the Colts, the Patriots couldn’t get a first down and punted the ball away.  Punter Ryan Allen got off a high 27-yard punt that hit Cribbs squarely in the face.  The ball hit the ground and was recovered by linebacker Darius Fleming at the Indianapolis 26-yard line.  That gave the Patriots great field position and a shot to take an early lead.  Quarterback Tom Brady completed two passes to Edelman and running back LeGarrette Blount ran up the left side for eight yards.  That moved the ball down to the four and he appeared to score a touchdown on the next play.  However, replay showed his knee was down before the ball crossed the goal line.  That wasn’t much of an obstacle for Blount as he got the call again and found the end zone.  Gostkowski made the point after and the Patriots led 7-0 with 10:15 to go in the first quarter.

The Colts started at their 20 and got off to a good start as running back Daniel Herron ran up the left side for 12 yards.  Another run by Herron, a scramble by Luck and a defensive holding penalty on the Patriots netted another first down at the 44-yard line.  Completions to tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen moved the ball into New England territory.  Some more carries by Herron got the Colts another first down at the New England 33-yard line.  But that was followed by three straight incomplete passes.  To make it worse, kick Adam Vinatieri missed a 51-yard field goal attempt.  With 4:50 to go in the first quarter, the score remained 7-0.

From the New England 41-yard line, Brady completed a pass to Edelman for 12 yards.  That was followed by a 30-yard pass to running back Shane Vereen.  On third and ten from the Indianapolis 17, Brady found Edelman again for a gain of 12 yards.  Two plays later, Brady tossed a short pass to fullback James Develin for a one-yard touchdown.  Gostkowski made the point after and the Patriots led 14-0 with 1:20 to go in the first quarter.

As usual, the Colts couldn’t move the ball again and McAfee punted again.  The Patriots took over at their 30 and some more good running got the Patriots rolling.  Completions to wide receiver Danny Amendola, Edelman and fullback Michael Hoomanawanui moved the ball to the Indianapolis 26-yard line.  From the 26, Brady looked for tight end Rob Gronkowski.  The ball was under-thrown and picked off by linebacker D’Qwell Jackson at the one-yard line.  Jackson returned the ball to the seven and the Colts definitely dodged a bullet.

Luck completed a nine-yard pass to Allen and a personal foul penalty on defensive tackle Vince Wilfork gave the Colts a first down at their 31-yard line.  A short run by running back Zurlon Tipton and a 36-yard completion to wide receiver T.Y. Hilton netted a first down at the New England 31-yard line.  Two more completions to Fleener and an illegal contact penalty on the Patriots put the ball at the one-yard line.  From there, Tipton finished the drive with a one-yard touchdown run.  Vinatieri made the point after and the Patriots led 14-7 with 4:54 to go in the second quarter.

The Patriots took over at their 32-yard line and Brady hooked up with Vereen and Edelman to get the ball moving.  Blount carried the ball three straight times and that moved them down to the Indianapolis 26-yard line.  A roughing the passer penalty on the Colts and a scramble by Brady netted another first down at the three-yard line.  Instead of trying to power the ball up the middle with Blount, the Patriots tried three pass plays.  Each pass was incomplete and the Patriots settled for a field goal attempt.  Gostkowski had no trouble making his 21-yard attempt and the Patriots led 17-7 at halftime.

The second half was all about the Patriots.  The Colts continued to struggle mightily on offense.  They had control of the ball for just under three minutes in the third quarter.  They ran ten plays and gained 32 yards.  The Patriots had no problem moving the ball on their first possession of the second half.  Brady connected with offensive tackle Nate Solder for a 16-yard touchdown.  That was followed by a five-yard touchdown pass to Gronkowski.  Blount got in on the action again and ran for two more touchdowns.  When it was all said and done, the Patriots came away with 45-7 blowout.

For the Colts, Andrew Luck completed 12 of 33 for 126 yards and two interceptions.  Dwayne Allen led the team in receptions with four and T.Y. Hilton had the most receiving yards with 36.  All those yards came on one catch.  As a team, the Colts ran for 83 yards on 19 carries.  Daniel Herron had the most yards on the ground with 51 on ten carries.  Defensively, cornerback Greg Toler led the team in solo tackles with nine.

For the Patriots, Tom Brady completed 23 of 35 for 226 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.  Julian Edelman led the team in receptions with nine and receiving yards with 98.  LeGarrette Blount had a huge game running the ball.  He finished the game with 148 yards on 30 carries and three touchdowns.  Defensively, linebackers Jamie Collins, Rob Ninkovich and Dont’a Hightower tied for the lead in solo tackles with three apiece.  The Patriots held on to the ball for nearly 38 minutes and out-gained the Colts 397-209.

The win enabled the Patriots to go on to the Super Bowl to face the Seattle Seahawks.  That game will be played on February 1 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ at 6:30 eastern time.  At the present time, the Seahawks are 2.5 point favorites.

Seahawks Defeat Packers 28-22

The first conference championship game to be played had the Green Bay Packers traveling to Seattle to face the Seahawks.  The Packers were coming off a 26-21 win over the Dallas Cowboys and the Seahawks were coming off a 31-17 win over the Carolina Panthers.  The Seahawks won the toss and deferred to the second half.  Kicker Steven Hauschka sent the opening kickoff through the end zone and the Packers started their first drive at their 20-yard line.  On third and six from the 24, the Seahawks jumped offside and that made it third and one.  From the 29, running back Eddie Lacy ran up the left side for a gain of 13 and a first down at the 42.  From the 42, Lacy got another carry for three yards.  From the 45, quarterback Aaron Rodgers went deep for wide receiver Jordy Nelson.  The pass was incomplete, but the Seahawks were flagged again.  This time it was for having 12 men on the field.  That moved the ball to the 50.  Completions to wide receivers Randall Cobb and Davante Adams moved the ball to the 29.  On third and ten, Rodgers looked for Adams in the end zone and the pass was picked off by cornerback Richard Sherman.

The Seahawks took over at their 20 and didn’t have possession of the ball very long.  On third down from the 23, quarterback Russell Wilson attempted to hook up with wide receiver Jermaine Kearse across the middle.  The pass hit Kearse in the hands and bounced into the hands of safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.  He headed up the left sideline and was pushed out of bounds at the four-yard line.  After the play was over, a flag appeared and defensive end Mike Daniels was flagged for taunting.  That act of complete idiocy moved the ball back to the 19-yard line.  A 12-yard completion to tight end Robert Rodgers and a six-yard run by Lacy moved the ball to the one-yard line.  Carries by fullback John Kuhn and Lacy both came up short.  That made it fourth and goal from inside the one.  Instead of trying it one more time, head coach Mike McCarthy opted to go for a field goal attempt.  I honestly couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  Why not try it again?  Even if they didn’t make it, the Seahawks would be left with horrible field position.  Kicker Mason Crosby came into the game and his 18-yard attempt was good.  The Packers led 3-0 with 8:07 to go in the first quarter.

Things would get worse for the Seahawks on the kickoff.  Return man Doug Baldwin fielded the kick and headed up the left side of the field.  He was hit at the 22 and the ball came loose.  It was recovered by safety Morgan Burnett at the 23 and the Packers had an excellent chance to increase their lead.  Two carries by Lacy netted a first down at the seven-yard line.  But the next two plays only gained one yard.  On third goal from the six, Rodgers completed a pass to Cobb, but he was stopped short of the end zone.  Once again, the Packers settled for a field goal attempt.  Crosby’s 19-yard attempt was good and the Packers led 6-0 with 5:07 to go in the first quarter.

The Seahawks continued to struggle on offense and had a quick three and out.  The Packers took over at their 44 and quickly moved into Seattle territory as Rodgers found Nelson for a gain of 15 yards.  Carries by Lacy and Kuhn netted another first down at the Seattle 29-yard line.  Another completion to Rodgers and a five-yard run by Lacy moved the ball to the 13.  From the 13, Rodgers threw for the end zone and the pass was caught by Cobb for a touchdown.  Crosby made the point after and the Packers led 13-0 at the end of the first quarter.

The Seahawks still couldn’t get a first down on their next possession and punter Jon Ryan came on for another punt.  It was fielded by return man Micah Hyde at the Green Bay 38 and returned 29 yards to the Seattle 33-yard line.  On third and 13 from the 36, Rodgers threw a perfect pass across the middle that was dropped by Cobb.  But yet another flag was thrown.  This time, defensive end Cliff Avril was flagged for an illegal use of hands penalty.  That gave the Packers a first down at the 31.  Three straight running plays gained nine yards and we all know by now that McCarthy doesn’t go for it on fourth and short.  Crosby came on for another field goal attempt.  His 40-yard attempt was good and the Packers went up 16-0 with 9:37 to go in the second quarter.

The Seahawks took over at their 20-yard line and on first down, Wilson threw a pass into double coverage that was picked off again by Clinton-Dix at the Green Bay 32-yard line.  The ball was returned to the Seattle 41-yard line.  But during the return, another flag was thrown.  Linebacker Clay Matthews was flagged for a blind side block on Wilson.  The Packers kept the ball, but they would be starting at their 44 due to the penalty.  After a 23-yard completion to Nelson, Rodgers was picked off on the next play by cornerback Byron Maxwell.  The Seahawks regained possession of the ball at their 31-yard line.  With 7:08 to go in the first half, the Seahawks finally managed to get a first down when running back Marshawn Lynch ran up the left side and was pushed out of bounds at the Green Bay 47-yard line.  A carry by running back Robert Turbin, a short completion to wide receiver Ricardo Lockette and another run by Lynch gave the Seahawks another first down at the 37.  At the two-minute warning, the Seahawks were facing a third and eight from the 18-yard line.  Wilson looked for Kearse in the end zone and the pass was picked off by cornerback Sam Shields.  At halftime, the Packers led 16-0.

Neither team did anything with the ball on their first possessions of the second half.  With 11 minutes to go in the third quarter, the Seahawks took over at their 22-yard line.  From the 22, Wilson completed an eight-yard pass to fullback Will Tukuafu.  An eight-yard pass to Baldwin and two runs by Lynch moved the ball to the Green Bay 39.  A false start penalty moved them back five yards.  From the 44, Wilson was sacked for a loss of 15 by Matthews.  Lynch got the call on the next play and gained 11 yards.  That set up a third and 19 from the Green Bay 48.  The Packers rushed three and dropped eight men back into “coverage.”  Wilson had ALL DAY to find a receiver and he finally found one.  Standing all by his lonesome was Baldwin.  He made the catch and was dragged down at the 19-yard line.  What kind of defense was that?  You dropped eight guys back and yet a receiver was still able to get wide open.  Unbelievable.  After that horrible display of defense, the Packers stiffened and the Seahawks ran three plays for zero yards.  On fourth and ten from the 19, Hauschka came on for a 37-yard field goal attempt.  When the ball was snapped to Ryan, he picked the ball up and headed up the left side.  Then he threw for the end zone where the ball was caught by offensive lineman Clint Gresham.  Hauschka made the point after and the Packers now led 16-7.

That touchdown got the quiet crowd back into the game and the Packers had a quick three and out.  The Seahawks followed suit and the Packers got the ball back at their 13-yard line.  Two runs by Lacy and a 32-yard run by running back James Starks had the Packers in Seattle territory again.  A false start moved them back five yards, but they continued to run the ball well.  However, the drive would stall at the 30.  Once again, Crosby was brought into the game and his 38-yard field goal attempt was good.  With 10:53 to go in the game, the Packers led 19-7.

The Seahawks were able to get a couple of first downs on their next drive, but ended up punting again.  The Packers took over at their 13 in hopes of getting a few first downs and killing the clock.  That didn’t happen.  They ran three plays, gained six yards and only took 1:40 off the clock.  Punter Tim Masthay punted the ball away and the Seahawks regained possession at their 46-yard line.  They wouldn’t have the ball very long because Wilson was picked off for the fourth time.  This time it was Burnett.  He picked the ball off and instead of trying to get a big return, immediately went down at the Green Bay 43-yard line.  The Seahawks forced another three and out and with 3:52 to go in the game, they had the ball at their 31-yard line.

From the 31, Lynch ran up the middle for a gain of 14 yards.  That was followed by a 20-yard completion to Baldwin.  From the Green Bay 35, Wilson tossed a short pass to Lynch who appeared to take it all the way for a touchdown.  But it was ruled that he stepped out of bounds at the nine-yard line.  A run by Lynch and a scramble by Wilson set up a third and goal from the one-yard line.  Wilson took the snap, faked to Lynch and took it into the end zone for a touchdown.  Hauschka made the point after and the Seahawks trailed 19-14 with 2:09 to go in the game.

All the Seahawks could do now was hope to recover an onside kick.  Hauschka kicked the ball up the right side and it bounced off of Packer tight end Brandon Bostick into the arms of wide receiver Chris Matthews.  The Seahawks took over at the 50 and Wilson scrambled for 15 yards.  A short run by Lynch and a pass to tight end Luke Willson netted a first down at the Green Bay 24-yard line.  From the 24, Lynch got the call again and he made it all way to the end zone for a touchdown.  Leading 20-19, the Seahawks decided to go for two.  Wilson took the snap and immediately was pressured.  He ran to the right side of the field and heaved up a prayer across his body.  There were two defenders around Willson, yet somehow he came up with the ball and the two-point conversion was good.  With 1:25 to go in the game, the Seahawks led 22-19.

The Packers had three timeouts and got the ball back at their 22-yard line.  Completions to Nelson and Cobb quickly moved the ball to the Seattle 38-yard line.  The drive would stall at the 30 as Nelson was stopped short of the first down marker on third and ten.  Crosby came on again for a 48-yard attempt.  With the rain and swirling winds, this would indeed be a difficult kick.  But Crosby had no problem making it and the score was tied 22-22 with 14 seconds left.  Wilson took a knee and the game was headed into overtime.

The Seahawks won the toss and elected to receive.  The kickoff coverage for the Packers was good and Baldwin was quickly brought down at the 13-yard line.  From the 13, Lynch ran for four yards.  That was followed by a ten-yard pass to Baldwin and a first down at the 27.  Lynch got the call on the next play and rushed for four more yards.  Wilson was sacked for a loss of one on the next play and that set up a third and seven from the 30.  Wilson had plenty of time to find a receiver and he hooked up with Baldwin for a gain of 35 and a first down at the Green Bay 35-yard line.  On the next play, Wilson looked for Kearse and connected with him for a touchdown.  With that, the game was over.  The Seahawks overcame a 16-point deficit and punched their ticket to the Super Bowl with a 28-22 win.

For the Packers, Aaron Rodgers completed 19 of 34 for 178 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.  Randall Cobb led the team in receptions with seven and Jordy Nelson had the most receiving yards with 71.  Eddie Lacy led the way on the ground with 73 yards on 21 carries.  As a team, the Packers rushed for 135 yards on 30 carries.  Defensively, safety Morgan Burnett had a solid game with eight solo tackles, two sacks, three tackles for a loss, an interception and a fumble recovery.

For the Seahawks, Russell Wilson completed 14 of 29 for 209 yards, one touchdown pass, one touchdown run and four interceptions.  Doug Baldwin led the team in receptions with six and receiving yards with 106.  Marshawn Lynch had a great day carrying the ball and ended up with 157 yards on 25 carries and a touchdown.  As a team, the Seahawks rushed for 194 yards on 35 carries.  Defensively, cornerbacks Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane tied for the lead in solo tackles with five apiece.

Up next for the Seahawks is a trip to the Super Bowl to face the winner of the Colts-Patriots game.

Colts Defeat Broncos 24-13

The fourth and final divisional playoff game had the Indianapolis Colts traveling to Denver, Colorado to face the Denver Broncos.  The Colts were coming off a 26-10 win over the Cincinnati Bengals and the Broncos were coming off a bye week.  The Colts got the ball first and three plays gained nine yards.  Punter Pat McAfee’s punt went 39 yards and the Broncos took over at their 32-yard line.  A five-yard run by running back C.J. Anderson was followed by a short completion from quarterback Peyton Manning to wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders.  But the Colts were flagged for roughing the passer and that gave the Broncos a first down at the Indianapolis 45-yard line.  Two more carries by Anderson and a 32-yard pass to tight end Julius Thomas set the Broncos up with a first and goal from the two-yard line.  Two plays later, Manning found wide receiver Demaryius Thomas in the end zone for a touchdown.  Kicker Connor Barth made the extra point and the Broncos led 7-0 with ten minutes to go in the first quarter.

The Colts managed to get a few first downs on their next drive.  But they ended up punting again as quarterback Andrew Luck’s pass on third and 12 intended for tight end Jack Doyle fell incomplete.  McAfee punted and the ball was downed at the Denver four-yard line.  Aside from a 22-yard run by Anderson, the Broncos did nothing with the ball on this possession.  Punter Britton Colquitt got off a nice 48-yard punt that was fielded by return man Josh Cribbs at the 27.  He should have called for a fair catch because he was promptly flattened by safety Omar Bolden.

From the 27, the Colts finally got their offense rolling.  Two runs by running back Daniel Herron and completions to wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and tight end Coby Fleener quickly moved the ball to the Denver 35-yard line.  Tight end Dwayne Allen caught a pass on the next play.  But he was thrown for a loss of three yards.  From the 38, Luck looked for Hilton again and found him for a gain of 23 yards and a first down at the 15-yard line.  Three plays later, Herron ran up the left side for a six-yard touchdown.  Kicker Adam Vinatieri made the point after and the score was tied 7-7 with 14:14 to go in the second quarter.

The Broncos took over at their 20 and Anderson got another carry for a few yards.  On second down, Manning found Sanders again for a gain of 14 yards.  Some more running by Anderson and running back Ronnie Hillman moved the ball near mid-field.  On third and 12 from the 50, Manning was sacked by linebacker Jonathan Newsome.  The ball came loose and was recovered by linebacker Jerrell Freeman at the Denver 41-yard line.

From the 41, Luck completed short passes to Doyle and Herron.  That was followed by a deep pass to rookie wide receiver Donte Moncrief for a first down at the eight-yard line.  On third and goal from the six, Luck threw a pass to the right intended for Hilton.  It was incomplete, but cornerback Aqib Talib was flagged for defensive holding.  That gave the Colts a first and goal from the three-yard line.  Two plays later, Luck found Allen in the end zone for a touchdown.  Vinatieri made the point after and the Colts led 14-7 with 7:23 to go in the second quarter.

As this game progressed, it became pretty obvious that Manning wasn’t his usual efficient self.  His passes were wobbly and he missed many open targets.  It turns out he was playing with a torn quad.  With 2:32 to go in the second quarter, the Colts found themselves pinned back at their own three-yard line.  Herron carried the ball a couple of times and netted a first down at the 14.  But a holding call moved them back to the seven.  On third and 12 from the 12, Luck looked for Moncrief down the middle and the pass was picked off by cornerback Bradley Roby at the Denver 49-yard line.  Manning completed passes to Sanders and Anderson to get them into field goal range.  With seven seconds on the clock, Barth came on for a 45-yard field goal attempt.  The kick was good and at halftime, the Colts led 14-10.

The Broncos started the third quarter at their 20 and looked as bad as they did in the first half.  They gained five yards on three plays and punted the ball away.  McAfee’s punt went out of bounds at the Indianapolis 28-yard line.  Luck completed passes to Allen and running back Zurlon Tipton to get the Colts moving.  Another completion to Moncrief and a 32-yard pass to Fleener set up a first and goal from the Denver eight-yard line.  From the eight, Luck ran up the left side and went untouched into the end zone.  That play was brought back by a holding call.  That moved the ball back to the 18-yard line.  Two plays later, Luck threw for the end zone and the ball was picked out of the air by wide receiver Hakeem Nicks for a touchdown.  Vinatieri made the point after and the Colts were up 21-10 with 8:21 to go in the third quarter.

The Broncos went three and out on their next possession.  Colquitt punted and once again Cribbs didn’t call for a fair catch.  He also got hammered by Bolden again at the 30.  The ball came loose and was recovered at the 30 by wide receiver Andre Caldwell.  But the play was reviewed and the ruling was reversed.  The Colts really dodged a bullet on that play.  Maybe the special teams coach should inform Cribbs that calling for a fair catch isn’t against the law.

The Colts took over at the 30 and a 12-yard catch by Hilton netted a first down at the 42.  But the next two plays lost three yards.  On third and 12, Luck went deep up the right side for Moncrief and the pass was picked off by safety Rahim Moore at the Denver 24-yard line.  Manning and the Broncos took over at the 24 and Manning completed passes to four different receivers.  All those completions moved the Broncos down to the Indianapolis 45-yard line.  A short run by Anderson, an incomplete pass and an eight-yard pass to D. Thomas set up a crucial fourth and one from the 36.  Anderson took the hand-off and was immediately hit.  He shook off that tackle and proceeded to shake off two more tackles to get a first down at the 29.  That was a nice run and finally gave the Denver faithful something to cheer about.  But the next three plays only gained five yards and Barth came on for another field goal attempt.  His 41-yard attempt was good and the Colts now led 21-13 with 13:50 to go in the game.

Both teams went three and out on their next possessions and with 12:20 remaining, the Colts took over at their 34-yard line.  A short run by Herron and an 18-yard completion to Hilton netted a first down at the Denver 47-yard line.  That’s when the running game took over for the Colts.  Herron and Tipton were chewing up yardage and taking precious time off the clock.  The eight-minute drive  came to an end at the Denver 12-yard line.  Vinatieri made his 30-yard field goal attempt to make the score 24-13 with 4:06 to go in the game.

The Broncos were now in full panic mode.  Rain was coming down and the crowd was booing loudly.  I could have sworn I heard some people chanting for Tim Tebow.  When your quarterback is injured, how effective will he be?  They moved from their 20 to the 46 on all short passes.  On fourth and eight from the 46, Manning completed a short pass to Anderson.  He tried his best to get to the first down marker, but the measurement showed he was just short.  Denver challenged the spot and it didn’t matter.  He was short of the first down and the Colts took over at the Denver 46.  That was the nail in the coffin and the Colts came away with a 24-13 win.

For the Colts, Andrew Luck completed 27 of 43 for 265 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.  Daniel Herron led the team in receptions with eight and T.Y. Hilton had the most receiving yards with 72.  Herron led the team in rushing with 63 yards on 23 carries and one touchdown.  As a team, the Colts rushed for 99 yards on 28 carries.  Defensively, linebacker D’Qwell Jackson led the team in solo tackles with ten.

For the Broncos, Peyton Manning completed 26 of 46 for 211 yards and one touchdown.  Emmanuel Sanders had the most receptions with seven and Demaryius Thomas had the most receiving yards with 59 and one touchdown.  C.J. Anderson led the team in rushing with 80 yards on 18 carries.  As a team, the Broncos rushed for 88 yards on 20 carries.  Defensively, linebacker Steven Johnson led the team in solo tackles with six.

Up next for the Colts is a visit to New England to face the Patriots for the AFC title.  They met in week 11 in Indianapolis and the Patriots came away with a 42-20 victory.

Packers Defeat Cowboys 26-21

The third divisional playoff game had the Dallas Cowboys paying a visit to Green Bay, Wisconsin to face the Packers.  The Cowboys were coming off a 24-20 win over the Detroit Lions and the Packers were coming off a bye week.  The Cowboys got the ball first and didn’t get very far.  On third and five from the 28, quarterback Tony Romo was sacked by linebacker Julius Peppers for a loss of five yards.  The ball came loose, but Romo managed to recover it.  Punter Chris Jones punted the ball away and it was fair caught at the Green Bay 40 by return man Micha Hyde.  From the 40, quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed an 11-yard pass to wide receiver Jordy Nelson.  That was followed by six straight carries by running back Eddie Lacy.  All that running moved the Packers down to the Dallas four-yard line.  On third down from the four, Rodgers took the snap, stepped up in the pocket and fired a strike to tight end Andrew Quarless for a touchdown.  Kicker Mason Crosby made the point after and the Packers led 7-0 with 8:30 to go in the first quarter.

A short kickoff by Crosby was fielded by return man Dwayne Harris at the eight-yard line and returned to the 38.  A six-yard run by running back DeMarco Murray and a holding call on the Packers gave the Cowboys a first down at the 49-yard line.  After that, the Cowboys were flagged for holding and that moved them back to their 39.  From the 39, Romo found wide receiver Cole Beasley for 18 yards.  Three runs by Murray and a short scramble by Romo netted a first down at the 30.  from the 30, Romo found tight end Jason Witten for a gain of eight yards.  Two more carries by Murray moved the ball to the 19.  Two plays later, the Packers were flagged for pass interference.  That put the ball at the one and the drive was capped off with a one-yard touchdown pass to fullback Tyler Clutts. Kicker Dan Bailey made the point after and the score was tied at seven with 1:05 to go in the first quarter.

Bailey’s kickoff was short and return man Randall Cobb fielded it at the nine-yard line.  He returned it 23 yards and the Packers started their next drive at the 32.  On third and six from the 36, Rodgers had all kinds of time to find a receiver.  Nobody was open and normally he’d take off and run for the first down.  But his injured calf was obviously giving him problems and he was sacked for a loss of five yards.  While Rodgers was trying to avoid being sacked, a flag was thrown and the Cowboys were flagged for defensive holding.  That gave the Packers new life and a first down at the 41-yard line.  An offside penalty on the Cowboys and a completion to Cobb gave the Packers another first down at the Dallas 43-yard line.  Three carries by running back James Starks kept the ball moving down to the 30.  On third and seven from the 27, the ball was snapped before Rodgers was ready for it and the ball came loose.  It was recovered at the 36 by defensive end Jeremy Mincey.

Three runs by Murray and another completion to Beasley quickly moved the ball to the Green Bay 38-yard line.  From the 38, Romo tossed a short pass to wide receiver Terrance Williams.  He avoided a couple of defenders and took it into the end zone for a touchdown.  Bailey made the point after and the Cowboys led 14-7 with 8:19 to go in the second quarter.

The Packers would punt on their next possession and the Cowboys got the ball back at their 19 with 5:37 to go in the half.  More running by Murray two completions to Witten moved the ball to the Green Bay 36-yard line.  They wouldn’t get much further than that and Bailey came on for a 50-yard field goal.  The kick was blocked by defensive end Datone Jones and the Packers regained possession of the ball at their 40 with 29 seconds to go in the half.  A 12-yard pass to Cobb moved the ball into Dallas territory.  But Rodgers was sacked for a loss of ten by defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence.  With 16 seconds remaining, Rodgers looked for Cobb again and found him on the left sideline for a gain of 31 yards and a first down at the Dallas 27-yard line.  That was followed by a five-yard pass to wide receiver Davante Adams. With three seconds to go, Crosby came on for a 40-yard field goal attempt.  The kick was good and at halftime, the Cowboys led 14-10.

The Packers couldn’t do much with the ball on their first possession of the second half and punter Tim Masthay’s punt was fielded at the Dallas 17 by Harris.  He returned it three yards to the 20-yard line.  A pass interference penalty and an offside penalty on the Packers gave the Cowboys a first down at their 41.  From the 41, Murray ran up the right side and just as it looked like he may break one for a long gain, the ball was knocked loose by Peppers.  It was recovered by Jones at the 44-yard line.

From the Dallas 44, Lacy was thrown for a loss of one yard on first down.  But he followed that run with a gain of 29 yards.  He was finally dragged down at the 16.  Fullback John Kuhn got in on the action and carried the ball up the middle for a gain of four yards.  From the 12, Rodgers passed to the right and the ball was caught by Adams for a gain of five yards.  While Adams was trying to get some extra yardage, guard T.J. Lang was flagged for unnecessary roughness.  After that, a brawl ensued.  When the dust settled, the Packers faced a third and 16 from the 22-yard line.  Rodgers completed a  ten-yard pass to Lacy and that meant it was time for another field goal attempt from Crosby.  His 30-yard attempt was good and the Cowboys now led 14-13.

The Cowboys started at their 20 and quickly moved into Green Bay territory with completions to wide receiver Dez Bryant and Witten.  Running back Joseph Randle got a carry and took it up the right side for a gain of 13 yards.  On first down from the 27, Murray ran up the right side for a gain of 26 yards.  He finished the drive with a one-yard touchdown run.  Bailey made the point after and the Cowboys went up 21-13 with 4:12 to go in the third quarter.

A holding call on the kickoff forced the Packers to start their next drive at their ten-yard line.  Passes to Kuhn and Adams quickly moved them to the 33-yard line.  From the 33, Rodgers went deep down the middle and the pass was caught by Cobb for a gain of 26 yards and a first down at the Dallas 41-yard line.  That was followed by two incomplete passes and a false start penalty on Quarless.  That made it third and 15 from the 46.  Rodgers fired a pass down the middle for Adams.  He made the catch, did some fancy footwork and ran up the right side of the field for a 46-yard touchdown.  I thought they might go for two to tie the game up, but they didn’t.  Crosby made the point after and the Cowboys led 21-20 with 1:41 to go in the third quarter.

The Cowboys went nowhere on their next possession and the punt went through the end zone.  Starting at the 20, Rodgers went to work and brought out the no huddle offense.  Completions to Cobb, Adams and Quarless moved the ball down to the Dallas 13-yard line.  From the 13, Rodgers fired a pass into double coverage that was caught for a touchdown by tight end Richard Rodgers.  This time, they went for two and Rodgers looked for Quarless in the end zone.  The pass was incomplete and with 9:10 to go in the game, the Packers led 26-21.

The Cowboys would have to go 82 yards if they wanted to regain the lead.  Starting at their 18, they got the drive off to a good start as Murray ran up the right side for a gain of 30 yards.  Randle got another carry that moved them to the 50.  from the 50, Romo found Bryant for a gain of ten yards.  From the 40, Murray was stopped for a gain of two yards.  On second and eight, Romo was sacked for a loss of three by Jones and defensive end Mike Neal.  That was followed by a nine-yard pass to Beasley.  That set up a crucial fourth and two from the 32-yard line.  Instead of running the ball again, Romo went deep up the left side for Bryant.  The coverage was good, but Bryant went up high and appeared to haul the pass in for a gain of 31.  The Packers challenged the play and it was ruled that Bryant didn’t “complete the catch.”  In other words, he lost control of the ball on his way down.  The pass was ruled incomplete and the Packers took over at the 32.  Judging by the rules of today’s NFL, it was the right call.  But it was an absolute heart-breaker for the Cowboys.  Bryant looked downright suicidal after the play was reversed.  To make things worse for the Cowboys, they didn’t get a chance at redemption.  The Packers won 26-21 as they managed to hang on to the ball for the final four minutes.

For the Cowboys, Tony Romo completed 15 of 19 for 191 yards and two touchdowns.  Jason Witten led the team in receptions with six and receiving yards with 71.  DeMarco Murray had a good day and was the leading rusher with 123 yards on 25 carries.  As a team, the Cowboys rushed for 145 yards on 28 carries.  Defensively, safeties Barry Church and Jeff Heath tied for the lead in solo tackles with seven apiece.

For the Packers, Aaron Rodgers completed 24 of 35 for 316 yards and three touchdowns.  Randall Cobb led the team in receptions with eight and Davante Adams had the most receiving yards with 117 and a touchdown.  Adams and Cobb combined for 233 receiving yards.  On the ground, Eddie Lacy rumbled for 101 yards on 19 carries.  As a team, the Packers rushed for 119 yards on 30 carries.  Defensively, safety Ha-Ha Clinton Dix led the team in solo tackles with five.

Up next for the Packers is a trip to Seattle to face the Seahawks for the NFC title.  They met in week one and the Seahawks came away with a 36-16 win.

 

 

Seahawks Defeat Panthers 31-17

The second game of the divisional playoffs had the Carolina Panthers traveling across the country to Seattle, Washington to face the Seattle Seahawks.  The Panthers were coming off a 27-16 win over the Arizona Cardinals and the Seahawks were coming off a bye week.  This game looked like a chess match early as both defenses were playing very well.  But with 2:27 to go in the first quarter, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton fumbled and the ball was recovered by defensive tackle Tony McDaniel at the Carolina 28-yard line.  On third and nine from the 16, quarterback Russell Wilson fired a pass down the middle that was caught by wide receiver Doug Baldwin for a touchdown.  Kicker Steven Hauschka made the point after and the Seahawks led 7-0 with just under a minute to go in the first quarter.

The Panthers got the ball back at their 21 and a 15-yard run by running back Jonathan Stewart and a 14-yard completion to wide receiver Philly Brown quickly moved the ball to mid-field.  Some carries by Newton, Stewart and running back DeAngelo Williams kept the drive moving deep into Seattle territory.  On third and six from the seven, Newton threw for the end zone and the pass was caught by rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin for a touchdown.  Kicker Graham Gano made the point after and the score was tied 7-7 with 7:44 to go in the second quarter.

The Seahawks didn’t waste much time regaining the lead.  After a couple of carries by running back Marshawn Lynch,  Wilson went deep up the left side for wide receiver Jermaine Kearse.  He hauled it in for a 63-yard touchdown.  Hauschka made the point after and the Seahawks went up 14-7 with 4:54 to go in the second quarter.

The Panthers took over at their 21 and on third and ten, Newton connected with wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery for a gain of 13 yards.  An 11-yard catch by wide receiver Brenton Bersin and a facemask penalty on the Seahawks gave the Panthers a first down at the Seattle 36-yard line.  They would get down to the 17 and the drive stalled there.  Gano would come in for a 35-yard field goal attempt.  During this attempt, safety Kam Chancellor would jump over the line in hopes of blocking the attempt.  Somehow, the kick wasn’t blocked and it was good.  But it didn’t count due to a false start.  So, they tried another field goal from 40 yards out.  Once again, Chancellor jumped over the line and the kick was blocked.  Wait a minute.  We seem to have yet another flag on the ground.  Chancellor was flagged for running into the kicker.  So they moved the ball up five yards and Gano tried yet another 35-yard field goal.  This time it was good and the Seahawks led 14-10 at halftime.

The first eight minutes of the third quarter looked a lot like the first quarter.  Both defenses were playing very well and neither team could even get into field goal range.  With 6:27 to go in the third quarter, the Seahawks got the ball back at their 12-yard line.  A 14-yard scramble by Wilson, a five-yard penalty on the Panthers and a completion to tight end Luke Willson netted a first down at the 41.  Lynch got loose for a 25-yard gain and a pass interference penalty on the Panthers gave the Seahawks a first down at the Carolina 25-yard line.  Some more running by Lynch and running back Robert Turbin got them down to the three-yard line.  From the three, Wilson took the snap and was sacked by linebacker Thomas Davis for a loss of 12 yards.  Hauschka came into the game and his 30-yard field goal attempt was good.  The Seahawks were now up 17-10 with 14:55 to go in the game.

The Panthers took over at their 20 and three plays gained minus one yard.  Punter Brad Nortman punted the ball away and the Seahawks took over at their 42-yard line.  On third and six from the 46, Wilson hooked up with Willson again for a gain of 29 and a first down at the 25-yard line.  Three plays later, the Wilson to Willson connection worked again for a 25-yard touchdown.  Hauschka made the point after and the Seahawks led 24-10 with 10:26 to go in the game.

The Panthers started at their 20 and Newton immediately took to the air.  Completions to Benjamin and tight end Greg Olsen had them moving in the right direction.  On first down from the 50, Newton completed a 31-yard pass to Olsen.  That was followed by a six-yard scramble by Newton.  On second and four from the 13, Newton threw to his right in hopes of completing a pass to tight end Ed Dickson.  That’s when our friend Kam Chancellor made another appearance.  He jumped the route, picked off the pass and returned it 90 yards for a touchdown.  Hauschka made the point after and the Seahawks led 31-10 with 5:55 to go in the game.  That interception basically sealed the deal for the Seahawks.  Benjamin would catch another touchdown pass later in the game, but it was too little and too late for the Panthers.  The Seahawks went on to win 31-17.

For the Panthers, Cam Newton completed 26 of 36 for 246 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.  Kelvin Benjamin led the team in receptions with seven and receiving yards with 75 and two touchdowns.  Jonathan Stewart led the team in rushing with 70 yards on 13 carries.  As a team, the Panthers rushed for 132 yards on 32 carries.  Defensively, linebacker Thomas Davis led the team in solo tackles with six.  He also had one sack.

For the Seahawks, Russell Wilson completed 15 of 22 for 268 yards and three touchdowns.  Luke Willson had the most receptions with four and one touchdown.  Jermaine Kearse led the team in receiving yards with 129 and one touchdown.  On the ground, the Seahawks found it pretty difficult to move the ball.  Marshawn Lynch led the team in rushing with 59 yards on 14 carries.  25 of those yards came on one carry.  As a team, the Seahawks rushed for 100 yards on 28 carries.  Defensively, safety Kam Chancellor led the team in solo tackles with nine and he also made the play of the game with a 90-yard interception return.

Up next for the Seahawks will be a visit from the Green Bay Packers.  The winner of that game will be crowned champion of the NFC.  That game will be played on Sunday at 3:05 eastern time.

Patriots Defeat Ravens 35-31

The first game of the divisional playoffs had the Baltimore Ravens heading north to Foxborough, Massachusetts to face the New England Patriots.  The Ravens were coming off a 30-17 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Patriots were coming off a bye week.  New England kicker Stephen Gostkowski sent the opening kickoff four yards deep into the end zone and it was returned to the 29 by return man Jacoby Jones.  Quarterback Joe Flacco took to the air early and the first play of the game was a 19-yard completion to wide receiver Steve Smith.  A completion to tight end Crockett Gillmore and a short run by running back Justin Forsett netted a first down at the New England 41-yard line.  From the 41, Flacco found wide receiver Torrey Smith open for a gain of 22.  The drive was capped off by a 19-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Kamar Aiken.  Kicker Justin Tucker made the point after and the Ravens were up 7-0 with 12:18 to go in the first quarter.

The Patriots didn’t get very far on their opening drive.  On third and five from their own 38, quarterback Tom Brady threw to his right where wide receiver Danny Amendola appeared to catch a pass for a first down at the 47.  The play was challenged by the Ravens and reversed.  Punter Ryan Allen’s punt was fielded at the Baltimore 14 and returned to the 21 by Jones.  Two carries and an offside penalty on the Patriots quickly moved the Ravens to the 48.  Another run by Forsett and a short run by running back Bernard Pierce moved the Ravens into New England territory.  Flacco spread the ball around to three different receivers and the Ravens were knocking on the door once again.  On third and seven from the nine, Flacco found S. Smith in the end zone for another Raven touchdown.  Tucker made the point after and that made it 14-0 with 4:44 to go in the first quarter.

The Patriots took over at their 22 and on third and eight from the 24, Brady found tight end Rob Gronkowski wide open for a gain of 16 yards.  How in the world do you let a guy that big get that wide open?  There wasn’t a defender anywhere near him.  Brady tried his luck with Gronkowski again and he rumbled down the field for a gain of 46 yards.  On third and goal from the four, Brady had time and the middle of the field was wide open, so he decided to run for the end zone.  He made it easily.  Gostkowski made the point after and that made the score 14-7 with 48 seconds to go in the first half.

The Patriots finally decided to play some defense and forced the Ravens to punt on their next possession.  The Patriots took over at their 24.  Passes to wide receivers Brandon LaFell and Julian Edelman put the ball at mid-field.  Two completions to running back Shane Vereen moved them to the Baltimore 30.  Vereen ran up the left side for six yards on first down, but Brady was sacked on the next two plays and that moved them out of field goal range.  Allen punted and it looked like the Ravens would get the ball back at their ten-yard line.  But a taunting penalty on the Patriots gave them the ball at their 25-yard line.  They managed to get one first down before punting the ball back to the Patriots.

With 7:13 to go in the half, the Patriots started at their 33-yard line.  On second and ten, Brady found Edelman across the middle for a gain of 11 yards.  That was followed by another completion to Gronkowski who was pushed out of bounds at the Baltimore 31.  Three plays later, Brady found LaFell for a gain of seven and a first down at the 15.  From the 15, Brady threw for Amendola and he caught it for a touchdown.  Gostkowski made the point after and the score was knotted at 14 with 3:37 to go in the first half.

The Ravens punted on their next possession.  With time running out, the Patriots were looking to get a quick score before halftime.  That didn’t happen.  Brady looked for Gronkowski across the middle and his pass was picked off by linebacker Daryl Smith.  The Ravens got the ball back at their 43-yard line with a minute to go in the half.  Two completions to tight end Owen Daniels and a pass interference penalty on the Patriots gave the Ravens a first down at the New England 24-yard line.  Three plays later, Flacco floated a pass to the end zone.  Despite having several defenders in the area, Daniels was able to make the catch for another Raven touchdown.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens led 21-14 at halftime.

The Patriots got the ball to start the second half, but went nowhere.  Allen punted and Jones fielded the punt at his 21-yard line.  He returned it nine yards and the Ravens had the ball at their 30.  Two completions to Michael Campanaro quickly moved the ball to the New England 40-yard line.  Three plays netted four yards and the Ravens decided to go for it on fourth and six from the 36.  Flacco went deep up the right side and T. Smith hauled it in.  He was brought down at the one-yard line.  Then Smith was flagged for taunting and that act of idiocy moved the Ravens back to the 16.  From the 16, Flacco looked to his right and saw Forsett standing all by himself.  Flacco decided to throw him the ball and Forsett cruised into the end zone untouched.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens led 28-14 with 10:22 to go in the third quarter.

From this point on, the Patriots would pretty much abandon the running game and pass on just about every play.  Starting at the 20, Brady completed passes to LaFell and fullback Michael Hoomanawanui.  That gave them a first down at the 47.  Next was a nine-yard pass to Gronkowski and a five-yard penalty on the Ravens moved them into Baltimore territory.  Two more completions to Edelman and an unsportsmanlike penalty on the Ravens’ bench made it first and goal from the five-yard line.  From the five, Brady connected with Gronkowski again for a touchdown.  Gostkowski made the point after and the Ravens led 28-21 with 6:48 to go in the third quarter.

The Ravens went nowhere on their next possession and punted.  The Patriots took over at their 30.  Passes to Edelman and Vereen netted 19 yards and on first down from the 49, Brady threw a lateral to Edelman.  Edelman proceeded to put one up and the pass was caught by Amendola for a 51-yard touchdown.  Gostkowski made the point after and the score was now tied at 28.

Things wouldn’t get much better for the Ravens.  On second and eight from the 18, Flacco was picked off at the 37 by safety Devin McCourty.  That gave the Patriots excellent field position and they had a great chance to take the lead.  That didn’t happen.  Three plays netted zero yards and instead of trying a long field goal, they opted to punt.  The punt only went 17 yards and the Ravens took over at their 20.  On third and two from the 28, Flacco was sacked for a loss of 15 yards.  The ball came loose and was recovered by the Patriots at the four-yard line.  But that play was wiped out by a defensive holding call on cornerback Darrelle Revis.  That gave the Ravens a first down at the 33.  The Ravens turned to their ground game and Forsett carried his team to the New England 45-yard line.  Two completions to fullback Kyle Juszczyk netted a first down at the 25.  The Ravens would get as far as the seven-yard line and the drive was brought to a halt there.  Tucker came into the game to attempt a 25-yard field goal.  The kick was good and the Ravens led 31-28 with 10:17 to go in the game.

The Patriots took over at their 26 and Brady continued to throw on every down.  Completions to Edelman and LaFell moved the ball to the 41.  From the 41, Brady completed a short pass to Vereen.  As he was fighting for more yardage, the ball came loose and was recovered by the Ravens.  However, replay showed his knee was down and the Patriots kept the ball.  From the 50, Brady ran up the middle for a gain of two and a first down at the Baltimore 48-yard line.  Completions to four different receivers moved the ball to the 23.  From the 23, Brady threw to his left and the pass was hauled in by LaFell for a touchdown.  Gostkowski made the point after and the Patriots led 35-31 with 5:13 to go in the game.

A penalty on the kickoff moved the Ravens back to their 11-yard line.  Flacco methodically moved his team down the field.  With two minutes to go, the Ravens had a first down at the New England 41.  An offside penalty on the Patriots gave the Ravens a first down at the 36.  Instead of trying to get a few more first downs, Flacco went deep up the left side for T. Smith and the pass was picked off in the end zone by safety Duron Harmon.  With 1:39 remaining, Brady took a knee three times.  The Ravens called their final timeout and the Patriots punted the ball away with 14 seconds on the clock.  Jones fielded the punt at the Baltimore 44 and ran out of bounds at the 48.  With four seconds left, Flacco put up a Hail Mary that fell incomplete.  That was it.  The Patriots came away with a 35-31 win.

For the Ravens, Joe Flacco completed 28 of 45 for 292 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions.  Wide receiver Marlon Brown led the team in receptions with five and Torrey Smith had the most receiving yards with 62.  Justin Forsett had himself a very good game as he ran for 129 yards on 24 carries.  He also caught one touchdown pass.  As a team, the Ravens rushed for 136 yards on 28 carries.  Defensively, defensive back Rashaan Melvin led the team in solo tackles with nine.

For the Patriots, Tom Brady completed 33 of 50 for 367 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.  Julian Edelman led the team in receptions with eight and Rob Gronkowski led the team in receiving yards with 108.  There’s hardly anything to talk about when it comes to the ground game.  The Patriots ran the ball only 13 times and gained 14 yards.  Defensively, linebacker Jamie Collins led the team in solo tackles with eight.

The Patriots will now face the visiting Indianapolis Colts in the AFC title game on Sunday at 6:40 eastern time.

Cowboys 24, Lions 20

The fourth and final game of wildcard weekend featured the Detroit Lions heading south to Dallas, Texas to take on the Cowboys.  The Cowboys started at their 20-yard line and had a quick three and out.  Punter Chris Jones hit a 41-yard punt that was downed at the Detroit 38-yard line.  On second and ten from the 49, quarterback Matt Stafford went deep for wide receiver Golden Tate and he hauled in the pass for a 51-yard touchdown.  Kicker Matt Prater made the point after and the Lions jumped out to an early 7-0 lead with 11:22 to go in the first quarter.

The Cowboys managed to get a first down on their next possession, but the drive came to a halt when quarterback Tony Romo couldn’t complete a pass on fourth and seven to wide receiver Cole Beasley.  Jones punted and the ball was downed at the Detroit one-yard line.  Three plays netted five yards and the Lions were forced to punt.  Punter Sam Martin’s punt went out of bounds at the Detroit 44-yard line.  Wait a minute.  There’s a flag on the play.  The Cowboys were flagged for running into the kicker and that gave the Lions a first down at the 12-yard line.  A short pass to Tate and a scramble by Stafford netted a first down at the 23-yard line.  An 11-yard carry by running back Joique Bell, a nine-yard pass to wide receiver Calvin Johnson and an 18-yard pass to Bell moved the Lions into Dallas territory.  Two more carries by Bell put them at the 18.  From the 18, running back Reggie Bush ran up the left side for a touchdown to cap a 99-yard drive.  Prater made the point after and the Lions were up 14-0 with two minutes to go in the first quarter.

The Cowboys still couldn’t get the ball rolling and ended up punting again.  As a matter of fact, there was a lot of punting going on until the 2:15 mark.  That’s when the Cowboys finally got on the board.  On third and 12 from the 24, Romo let one fly and the pass was caught for a 76-yard touchdown by wide receiver Terrance Williams.  Kicker Dan Bailey made the point after and the Lions led 14-7 with 1:37 to go in the first half.

The Lions started at their 20 and two passes to running back Theo Riddick gained 20 yards.  From the 40, Stafford completed a 19-yard pass to Johnson.  That was followed by an incomplete pass and a five-yard pass to wide receiver Corey Fuller.  That set up a third and five from the Dallas 36.  Stafford completed a pass to Tate that was ruled short of the first down marker.  But replay showed that the yardage gained was good enough for a first down.  Stafford completed a nine-yard pass to Bush as time was running short.  With three seconds to go in the half, Prater made his 39-yard field goal attempt and the Lions led 17-7 at halftime.

Things got off to a great start for the Cowboys in the second half.  Stafford looked for Tate over the middle and the pass was picked off by linebacker Kyle Wilber.  That gave the Cowboys the ball at the Detroit 19-yard line.  But on third and one from the ten, Romo was sacked for a loss of 13 yards by defensive end Ezekiel Ansah.  Well, Bailey is a good kicker.  He shouldn’t have much trouble with a 41-yard field goal.  Wrong.  The kick sailed wide right and the Cowboys failed to cash in on a golden opportunity.

The Lions took over at their 31 and on second and six, Stafford found tight end Brandon Pettigrew for a gain of 11 yards.  After a short carry by Bush, Stafford looked for Johnson again and found him for a gain of 28 yards and a first down at the Dallas 26-yard line.  But the drive would stall at the 19-yard line.  Prater came on again and his 37-yard field goal attempt was good.  That gave the Lions a 20-7 lead with 8:41 to go in the third quarter.

The Cowboys took over at their 20 and moved the ball with running back DeMarco Murray.  Murray had three carries and a seven-yard reception.  That gave them a first down at the 50-yard line.  On third and ten from the 50, Romo threw a short pass to his left that was caught by wide receiver Dez Bryant.  Bryant turned on the speed and weaved his way through several defenders.  He was finally dragged down at the seven-yard line.  Murray took it the rest of the way on the next play, but the play was called back due to a holding penalty on the Cowboys.  From the 17, Romo found Beasley across the middle for a gain of 15 yards.  From the two, Romo completed a short pass to tight end Jason Witten, but he was stopped short of the end zone.  On third and goal from the one, Murray ran up the middle and was stuffed for no gain.  That brought up a crucial fourth and goal from the one.  The Cowboys decided to go for it and Murray ran off left tackle for a touchdown.  Bailey made the point after and the Lions lead was now 20-14 with 2:54 to go in the third quarter.

The Lions had a quick three and out on their next possession and the Cowboys took over at their 31.  They quickly moved to mid-field as Romo found Beasley for a gain of 19 yards.  Murray ran for five more yards and on second and five from the Detroit 45, Romo completed another pass to Beasley.  This one was good for 12 yards.  Then another flag was thrown.  Unnecessary roughness was called on the Lions and the Cowboys now had a first down at the 18.  That’s when the Lion defense stepped up.  Murray was stuffed for no gain and Romo was sacked on back to back plays.  That was meant it was time for Bailey to try another field goal.  His 51-yard attempt was good and the Lions led 20-17 with 12:16 to go in the game.

The Lions got the ball back at their five-yard line.  On second and 12 from the three, Stafford completed a 21-yard pass to Fuller for a first down at the 24.  A short run by Bush and a 19-yard pass to Johnson moved the Lions to the Dallas 45-yard line.  From the 45, Bush ran for a gain of four yards.  Bell got the call on the next play and ran for five yards.  That made it third and one from the 46.  Instead of running it again, Stafford threw to the left side for Pettigrew.  The pass was incomplete due to the fact that Pettigrew was interfered with by linebacker Anthony Hitchens.  The flags flew and it looked like the Lions would have another first down.  All of a sudden, the flag was picked up and the zebras reversed the call.  You’ve GOT to be kidding.  Actually, when it comes to the NFL, hardly anything I see the zebras do shocks me.  Still, that was definitely pass interference.  That made it fourth and one from the 46.  All the Lions needed to do was get one yard to keep the drive alive.  Instead, Stafford tried to draw the Cowboys offside.  In other words, he didn’t snap the ball and took a delay of game penalty.  Lions, you baffle me.  You really do.  To make things really incredible, Martin shanked the punt.  It went TEN freaking yards.

Starting at the 41, the Cowboys went to work.  A 13-yard pass to Murray got them into Detroit territory.  That was followed by a few short runs by Murray and Romo completed a 21-yard pass to Witten on fourth and six.  The pass to Witten gave the Cowboys a first down at the 21.  A defensive holding on the Lions netted another first down at the 16.  The next two plays gained three yards and on third and seven, Romo completed a short pass to running back Lance Dunbar, but he was thrown for a loss of two yards.  Wait a minute.  There’s another flag on the ground.  This time, it was defensive holding on linebacker DeAndre Levy.  That gave the Cowboys a first down at the eight-yard line.  An incomplete pass on first down was followed by a five-yard run by Murray.  That moved the ball to the three-yard line.  A false start on the Cowboys moved them back to the eight.  From the eight, Romo took the snap, had time and fired a pass across the middle that was caught by Williams for a touchdown.  Bailey made the point after and the Cowboys led 24-20 with 2:32 to go in the game.

The Lions took over at their 20 and on second and four, Stafford was sacked by defensive end Anthony Spencer.  The ball came loose and it was recovered by defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence.  All he had to do was fall on it and that would pretty much seal a win for the Cowboys.  Instead, he tried to advance it and the ball was loose once again.  It was recovered by offensive tackle Riley Reiff and the Lions retained possession at their 23-yard line.  With two minutes to go, Stafford spread the ball around to three different receivers and moved into Dallas territory.  On fourth and three from the Dallas 42, Stafford was sacked for a loss of nine.  The ball came loose again and Lawrence fell on it.  That was the nail in the coffin.  The Cowboys came from behind and won 24-20.

For the Lions, Matthew Stafford completed 28 of 42 for 323 yards, one touchdown and one interception.  Golden Tate led the team in receptions with six and receiving yards with 89.  On the ground, the Lions rushed for 90 yards on 22 carries.  Joique Bell was the leading rusher with 43 yards on 12 carries.  Defensively, linebacker James Ihedigbo led the team in solo tackles with seven.  Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh led the team in sacks with two.

For the Cowboys, Tony Romo completed 19 of 31 for 293 yards and two touchdowns.  Jason Witten led the team in receptions with five and Terrance Williams had the most receiving yards with 92 and two touchdowns.  DeMarco Murray carried the ball 19 times for 75 yards and a touchdown.  The only other player with any rushing stats is Romo.  He had two carries for minus two yards.  Defensively, safety J.J. Wilcox led the team in solo tackles with seven.

Up next for the Cowboys is a trip to Green Bay to take on the Packers.  That game will be on Sunday at 1:05 eastern time.

 

Colts 26, Bengals 10

The third game on wildcard weekend featured the Cincinnati Bengals traveling to Indianapolis, Indiana to take on the Colts.  These teams met earlier in the year and the Colts came away with a dominating 27-0 win.  Kicker Mike Nugent sent the opening kickoff nine yards deep and return man Josh Cribbs ran it out to the 29-yard line.  Quarterback Andrew Luck led his offense onto the field and quickly completed a short pass to running back Daniel Herron that went for 18 yards.  A neutral zone penalty on the Bengals and more completions to Herron moved the ball to the Cincinnati 40-yard line.  With all the success Herron was having, Luck threw another pass to him and this time it went for a gain of 27 to give the Colts a first down at the 13.  Three plays later, Herron took it up the middle for a two-yard touchdown.  Kicker Adam Vinatieri made the point after and the Colts led 7-0 with 11:05 to go in the first quarter.

The Bengals started their first drive of the game from their own 20.  Without wide receiver A.J. Green and tight end Jermaine Gresham, they would have to rely heavily on their running game.  From the 20, running back Rex Burkhead ran up the left side for a gain of 23 yards.  Three carries by running back Jeremy Hill netted 11 yards and a first down at the Indianapolis 46-yard line.  But the drive would come to an end at the 39.  Punter Kevin Huber got off a high punt that was downed at the nine-yard line.

This time, the Bengal defense played much better and forced a three and out.  Punter Pat McAfee hit a nice 59-yard punt that was fielded at the Cincinnati 25 by return man Adam Jones.  He returned it one yard and the Bengals took over at their 26.  Quarterback Andy Dalton completed two passes to wide receiver Mohamed Sanu and they quickly moved to the 45-yard line.  Hill ran up the right side for a gain of 18 and a first down at the Indianapolis 37-yard line.  Dalton found Burkhead across the middle and he was dragged down at the five-yard line.  Two plays later, Hill ran up the middle for a one-yard touchdown.  Nugent made the point after and the game was knotted at seven with 1:28 to go in the first quarter.

Due to a poor kickoff return by return man Zurlon Tipton, the Colts started out at their nine-yard line.  On third and three from the 16, Luck couldn’t find an open receiver and ran up the middle for an 18-yard gain.  Two completions to wide receiver T.Y. Hilton moved the Colts down to the Cincinnati 20-yard line.  Some more bad news arose for the Bengals.  Middle linebacker Rey Maualuga injured his hamstring and did not return.  The drive came to an end at the 20 as Luck’s pass for wide receiver Reggie Wayne fell incomplete.  Vinatieri had no problem making his 38-yard field goal attempt and the Colts led 10-7 with 12:41 to go in the second quarter.

After a three and out by the Bengals, the Colts got the ball back at their 36-yard line.  On second down from the 38, Luck went deep up the right side and the pass was caught for a gain of 45 yards by wide receiver Hakeem Nicks.  But they couldn’t find the end zone again and the drive stalled at the Cincinnati 11-yard line.  Vinatieri came on and his 29-yard field goal was good. The Colts now led 13-7 with 8:34 to go in the second quarter.

The Bengals punted on their next possession and the Colts took over at their nine-yard line with five minutes to go in the half.  Completions to Hilton, Nicks and tight end Dwayne Allen moved them to their 31.  From the 31, Luck hooked up with Hilton again for a gain of 25 yards.  It certainly looked like the Colts were going to add to their lead before halftime.  But that wasn’t the case.  Luck completed another pass to Herron and as he was heading up-field, the ball was knocked loose and recovered by safety Reggie Nelson at the Cincinnati 41.  With time running short, the Bengals managed to get in field goal range and Nugent came on for a 57-yard attempt.  The kick bounced off the left upright and went through.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a kicker that happy.  At halftime, the Colts led 13-10.

The second half was an absolute disaster for the Bengals.  Although their defense played admirably, the offense was horrible.  They couldn’t get a first down and it wouldn’t surprise me if Huber has a sore leg from all that punting.  I’d like to write about some of the drives they had, but they only gained 20 yards on their first five possessions of the second half.  Meanwhile, the Colts continued to rack up more yards on the ground and through the air.  Rookie wide receiver Donte Moncrief caught a 36-yard touchdown pass and Vinatieri added two more field goals to give the Colts a 26-10 win.

For the Bengals, Andy Dalton completed 18 of 35 for 155 yards.  Giovani Bernard led the team in receptions with eight and receiving yards with 46.  As a team, the Bengals rushed for 110 yards on 21 carries.  I really thought Jeremy Hill was going to get a lot of carries in this game.  He only carried the ball 13 times for 47 yards and a touchdown.  Defensively, Emmanuel Lamur led the team in solo tackles with six.

For the Colts, Andrew Luck had all day to throw and completed 31 of 44 for 376 yards and one touchdown.  Daniel Herron led the team in receptions with ten and T.Y. Hilton had the most receiving yards with 103.  As a team, the Colts rushed for 114 yards on 25 carries.  Herron was the leading rusher with 56 yards on 12 carries.  Defensively, linebacker Jerrell Freeman and safety Mike Adams tied for the lead in solo tackles with seven apiece.  Freeman also had 1.5 sacks.

Up next for the Colts is a trip to Denver to take on the Denver Broncos.  That game will be on Sunday at 4:40 eastern time.

 

Ravens 30, Steelers 17

The second game of wildcard weekend had the Baltimore Ravens heading up to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers.  These teams are division rivals and are very familiar with one another.  Kicker Josh Tucker sent the opening kickoff deep into the end zone and the Steelers started at their 20-yard line.  They took 6:27 off the clock and moved into Baltimore territory, but they came away with no points.  Instead of trying a 55-yard field goal, head coach Mike Tomlin decided it would be a wise decision to punt.  Brad Wing’s punt was downed at the Baltimore seven-yard line.  The Ravens ran three plays and punted the ball right back to the Steelers.

Starting with good position at the Pittsburgh 40, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed an eight-yard pass to wide receiver Antonio Brown.  That was followed by a five-yard carry by rookie running back Josh Harris.  Harris got the call again and he was thrown for a loss of two yards.  Roethlisberger went to the air again and two completions to rookie wide receiver Martavis Bryant netted 29 yards.  That set them up with a first down at the Baltimore 20.  Unfortunately for the Steelers, the next three plays would lose seven yards.  Kicker Shaun Suisham came on and his 45-yard field goal attempt was good.  That put the Steelers up 3-0 with 1:29 to go in the first quarter.

The Ravens started at their 20 and quarterback Joe Flacco went deep on first down for wide receiver Jacoby Jones.  The pass was incomplete, but safety Mike Mitchell was flagged for a helmet to helmet hit.  That moved the ball to the 35.  Flacco threw to his right and the pass was caught by tight end Owen Daniels for a gain of 18 yards.  Two carries by running back Justin Forsett netted another first down and the Ravens were in Steeler territory.  From the 36, Flacco hooked up with Daniels again for a gain of ten yards.  That was followed by two more carries by Forsett and that gave them a first down at the five-yard line.  Two plays later, running back Bernard Pierce took it in from five yards out for a touchdown.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens led 7-3 with 12:28 to go in the second quarter.

Return man Markus Wheaton fielded the ensuing kickoff five yards deep and decided to run it out.  Not a good idea.  He was brought down at the 14-yard line.  From the 14, Roethlisberger completed an 18-yard pass to Brown.  On third and ten from the 32, Roethlisberger found tight end Heath Miller for a gain of 30 and a first down at the Baltimore 38-yard line.  The next three plays netted nine yards and Suisham was brought into the game for a field goal attempt.  But the Ravens were flagged for having 12 men on the field.  That gave the Steelers a first down at the 24.  Roethlisberger completed a short pass to Tate on first down.  But another flag was thrown and the Ravens were flagged for unnecessary roughness.  That moved the ball to the ten.  The Ravens brought some pressure and Roethlisberger was sacked for a loss of nine by defensive tackle Brandon Williams.  That was followed by a short pass to Brown and a 12-yard pass to Bryant.  That set up a fourth and goal from the four.  Suisham had no problem making his 22-yard field goal attempt and the Ravens now led 7-6 with 5:40 to go in the second quarter.

The Ravens started at their 20 and Flacco hooked up with wide receiver Steve Smith for a gain of 23 yards.  A four-yard pass to wide receiver Kamar Aiken and an eight-yard run by Forsett moved them into Pittsburgh territory.  Add another personal foul penalty on the Steelers and the Ravens had a first down at the 30.  From the 30, Flacco found Daniels for a gain of 19 yards and a first down at the 11.  But they would only gain one yard on their next three plays.  Tucker was brought in for a 28-yard field goal attempt and the kick was good.  That put the Ravens up 10-6 with 2:41 to go in the second quarter.

Another short kick return by Wheaton had the Steelers starting their next possession at their 18-yard line.  Roethlisberger got his team to mid-field with an 11-yard pass to Miller, a 14-yard pass to Bryant and a seven-yard pass to running back Dri Archer.  A six-yard pass to wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey and an 11-yard pass to Wheaton netted a first down at the 33.  The drive stalled at the 29 and Suisham came on for a 47-yard field goal attempt.  The kick was good and the Ravens led 10-9 at halftime.

The Ravens started their first drive of the second half at their 16-yard line.  On third and 14, Flacco looked his right and found wide receiver Torrey Smith for a gain of 17 yards.  A seven-yard completion to fullback Kyle Juszczyk and a short run by Forsett had the Ravens in a third and short situation.  Instead of trying to run it up the gut, Flacco went deep for S. Smith.  The pass was incomplete, but some more yellow laundry was thrown onto the field.  Unfortunately for the Steelers, they weren’t terrible towels.  They were penalty flags.  Defensive pass interference was the call and the Ravens now had the ball at the Pittsburgh 31.  On first down, Flacco was sacked for a loss of 13 by linebacker Sean Spence.  The ball came loose, but the Ravens recovered it at the 44-yard line.  A short pass to Jones and a 14-yard pass to Smith put the Ravens back in field goal range.  Tucker’s 45-yard field goal attempt was good and the Ravens went up 13-9 with ten minutes to go in the third quarter.

The Steelers punted on their next possession and the Ravens took over at their 31-yard line.  Two completions to S. Smith quickly moved them down to the Pittsburgh 23.  A nine-yard pass to Juszczyk and a five-yard scramble by Flacco moved the ball down to the nine-yard line.  Two plays later, Flacco lofted a pass to the corner of the end zone and it was hauled in by T. Smith for a touchdown.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens increased their lead to 20-9 with 4:13 to go in the third quarter.

The Steelers couldn’t get moving and after eight plays netted just 14 yards, they punted again.  The Ravens took over at their 17 and a completion to S. Smith and some good running by Forsett moved them to the 42-yard line.  On third and eight from the 44, Forsett caught a pass and was brought down just short of a first down.  Flacco took it up the middle on fourth down and gained two yards for a first down at the Pittsburgh 47-yard line.  From the 47, Forsett ran up the left side and the ball came loose.  Defensive end Stephon Tuitt recovered the fumble and that gave the Steelers the ball at the 45-yard line.  Roethlisberger went deep for Brown on first down and it appeared he made a 45-yard touchdown catch.  But replay showed he was down at the one.  That was followed by a false start that moved them back to the six.  From the six, Roethlisberger threw to the right and Bryant caught it for a touchdown.  They decided to go for two, but the pass intended for Brown was picked off by safety Matt Elam.  With 11 minutes to go in the game, the Ravens led 20-15.

Jones returned the kickoff to the 22, but the Steelers were flagged for unnecessary roughness.  That moved the ball to the 37-yard line.  The next two plays lost three yards and that put the Ravens in a third and 13 situation.  If the Steelers could get a stop here, they’d be in position to take the lead.  That didn’t happen.  Flacco found Daniels across the middle and he gained 23 yards on the play.  That gave the Ravens a first down at the Pittsburgh 43-yard line.  From the 43, Flacco hooked up with wide receiver Marlon Brown for a gain of nine.  On third and one from the 34, Flacco went deep for S. Smith, but it was incomplete.  Tucker came on again for another field goal attempt.  His 52-yard attempt split the uprights and the Ravens went up 23-15 with 8:47 to go in the game.

The Steelers still had a shot to tie the game up.  But on third and four from the 26, Roethlisberger felt the pressure and dumped off a short pass to Tate.  The ball hit his hands, but he couldn’t handle it and it was picked off by defensive end Terrell Suggs.  The Ravens wasted no time in getting another score as Flacco dumped a short pass off to tight end Crockett Gillmore and he took it the rest of the way for a 21-yard touchdown.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens led 30-15 with 7:56 to go in the game.

The Steelers knew they had to score quickly.  But they were anything but quick on their next drive.  Granted, they moved the ball well, but they weren’t using the no huddle offense consistently.  To top that off, Roethlisberger left the game after getting his bell rung.  He was replaced by Bruce Gradkowski.  Gradkowski completed two of three passes for 22 yards.  On second and ten from the Baltimore 14, Roethlisberger came back into the game and promptly threw a pass that was picked off by safety Darian Stewart.  That pretty much sealed the deal.  The Steelers did manage to block a punt late in the game for a safety, but that was way too little way too late.  The Ravens came away with a 30-17 win.

For the Ravens, Joe Flacco completed 18 of 29 for 259 yards and two touchdowns.  Steve Smith led the team in receptions with five and receiving yards with 101.  There wasn’t much of a ground game to speak of for the Ravens.  They totaled 49 yards rushing on 25 carries.  Defensively, linebacker Daryl Smith led the team in solo tackles with nine.

For the Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger completed 31 of 45 for 334 yards, one touchdown and two very costly interceptions.  Antonio Brown led the team in receptions with nine and receiving yards with 117.  Like the Ravens, there wasn’t much of a ground game to speak of.  As a team, the Steelers rushed for 68 yards on 19 carries.  Defensively, safety Troy Polamalu led the team in solo tackles with five.

Up next for the Ravens is a trip to New England to face the Patriots.  That game will be on Saturday at 4:35 eastern time.