NFL divisionals set up conference championships
Allen Bridge, ‘Doah Staff Writer
January 15, 2014
Then there were four. The Denver Broncos and New England Patriots both won their games at home to set up the AFC Championship while the Seattle Seahawks won at home and the San Francisco 49ers won at Carolina to set up the NFC Championship.
Many believe these four teams to be the best in football and after their showings this weekend; it’s hard to dispute that.
On Saturday Jan. 13, the first game was between the New Orleans Saints and the Seattle Seahawks. It featured a matchup of a high powered offense from the Saints led by quarterback Drew Brees, and a stout defense with the Seahawks led by their secondary, called the “Legion of Boom.”
The two teams met earlier in the season with Seattle dominating as they held the Saints to only seven points, winning 34-7. This game would be no different through the first three quarters as Seattle was rolling on defense, limiting opportunities for Brees and shutting out the Saints.
Down 16-0 in the fourth, the Saints made things interesting as running back Khiry Robinson ran in a touchdown from a yard out and running back Mark Ingram ran in the two point conversion to cut the Seahawks lead in half. Seattle then put the lead up 15 as running back Marshawn Lynch scored from 31 yards out with just under three minutes left to play.
With plenty of time left, Brees marched the Saints down the field hitting receiver Marques Colston for a nine yard touchdown pass to make the score 23-15. The Saints then recovered the onside kick with 24 seconds left to play.
With momentum swinging in favor of the Saints, Colston made a huge mistake. After catching a pass from Brees, Colston turned away from the sideline and threw a forward lateral five yards up the field to one of his teammates. Instead of stepping out of bounds with nine seconds left, Colston cost his team the game. By rule, there was a ten second run off the clock due to the forward lateral, officially ending the Saints season with a final score of 23-15.
The other game on Saturday was between the Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts. This game featured the running game of the Patriots as they rushed for six touchdowns. Star quarterback Tom Brady did not have to pass the ball much as running backs LeGarrette Blount and Stevan Ridley accounted for the six scores. Blount started the game off with two touchdowns from two yards out to give the Patriots an early 14-0 lead.
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck cut the lead to seven on a 38-yard touchdown pass to receiver LaVon Brazill. After leading his team to a come from behind victory over the Chiefs last weekend, this week was not a good one for Luck. He threw four interceptions in the game and was never able to really find any rhythm as the Patriots defense held strong.
Blount would score two more touchdowns from two yards and 73 yards while Ridley scored his two touchdowns from three yards and one yard to give the Patriots a 43-22 win over the Colts.
The first game on Sunday was between the Carolina Panthers and the 49ers. In a game that was sure to be hard hitting and a defensive showcase, the 49ers were looking to avenge their loss to the Panthers from earlier in the season.
The game started out very physical with tempers flaring as the Panthers defense began racking up penalties for unnecessary roughness. Both offenses were not able to generate much as the defenses would not give way to either team. The halftime score was 13-10 in favor of the 49ers.
The second half would be a different story. The 49ers defense applied pressure to quarterback Cam Newton forcing him into errant throws. Newton was intercepted twice in the game and sacked five times as he could not get anything going on offense.
The 49ers offense was able to move the ball down the field scoring 10 points in the second half and more importantly, wasting clock as the 49ers won the game 23-10.
The last game of the weekend was between the San Diego Chargers and the Broncos. A matchup of divisional foes, who split their series with each team winning on the road, set up another big showdown between quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers.
The Chargers looked to continue their success against the Broncos in controlling the clock and keeping Manning and his high powered offense off the field for as long as they can.
However, the Chargers could get nothing going early as Denver quickly took a 14-0 lead going into halftime. Denver would go on to increase their lead to 17 by the end of the third quarter, continuing to shut out the Chargers.
San Diego began to make their comeback attempt as Rivers found receiver Keenan Allen often, this time hitting him for a 16-yard strike for a touchdown. Denver responded as Knowshon Moreno ran for a touchdown from three yards out to increase the Denver lead with the score at 24-7. The Chargers would not go away though as Rivers found Allen again for another 16-yard touchdown and kicker Nick Novak connected on a 30-yard field goal to make it a one score game with a little under four minutes left. Denver however was able to hold on winning the game 24-17 to advance to the AFC championship.
Next week’s championship games are sure to be exciting. The AFC championship features two of the best quarterbacks in Manning and Brady as they renew their rivalry.
The past two times these two have met, the winning quarterback has gone on to win the Super Bowl. The NFC championship features two of the league’s best defenses and division rivals in the Seahawks and the 49ers.
The rivalry is hard-hitting and heated as the two teams split their games earlier in the season. The trash talking is sure to be plenty between the two teams as a trip to New York is on the line.