NFL Divisional Round Recap

New England Patriots (27) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (20)

Box Score from ESPN

o-TOM-BRADY-SLEEP-facebook-1-1940x970The Chiefs had won eleven straight games; their last loss came in October. Unfortunately for them and all of the anti-Patriot fans, that streak came to an end Saturday. The game was not as close as it appears, (at least until the last few minutes), as the Patriots took a 27-13 lead and then “took their foot off the gas.”

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady finally had his favorite receiver back, as Julian Edelman played for the first time in two months. Brady and Edelman picked up where they left off, with Edelman catching 10 passes for 100 yards. Tight-end Rob Gronkowski, Brady’s other favorite, caught both of Brady’s two passing touchdowns of the game.

Kansas City’s biggest problem in this game was the lack of a consistent pass rush. Normally a top-notch group, the outside-linebacker combination of Justin Houston and Tamba Hali didn’t manage a single sack. To put that in perspective, Houston and Hali alone combined for fourteen sacks in the regular season.

Play of the game: Julian Edelman catches the deflected pass to seal the win

MVP of the game: Tom Brady. 302 passing yards, 3 touchdowns (1 rushing)

Arizona Cardinals (26) vs. Green Bay Packers (20) in OT

Box Score from ESPN

This season, the Cardinals were ranked the number-one offense and the number-five defense. Arguably the most well-rounded team in the NFL, the Cardinals needed to rise to the occasion against a suddenly surging Packers team. It took them an extra period, but the Cardinals were able to do just that.

Carson Palmer, the Cardinals quarterback, turned the ball over twice with interceptions, but he was precise when he needed to be. The true star of the game though, was receiver Larry Fitzgerald. His 8 catches for 176 yards (and one touchdown) proved to be the difference that the Cardinals needed.

For the Packers, they deserve credit for fighting until the very end. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, with 0:00 on the clock, completed a 41-yard hail-mary pass to Jeff Janis to send the game to overtime. The Cardinals scored on the very first drive of overtime though, ending the Packers season before they could get the ball back.

Play of the game: Larry Fitzgerald catches-and-runs for 75 yards on the opening play of OT

MVP of the game: Larry Fitzgerald. The long-time Cardinal had 8 catches, 176 yards, and the winning TD

Carolina Panthers (31) vs. Seattle Seahawks (24)

Box Score from ESPN

cropped_USPW_485264This game looked over at halftime. The Panthers had knocked the game wide open, collecting a 31-0 lead. As NFL-insider Adam Schefter will tell you, “no team in the Divisional Playoff Round ever has overcome a 31-point deficit.” This had all the makings of a blowout.

Something clicked for the Seahawks at halftime though, and they scored on four of their five drives in the second half. Russell Wilson, who was intercepted twice in the first half, connected on three second-half touchdowns. Kicker Steven Hauschka nailed a 36-yard field goal with 1:12 left to cut the Panthers lead to 7 points.

The Seahawks, out of timeouts and quickly running out of options, decided to try an onside kick. The ball bounced, and for a moment there were shades of last season’s NFC Championship, but in the end Thomas Davis got his arms around it and secured the victory for Carolina.

Play of the game: Luke Kuechly intercepts Russell Wilson and returns it for a TD

MVP of the game: Jonathan Stewart. 19 carries, 106 yards, and 2 touchdowns

Denver Broncos (23) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (16)

Box Score from ESPN

I wrote about the Broncos’ tough choice between Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler, and in the end, coach Gary Kubiak decided to go with the veteran Manning at quarterback. This proved to be a great choice, as he passed for 222 yards, but more importantly, didn’t turn the ball over once.

The Steelers held a 13-12 lead in the fourth quarter, but with ten minutes remaining in the game, they made a critical error that may have cost them the game. Steelers (third-string turned starter) running-back Fitzgerald Toussaint fumbled the ball, and the Broncos scored on their next drive to seal the victory.

The Broncos, an offensive juggernaut in past seasons, won because their defense was dominant. The Broncos held the Steelers to only 16 points, and forced the fumble that cost the Steelers the game. Standout receiver Antonio Brown was absent from the game, and the Steelers sorely missed him.

Play of the game: Peyton Manning passes short to Demaryius Thomas for 2-points to put the game out of reach

MVP of the game: Broncos Defense. Only 16 points allowed and a forced fumble

NEXT WEEK (Sunday January 23rd):

AFC Championship:

  • New England Patriots @ Denver Broncos – 3:05 PM ET on CBS

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NFC Championship:

  • Arizona Cardinals @ Carolina Panthers – 6:40 PM ET on FOX

Panthers-Cardinals

Statistics provided by: ESPN.com

Images from ABC, Forbes, Waiver Hub, Cloudfront, Pro Football Focus, and Rant Sports

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