LOS ANGELES, January 14, 2014 — The NFL 2013-2014 Divisional Playoffs are in the history books. Next comes the AFC and NFC Title Games for the right to go to Super Bowl XLVIII. Here is the Divisionals wrap-up.
New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks — Only a month after getting blasted, 34-7, the Saints came back to Seattle. Early on, the Sean Payton and Drew Brees offensive wizardry got belted by Richard Sherman and the Legion of Boom Seattle defense.
Drew Brees has passed for over 5,000 yards the past four regular seasons and is the only quarterback in NFL history with more than one season doing so. Brees had only 34 yards in the first half of this game. Marshawn Lynch ran for a 15-yard touchdown and Steve Hauschka kicked three field goals, as the Seahawks took a 16-0 lead into the locker rooms.
After a scoreless third quarter, the Saints made a game of it when Khiry Robinson banged in from third and goal at the one. Mark Ingram ran in the two-point conversion to get the Saints within 16-8 with 13 minutes left in regulation.
With three minutes left Russell Wilson had just 79 yards passing, with only 11 yards in the second half. On third and three, rather than run down the clock, Pete Carroll trusted his quarterback in the wind and rain. Wilson went deep to Doug Baldwin for a 24-yard gain. On the next play Lynch broke free for a 31-yard touchdown to make it 23-8, Seahawks.
Brees led a furious rally, and on fourth and six from the nine, hit Marques Colston for the touchdown with 26 seconds to play. The onside kick went straight to Golden Tate, bounced off his chest and was recovered by Colston. With 11 seconds left from midfield, Brees hit Colston for a 12 yard gain.
Colston had plenty of time to get out of bounds to set up the Hail Mary. Instead, Colston inexplicably tried to replay the 1999 Tennessee Music City Miracle by firing the ball across the field. Unfortunately, his throw was clearly a forward pass and not a lateral.
The penalty meant a ten second runoff, ending the game without Brees getting one more shot. The Seahawks are headed to the NFC Title Game one week later in their own stadium. 23-8 Seahawks
Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots — Wind and rain greeted the teams, and one minute into the game Andrew Luck was intercepted by Alfonzo Dennard, who raced 27 yards to the Colts two. LeGarrette Blount banged in for three two-yard touchdowns as the Patriots led, 21-7, early in the second quarter.
A pair of field goals and a safety had the Colts within 21-15 in the third quarter, but Shawn Ridley ran it in from three yards out to make it 29-15, Patriots. Luck would throw a 35-yard touchdown to LaVon Brazill, in addition to their earlier 38-yard touchdown connection.
The Colts only trailed, 29-22, after three quarters. The Patriots put the game away in the fourth quarter. Blount’s fourth touchdown was a 73-yard burst and Stevan Ridley’s second touchdown came from one yard out to salt it away.
While Brady was held to less than 200 yards passing and zero touchdowns, six touchdowns on the ground was more than enough when combined with Luck’s four interceptions. New England is on its way to the AFC Title Game for the third straight season and the eighth time in the last 13 years. 43-22 Patriots
San Francisco 49ers at Carolina Panthers — This was expected to be a hard hitting affair, and it was. The 49ers defense had two goal line stands from the one yard line. A pair of Phil Dawson field goals had the 49ers leading 6-0 after the opening quarter.
A 31-yard touchdown pass from Cam Newton to Steve Smith and a short Graham Gano field goal had the Panthers up 10-6 with four minutes left in the half. Colin Kaepernick led the 49ers down the field, and on third and goal from the one Kaepernick fired to Anquan Boldin in the end zone with five seconds left in the half. Initially ruled incomplete, it was reversed to a touchdown and a 13-10 49ers lead at halftime.
In the third quarter, Kaepernick went deep to Boldin for a 45-yard gain and then ran it in from four yards out himself to make it 20-10 49ers. After Newton led an eight-minute drive that ended in consecutive sacks, Kaepernick then led an eight-minute drive of his own that led to Dawson’s third field goal from 34 yards out that made it 23-10, 49ers, midway through the fourth quarter.
An interception of Newton with 4 1/2 minutes to play sealed Carolina’s fate and sent San Francisco to their third straight NFC Title Game. They travel to archival Seattle, who they barely survived at home but got throttled by in Seattle. 23-10 49ers
San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos — Peyton Manning threw a two-yard first quarter touchdown to Denarius Thomas and a three-yard second quarter touchdown toss to Wes Welker. Matt Prater added a field goal as the Broncos led, 17-0, after three quarters.
The Chargers had only 79 yards of total offense entering the fourth quarter. On third and four from the Denver 16 with 13 minutes left in regulation, Philip Rivers went to the end zone to Keenan Allen to finally get the Chargers on the board and down 17-7.
A three-yard Knowshon Moreno touchdown midway through the fourth quarter made it 24-7.
Rivers found Allen again with six minutes to play to get within ten, 24-14, and Nick Novak executed a perfect onside kick. Novak hit a 30-yard field goal with four minutes left. Down by seven with two timeouts, Mike McCoy elected to kick it off and trust his defense.
With three minutes left and Denver facing third and 17 from their 20, Manning fired to Julius Thomas for a 21-yard gain. On third and six from the Denver 45, Manning hit Thomas again for nine yards just before the two-minute warning.
On third and one with 1:12 to play, Moreno finally put the game away and sent Denver to the AFC Title Game in their own stadium that eluded them last year. They host New England in another anticipated epic between Manning and Brady. 24-17 Broncos
The Conference Title Games are both set for Sunday, January 19, 2014 (all times EST).
AFC Title Game—New England Patriots at Denver Broncos, 3:00 p.m. on CBS.
NFC Title Game—San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks, 6:30 p.m. on FOX.