Two close games during this day, as now the Super Bowl participants have now been determined:
NFC Championship: Packers 21 Bears 14
It was very bitter cold at Soldier Field as the Packers put Chicago in a hole early. Thanks to quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay went up 21-0. To make matters worse for the Windy City, their quarterback, Jay Cutler, was injured. Then it reached a whole new level when his replacement, Todd Collins, had to be benched. Enter undrafted third string quarterback Caleb Hanie for the Bears. Hanie was impressive as he narrowed the lead to 7 points, before he threw a game-ending interception in the closing minutes. Green Bay makes its fifth Super Bowl appearance and first since the 1997-98 season.
AFC Championship: Jets 19 Steelers 24
Pittsburgh, similar to Green Bay, took a commanding 24-0 lead, with Ben Rothelisberger at the helm. But the Jets fought back to narrow the gap to within 5 points. In the final minutes, the Jets defense allowed a first down, when they couldn’t afford it, as the deficit proved too much. Pittsburgh prevailed to reach its 3rd Super Bowl in 6 years. Meanwhile, New York has lost two consecutive AFC Championships.
January 19, 2002
The “Tuck Rule” Game
Photo Credit: Oakland Raiders Blog
Nine years ago the New England Patriots played the Oakland Raiders in an AFC Divisional Playoff game. Played in New England, it was a very snowy setting. With about 90 seconds remaining, the Pats were down by 3 but had the ball. Quarterback Tom Brady dropped back to pass and after a pump fake, fumbled and the Raiders recovered. Although the play was under review, the replay appeared that Brady had possession of the ball before being hit and fumbling the ball. But according to the official, there was no fumble, only an incomplete pass. NFL rules state:
When [an offensive] player is holding the ball to pass it forward, any intentional forward movement of his arm starts a forward pass, even if the player loses possession of the ball as he is attempting to tuck it back toward his body. Also, if the player has tucked the ball into his body and then loses possession, it is a fumble.
This extremely controversial rule allowed the Patriots to tie and eventually win the game. New England wouldn’t stop there as they would defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers and then the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI.
This is footage of the play which occurs at 3:35 in the video:
The divisional round wrapped up with one expected outcome and one stunner. After last year’s Super Bowl featured both No. 1 seeds (Indy and New Orleans), both top seeds (Atlanta and New England) were eliminated in the divisional round.
Seattle Seahawks 24 Chicago Bears 35
The 8-9 Seahawks came into Soldier Field with confidence. Not only had they just beaten the defending champion New Orleans Saints, but they also edged Chicago 23-20 (in Chicago) during the regular season. The Bears must have forgotten about that loss. Chicago wasted no time by putting up 28 consecutive points. Quarterback Jay Cutler marched the Bears up and down the field, throwing two touchdowns in the process. Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselback responded by throwing for three touchdowns. But the 28-0 hole was too deep to climb as Chicago will play Green Bay next week for a trip to Super Bowl XLV.
Photo Credit: AP/Kiichiro Sato
Jay Cutler celebrates a touchdown in snowy Chicago.
New York Jets 28 New England Patriots 21
Sportsmanship: From the Encarta World English Dictionary, “Conduct considered fitting for a sportsperson, including observance of the rules of fair play, respect for others, and graciousness in losing.” Also, the opposite of what was seen Sunday Afternoon. Any youngsters watching this contest were learning plenty from Jets coach Rex Ryan and his players. Taunting, celebrating by sleeping in the end zone, a less than fit coach running to the end zone to congratulate his players, and yes, even doing cartwheels (Jets WR Braylon Edwards). Anyway there was an actual game besides the shenanigans as New York avenged a 45-3 loss to New England in the regular season. The Jets will play the Pittsburgh Steelers for the AFC Title.
The NFL Playoffs continued Saturday with two divisional round games, sending a No. 1 seed home early:
Baltimore Ravens 21 Pittsburgh Steelers 28
It appeared heading into halftime that the Ravens would be AFC Championship contenders as they led 21 to 7 into halftime. In fact, 94% of playoff teams in that position win, according to Elias Sports Bureau. It didn’t matter that the game was being played at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field, because every bounce was going the ravens way. In one play an incomplete pass by Ben Roethlisberger was actually a fumble on the ground that Baltimore defensive end Corey Redding recognized and returned for a touchdown. Then, it was downhill for the Ravens. The Steelers scored 21 unanswered points, and Baltimore was forced to make a game-tying drive. On a crucial fourth down Ravens wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh dropped a Joe Flacco pass that ended the Ravens’ hopes. Pittsburgh heads into the AFC Title game.
Green Bay Packers 48 Atlanta Falcons 21
The No. 1 seed Falcons had a tremendous season, achieving the best record (tied with New England) at 14-2. Regarding the postseason, however, it was one and done for the “dirty birds.” The Packers, a No. 6 seed, stormed into the Georgia Dome, and took the air right out of the venue. Green Bay cornerback Tramon Williams won last week’s game with a Michael Vick interception. This time around he did one better, putting two in the INT column as Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was now the victim. The latter pick was returned for a touchdown. Aaron Rodgers was as impressive, throwing for 3 touchdowns and running for another. Green Bay punches its ticket to the NFC Championship Game.