We're now down to our final four and I think it's safe to say if it was the offenses who decided to take last week off it was the defenses that decided to take a break this week. After none of the 8 teams could score more than 24 points in the wild card round, not a single team scored less than 28 in the divisional round. Six of the eight teams racked up over 400 yards of offense with the Seahawks and 49ers leading the way with 491 and 579 yards respectively. Somewhere Dick Butkus is rolling in his grave, although I think he's still alive so maybe he's just shaking his head. As an aside do you think he was so mean because he got made fun of a lot as a little kid? Seriously, his name sounds like dick-butt-kiss, not that I'd ever say that to his face.
So does that mean the old adage of defense wins championships is now outdated? Probably, but that doesn't mean it's been changed to offense wins championships. If you look at the four teams remaining, three of them actually got pretty good performances from their defenses this weekend. The Texans had 425 total yards and scored 28 points but 156 of those yards and 15 points came only after the Patriots had a 38-13 lead in the 4th quarter and the game was all but over.
The Packers managed 352 yards and 31 points but one TD came from their defense and their last TD, which actually should have been a Tarrel Brown interception, came in garbage time. While the Ravens had the best defensive performance limiting the Broncos to 398 total yards in 5 quarters (344 at the end of regulation) and only 21 points. It just looked worse since the Broncos scored 2 special teams TDs. More impressively, the Broncos managed only 4.6 yards per play. Not 4.6 yards per rushing attempt but 4.6 per play counting passing attempts, while also creating 3 turnovers.
Only the Falcons defense struggled and that might have been in part to losing John Abraham in the second quarter after he reinjured his ankle. At least Mike Smith can sleep well knowing he did his best to win a meaningless week 17 game even if it might cost them a trip to the Super Bowl. Treat it like a preseason game Mike, it's not rocket science, or even 5th grade science, or even kindergarten science which I think consists mainly of learning yellow and blue make green.
Maybe the new saying should be you need to be at least decent in two of the phases of the game and great in the other (like that will ever catch on). The Jets made it to back-to-back AFC Championship games because of their great defense and running game but were limited in their passing attack because Mark Sanchez was playing (and I use the term loosely) QB.
The Packers have had a great offense the past two seasons but their defense has been more concerned with making Fat Head and State Farm commercials than actually tackling. While the Chargers a few years ago had the best offense and defense in the NFL but learned what the Bills have known for some time now, special teams actually can cost you a championship, or in the Chargers case even a trip to the playoffs. Luckily for Scott Norwood they didn't have Twitter back then. What is it with the Giants winning Super Bowls, or even NFC Championship games, thanks to mistakes made by the other team?
Ravens 38, Broncos 35
I love how reactionary so many NFL fans are. Last week everyone was singing the praise of Peyton Manning, while now he's being torn apart and some are even saying it might be time to hang it up. Sounds great, I hear Tebow's on the trading block.
Trindon Holliday took a punt back 90 yards for a TD on the Broncos first possession of the game, and a kickoff back 104 yards for another TD on the Broncos first possession of the second half, but even being spotted 14 points wasn't enough to get Manning and the Broncos the win, although it should have been.
Down by 7 points and facing a 3rd-and-3 on their own 30-yard line with just over 30 seconds to play and no timeouts it seemed the Broncos had this game locked up. That's when the Broncos defenders decided they didn't want to be outdone by the San Diego Chargers who allowed the Ravens to convert on 4th-and-28 earlier in the year.
Joe Flacco, who finished with 331 yards and 3 TDs, flung the ball 50 yards down the field into the outstretched arms of Jacoby Jones who somehow didn't have any defenders playing behind him and was able to jog in the remaining 20 yards for the TD to send it to overtime. Flacco takes a lot of criticism but how many QBs in this league have the arm strength to accurately throw a ball 50 yards down field? The Ravens eventually kicked the game winning FG in double overtime and Broncos fans stumbled out of the stadium since their eyes were frozen shut by their tears.
"No man can stop whatever God has blessed and destined," Ray Lewis said after the game clearly chocked up. Which I think means he feels God wanted them to win. Does that also mean God wanted you to be somehow connected and charged with a double murder? Meanwhile his six kids watched his comments from four different homes with four different moms. That is unless they're all living together like some real world version of Big Love.
Seahawks 28, Falcons 30
Everyone knew the history. The Falcons were 0-3 in the playoffs under Mike Smith and Matt Ryan. All the regular season wins in the world don't mean anything if you can't win when it really counts. Throw in the fact future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez hadn't won a single playoff game in his entire NFL career, which is saying something considering even Tony Romo has one win, and you could feel the optimism as the Falcons led 27-7 with 17 minutes to play.
Then the Seahawks started coming back and with each TD optimism was replaced by a growing dread, and not the good one that just came out but the really bad one with Sylvester Stallone. When Marshawn Lynch finally punched it in with just 31 seconds remaining it had to feel like déjà vu. But one man stood stoically on the sidelines, Matty Ice. He knew he could still lead his team to victory since he'd done it so many times before, or at least he'd done it so many times in the regular season but you have to start somewhere.
After a good kickoff return the Falcons took over at their 28-yard line with only 25 seconds remaining. Two quick passes later, the second to Gonzalez, and the Falcons found themselves on the Seahawks 32. After an idiotic timeout by Smith that left 14 seconds on the clock Matt Bryant kicked the game winning FG. Bryant then mysteriously kicked on onside kick giving the Seahawks one last gasp but Wilson's final pass was intercepted. So while Wilson clearly had the better game throwing for 385 yards and 2 TDs while also rushing for 60 yards, it was Ryan who walked away with the win having thrown for 250 yards, 3 TDs, and 2 interceptions.
Now his teammates are calling him Matty Black Ice since he sneaks up on you, but black ice can also lead to horribly gruesome car crashes so it seems somehow appropriate. "Our quarterback is a special player," Smith said. "They call him Matty Ice, but I feel like we've got two Matty Ices. There's Matty Ice Ryan and Matty Ice Bryant." He forgot about Matty Ice Cube, Matty Ice-T, Matty Vanilla Ice, and Matty I Like Ice In My Purple Drank, but they weren't active for the game.
Texans 28, Patriots 41
There are some QBs who shrivel so much when the pressures greatest that no matter how insurmountable the lead would appear to be you just know they're going to do something to screw it up. In fact some are so bad they actually have rules named after them like the Tony Romo Rule that states:
If a team insists on using a QB as the holder on FG/PAT attempts the QB has to be the backup and not the starter so Twitter, Bloggers, and people on message boards won't be able to use their botching of a simple FG to pile up on him. He's got enough to worry about without Twitter death threats. Seriously, give the guy a break, nobody's perfect
At least I think that's a rule but I may have made it up. Then there are those like Joe Montana (Joe Cool, LL Cool J, Coolio, Kool Moe Dee, Cool and the Gang) that no matter how daunting the odds, if they get the ball at the end of the game with a chance to win you know they're going to win. Tom Brady would fall into that category. Well, mostly if Wes Welker wouldn't let balls go through his fingers or if receivers wouldn't run a 1-yard route when they need 2 yards to convert. His wife told me to say that.
This was a game for 2 quarters but Brady took over in the 3rd quarter and the rest, as they say, is history. If history happens and nobody reads about it, did it really happen? Little used RB Shane Vereen scored 3 TDs and became only the 3rd RB to score two receiving TDs and one rushing TD in the same post season game joining two other RBs I've never heard of named Roger Craig and Ricky Waters (it seems other sites have a sarcasm font, do we have one here?).
"I love playing, I love competing, I love being a part of this organization," said Brady, who threw for three touchdowns and 344 yards. "I think I've just been fortunate to play on some great teams over the years. I never take it for granted." Well, and there was also some benefit from "spygate". How many Super Bowls have you won since then? Just saying.
For the Texans a season that started so promising crumble down the stretch. "Whenever the season ends, no matter when, it's really hard," tight end Owen Daniels said. "The farther along you get, the harder it is to take. It's one we wanted to win really bad. It's tough to swallow ... but one team gets to have a smile on their face at the end of the season, and it's not us this year." Do you know what else is really tough to swallow, a spoonful of cinnamon. When life gets me down watching people engage in stupid and possibly dangerous activities always cheers me up. Now go see if you can drink a gallon of milk in an hour without throwing up.
Packers 24, 49ers 45 (Score adjusted for refs error)
We all knew the reason Jim Harbaugh stuck with Kaepernick even after Alex Smith was healthy again was because he just had way more upside. Sure he was more likely to make bad mistakes but Harbaugh seemed to feel the risk was worth it. In a way Smith was like investing in a Bond. Nice and safe and you know what you're going to get (assuming it wasn't a junk Bond) while Kaepernick was like investing in Stocks. In the long term the return on your investment should be greater but you're going to have a lot more ups and downs getting there.
Now, after dump truck farting in the face of the Packers the 49ers are off to...should I say it....yes...HOTLANTA! Oh, that always cracks me up (what was the answer on that sarcasm font). Now I'm sure we'll hear all about the 49ers recent struggles against the Falcons or how they're only 1-2 in domes this season. If they're presented simply for information purposes they're interesting. If they're presented as if that should give us some idea how the 49ers will fare, they're next to worthless. In that way they're a bit like a semicolon. It's not a comma and it's not a colon, it's a kinda colon. Anyone even know what they're used for?
The 49ers opened as 3 ½ point favorites which means they would be 6 ½ point favorites on a neutral field and 9 ½ at home. I guess the bookies didn't realize the 49ers L/T every third game which means they'll obviously L/T this game. Not really sure how they could tie unless the game goes so long everyone collapses from exhaustion and injury and the AFC Championship game's name is changed to the Super Bowl. Stranger things have happened, just look at some of the games the Ravens have won this season.
As for the Packers, after being eliminated in the division round for the second straight year they're back to trying to fix their defense that seemed fixed but clearly wasn't. Charles Woodson, who spent a lot of time examining the back of Kaepernick's jersey said of his play, "We expected them to try to get him out on the perimeter. But we didn't expect to let him do what he did. Give him a lot of credit. He played a great game. He made a lot of great plays out there today. It was hard to swallow." Do you know what else is hard to swallow, two bananas and a liter of Sprite.
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