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Offense, Offense And More Offense: NFL Division Weekend Storylines 0

Posted on January 15, 2013 by Andy Larmand

Does it have to be over? That was one of the best weekends of sports we have ever seen. The only bad thing about the Super Bowl getting closer is less football games over the weekend.

If it looked familiar to you, there’s good reason for that. The four AFC teams in the divisional round this past weekend were the same final four as last season and it was the first time that phenomenon has ever happened. Defense was certainly hard to come by on both Saturday and Sunday. We have a lot to cover, so let’s get to it.

Obi-WON-Jacoby: Joe Flacco's 70-yard TD pass to Jacoby Jones with 31 seconds left in regulation sent the game to overtime, where the Ravens eventually shocked the Broncos.

Obi-WON-Jacoby: Joe Flacco’s 70-yard TD pass to Jacoby Jones with 31 seconds left in regulation sent the game to overtime, where the Ravens eventually shocked the Broncos.

What. A. Game. The Ravens and the Broncos opened the weekend in one of the best postseason games we have seen in a while. Despite two return touchdowns from Trindon Holliday, Denver fell to the underdog Ravens, 38-35, in the first double-overtime game in the NFL since the Panthers beat the Rams in another divisional playoff game on Jan. 10, 2004 – they ended up making it to the Super Bowl that year. Joe Flacco hit Jacoby Jones with a 70-yard pass to tie the game at 35 with 31 seconds left in regulation and tied Eli Manning for the most road playoff wins with his fifth. If you missed it, start kicking yourself. Peyton Manning, who had won nine straight starts against the Ravens coming into the game, tied Brett Favre for the most playoff losses by a quarterback in NFL history. In 12 playoff appearances, which are tied for the most ever, he is now 9-11, including eight seasons of one-and-done performances. In what has become his typical fashion, he threw two interceptions and lost two fumbles. The Ravens got 17 points off of those turnovers, including the game-winning field goal with 13:18 left in the second overtime period following Corey Graham‘s second pick of the night.

The game featured three return touchdowns, including two in the first 5:11 and also saw a 42-second stretch in which the Ravens scored two touchdowns to take a 14-7 lead. Holliday’s 90-yard punt return was the first ever in Denver postseason history and the longest by any player ever in the playoffs. His 104-yard kick return for a touchdown was also the longest return TD in playoff history and he became the only player to ever return both a kick and a punt for touchdowns in the same playoff game. Finally, Holliday became the first player to ever score two touchdowns of any kind of 90 or more yards in a playoff game. Baltimore lost one fumble on the day and have now lost three in their first two playoff games this year after losing just five in the regular season. The 28 combined points in the first quarter of the game were more than the four games combined for in the first quarter last weekend. It was only the third time in the Super Bowl era that both teams scored 14 or more points in the first quarter of a playoff game. It was also the first ever playoff game with an offensive (Torrey Smith, Brandon Stokley), defensive (Graham) and special teams touchdown (Holliday) in the first quarter.

The 35 points are the most the Ravens have ever allowed in their playoff history. The Broncos lost their first overtime playoff contest as they had been 2-0 in such games entering this one, including the victory over the Steelers last year. Baltimore improved to 1-0 in overtime playoff games. Graham became the sixth player in the last five postseasons to pick off multiple passes in a playoff game. Three of them are Ravens. The combination of Flacco and John Harbaugh is going to its third AFC Championship game in their five seasons together (0-2). Justin Tucker‘s 47-yard field goal to win the game was his only one of the night, the fourth-longest overtime field goal in playoff history and the longest ever by a rookie. Ray Lewis made an astounding 17 tackles and will live to play another week. The game lasted 76 minutes, 42 seconds. It was the fourth-longest playoff game in NFL history and the longest since 1986. Manning fell to 0-4 in his career in the postseason when the temperature was lower than 40 degrees and his 21 career postseason interceptions are the fourth-most ever. Denver committed 10 penalties in the game for 87 yards. Smith’s 59-yard TD reception just before the half was the second-longest in Baltimore postseason history. Manning took a knee with 31 seconds left in the fourth quarter, still possessing two timeouts.

Well, that was a good start. The Ravens will travel to Foxboro for a rematch of their Week 3 game with New England on Sunday at 6:30 p.m.

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Win Or Go Home: NFL Wild Card Weekend Storylines 0

Posted on January 08, 2013 by Andy Larmand

There were only four football games on TV this weekend – two on Saturday and two on Sunday. But, thats okay. It’s the playoffs! Someone really should have told Andy Dalton, though as some unfortunate quarterback play stole the spotlight on Saturday.

PLAYOFFS?! Jim Mora, made famous for his rant at a press conference in 2001, is getting gained on by Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis as the coaches the two with the most playoff losses without any wins (Mora: 0-6, Lewis: 0-4).

The Bengals and Texans kicked off Wild Card Weekend for the second straight year on Saturday afternoon in a rematch of last year’s Wild Card game and the first playoff game of  Matt Schaub‘s career (was injured last season). Houston won last year’s game and they won this one too, though it was ugly, 19-13. The game was the fourth rematch in the Wild Card round from the previous year in history and all four times the team that had won the first one has won the second one. In an ugly first half, the only touchdown that was scored was a Leon Hall interception return for Cincinnati, but they trailed 9-7 at the end of two thanks to some very sloppy play. The Bengals were the first team with negative passing yards in the first half of a playoff game since 2006. Dalton had -6 yards through the air in the half. It was the fourth consecutive game with a defensive TD for the Bengals and their first interception return for a touchdown in the postseason since 1973. A.J. Green had no catches or targets in the first two quarters of the game. Cincinnati has not won a playoff game since 1990 and also fell to 0-6 on the road all-time in the postseason. Dalton finished with just 127 yards on 14-of-30 passing.

Both Owen Daniels and Arian Foster were huge for the Texans, who have now won a playoff game in consecutive seasons. Daniels finished the game with nine receptions for 91 yards and Foster finished with 140 yards and the team’s only touchdown as he became the first running back to ever rush for 100 yards in each of his first three career playoff games. His 425 rushing yards in those games are also good for the most by a player in his first three career postseason appearances. Shayne Graham made all four of his field goal attempts in the game. Houston still has a chance to become only the second team to win the Super Bowl after finishing the regular season 1-3 or worse. Schaub nearly doubled Dalton’s passer rating (83.4 to 44.7) as the veteran came out on top in this one. Jermaine Gresham caught just two passes for seven yards and had two drops bounce off his hands. The Texans will head to New England to take on the Patriots in a rematch of their Week 14 game on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. Houston lost the contest 42-14.

Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton struggled hearing the play calls in noisy Reliant Stadium and struggled even more in executing them as Cincinnati's season is done.

Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton struggled hearing the play calls in noisy Reliant Stadium and struggled even more in executing them as Cincinnati’s season is done.

A couple hours before kickoff, Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder determined his injured elbow was not going to allow him to play in the game against the Packers. Joe Webb, who hadn’t thrown a pass this season, got the start and became the first quarterback in NFL history to start a postseason game after not attempting a pass in the regular season. He was the first QB to start a playoff game with only one career win on his resume since Kelly Holcomb in 2003. With all that going against them, it was never really close after the Packers scored 24 unanswered points to win, 24-10, and earn a rematch with the 49ers next week. Dalton may have felt a little better as Webb threw for just six yards in the first half of this game. Adrian Peterson ran for just 99 yards in the game on 22 carries and failed to become just the second 2,000-yard rusher to win a playoff game in the same season. No rushing champion has run for 100 yards in a playoff game since Edgerrin James did in 2000.

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Scoreless In Seattle: Week 14 NFL Storylines 3

Posted on December 12, 2012 by Andy Larmand

As Christmas approaches, some NFL coaches were doing whatever they could to get back on the nice list in the eyes of their owners. Teams that hadn’t been doing a lot of winning this year found ways to get the job done in upset style in Week 14, but some, however, continued to fall face first into the snow (or desert sand).

No. 1: Peyton Manning got the Broncos to the 10-win mark for the first time since 2005 as he has the team poised to make a playoff run.

Peyton Manning highlighted the weekly Thursday night game as he threw for 300 yards for the first time since Week 10 at Carolina, but threw just one touchdown pass after eight in his previous three games. This marks the seventh time in his career that he has thrown 30 or more touchdowns in a season. He also turned the ball over at least once for the sixth straight game, but his Broncos still won their eighth straight, beating division rival Oakland 26-13 on Thursday night to improve to 10-3 on the year. The eight-game win streak is the longest for the Broncos since 1997-98 and with their 10th win of the year, they have hit double-digits in wins for the first time since 2005. The Denver D picked off at least one pass for the ninth straight game. Denver’s five-game lead in the AFC West is tied for the Falcons for the largest division lead through 14 weeks.

Rookie running back Doug Martin, a regular name in this post, became the first rookie running back since 2008 to record 1,500 yards from scrimmage in Tampa Bay‘s last-second 23-21 loss to the Eagles. Philly won for the first time in nine weeks behind Nick Foles, who threw for 381 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner as time expired. He became the second rookie in as many weeks to win a game with a TD pass as time expired (Luck). All seven of Tampa Bay’s losses this season have been by eight points or fewer. The Eagles now have as many wins (one) since Oct. 1 as the Phillies.

Don’t look now, but the Jets – yes, the New York Jets – have won two straight after picking up their first ever win in Jacksonville Sunday by a score of 17-10 and are now being considered as a team with a chance to sneak into the playoffs. Mark Sanchez was back in there, but the Jets found the endzone twice on the ground and picked Chad Henne off twice en route to their second straight win and third in four games. Montell Owens scored his first rushing touchdown since 2008 for the Jags, who have lost two straight. Sanchez didn’t throw an interception for just the fourth time this year.

The joke that is the Arizona Cardinals just keeps getting funnier as they dropped their ninth straight game after starting the season 4-0. They didn’t just lose though – they lost 58-0 (not a misprint) to the Seahawks. The Seattle defense forced eight turnovers (four fumbles, four interceptions) and led 38-0 at halftime – their largest halftime lead since 1977. Marshawn Lynch ran for three touchdowns on just 11 carries and finished with 128 yards – his first multi-TD game of the year. Larry Fitzgerald remainedinvisible as he caught just one ball for two yards and Arizona quarterbacks John Skelton and Ryan Lindley combined to go 19-of-39 for 111 yards and four interceptions. The 58-point margin of victory is the largest in Seahawks history and the 58 points are the most the team’s ever scored in a single game. Not surprisingly, the 58-point loss is good for the worst in the 92-year history of the Cardinals.

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Embarrassing No More: Seahawks Surprise the Saints 0

Posted on January 09, 2011 by Dean Hybl

Matt Hasselbeck tossed four touchdown passes to lead the Seahawks past New Orleans.

Some, including an article on this site, suggested that the Seattle Seahawks should be embarrassed to be playing in the NFL Playoffs with a losing regular season record. Well, instead of tucking their tails between their legs and sleeking off quietly into the night, the Seahawks pulled off one of the more surprising playoffs upsets in recent memory with a 41-36 victory over the defending Super Bowl Champions.

Because they have endured three straight losing seasons with three different coaches, it is easy to forget that for much of the 2000s, the Seahawks were a regular playoff visitor and their roster still includes a number of players with playoff experience and significance pride.

Perhaps the best personification of that past and that pride is quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.

A three-time Pro Bowler and key reason the Seahawks went 13-3 and reached the Super Bowl in 2005, Hasselbeck has endured injuries and uncertainty over the last three years.

Despite being healthy enough to have probably played, Hasselbeck was held out of the do-or-die final game of the regular season against the St. Louis Rams. Many wondered if Hasselbeck had taken his final snap for the Seahawks.

But with his 7-9 squad heading into the playoffs to face the defending champions, head coach Pete Carroll called on the experienced Hasselbeck, rather than Charlie Whitehurst (who made only his second career start in the win over the Rams) to lead his team into what most expected to be a slaughter.

From the very beginning, there was something unfamiliar and uncomfortable about the game between the Saints and Seahawks. Seemingly everyone in America already knew how it would end, but after a predictable start the game seemed to be working against those certainties. Read the rest of this entry →

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