Hello and welcome to the Conference Championship weekend edition of ‘The Lo Down’. I can’t believe that we are now just two short weeks away from the season finale to be played at Metlife stadium in New Jersey. The question is which teams will be playing in the big game, let’s find out shall we…….
We start this week in the NFC as I know that I can quite often favour the AFC by putting it first just because it is my beloved Buffalo Bills Conference.
NFC Championship Game
This was probably the most anticipated game out of the two title games as you had two young quarterbacks and teams facing off against each other for the third time this year. The fact that these two teams are also bitter division rivals added to the excitement.
During the regular season both teams have won one game each, both teams winning at home so with this game being in Seattle in front of that famous 12th man crowd it would surely give them the edge wouldn't it?
Okay so to the game we go now and after the opening kickoff went for a touchback the Seahawks started with the ball at their own 20 yard line. On the first play from scrimmage Russell Wilson went for the play action and rolled out the left, then like a bolt of lightning Aldon Smith broke free of his blocker and attacked Wilson forcing a fumble which Aldon Smith then recovered.
It was the perfect start to San Francisco and I wondered if this was a sign of things to come! Luckily for Seattle they have possibly the best defence in the league and despite the 49ers only needing 20 yards for a score, they managed to keep them to just a field goal. This was massive stop for the Seahawks and it ensured that the crowd stayed in the game even at this early stage.
The next few possessions in the first quarter for both teams did not yield any rewards and both teams found themselves punting to the opposition as they struggled to move the ball on offense. In the second half San Francisco would strike again, this time courtesy of an Anthony Dixon one yard touchdown run.
Seattle then decided it was high time to get on the score and scored on a 62 yard drive which led to a 32 yard field goal from Steven Hauschka. This is how the score would remain until halftime and going into the locker room the 49ers were 10 - 3 to the good.
The second half started with that tough, trash talking Seattle defence forcing the 49ers to punt and in the blink of an eye Seattle drove 60 yards in four plays down with a big chunk of it coming on Mr Beast Modes 40 yard touchdown run. I am of course referring to the legendary Marshawn Lynch.
With the scores now tied 10 all it was time for another beast to show his skills and show them he did as Anquan Boldin hauled in a 26 yard jump pass from Colin Kaepernick. I know that I have mentioned this a few times before but Anquan is such a great clutch receiver, I really can’t believe they only had to give up a 7th round draft pick to get him from Baltimore.
Anyway back on with the game and San Francisco had taken the lead again making it 17 - 10 with just over six minutes left in the third quarter. Unfortunately for the 49ers this would prove to be their last score as the Seattle defence showed why they are the best in the league. Seattle managed to not only stop the scoring but they forced a fumble and two interceptions from Colin Kaepernick.
On the other side of the ball it was back to beast mode with Marshawn Lynch running the ball at will and Russell Wilson was making some great plays with both his feet and his arm. Seattle went on to score two field goals and touchdown making the final score 23 - 17 to Seattle.
Before we move onto the next game, please check out the highlights by clicking on the picture below:
AFC Championship Game
Now we move onto the 15th episode of Manning vs Brady and their fourth battle in the postseason. Over the last decade or so whilst both Quarterbacks have been extremely dominant it is Tom Brady who has the better record in these match-ups having won 10 of the 14 previous meetings. The most recent of those victories came in a dramatic comeback win earlier this season as the Patriots overcame a 24 point deficit to win 34 - 31.
Going into this game I honestly thought that the Patriots would try to run the Denver defence into the ground quite literally as I have always been a believer that the best way to beat Manning is to keep him off the field. It turns out both the commentators and New England had a different approach and seemed to think it was okay to engage in shoot out against the best offence in the league.
It did not start so well for New England as their first two possessions resulted in three and outs whilst Denver were moved the ball but ended up being forced to punt after a few more plays. In fact on Denver's second drive they drove the ball 70 yards and came away with a field goal. This was to be a sign of things to come because Denvers drives just got longer and longer and you could see that Tom Brady was getting agitated on the side line.
To be completely honest I think there was only a couple of big talking points from this game, one of which being the supposed pick play by Wes Welker which resulted in an injury to Aquib Talib. After Talib got injured it was alot easier for Peyton Manning to find his star player Demarius Thomas.
Although New England lost their most influential defender let’s be fair to Peyton Manning as he did make some epic throws during the length of this game. As you can tell I do not have a lot of good things to say about this game, because of the Patriots poor game plan and the skillful execution by Peyton Manning, I actually found this game rather boring. Shocking to say I know but see what you think by checking out the highlights by clicking on the picture below:
Final score - New England 16 vs 26 Denver
Well that wraps it up from me this week however be sure to check out our podcast ‘Spitball’ later in the week as we go over both games and their big talking points along with a look ahead to the Superbowl between Denver and Seattle in two weeks time.
With that in mind there will be no blog next week with no games of note taking place but there will be some additions to out ‘Football 101’ segment.
Until next time football fans, stay safe, take care and ‘Thanks for Stopping By’.
What a weekend of great action we have just witnessed, in the words of a good friend of the blog ‘Ladies and Gentleman, the NFL Divisional Playoffs!’
Right so no ramble this week just straight into the four games starting with the NFC divisional games:
New Orleans at Seattle
Away from home this year New Orleans have been a bit hit and miss with their performances but as this was the playoffs, we should see the real Drew Brees Right?
As is often the case with Seattle the weather would also play a part because just before kickoff the heavens just opened up making for extremely difficult passing conditions. It would seem that it was not just the Seattle fans that would make a difference in this one.
Okay so weather and fans aside it was New Orleans that would have the first possession of the ball and the first chance to score however the Seattle defence were in lockdown mode and forced the Saints to go three and out. On the punt Morstead fumbled the snap and only just managed to get the punt off and in doing so he sliced the ball for what was a very short punt.
This gave Seattle the ball in great field position and they were able to take advantage of it by scoring a 38 yard field goal. New Orleans answered back with a solid drive however Shayne Graham missed the field goal attempt. To be fair to graham it wasn't it all his fault, what’s that great saying from Ace Ventura ‘Laces out Marino’ lol
Anyways back to the game and the Seahawks began to start dominating both the game and all of the talking between plays. If I had one complaint about Seattle it would definitely be that they talk too much. Whilst the occasional jibe may be palatable, after every play is just excessive and frankly I am getting bored of listening to it! Whoops there was another digression, I do apologise.
Seattle were stopping New Orleans on just about everything they tried whether it be forcing a fumble or just making them Punt. In the meantime the Seattle offence was building steady momentum and by halftime the score was 16 - 0 to the Seahawks.
After the break it was more of the same formula with defence dominating the game and it was not until the fourth quarter that the scoring continued again. New Orleans managed to a get a touchdown back thanks to a Khiry Robinson 1 yard touchdown run at the beginning of the quarter however they could not manage to do anything on their ensuing drives and in fact the next score came from Seattle whilst they were trying to run out the clock. Marshawn Lynch managed to run in from 31 yards to seal the victory for the Seahawks.
To see just how well Seattle played in this game, check out the highlights by clicking on the picture below:
Final Score: New Orleans 15 - 23 Seattle
San Francisco vs Carolina
Now we move onto the other NFC game between San Francisco and Carolina. My thoughts prior to this game were that we were going to have some good old fashioned smash mouth football and I have to say that I was not disappointed. Both teams currently have young mobile quarterbacks but they also have two of the best defences in the league. The last time these teams met earlier in the season it finished 10 - 9 to Carolina.
In fact the start of the game was almost a carbon copy of their earlier meeting with the 49ers taking an early six point lead courtesy of two Phil Dawson field goals. Carolina would come to life offensively in the second quarter as they scored on a beautiful 31 yard touchdown pass from Cam Newton to Steve Smith. The Panthers also followed this up with a field goal with just under four minutes left in the half. I am sure the 49ers fans were thinking ‘oh no, not again, not like this’.
Luckily for the 49ers fans Vernon Davis managed to break the Panthers run of points on the stroke of halftime with a one yard touchdown pass from Colin Kaepernick. The footwork by Davis on the catch was just simply outstanding.
This touchdown right before halftime really proved to be the turning point in the game as the Panthers would not score another point. The second half was just a demonstration in brutal defence by San Francisco and their offense managed a further 10 points thanks to a four yard run from Kaepernick and a 34 yard field goal from Phil Dawson.
To check out this brutal defence and the great catch from Vernon Davis, check out the highlights by clicking the picture below:
Final Score: San Francisco 23 - 10 Carolina
Now we move onto the AFC to see how things played out.
Indianapolis at New England
Going into the game Andrew Luck had a point to prove to himself after the humiliating loss to the Patriots in the regular season last year when they lost 59 - 24. Indianapolis also had their not so secret weapon in Robert Mathis coming off a season in which he got 19.5 sacks. It would have been easy to think by looking at this game that the two quarterbacks would battle it out for supremacy and bragging rights however Mr Belichick is smarter than that.
For those who listen to our podcast ‘Spitball’ you will know that I said the best way to counter a great pass rush is to run the ball straight at them instead. This is exactly what the Patriots did and after half of the first quarter had passed, the Patriots were 14 - 0 up courtesy of two touchdown runs from LaGarrette Blount both from two yards out. Indianapolis managed a 38 yard touchdown pass of their own on a beautifully executed go route from LaVon Brazil.
The second quarter started off in the same way as the first with LaGarrette Blount running into the endzone from two yards. Again Indianapolis answered back, this time with a 36 yard field goal from Adam Vinatieri and a safety as they forced Ryan Allen to fumble through the end zone on a blocked punt. At the half things were poised at 21 - 12 to the Patriots.
The second half began with a 21 yard field goal from Vinatieri and this brought the Colts back to within six points and it was very much game on again or so I thought!! Unfortunately although they did score another touchdown it was not meant to be Indianapolis day as the Patriots rushing attack led by Blount and backed up by Ridley and Vereen proved to be too much for the Colts.
Well I guess it was actually more like the combination of the New England rushing attack and the interceptions thrown by Andrew Luck that led to this one sided scoreline in the end. Check out the best of the action by clicking on the picture below:
Final Score: Indianapolis 22 - 43 New England
San Diego vs Denver
We finish our round up with the 3rd meeting between Denver and San Diego this season. Both teams have won one game apiece and this truly was a winner takes game with the winner progressing to the AFC Championship game next weekend.
On paper this had the makings to be a mouth watering tie however it was quite the opposite as San Diego did not score a single point in the first three quarters of play whilst Denver went about their business. The only highlight for the Chargers was an interception by Donald Butler at the back of the endzone to stop a Broncos touchdown.
We move ahead now to the fourth quarter and by this point the Broncos were 17 - 0 up. The Chargers did try to make a game of it with two touchdown passes to Keenan Allen either side of a Knowshon Moreno touchdown for Denver. The Chargers also got a field goal with just under four minutes left on the clock to bring the score back to 17 - 24 but they were unable to put Denver under any real pressure.
I think it is best if you check out the highlights by clicking on the picture below because I have run out of words to describe this game:
Final Score: San Diego 17 - 24 Denver
Okay so now we know that the two championship games will be San Francisco vs Seattle for the NFC and New England vs Denver for the AFC. Both of these games have the potential to be great games and if you believe what you here on Madden, the championship games are often better than the Superbowl itself as the teams are more familiar with each other.
With that said ladies and gentleman, be sure to check out our podcast ‘Spitball’ later in the week and until next time, stay safe, take care and ‘Thanks for Stopping By’.
With the regular season now just a dot in the rear view mirror of the 2013 season it was down to business for the eight teams involved in this weeks games!
That’s right folks the playoffs are here again and as always the action starts with the Wildcard weekend. This is where the two lowest ranked division winners face off against the next two best records in the conference. The draw is based on how the teams were seeded and so the third placed team faces the sixth place team and the fourth plays the fifth, very much like the football league playoffs for those familiar with English football.
With it being the playoffs and each game being equally important I think it is only fair that I provide you with a breakdown of each game with the usual highlights mixed in. Let us start this week with the NFC and the games between Green Bay and San Francisco along with Philadelphia vs New Orleans.
San Francisco at Green Bay
This was probably the tie that I was most looking forward to this week as I knew that a Sunday evening game in Green Bay can only mean extreme coldness with a chance of snow! With San Francisco being from california you would have to say it was advantage Green Bay before the game as the temperature dropped low into the single figures with a wind chill taking it below zero degrees.
In the first quarter it was actually San Francisco who took the early advantage with two Phil Dawson field goals from 22 and 25 yards respectively. On their third possession Green Bay were forced to punt again and things were looking pretty dire. Luckily for Green Bay their defence was able to step up to the occasion and intercepted Colin Kaepernick on the 49ers next drive. This play led to a bit of a scoring frenzy with Green Bay scoring a touchdown and a field goal either side of 49ers touchdown making the score at the half 13 - 10 to San Francisco.
The game remained a cagey affair throughout the entire third quarter and not a point was scored by either team. This set up a dramatic fourth quarter with the Packers being at home and down by three points. The packers opened up the fourth quarter with a one yard run by the big fullback John Kuhn. Kudos to John for thinking about the Lambeau leap, alas it was just not meant to be!
The 49ers answered back on the next possession with a 28 yard touchdown pass to Vernon Davis which in turn was answered by a 24 yard field from Mason Crosby of the Green Bay Packers. Just over five minutes left on the clock at this point and the score at 20 all, it was down the Green Bay defence to stop San Francisco one last time……………..
Unfortunately on this occasion the Packers had no answer to the young Colin Kaepernick as he moved the 49ers down the field chewing up clock as they drove the ball. In the end the 49ers managed to get just enough first downs to wind down the clock before kicking the game winning field from 33 yards with no time left on the clock. San Francisco move onto the divisional round of the playoffs and next week's action.
Final Score: San Francisco 23 vs 20 Green Bay
To see the game highlights please click on the picture below:
New Orleans at Philadelphia
We now move onto the late saturday night game between the Saints and the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. For those who have been following the Saints matches this year you will know that they have not been too great on the road and have suffered a handful of defeats.
This game was a real slow burner as the first five possessions of the game ended with a punt and then on the sixth possession after just four plays Drew Brees was intercepted by the Eagles defence for the first time. Philadelphia then took the ball 43 yards in 11 plays but the resulting field goal was missed by Alex Henery. The score halfway through the second quarter was 0 - 0 and let’s not forget that both teams have been renowned for their offence this year, the playoffs clearly has a crazy effect on things!
Parity was restored shortly after with a 36 yard field goal from Shayne Graham of the Saints and we again then had to wait over six minutes for the next score before Nick Foles connected with Riley Cooper for a 10 yard touchdown reception. The Saints followed this with a 46 yard field goal over their own just as the half came to a close. The score at this point was 7 - 6 had me in a state of shock that the scoring was this low!
Both coaches must have used a few choice words during their halftime team talks as from this moment on both teams were able to start moving the ball on offence and in the third quarter it was New Orleans who struck first and second with a touchdown reception from Lance Moore and a touchdown run by Mark Ingram. Both Saints players tried to do a form of LeSean McCoy's touchdown celebration but it was LeSean who was laughing as he walked in on a one yard touchdown run of his own late in the third quarter. It was now 20 - 14 to the Saints as we headed into the fourth quarter.
I skip ahead now to half way through the fourth quarter and by this point both teams had exchanged field goals making the score 23 - 17 to the Saints with just over eight minutes left in the game. The Eagles got the ball back and to be honest they were almost too efficient by scoring a touchdown in just over three minutes. This put them up 24 - 23 and gave the Saints just under five minutes to score. If you ask me the Eagles scored far too early as with the playoffs games it is quite often the team who has the last possession that comes away with the win. Sadly for the Eagles fans this was the case again as Shayne Graham kicked the game winning field goal for the Saints as time expired just like the above game between the 49ers and Packers.
Final Score: New Orleans 26 vs 24 Philadelphia
To see the game highlights please click on the picture below:
We now move onto the AFC and the games between the Kansas City Chiefs and Indianapolis Colts and the San Diego Chargers at the Cincinnati Bengals. The first game I want to cover is the one that disappointed me the most out of these two ties and that is the Chargers at Bengals.
San Diego at Cincinnati
On paper you would have expected this to be a really close game with the form the Chargers are in and how well the Bengals defence has been playing of late. Unfortunately the game did not live up to expectation and to be honest I think I am just going to let you watch the highlights by clicking on the picture below as I am too disappointed to even bother with a review:
Final Score: San Diego 27 vs 10 Cincinnati
I will say this though, take nothing away from the Chargers and their coaches as they came up with the perfect game plan to silence Andy Dalton and A J Green, I just thought perhaps Dalton would have produced more rather than having a touch of the Romo’s!
Kansas City at Indianapolis
Now unlike it’s AFC counterpart this game had just about everything you could ask for in a playoff game. In the first quarter Kansas City’s star running back Jamaal Charles went out of the game with a concussion on the first series. Kansas did not let this stop them though as they took the opening possession 82 yards down the field and scored on a six yard touchdown pass to Dwayne Bowe who was looking in remarkable form!
Not to be outdone early in the game, Indianapolis took their first possession 74 yards in seven plays finishing off with 10 yard touchdown pass to T Y Hilton. Kansas then just exploded on offence as they went on to score on each of their first five possessions and by halftime the Colts were looking around in disbelief at the scoreboard as it read 31 - 10 to the Chiefs!
In the second half Kansas continued their onslaught as they scored another touchdown making it 38 - 10 and giving themselves a 28 point lead. Now at this point myself and I am sure a number of other fans watching this game thought that this was it, game over but the Colts had other ideas. They managed to get a touchdown back making 38 - 17 and on the Chiefs next drive the immortal Robert Mathis decided that it was time to make a play as he sacked Alex Smith and at the same time forced a fumble which was recovered by Kelvin Sheppard. This proved to be a massive turning point for Indianapolis as they went on to score four more touchdowns with Kansas only managing two field goals.
Unbelievably we now had just five minutes left in the game and the Colts were down by just six points. Within a matter of minutes the Colts took the lead on what was the game winning 64 yard pass to T Y Hilton and the second biggest comeback in playoff history had been completed.
For me this was the defining game in Andrew Lucks young career so far, to have played so badly for most of the game and to then bring your team back from 28 points down takes real guts and determination. The Colts defence played their part too but this is why they took Luck with the first pick of the 2012 draft!
Final Score: Kansas City 44 vs 45 Indianapolis
To see the remarkable game highlights click on the picture below:
Well that just about wraps it up from me this week but join me next as I review the divisional round games. Let us hope that they provide just as much intrigue and drama that three of the games brought us this week!
Until next time football fans, stay safe, take care and ‘Thanks for Stopping By’.
Adri 'BallHawk' Mallows