NFL Playoff Picture: Reviewing the Most Surprising Results so Far
With only four teams remaining in the playoffs, it's time to review the most shocking and eventful moments that brought us to this point.
Let's take a look at the most surprising results, starting with the Wild Card Round and then moving up through this past weekend.
The Denver Broncos Upset the Reigning AFC Champs
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The Broncos' stunning overtime victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers was the most surprising result of the postseason so far.
Many pundits blamed the Steelers' inexplicable defensive collapse on arrogance. Dick LeBeau and the Steelers' coaching staff didn't think Tim Tebow could beat them with his arm, so they gave his receivers too much room. By moving their safeties up to the box, they freed up Demaryius Thomas to run rampant down the field.
Tebow racked up 316 yards through the air against the vaunted Steelers' defense and outplayed the hobbled Ben Roethlisberger.
Although they were smashed in the divisional round by the New England Patriots, Tebow showed he could lead the Broncos effectively, despite his struggles with accuracy.
New Orleans Piled Up 45 Points Against the Detroit Lions
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The oft-feared Detroit Lions' pass rush was utterly tamed by the Saints' offensive firepower in the Wild Card Round. The Saints' shocking offensive output totally overwhelmed the outmatched Lions defense.
Drew Brees threw for a whopping 466 yards with three touchdowns. The Saints' 626 total yards of offense broke a postseason record and the Lions were completely humbled in their first playoff game in more than a decade.
Perhaps it wasn't surprising that the Saints won, but the record-setting manner in which they beat a good Lions team was thoroughly surprising.
The Giants Bush-Whacked the Atlanta Falcons
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The suddenly hot New York Giants lowered a devastating boom on the Atlanta Falcons. They not only beat them, they pummeled them.
The Falcons put on one of the most dispirited playoff showings in recent memory against the Giants. They were totally punchless on offense and wore down quickly on defense in the face of tough running from Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw and—of all people—Eli Manning.
The Falcons have made an unfortunate two-year habit of ignominious postseason exits. The Falcons are too talented to let this happen to them again next season.
No matter what happens with the Falcons in 2012, the Giants were definitely the beneficiaries of the Falcons' collapse.
The 49ers Had an Amazing Fourth-Quarter Outburst Against the Saints
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With a nice defensive effort that resulted in two New Orleans Saints turnovers early in the game and then a manic fourth-quarter finish, the San Francisco 49ers proved they had what it took to overcome the best offense in the NFL.
Most surprising, perhaps, was the late-game proficiency displayed by maligned quarterback Alex Smith. Smith and his offensive weapons had the chutzpah to make plays when it counted to send the Saints packing.
While the Saints defense certainly did its share to ensure that the 49ers pulled out the win, San Francisco pulled it together when it needed to in order to ensure the win.
The Giants' Win over the Packers Is the Most Surprising Result of the Postseason
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The defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers' loss at home this past weekend after a 15-1 season was shocking.
The New York Giants' defense was spectacular at limiting the Packers' high-flying passing game. Hakeem Nicks exploded for 165 yards receiving and Eli Manning out-dueled the best regular-season quarterback.
The Packers defense looked outgunned and the offense was stymied at every turn by the voracious Giants defense.
With the Giants' win, they made a strong case that they have regained their spectacular 2007-2008 form (which led to a Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots).