The Biggest Game-Changing Plays of the Divisional Playoffs
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The Divisional Round of the 2012 NFL playoffs is now over, but it was one of the most memorable weekends of NFL football in quite some time.
The round was littered with game-changing plays that impacted the outcome of each contest. It featured a double-overtime thriller between the Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens, along with a game between the Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks that was decided in the closing seconds.
Each game had critical moments that fans across the globe will never forget. Let's highlight the most crucial game-changing plays of the NFL Divisional Round of the 2012 NFL playoffs.
12. Corey Graham Returns Peyton Manning Interception for Touchdown
The Baltimore Ravens and Denver Broncos exchanged touchdowns in the first quarter of their AFC Divisional matchup before the Ravens received a gigantic boost of momentum from Denver quarterback Peyton Manning.
With about 10 minutes left in the first, Manning threw an ill-advised pass into coverage and it was tipped and intercepted by Ravens cornerback Corey Graham. He then took the interception 39 yards for a touchdown.
Rather than driving down the field to extend the lead, the Broncos then found themselves in a seven-point hole. The Broncos would go on to tie the game before the quarter ended, but the team could have had a lead going into the second quarter had Manning not thrown such a horrendous pass.
11. Trindon Holliday Takes a Kickoff for a Touchdown
The Baltimore Ravens and Denver Broncos were deadlocked at 21 by the time halftime rolled around in an AFC Divisional bout.
That all changed when a former sixth-round pick took things into his own hands when the second half began.
On the opening kickoff of the second half, Broncos return specialist Trindon Holliday caught the kick in his own end zone and proceeded to take it back 104 yards for a touchdown.
Holliday’s touchdown was in no way a surprise given the face he had earlier returned a punt 90 yards for a touchdown. The kickoff return gave the Broncos the lead and the momentum in a big way.
10. Kaepernick Bounces Back from Turnover by Rushing for a Touchdown
The San Francisco 49ers found themselves down by seven early in the first quarter thanks to a Colin Kaepernick interception that was returned for a touchdown on the team’s opening drive of the game.
Kaepernick responded in a big way by leading the 49ers down the field on the next drive to tie the game.
The end result was a 20-yard touchdown scamper from Kaepernick, which tied the game. More importantly, he was able to quickly forget his mistake and find a rhythm both on the ground and through the air, which would allow him to lead San Francisco to a big victory.
9. Marshawn Lynch Rumbles into the End Zone with the Game on the Line
The Seattle Seahawks were in the midst of an amazing fourth-quarter comeback against the Atlanta Falcons with 34 seconds left in the regulation.
Quarterback Russell Wilson took the snap out of the shotgun and handed the ball to running back Marshawn Lynch.
Lynch plowed through the hole and finished the job, crossing the plane and tying the game at 24.
The Seahawks would end up losing the game just seconds later, but the powerful touchdown run by Lynch with just seconds left changed the complexion of the game entirely.
8. Shane Vereen Puts the Patriots Up Early
The New England Patriots were losing their AFC Divisional matchup with the Houston Texans early in the first quarter.
Houston did not hold the lead for very long.
The Patriots eventually responded by rumbling into the end zone from one yard out to put the Patriots ahead for the rest of the game.
It was but the first of many scores for New England, and it started the team on its path to the AFC Championship.
7. Matt Schaub Throws a Critical Interception
The Houston Texans were already in a hole in the third quarter against the New England Patriots, but quarterback Matt Schaub continued to dig deeper.
Schaub threw a horrendous pass that was intercepted by the Patriots' Rob Ninkovich. He somehow missed Ninkovich dropping back into coverage and threw the ball right into his gut.
The Patriots made Schaub and the Texans pay for the mistake by scoring right away after the turnover. It put the Texans away, as the New England lead then extended to 31-13.
6. Jeremy Ross Muffs a Punt, the 49ers Take Advantage
The Green Bay Packers held a 14-7 lead over the San Francisco 49ers early in the second quarter and had managed to force a punt.
Jeremy Ross was on the field as the punt returner for Green Bay as the coaching staff had decided that their normal returner, Randall Cobb, had been too ineffective the week before.
Ross muffed the punt deep in 49ers’ territory, and safety C.J. Spillman recovered, giving San Francisco new life.
The error then allowed 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to find Michael Crabtree for a touchdown moments later, tying the game.
5. Peyton Manning Costs the Broncos the Game
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning was intercepted in the first quarter by Baltimore Ravens cornerback Corey Graham, but it would not be the last time Graham would get the best of Manning.
With just under one minute left in the first overtime period, Manning scrambled of the pocket and attempted to throw a pass across his body, which ended up being wildly erratic.
Graham took advantage and intercepted the pass, effectively ending the game.
The Ravens would take over in field-goal range, and rookie kicker Justin Tucker would bang the game-winning kick through the uprights to allow Baltimore to advance to the AFC Championship.
4. Kaepernick Puts Away the Packers with a Huge Touchdown Run
The NFC Divisional matchup between the Green Bay Packer and San Francisco 49ers was locked up at 24 in the third quarter before 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick elected to take things into his own hands.
Kapernick ran a play-fake out of the backfield and then darted up the field like he had many times earlier in the game. This time, he ran for 56 yards and ended up in the end zone.
The run gave San Francisco a lead which the Packers would never be able to recover from. It was the turning point in a hotly contested game that allowed the 49ers to advance.
3. Earl Thomas Intercepts Matt Ryan in the Fourth Quarter
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was protecting a 27-14 lead over the Seattle Seahawks late in the fourth quarter when he launched an ill-advised pass.
Seattle safety Earl Thomas undercut the throw and intercepted the pass, giving his team new life. It is exactly what the Seahawks needed, and the team capitalized by going on to make the game come down to the final seconds.
The Seahawks were able to take advantage of the Falcons, a team that should have looked to its effective ground game with such a big lead. Atlanta would still go on to win, but Ryan’s horrible throw as a result of questionable play-calling was exploited by Seattle.
2. Matt Bryant Wins the Game for the Atlanta Falcons
The Atlanta Falcons were down just one point with about 30 seconds left in their NFC Divisional matchup with the Seattle Seahawks. Atlanta had allowed Seattle to come screaming back by scoring 21 points in the fourth quarter.
Atlanta then drove down the field quickly after allowing a touchdown run. The offense just barely got into field-goal range for kicker Matt Bryant.
Bryant was tasked with kicking a 49-yard field goal with just 13 seconds left. He nailed the kick right down the middle, and the Falcons are now moving on to the NFC Championship for a date with the San Francisco 49ers.
1. Jacoby Jones Reels in a 70-Yard Touchdown to Save the Ravens
With his team down 35-28 on third down with just under 40 seconds reaming in an AFC Divisional matchup, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco need to make a play.
Flacco did just that when he launched a bomb down the right sideline to receiver Jacoby Jones, who reeled it in and took it into the end zone for the tying touchdown.
The pass was grossly misplayed by Denver defenders, but it was a feat of arm strength and accuracy that is hard to find in today’s NFL.
After forcing overtime with the pass, Flacco and the Ravens would go on to win the game in the second overtime period to advance to the AFC Championship.