The 10 Biggest Surprises from NFL's Conference Championship Weekend
Conference championship Sunday is the best day of the year. And just like other people's favorite holiday (Christmas), this one was full of surprises.
Young quarterbacks played like grizzled veterans. Records that appeared to be cemented in history were ruined.
Regardless of whether you had a dog in the fight or not, you had to enjoy the drama of both games. So click through to relive the biggest surprises of the day.
The San Francisco 49ers Couldn't Rush the Passer
The official numbers haven't been released yet. We'll need the good folks at ProFootballFocus.com to get on it, but Matt Ryan wasn't hurried very often.
The Atlanta Falcons do have an excellent offensive line. However, you have to wonder how badly Justin Smith was hurting.
Regardless, the San Francisco 49ers weren't able to get to Ryan more than once. It doesn't matter whether the credit should go to Atlanta's line or Smith's injury, the lack of pressure was surprising.
Tarell Brown Got Owned
Tarell Brown had an amazing regular season. But that didn't continue against the Atlanta Falcons.
Brown didn't give up a touchdown all season. Julio Jones grabbed his second touchdown pass of the day while Brown did everything humanly possible to stop him.
Besides that play, it was almost as if the Falcons were picking on Brown. Matt Ryan threw numerous intermediate routes to Jones and Roddy White that were a little high so that the receivers could grab the ball at its highest point.
However, he gets to play next week. The Falcons do not.
Colin Kaepernick Continuously Gave the Ball to Frank Gore
Frank Gore ended up with 21 carries, the majority of which were the result of a read option.
Colin Kaepernick did a great job reading the defense and taking the open lane. Even if it meant taking the ball out of his hands.
For such a young quarterback, that was a bit surprising. It would be only natural for a young guy to want to keep the ball in his hands.
But he made the right play. Time and time again.
Only Tony Gonzalez, Roddy White and Julio Jones Had a Catch Until Late
The Atlanta Falcons have three of the best pass catchers in the league. That doesn't mean that Matt Ryan shouldn't look at any other targets.
Only Tony Gonzalez, Roddy White and Julio Jones had a catch for the Falcons until late in the NFC Championship Game. It wasn't until Harry Douglas caught a ball with 6:55 left that somebody else entered the box score.
Atlanta did stake itself to a 17-point lead and scored 24 points. Maybe the Falcons shouldn't mess with success.
The Atlanta Falcons Are Exactly Who We Thought They Were
Admit it, Falcons fans. This team was good, but it was exactly who many of us had speculated it was.
Atlanta was a good team. It won 13 regular-season games against inferior competition and didn't get the opportunity to shut up the critics.
Then the Falcons narrowly avoided a choke job against the Seattle Seahawks. The media continued to circle the sure-to-be-dead Falcons like a buzzard waiting on a thirsty man in the desert.
Now, Atlanta has shown that it isn't quite there yet. Just like so many of us thought.
Why is that surprising? Because when everyone goes against such a highly seeded team, it almost always works out for that team. Not this time.
A Rare Tom Brady and Bill Belichick Gaffe
As the first half came to a close, the New England Patriots committed a rare mistake.
The Pats had the ball approximately 10 yards from the Baltimore Ravens end zone with enough time for three plays, at least.
However, after Tom Brady couldn't find an open man, he scrambled. He then slid down as Ed Reed closed in.
Nobody called timeout as the time continued to tick away. After some hurried movements by Brady to attempt to get the offense lined up, New England finally called a timeout.
The Pats went on to kick a field goal. They came away with points, but they lost a chance or two at a touchdown.
The Line of the AFC Championship Game Creeped Up to 10
Okay, this one is a bit of a stretch since it occurred before the game.
But still, how did the line creep up to 10 points?
I understand that Tom Brady is a beast. However, the New England Patriots were bound to suffer a little bit of a setback without Rob Gronkowski.
These teams have played twice in the past 12 months. Each game was decided by a field goal. For this line to make it to 10 points was a serious declaration that Vegas thinks we're all dumb.
The New England Patriots Only Scored 1 Touchdown in 4 Red-Zone Trips
The Patriots are a scoring machine. They scored 30 or more points 12 times this season, including the playoffs.
But they could not find a way into the end zone despite four red-zone trips.
When's the last time someone lamented the Patriots' inability to score points? Their 13-point performance against the Ravens was their worst offensive output of the year.
And it happened at the worst possible time.
An Incredible Streak Comes to an End
New England was 72-1 under Bill Belichick when it had a halftime lead at home. With Tom Brady under center, the Pats were 67-0.
Neither record is the same anymore. The Ravens took care of that.
After trailing by six points at halftime, Baltimore scored 21 straight points. There isn't a single typo in that sentence.
Both Road Teams Won After Trailing at Halftime
Sure, the 49ers were favored. But it's still surprising that both road teams won and will fight for the Super Bowl title.
Even more surprising is that each team was trailing at halftime.
That's nuts. I'm not even sure where to begin to find that kind of statistic. Who would keep track of such things?
Anyway, the brother bowl, against all odds, is going to happen. Strap in, folks. It's going to be a wild two weeks.
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