Report Card Grades for Every Starting QB in NFL Conference Championship Games
Having the honor of playing in a conference championship game is a dream come true for many quarterbacks. However, this game comes with just as much disappointment as it does feelings of joy. The quarterback is always the one who receives the majority of the blame or credit.
This year's championship games featured three younger quarterbacks looking to make a statement. Colin Kaepernick is one of those young players who used this opportunity to establish himself as a rising star. Others like Matt Ryan head into the offseason with the feeling of disappointment.
Read on to see how the four signal-callers fared in their games.
Colin Kaepernick: B+
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Stats: 16-of-21, 233 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions
The San Francisco 49ers pulled off an amazing comeback thanks to a complete team effort. However, Colin Kaepernick's poise and leadership helped the rest of the team stay positive despite being in a 17-point hole. It's amazing to see such a young quarterback overcome such a slow start.
So much was made of Kaepernick's ability to run the football, but it was his arm that made a bigger impact. He and Vernon Davis established a rhythm that the Atlanta Falcons were unable to defend. That connection was the key to the 49ers' comeback.
Another reason the game took a turn was because the Falcons started turning over the football. Kaepernick took advantage of each of those turnovers by putting the 49ers in position to score points.
It's also important to note that Kaepernick didn't commit any turnovers of his own.
Matt Ryan: B-
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Stats: 30-of-42, 396 yards, three touchdowns, one interception and one fumble
Matt Ryan suffered another disappointing playoff performance. His inability to protect the football and make plays down the stretch allowed the San Francisco 49ers to pull off a major comeback. It's tough for any team to win a playoff game when they lose the turnover battle.
Ryan had a chance to play the hero role in the final minutes of the game, but he came up short. He panicked on the fourth-down play in the final drive. The 49ers generated some pressure, but Ryan could've moved in the pocket to buy more time. Instead, he forced the ball to a well-covered Roddy White.
Saying this performance wasn't impressive shows just how different the playoffs are from the regular season. Ryan put up impressive numbers, but his two turnovers were too much for the Atlanta Falcons to overcome.
Tom Brady: C+
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Stats: 29-of-54, 320 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions
Tom Brady's less-than-impressive second half allowed the Baltimore Ravens to pull off a road win. Brady's numbers don't look that bad, but it's the struggles on third down that made the difference. Those issues were compounded by a few drops from his wide receivers.
Another issue for the Brady was his inability to make plays down the field. Most of his completions were underneath or over the middle.
The lack of a vertical attack meant the New England Patriots had to put together long drives, and many ended up stalling. It might be time the Patriots consider adding a wide receiver capable of providing a deep threat.
Joe Flacco: A
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Stats: 21-of-36, 240 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions
Joe Flacco has established himself as a quarterback who raises his level of play in the playoffs. He nearly defeated the New England Patriots in last year's AFC Championship Game, and he pulled off the upset this year. His confidence and poise really allowed him to again step up in a difficult situation.
He took some real risks with a few of his throws, as it took perfect placement in order to connect on a few completions. His ball placement made the difference in this game. He continually put the ball where only his wide receivers could make the catch.
The way the Baltimore Ravens handled the final minutes of the game showed the trust they have in Flacco. There were several situations where they could've played it safe and handed the ball to Ray Rice. Instead, they put the ball in Flacco's hands.