Championship Sunday did not disappoint. In the first game, the Colts scored 24 unanswered points to take down the surprise team of the playoffs, the New York Jets.
In the nightcap, it was a shootout like many thought, with the New Orleans Saints outslugging the Minnesota Vikings in overtime, ending the season, and possibly career, of a certain 40-year-old quarterback.
New York Jets 17, Indianapolis Colts 30
The Colts trailed 17-6 in the second quarter, but a touchdown before the half pulled them within four.
They outscored the Jets 17-0 in the second half and beat New York 30-17, earning the right to play in Miami for a Super Bowl title.
Colts QB Peyton Manning dominated most of the game and all of the second half, finishing 26-39 for 377 yards, three touchdowns and, most importantly, no interceptions.
WR Reggie Wayne and TE Dallas Clark, both of whom had 100+ catches during the season, were held to seven total catches for 90 total yards, while emerging stars Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie combined for 18 catches, 274 yards and two touchdowns.
The Colts looked human in the first half against the top ranked defense in the NFL, but got it going in the second half. Perhaps the biggest reason for the Colts win was their defense, especially in the second half—they shut the Jets out in the third and fourth quarter and held their very good running game in check, allowing 86 total rushing yards on 29 carries.
The Colts look like a very tough matchup regardless of who they were to face on February 7. Their offense won’t have a problem putting up points.
New York Jets
The unexpected playoff run by the Jets finally came to an end in the AFC Championship game against the Colts.
The Jets came out firing on all cylinders and took a 17-6 lead, which could have been 20-6 if not for a field goal that was missed just barely wide to the right.
Unfortunately for the Jets, they could not keep it going in the second half on offense, and their No. 1 ranked defense was picked apart by Manning, the NFL’s MVP.
Sanchez came up just a little short of being the first rookie quarterback to ever lead his team to the Super Bowl. Nonetheless, even after some shaky stretches during the regular season, Sanchez showed what he is capable of during these playoffs. Jets fans should be excited of their future with that great defense and a future star behind center.
They could stand to add a couple of weapons on offense, but if WR Braylon Edwards can get back to where he was a couple seasons ago with the Cleveland Browns, and TE Dustin Keller continues to improve, they may not need to add much at all.
Minnesota Vikings 28, New Orleans Saints 31 (OT)
New Orleans Saints
In the second best game of this postseason, the Saints edged out the Minnesota Vikings on a 40-yard field goal from Garrett Hartley in overtime.
The Saints offense put up 31 points, but overall they were held in check as QB Drew Brees threw for just 197 yards, and they had less than 70 yards rushing.
However, they scored seven points in each quarter and the field goal in overtime clinched their first Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.
Perhaps the story of the game was how the Saints defense pressured Vikings QB Brett Favre all game long. They did not record a single sack, but in 46 pass attempts, Favre was hit 16 times, as well as on a couple of handoffs.
The Saints defense gave up over 450 yards of offense, but just like they did all year, they got takeaways in big situations. They won the turnover battle 5-1, but even that was barely enough to send them to Miami.
The Saints have another tough task ahead of them as they prepare for the Colts in Super Bowl XLIV. Both teams will sling it 35+ times, but the team with the more successful rushing attack may just be crowned Super Bowl Champions.
Favre’s final game as a Green Bay Packer ended in the NFC Championship with an overtime loss, and his final pass was an interception.
Favre’s (potential) final game as a Minnesota Viking ended in the NFC Championship with an overtime loss, and his final pass was an interception.
If that is indeed the end of the line for No. 4, what a career it was. Unfortunately for him, nobody will remember that his final season was his best statistical season ever; all people will remember is his final pass, a poor decision on his part.
Nonetheless, if he does call it quits (for real this time), he will still go down as one of the greatest of all time.
The Vikings shot themselves in the foot repeatedly with five turnovers and some bad penalties, but even with all of that, they still had chances to win the game.
RB Adrian Peterson ran for 122 yards and three touchdowns, but a missed handoff inside the 10-yard line will haunt him all offseason.
Favre completed 28 passes for 310 yards and a touchdown, but two interceptions that were just bad throws on his part.
The Vikings defense, perhaps their biggest strength during the season, played fairly well, holding the Saints to about 250 yards of total offense, but the lack of pressure on Brees ultimately may have cost them a shot at the Colts.
What a Sunday it was. Ten playoff games have been played, and the No. 1 seed from each conference is still standing and will square off on Sunday, February 7, in Miami with the hope of becoming Super Bowl Champions. I expect a shootout with the winner needing at least 28 points for the win.
I don't know for sure, but I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that Super Bowl XLIV will be the first in history to go to overtime.