Last year NFL fans received a treat for Super Bowl XLIV as the New Orleans Saints squared off against the Indianapolis Colts competing for one last victory. Despite the Colts being the favorites, the Saints won their first Super Bowl ever and Mardi Gras was on Bourbon Street in February.
As week 17 came to a close and the playoffs were just beginning, fans saw two unfamiliar teams in the weekend's wild card match up, the Saints and the Colts. The same two teams from last year's epic Super Bowl match-up and the chances of seeing that again didn’t look so well. The Saints were coming in 1-5 in wild card situations and the Colts were coming in at 4-4.
New Orleans Saints @ Seattle Seahawks
The Saints would play first as they were heading into Qwest Field to play the Seahawks, who finished the season at 7-9. It looked like an easy win for the defending Super Bowl Champs. However, the Seahawks, 5-1 at Qwest Field in playoff situations, felt as if they were the favorites.
After taking an early 10-0 lead, the Seahawks would strike back with a 7-yard touchdown. Back and forth scoring led to a surprising 24-20 Seahawks' lead at halftime. Though this lead wouldn’t last for long, right? WRONG! The Seahawks came out of the halftime break with more intensity and energy than they had in the first half, scoring 10 straight points taking a 14-point lead entering the fourth quarter.
With their backs against the wall, the Saints scored 10 straight points to cut the deficit to 34-30 Seahawks. Getting the ball back with 4:20 left on the clock and a four-point lead, the Seahawks were looking to close out the game by running the ball out and with short passes caught in bounds. First play, Marshawn Lynch for no gain. Second down, Marshawn Lynch got the ball, ran to the left, where it looked like he was going to get stuffed but broke out of two tacklers and the rest of the Saints' defense 67 yards to the end zone.
Lynch’s 67-yard touchdown run was the game changer as the Seahawks took a 41-30 lead putting the game out of reach for the Saints. On that run Lynch broke eight tackles and caused a small earthquake from Qwest Field’s response to one of, if not the, greatest plays in NFL history.
But wait…watch the video again. You see a great run don’t you? Well fast forward to 14 seconds. Look at No. 75 Sean Locklear and No. 8 Matt Hasselbeck. Look at the “block” they give to No. 96 Alex Brown; looks like a block in the back to me. Yes, that one little missed call changed the game for the defending champs and most likely it cost them the game.
Indianapolis Colts vs. New York Jets
Flashback: 2010 AFC Championship, Colts 30 Jets 17. The Jets didn’t forget about last year when the rookie Mark Sanchez went up against the great Peyton Manning and Sanchez failed, throwing for 257 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, watching Manning close the game in the fourth quarter. However, he would have his chance for redemption: 2011 AFC Wild Card Game, Lucas Oil Stadium Jets vs. Colts.
It was the fourth quarter, again trailing 10-7 to Manning and the Colts, this time Sanchez was ready. The Jets would strike first off a LaDainian Tomlinson 1-yard touchdown run to take the lead 14-10. After an Adam Vinatieri field goal, the Jets would get the ball back leading 14-13 with four minutes to go. However, on 3rd-and-5, Santonio Holmes dropped a pass, forcing the Jets to punt and giving Manning three minutes to win a football game.
But then on the punt the Colts would get flagged for No. 10 Taj Smith running into the kicker. The Jets would then regain the ball with a new set of downs. However, the Colts defense would stop them again, forcing them to punt once again. This time, though, the Colts got the ball back.
The Colts would start on the 20-yard line, making their way up to the to Jets' 36-yard line. After a Blair White dropped pass, the Colts would put the game back into Vinatieri’s hands…or feet. From 50 yards away, Vinatieri did it again, putting the Colts up 16-14 with 53 seconds remaining.
After an Antonio Cromartie return to start their drive at the 46-yard line, the Jets, with 45 seconds left, seemed to have some hope. Then, with 40 seconds left, Sanchez threw an 11-yard pass to Holmes, who then ran out of bounds to stop the clock. Then the Colts called a timeout their last one reaming...are you kidding me?! (Jim Mora voice). After they wasted their timeout, Sanchez throws an 18-yard pass to Braylon Edwards, who catches it in bounds but then falls out of bounds. However, the referee signaled for the clock to reamain running. Another missed call by the referees in the playoffs.
The Jets would then let the clock run down to three seconds, calling a timeout to give Nick Folk a 32-yard field goal attempt. Folk would knock it down and the Jets would win 17-16, eliminating the Colts.
Now if the Colts don’t waste that timeout like they did for some odd reason and the referee makes the right call by stopping the clock after the Edwards 18-yard catch (fast forward 6:34), Manning would’ve had around 12 seconds and a timeout to work with to get into field goal range. Yes, that’s still a “Hail Mary” of a way to win but we’ve seen it before.