NFL Playoffs: Divisional Weekend Recap

Saul HubbardContributor IJanuary 17, 2011

NFL Playoffs: Divisional Weekend Recap

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    Game Recaps

    Ravens: 24 Steelers: 31

    A rip-roaring game in Pittsburgh that swung dramatically in the second half. Baltimore took a comfortable 21-7 lead into halftime, but a couple of lost fumbles and a sputtering Ravens offense allowed the Steelers back into the game.

    A huge completion from Ben Roethlisberger to rookie wideout Antonio Brown with two minutes left (more on that later) set the table for the winning Steelers touchdown. In a typically close encounter, (much) better execution in the second half was the key to Pittsburgh’s comeback victory.

Game Recaps

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    Packers: 48 Falcons: 21

    Hard to dissociate any part of this game from the brilliance of Aaron Rodgers. He tore the Falcons defense up through the air leading long touchdown drive after long touchdown drive, while Green Bay’s pass defense successfully slowed Matt Ryan down.

    The game’s key moment turned out to be the final minute of the first half when Green Bay first scored an offensive touchdown with 42 seconds left, and then, added another score on a Tramon Williams pick-six as time expired. A 14-point swing that proved too much for Atlanta to overcome.

Game Recaps

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    Seahawks: 24 Bears: 35

    The upset never really seemed on the cards in Chicago as the Seahawks offense didn’t even get close to the heights it reached against the Saints. Seattle’s first eight drives stalled and resulted in punts, while at the other end, Chicago slowly built a bigger and bigger lead, mixing the run and pass nicely.

    The Seahawks scored three fourth quarter touchdowns to make the score respectable, but the threat of a comeback never seemed real.  

Game Recaps

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    Jets: 28 Patriots: 21

    When it comes to playoff upsets, they don’t come much bigger than the Jets victory over the Patriots on Sunday. In my Internet travels this week, I didn’t find a single NFL expert who picked New York to win. But they did it, thanks largely to an unbelievable display from Rex Ryan’s defense.

    The defense did everything right, from getting constant pressure on and hitting Tom Brady to providing almost immaculate down-the-field coverage on New England's receivers. With the Pats offense limited, Mark Sanchez played better than he has in months, ably supported by his cast of running backs and receivers.

    That makes two unexpected runs of success in the playoffs for the Jets in two seasons under Rex Ryan’s leadership. Impressive stuff and postseason moxie from the unorthodox coach. 

Five (Not So) Quick Hits:

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    1: So much for playoff seedings: both No. 1 seeds were sent packing this weekend.

Five (Not So) Quick Hits:

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    2: Two hits that made you wince were absorbed by Seattle players on Sunday. Tight end John Carlson and defensive back Marcus Trufant were both unable to continue and were later diagnosed with concussions. Just another day in the NFL. 

Five (Not So) Quick Hits:

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    3: Players often try to look intimidating with some black face paint and a fearsome glare. But Brett Keisel really pulled it off Saturday. The man's a modern-day Viking.

Five (Not So) Quick Hits:

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    4: Wes Welker was benched for the first offensive series of New England’s clash with New York. For what you ask? Well, this, apparently. If it’s true, it’s just more evidence of Bill Belichick’s legendary non-existent sense of humor.

Five (Not So) Quick Hits

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    5: Bring on what should be two great championship games (the AFC title game in particular should be a tight one). 

Studs of the Week:

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    A. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers:

    An almost perfect quarterback performance by Green Bay’s No. 12. He put the ball exactly where he wanted with almost every throw, completing a staggering 31-of-36 passes for 366 yards and three touchdowns. He added a gutsy rushing touchdown to complete his masterful domination of Atlanta’s defense.  

Studs of the Week:

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    B.  Jets linebacker David Harris:

    Hard to pick just one Jet out of a defense that was superb across the board, but Harris was extra special. He made nine solo tackles and was in on three others. He was also a factor in slowing the passing game, picking off a Brady pass and deflecting another pass.  

Studs of the Week:

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    C. Bears tight end Greg Olsen:

    Showed once again why he is Jay Cutler’s favorite target, displaying sure hands and great running ability after the catch. His 58-yard touchdown catch broke the game open, and he finished with 113 yards on three catches.

Duds of the Week

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    A. Baltimore cornerback Lardarius Webb:

    Made the blunder of the weekend, allowing Steelers' rookie receiver Antonio Brown to run by him and catch a deep ball on 3rd-and-19 on a crucial play, despite giving himself a 20-yard cushion at the snap.

Duds of the Week

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    B. Seahawks safety Earl Thomas:

    Whiffed on a tackle to stop Jay Cutler from scoring a touchdown in the second quarter and failed to break up a touchdown pass to Kellen Davis in the fourth. A rare rough outing from the otherwise special rookie.

Duds of the Week

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    C. Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch:

    Dropped a key pass on 4th down towards the end of the fourth quarter and then showed himself to be a bit of a sore loser after the game was over, telling reporters,  “The embarrassing part came from a few classless (Jets) guys after the game. There were a lot of classless things that went on after the game ended.”

    Hey Deion, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen the Patriots celebrate fairly "enthusiastically" after a big win. So take it easy.

Rookie of the Week

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    Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown:

    The sixth-round pick out of Central Michigan pulled in (with a little help from his helmet) the biggest catch of his career late in the game against Baltimore, a 58-yard Ben Roethlisberger bomb on 3rd-and-19.

    Make a few more catches like that against the black-and-purple, and you’ll be forever beloved in the ‘Burgh.

Play of the Week

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    Unbelievable catch in the corner of the end zone by the most gifted athlete on the Jets offense. 

Ridiculous Play of the Week

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    What’s with football players giving up on plays these days?

    First, it was the Oregon Ducks in the college championship game, then it was the Steelers on this play on Saturday. I thought the first rule of the game was: play to the whistle.

    I know a couple of pee-wee players who would tell you that.