Wednesday, 18 January 2012
It's hard to believe that we are just two conference games away from knowing who will be in Superbowl XLVI. With another week of amazing play-off action behind us it's time to reflect on the events of last weekend and look forward to the big big games this Sunday.
Welcome to the divisional round of my weekly blog. This weekend was quite the emotional journey for all fans involved in this weeks games. From the highs and low's of being a 49ers fan (Wolfie) to the sheer horror of being a Broncos fan and watching your team getting it's derrière handed to it on a plate!
Enough of my ramblings, let's dive straight into the action with the round up of this weeks games starting with Saturday's NFC offering between the Saints and 49ers.
Saints vs 49ers
This game had the makings of a classic struggle between the high power offence of the Saints vs the resolute defence of the 49ers. Everyone myself included said that if it came down to a shoot out then Alex Smith would not be able to cope with the pressure and the Saints would win easily.
To me this game was all that is great about the play-offs, both experts and fans alike think they know how a game will turn out but in the play-offs anything can happen!
Zap! Pow! Kersplat! These were sounds Donte Whitner and the 49ers defence were making every time they laid a hit on someone. From the 1st Saints drive all the way through the were playing smash mouth football.
The Saints opening drive to the 49ers goalline ended with my Bills old boy Whitner laying a sick hit on Pierre Thomas causing a fumble. At first I honestly though it might get flagged for helmet to helmet contact especially as Thomas was knocked out on first impact but the play stood and the 49ers took over possession. I'll let you judge for yourself if it should have been flagged:-
This really set the tone as the 49ers held the Saints pointless in the 1st quarter whilst managing to score two touchdowns via Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree. The Saints managed a late rally in the 2nd quarter to take a 14-17 deficit into halftime. This was of course after Brees was intercepted twice including this great pick from Goldson:-
I am sure that neither coach going in at halftime would have thought that the game would be settled with 4 changes of lead in the last 4 ½ minutes of the game but this is what happened starting with the Saints and Sproles catching a 44YD strike from Brees making the score 24-23 to the Saints. On the ensuing drive it culminated with Alex Smith running in from 28YD'S out. This was followed by a missed two point conversion making it 29-24 to the 49ers with just over 2 minutes left.
Act 3 of this hollywood style finish was Drew Brees completing a 66YD TD pass to Jimmy Graham with 1:37 left to play in the game. The Saints also tried a two point conversion and were successful leaving the score 32 – 29 to the Saints.
The stage was now set for Alex Smith to put all the doubters in their place as with less than two minutes left on the clock he drove the 49ers down the field with Vernon Davis as his key receiver. The drive finished up with two things, the game winning score with 9 seconds left and a very emotional Vernon Davis who had just caught his teams place in the conference game. For those who haven’t seen it, here is the game winning TD for you:-
Congratulations to the 49ers who made it through the high powered Saints to the big conference match-up next week. They left an ecstatic Candlefield crowd with a 36-32 win to saver all week, the question is will they be as emotional as their great TE!!
The second game on Sunday was the Tebow vs Brady show it seemed. With all the hype behind him and his strong beliefs I am sure Tebow was confident going into this one! I'm sure you’ve guessed another Tebowing pic is coming your way!!!!
Broncos vs Patriots
OK so with the last of this seasons Tebowing pictures out the way onto the game we go. Well I say game almost like it was competitive! The Patriots had the benefit of seeing just what Denver can do a few short weeks ago when they got shocked in the early quarter of their regular season match-up by Tebow.
Brady, Belichick and all the New England coaches had this one well scouted as Brady tore apart the Denver defence by throwing for 5 TD'S in the first half and allowing a courtesy Willis McGahee rushing TD. With the Patriots taking a 35 – 7 lead into halftime, all the Tebowing magic in the world could not save this game. New England finished the game with another Brady TD making a total of 6 on the day and the final score being 45 – 10.
My apologies for keeping this review short but apart from Denver being mauled and mentioning the Brady / Gronkowski show what else is their to mention. FYI Gronkowski finished with 3 TD'S and 145YD'S.
Sundays games now and we were in for a couple of mouthwatering ties with the Ravens hosting the play-off newbies the Texans and the showdown between the New York Giants and Green Bay Packers.
I will be starting at the M & T bank stadium with the Ravens and Texans.
Texans vs Ravens
This was to be the battle of two great defences and also the rookie quarterback vs the self proclaimed overlooked quarterback!
True to form it was the defences who stood out in this one with the Ravens getting 4 takeaways and the Texans stopping the Ravens twice including a goalline stand and one in the dying moments of the fourth quarter allowing the Texans offence one last shot at the win.
OK so lets skip back the first quarter where as mentioned the defences where just phenomenal! The Texans got the ball first and whilst they managed to drive the length of the field into field goal territory they did not get any further with the Ravens defence holding strong. So Texans up 3-0 and it was time for Flacco to show just how great he is!
Thanks to some great catches from Boldin and a solid defence the Ravens then went on to score 17 unanswered points before the Texans made a brief second quarter comeback making the score at halftime 17-13.
The second was a show of defensive power on both sides with the only score being a field goal by Baltimore. On a positive note for the Ravens offence both Boldin and Evans showed they have quality with some great grabs including this one handed pearler from Evans, like Whitner he learnt all this at Buffalo lol:-
Both Teams can hold their heads high after this game in my opinion as despite the Turnover Yates acquitted himself well I think and Foster was an animal with over 140YDS on the ground. After all it is not every day you face two of the games greatest players in your first ever play-off match!
Thinking of those greats how well did Lewis and Reed play, Reed especially showing on the last play that even if it means putting his body on the line he wants to make a play by picking off Yates's pass headed for the endzone on the Texans penultimate drive and batting down the last pass of the game. It is only fair I share Reeds pick below:-
I shall leave this one with one final Ravens picture from their win on Sunday:-
Giants vs Packers
Now we move onto the final game of the weekend and what everyone except myself and a few others was just another step on the Packers road back to the Superbowl. It does make me very proud to say that I did pick the Giants to win this one as my upset of the week.
I can't put my finger on why I thought that, maybe it was that they run them so close in their regular season meeting or maybe it was because of the hype surrounding the Packers that I wanted them to loose.
This game had a big build up and when I look back on it, I have to say although there were some great moments it was a little disappointing from a quality perspective. I think a lot will be said this week about the effects of resting Aaron Rodgers and him not having played for three weeks but I can only think of one or two plays that didn’t work because of him.
The game started with an early exchange of field goals before Eli Manning managed to find Nicks who bounced off a tackle and took the ball 66YD'S for a score. On the next drive the Packers had their first of two very lucky calls when Rodgers found Jennings on a pass to the New York 32YD line. Jennings appeared to loose control of the ball on his way to the ground with the reply showing the ball coming out before any part of Jennings hit the floor. It was challenged but strangely upheld as a completed catch down by contact.
The Packers used this momentum to put the ball in the endzone with an 8YD pass to Kuhn for the score tying the game at 10-10. It was from this point that the Giants took control of the game with a field goal and a last second TD grab from Nicks on the stroke of halftime giving the Giants a 20-10 lead at halftime.
In my opinion this was probably the defining moment of the game for two reason, firstly it was an amazing catch and secondly it gave the Giants a 10 point lead which the Packers never recovered from. Check out Nicks's grab below:-
Although they did try to rally late on in the game and where helped by a roughing the passer call which was ridiculous they couldn’t get back in this one. The game finished 37-20 to the Giants.
I think to summarise the game the keys things were Eli Mannings completion rate on third down was outstanding, the Packers receivers dropped far to many catches that were right in their hands to make it a contest. Finally more a point of note that the Packers only TD'S came off the back of two very dodgy officiating calls which kept their drives alive.
Fair play to the Giants as they move on to the conference game this weekend.
This week for the last two downs instead of pros by myself and EJ on each team I have handed over my beloved AFC match-up to EJ to provide his take on the Patriots vs Ravens with myself handling the NFC match-up between the Giants and 49ers.
AFC Championship - Ravens vs Patriots
The Ravens and Patriots look like two teams going opposite directions. The Patriots dismantled the Broncos, looking tough in all phases of the game. The Ravens struggled with the Texans, unable to protect Flacco and having difficulty stopping Foster. The Ravens offense looked miserable, not being able to run the ball with Rice or Flacco able to do much through the air. On the flip side, the Patriots and Brady are playing just as good as anyone in the league. The 'Gronk' is unstoppable, it is fun watching him and Brady dissect defences.
The Ravens have to keep Brady off the field by getting their run game going with Ray Rice and Ricky Williams. They have to be able to convert on 3rd downs, something they were very unsuccessful in doing against the Texans. Defensively, they don't have to worry about the run game -- but instead shutting down 2 guys: Rob Gronkowski and Wes Welker. Personally, if I were the Ravens, I would put Ed Reed to man up with the Gronk all game to shut that facet of the offense out.
The Patriots need to continue using their weapons as stated above as well as keeping the opposing defences guessing, like they did when they had Hernandez run 3 times for over 60 yards--not bad for a TE! They are a tough team to game plan for and will win if they can contain Rice from having big plays.
Both teams are very hungry and I foresee a very physical and emotional game!
Awesome work EJ as always my friend, personally I look forward to spitting football with you every week as you say!
NFC Championship – Giants vs 49ers
A bit like the above match-up both the Giants and 49ers have a different style of offence. Whilst the 49ers offence revolves around the running game of Frank Gore, the Giants offence uses the running game to set up their big plays down the field.
This should be a very interesting game as unlike the Saints the Giants will be able to get some really good pressure on Alex Smith and will really test the offensive line of the 49ers.
For the Giants to win this one I think they need to control the clock by going deep early and getting a few quick scores to get the 49ers off their offensive gameplan and try to take Frank Gore out the equation early on. I say this as controlling the clock because if they can get the early lead it will force the 49ers to throw more and also when the Giants have the ball they can use the partnership of Bradshaw and Jacobs to tire the 49ers front 7. I know Alex Smith was able to produce the goods last week in the dying minutes but the Giants defence is better than that of the Saints and I really like Corey Webster as a corner.
On the flipside for the 49ers to win it is all about using their main weapon, tough defence! The Giants have had a lot of big plays this year where their receivers have just not been wrapped up in the tackle or hit hard enough to be stopped. I think if they can take away the deep throws or at least tackle them when they complete a 30YD catch they can put a holt on the big play ability and force the Giants to take on their front 7 defenders. Lets be honest who wants to run into Patrick Willis 10 – 20 times a game! From on offence point of view Frank Gore is key, the Giants front 7 are great pass rushers but no so strong against the run. This really falls into the 49ers hands so will be interesting to see who wins the trench battle.
Well that's me done for another week, we have two great games to look forward to on Sunday night and to think my next edition will be a Superbowl preview. Due to the pro bowl the weekend after this my blog will be taking a bye week until the Tuesday before the Big Game.
As always Ladies and Gents 'Thanks for Stopping By!'