|01.13.13 at 8:45 am ET|
|01.12.13 at 11:38 pm ET|
Colin Kaepernick set a new NFL rushing record for a quarterback with 183 yards and two touchdowns and threw for two more as the 49ers beat the Green Bay Packers, 45-31, Saturday night in their NFC divisional playoff in San Francisco.
In all, Kaepernick accounted for 446 yards and four touchdowns as the 49ers earned their second straight trip to the NFC championship game. They will either play at home next Sunday against the Seahawks or travel to Atlanta for a showdown with the Falcons.
Kaepernick ran for touchdowns of 21 and 56 yards, with the 56-yarder snapping a 24-24 tie and putting the Niners ahead for good. Kaepernick outdueled Green Bay second-team All-Pro Aaron Rodgers, who was 26-of-39 for 257 yards and two touchdowns. Kaepernick showed mental toughness as he threw a pick-6 to Green Bay’s Sam Shields, giving the Packers an early 7-0 lead.
The 49ers have a chance at redemption by getting back to the NFC championship next week, a game they lost in overtime to the Giants one year ago.
The Seahawks and Falcons square off at Sunday at 1 p.m. before the Patriots and Texans do battle at Gillette at 4:30.
For more, visit the Patriots team page at weei.com/patriots.
|01.12.13 at 11:01 pm ET|
It’s one of the central themes we’ve heard all week from the Patriots.
One bad decision at the wrong time and your season can come to end before you knew what hit you.
Certainly, that’s what the Patriots must have been thinking to themselves as Peyton Manning made a horrendous decision at the wrong time late in overtime that ended his Super Bowl dreams and those of his Broncos teammates and fans.
Rolling to his right late in the first overtime against the Ravens, Manning decided to force a pass back to the middle of the field to Brandon Stokley on second-and-6 from his own 38. Ravens cornerback Corey Graham undercut Stokley and was in the right place at the right time as the pass hit him right in the stomach as he fell to the ground at the Denver 45.
“Bad throw, probably the decision not great either,” Manning said [watch Peyton Manning’s press conference on NFL.com]. “Thought I had him open, didn’t get enough on it. Trying to make a play and certainly a throw I’d like to have back.”
“He was trying to make a play,” Broncos coach John Fox said. “I’m not going to be critical.”
Six plays later, Justin Tucker nailed a 47-yard field-goal to give the Ravens a 38-35 win over the Broncos in double-overtime, and send Baltimore to the AFC championship for the second straight season. They will either play at Gillette Stadium against the Patriots or Reliant Stadium in Houston depending on the outcome of Sunday’s Patriots-Texans game.
So, after being named to the Associated Press All-Pro first team earlier in the day and earning praise for leading the Broncos to a 13-3 season in one of the more remarkable comeback stories in recent NFL history, Manning must now watch the rest of the playoffs again from home.
“I accomplished a lot more this year than I thought I would have,” Manning said of his return from multiple neck surgeries. “I think this team exceed expectations. It’s a hard one to swallow.”
Manning has lost his first game in the playoffs eight times, six of those times he was a prohibitive favorite, including on Saturday when he was close to a double-digit favorite. Manning falls to 9-11 in the playoffs.
Manning finished 28-of-43 passing for 290 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions, including one returned by Graham in the first quarter that was returned for Baltimore’s second touchdown of the day. He also had a fumble in the second half that led to a Ray Rice touchdown that tied the game, 28-28.
Manning may well win the NFL MVP award but there’s no comfort in coming up short again when it matters the most.
|01.12.13 at 10:10 pm ET|
Four things we learned from Saturday’s wild divisional playoff contest between the Broncos and the Ravens, a double-overtime masterpiece football folks will be discussing for a long time.
1. Joe Flacco comes up big. No matter what you think of the Ravens’ signal caller, he came up big in a huge moment against the Broncos, finding Jacoby Jones on a ridiculous 70-yard touchdown pass with less than a minute to go in regulation to tie the game up. Denver safety Rahim Moore didn’t help things by blowing the coverage, but Flacco was still able to make the connection with the game of the line. (Of course, some clock mismanagement on Flacco’s part caused the Ravens to burn a timeout late in regulation, but we’ll give him a pass because of his late game heroics.) In the end, he finished 18-for-34 for 331 yards, with three touchdowns and no picks.
2. The entire Baltimore roster showed some terrific mental toughness. It wasn’t just Flacco making some big plays — the Ravens tenacity in this one was very impressive. Whether it was the fact that they didn’t necessarily want to lose this one for Ray Lewis, or the fact that they were able to bounce back time and again on the road in a historically difficult place to win, it was a really nice display of grit by the Ravens, who will be going back to the AFC title game for the second consecutive year.
3. The Broncos made some odd choices. Whether it was deciding to take a knee and play for overtime at the end of regulation, or Peyton Manning‘s decision to throw across his body at the end of the first regulation — a pass that led to an interception that led to the Ravens’ game-winning field goal — the Broncos made some questionable calls. Manning ended up going 28-for-43 for 290 yards with three touchdowns and two picks, but given the fact that Denver entered the postseason as the No. 1 playoff seed in the AFC, some of the decisions they made in this playoff loss will haunt them this offseason.
4. Special teams were in the spotlight. It’s impossible not to notice the fact that the Ravens season ended last year on a missed field goal by Billy Cundiff in the AFC title game against the Patriots, and now, they’ll continue to play because of a made field goal by youngster Justin Tucker. Tucker connected on a 47-yard field goal 1:42 into the second overtime to send the Ravens back to Baltimore to prepare for the AFC title game. Because of Tucker’s game-winner, we’ll forgive the special-teams breakdowns that took place in regulation, when Trindon Holliday became the first player in NFL with punt and kickoff returns for touchdowns in the same playoff game. Holliday took a punt back 90 yards in the first half and opening the second half with a 104-yard kick return to help jumpstart the Broncos.
|01.12.13 at 9:09 pm ET|
Peyton Manning threw an interception at the end of the first overtime and Ravens kicker Justin Tucker drilled a 47-yarder 1:42 into the second overtime to lift Baltimore to a remarkable 38-35 win over the Broncos in an AFC divisional playoff matchup Saturday afternoon in Denver.
With the victory, the Ravens will advance to the AFC championship game, and will face the winner of Sunday’s Patriots-Texans game.
The Broncos appeared to have the game wrapped up at the end of regulation, but Baltimore shocked the Denver crowd with an impressive fourth-quarter drive that ended when Joe Flacco connected with Jacoby Jones with less than a minute to go to tie the game at 35. That set the stage for a scoreless first overtime, but a Manning pick in Denver territory opened the door for the Ravens, who celebrated after Tucker’s kick was good from 47 yards.
Flacco was 18-for-34 for 331 yards and three touchdowns in the win, and Ravens running back Ray Rice added 131 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries. In addition, wide receiver Torrey Smith had three catches for 98 yards and a pair of touchdowns. On the other side of the ball, Manning threw three touchdowns, but the late interception was a killer for the Broncos, who were the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoff picture, but will now watch the rest of the postseason from the sidelines.
Manning, who found Demaryius Thomas, Brandon Stokley and Knowshon Moreno for touchdown passes, ended up going 28-for-43 for 290 yards with three touchdowns and two picks in the loss. Denver also big performances from Ronnie Hillman (22 carries, 83 yards), Eric Decker (six catches, 84 yards) and Trindon Holliday, who became the first player in NFL with punt and kickoff return touchdowns in the same playoff game. Holliday took a punt back 90 yards in the first half and opening the second half with a 104-yard kick return to help jumpstart the Broncos.
After going back-and-forth for the first three-plus quarters, the Broncos took the lead for good midway through the fourth quarter when Manning put together a 10-play, 88-yard drive that ended with a 17-yard pass play from Manning to Thomas to make it 35-28 midway through the quarter.
That set the stage for a wild finish. First. the Ravens, driving late in regulation for what would have likely been a game-tying touchdown, were denied when Jones dropped a third-down pass, and then had an pass play from Flacco to Dennis Pitta broken up by Denver defensive back Mike Adams. But after the Broncos failed to pick up a second first down and were forced to punt the ball away with 1:15 remaining in regulation. After Flacco got his team to its own 30-yard line, he heaved it deep downfield with 41 seconds left. Jones beat his coverage, and snuck into the end zone to tie the game.
|01.12.13 at 4:56 pm ET|
Here’s everything you need to know about Sunday’s Patriots-Texans game:
1. Linebacker Brandon Spikes and defensive lineman Vince Wilfork against running back Arian Foster. The Texans are at their best when they’re running the ball, and that starts with Foster (1,424 rushing yards this season). Meanwhile, Spikes and Wilfork and two of the biggest reasons the Patriots were one of the best teams against the run this season — New England finished the regular season ninth in the league in run defense, allowing an average of 101.9 yards per game. Per Pro Football Focus, Spikes leads all inside linebackers with a +14 run grade, while Wilfork’s ability to dominate in the trenches continues to impress. The Texans weren’t able to run the ball much in the second half of the game the first time around — the fact that they fell behind 14-0 in a blink had something to do with that. But if Houston is able to hang with New England from the jump, expect the Texans to try and run the ball more than they did the first time around.
2. Defensive lineman J.J. Watt against the Patriots offensive line. History tells us that the teams that have done the best against New England over the last two-plus years have been able to control things up front, and for the Texans, that starts with Watt (20.5 sacks this season). The young defensive lineman was able to get a good push in his first game against the Patriots, but Brady was able to get the ball out quickly consistently, helping to negate any sort of Houston pass rush. The Texans have to figure out a way to get pressure on Brady without necessarily sending extra rushers, and so Watt has to work in tandem with other Houston pass rushers like Antonio Smith (seven sacks in the regular season), Whitney Mercilus (six sacks) and Connor Barwin (three sacks).
3. Quarterback Tom Brady against the Texans pass defense. Last time around, Brady made the Texans regret their decision to send extra pressure on a regular basis as he carved up the Houston pass defense for 296 yards and four touchdowns on the way to a 42-14 rout. (For what it’s worth, Brady averages out to 25-for-41 for 297 yards with three touchdowns and one pick a game against Wade Phillips‘ defenses.) So what has Phillips — who is 1-3 in his career against Brady — dreamed up for this matchup? One thing to look for is if he decides to try and take a page from the 2010 Jets, who turned the tables on the Patriots: a month after their horrific regular-season loss to New England, New York changed defensive philosophies. The Jets spent most of the playoff game attacking Brady with four rushers while dropping seven defenders into zone coverage in an attempt to clog up the passing lanes. It remains to be seen whether Phillips wants to do this — or if even has the personnel that can pull this off — but it remains a distinct possibility.
(I know we only usually do three matchups, but we can’t not mention the head-to-head battle that likely looms between cornerback Aqib Talib against wide receiver Andre Johnson. With Talib, the Patriots have been able to play more man coverage in the passing game. The first time around — before Talib left just before the half with a hip injury — it was Talib against Johnson on a fairly regular basis. And while Talib didn’t necessarily lock him down, it allowed the Patriots to do some things that they couldn’t necessarily do before, including the movement of Devin McCourty to safety. With the Patriots already up 7-0, McCourty would go on to pick up a game-changing pick of Matt Schaub on the New England goal line midway through the first quarter. The next time the Texans would get as close to the end zone, they would be down 28-0.)
4. Under the radar opponent who Patriots’ fans need to know: Tight end Garrett Graham. The 6-foot-3, 244-pound Wisconsin product missed the first game between the Patriots and Texans this season because of a head injury, but it appears that he’s ready to go this time around. He’s not a colossal game-changer, but he did have 28 catches for 263 yards and three touchdowns on the season. He’s also Houston’s best blocking tight end, and allows Houston to do some more things offensively (including utilizing more multiple tight end sets) than they did the first time around. It’s not quite comparable to the Patriots welcoming back a tight end of their own in Rob Gronkowski, but it provides a boost to the Houston offense.
5. By the numbers (tie, both courtesy of Nuggetpalooza): One, the Patriots put up an NFL-high 41 drives lasting 10 or more plays in 2012. That tied their club (and league) record that they set in 2007. (Houston’s defense allowed only 17 such drives this season, the fewest in the league.) And two, New England’s defense forced 42 fumbles and recovered 21 of them, both league highs this season. The Texans only lost four fumbles on offense this season, tied with the Falcons for the fewest in the league.
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|01.12.13 at 1:06 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Another dominating season along the Patriots’ defensive line has earned Vince Wilfork first-team Associated Press All-Pro honors.
Starting left guard Logan Mankins was named to the second team despite missing six games due to hip and ankle injuries. The results from a panel of 50 voters was announced Saturday morning.
Despite another Pro Bowl season, quarterback Tom Brady, with three votes, did not make either first or second team, beaten out by first-teamer Peyton Manning (43 votes) and Aaron Rodgers (four votes). Brady missed the second team by one vote after throwing for 4,827 yards and 34 touchdowns and eight interceptions while completing 63 percent of his passes.
This is the first time Wilfork has been voted to the first team, after being named to the second team in 2007, 2010 and 2011. The perennial Pro Bowl nose tackle finished the season with three sacks, 29 tackles and four fumble recoveries.
Rob Gronkowski finished third among tight ends, behind Atlanta’s Tony Gonzalez and the Cowboys’ Jason Witten.