|Seahawks pull off miracle, shock Packers to head back to Super Bowl||01.18.15 at 6:34 pm ET|
In one of the most shocking endings in NFL postseason history, the Seattle Seahawks punched their return ticket to the Super Bowl in miraculous fashion. Russell Wilson, who had struggled badly throughout the game, connected with Jermaine Kearse from 35 yards out just over three minutes into overtime to give Seattle a 28-22 win over Green Bay in a monumentally classic NFC championship game at CenturyLink Field.
Trailing 19-7 in the final three minutes, the Seahawks scored twice, executed a perfect onside kick and converted a miraculous two-point conversion to forge a 22-19 lead with 1:25 left. Then a hurting and hobbled Aaron Rodgers engineered a scoring drive that ended with Mason Crosby’s fifth field goal of the day, a 48-yarder, that forced overtime and prompted huge cheers from the crowd watching inside Gillette Stadium.
The overtime pushed the start time of the Patriots-Colts AFC championship back 10 minutes.
For the first 57 minutes, it appeared for all the world that Green Bay would be headed to Glendale.
The game was a sloppy affair in the first half, as the two teams combined for five turnovers.
Wilson, who finished just 14-of-29 for 209 yards and four interceptions, seemed particularly affected by the early heavy rains that gave way to sun showers. The Seahawks quarterback had just eight yards passing while being victimized twice by Clinton-Dix, Green Bay’s first-round pick last year.
But the Packers kept the Seahawks in the game by settling for field goals on two early turnovers in the first quarter. Rodgers made it 13-0 Packers when he connected with Randall Cobb for 13 yards before the second quarter began. Mason Crosby hit his third field goal of the game in the second quarter to give Green Bay a 16-0 halftime lead.
The Seahawks generated some life late in the third quarter when they converted a fake field goal into a touchdown, as hold Jon Ryan found tackle Gary Gillam in the end zone. The Seahawks trailed 16-6 and instead of going for two points, making it a one possession game, they settled for the extra point.
The Packers came down the field and made it 19-7 on Crosby’s fourth field goal. The Seahawks couldn’t generate much offense in the final quarter until Marshawn Lynch‘s tightrope act on the right sidelines on a flare route gave Seahawks first-and-goal. Wilson’s run into the end zone with 2:09 left made it 19-14 Green Bay.
Stephen Hauschka then executed an onside kick that Brandon Bostick muffed while leaping. The Seahawks then marched 50 yards in 44 yards, capped by a 24-yard Lynch touchdown run. The Seahawks went for two and Russell Wilson appeared ready to give up when he faded back to his 25. He lobbed a pass to tight end Luke Willson, who caught it at the 1 and reached over for the two points. That conversion would prove critical as Rodgers drove the Packers into position for Crosby’s 48-yarder with 14 seconds left that tied the game, instead of giving the Packers the win.
|Fantasy Football: Championship round daily leagues||01.16.15 at 10:30 am ET|
I hope some of you had success with last week’s DraftKings lineups. I know I did and I stuck pretty closely to last week’s recommendations. This week is an even tougher week for getting original lineups because the choices are so incredibly limited with only two games from which to choose talent.
As usual, I’ll do my best to explain my thought process as I construct my weekly lineup, and I’ll have a completed roster by the time we’re done. If you are looking for more information on players not listed in this space, head over to Rotobahn this afternoon. I’ll have my full lineup rankings posted by then.
Last week, I was pretty clear about which quarterbacks I wanted you to play. As it turned out I was right, but I also was wrong. That’s because all of the quarterbacks stepped up and posted significant numbers. Even those who chose Peyton Manning had a chance if they played the other positions well enough.
This week is a little different. With the exception of Aaron Rodgers, I like all the options at quarterback, and even Rodgers has some merit — particularly if you want a contrarian move to differentiate your lineup a bit.
One thing that could end being a plus for Rodgers is the weather. While it’s potentially going to be wet in both Foxboro and in Seattle, it is not expected to be very cold, and that is a plus for a guy who is playing with a significant muscle pull in his calf. Rodgers may be able to get loose this week. We’ll see. Having said all that, my personal choice for quarterback is the same as last week: Tom Brady.
I’m going with Brady because I think he matches up well against the Colts, who don’t do the things that you need to do to knock Brady off of his game. I know people will be talking about the running game and how badly the Patriots have gashed the Colts in recent games. I am seeing things differently. The two reasons for this are as follows. Yes, the Patriots ran all over the Colts earlier this season, but they also demolished them from head to toe. I also think you need to consider that last year’s playoff game was a very different matchup. In 2014, the Patriots were a different offense. There was some concern about a shootout with the Colts. I don’t think those same concerns hold true with the 2014 Patriots — who probably would win a shootout with Indianapolis, and by a solid margin.
Chuck Pagano is a good coach, and I think the Colts will be ready for the ground game this week. At least they’ll be more ready than they were back in Week 11. I also think Belichick will be more aggressive with his passing game — because he can be, for two reasons. First, he has a defense than can make stops. Second, he has an offense with a healthy Rob Gronkowski. To me, for the Patriots to slow this game down is to play into Indianapolis’ hands. As the clearly better team, the Patriots should not be looking to shorten the game by simply possessing the ball.
For these reasons, I am liking Tom Brady at 8,500 units. Here are the four quarterbacks, just so you know the relative costs.
As I said earlier, you can do well with any of these passers, but I’m going with Brady. My concern with Rodgers is the injury. My worry with Wilson, and it’s a minor one, also is Rodgers’ injury. If Seattle can knock out Rodgers, which is far more likely than normal, the game essentially will be over and Wilson could have a light day as a winner because they won’t have him running if the game is in the bag.
As for Luck, he’ll produce, but I worry about what New England can take away from him. I have a feeling that we may see more zone and combo coverage from the Patriots than folks anticipate — their primary goal being to take T.Y. Hilton off the board to some extent and to force Luck to beat them with his secondary weapons.
|Dez Bryant, Cowboys done in by officials, Aaron Rodgers, Packers in Ice Bowl rematch||01.11.15 at 4:20 pm ET|
Karma caught up to the Cowboys at the worst time Sunday.
A week after receiving what many feel was a gift win over the Lions in the NFC wild card round, the Cowboys were done in by a reversal of a critical catch that would’ve given them the chance at the go-ahead touchdown from the the one-yard line.
Trailing 26-21, Dez Bryant appeared to make a spectacular leaping grab with just over two minutes remaining at the Packers 1. Bryant had clear possession of the ball going to the ground but was ruled incomplete as the ball popped up in the air as Bryant collected it again while lying in the end zone.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy challenged the called and referee Gene Steratore came out and ruled that Bryant did not have possession while going to the ground.
The Packers ran out the clock and captured a 26-21 win over the Cowboys in the first playoff meeting between the two long-time rivals at Lambeau Field since the famed “Ice Bowl” of 1967. Bryant left the field with a towel draped over his head. Unlike the Dec. 31, 1967 game, when the temperature was minus-15 with a wind chill of minus-48, Sunday was a balmy 24 above zero with practically no wind chill.
The controversial officials’ reversal overshadowed a heroic performance by gimpy Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Playing with a bad left calf, Rodgers threw for 316 yards and three touchdowns, including the go-ahead strike to Richard Rodgers of 13 yards with 9:19 left in the fourth quarter, capping a comeback from a 21-13 deficit. Read the rest of this entry »
|Rodney Harrison on MFB: J.J. Watt should be voted NFL MVP||12.30.14 at 12:20 pm ET|
NBC Sports NFL analyst Rodney Harrison made his weekly appearance on Middays with MFB on Tuesday with Butch Stearns and Christan Fauria to discuss a number of league matters, including the MVP award and the suspension of Ndamukong Suh. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
With the regular-season over, the league will now vote on the MVP. Harrison is a firm believer that J.J. Watt should be the winner, even though the Texans didn’t make the postseason. Watt finished the year with 20.5 sacks, an interception, one defensive touchdown, and even caught three touchdown passes on offense.
“I would say based on the history, no,” Harrison said when asked if he would win the award. “But, the NFL has not come out and really defined what is the MVP. Is it the MVP of the league — are you talking the most valuable player, like does your team have to have success — or are you talking just the best player in the league? He’s proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that he is the best player on the football planet. He’s had the best year. He’s been the most consistent.
“You look at Aaron Rodgers, he hasn’t just flat out lit it up the last three weeks. He’s been hobbled, he’s been in-and-out of games, he hasn’t looked great. They’ve managed to win against a few teams, but J.J. Watt has absolutely been outstanding. I don’t remember a defensive performance like this since maybe Lawrence Taylor won the MVP years ago in the 80s. The league needs to do the right thing, they need to vote this guy the MVP because he really deserves it. You can’t tell me that Aaron Rodgers had a better year than J.J. Watt.”
Suh was suspended one game (Wild Card weekend) by the NFL, for stepping on the ankle of Rodgers in Sunday’s regular-season finale. Harrison believes it was the right decision by the league.
“It was a dirty play, are you kidding me Christian?,” said Harrison. “Based on his reputation, based on his history of doing things, but how selfish of a play is that? When you step on someone on the football field ‘¦ it’s not like he even reacted, he just stepped. Most of the time you would react because you don’t want to twist an ankle. You don’t want hurt yourself. But, he went back on Aaron Rodgers’ leg. He took all his weight off his front leg and he purposely did that.
“He has a history of being dirty. It is a very serious act because now you’re playing against the Dallas Cowboys who have the best rushing attack in the league, now you lose you’re best defensive player. I think the NFL did the right thing, I hope they don’t change it because it was the right thing to do.”
|Rodney Harrison on D&C: Patriots ‘have to win’ with Broncos closing in on top spot in AFC||12.05.14 at 10:07 am ET|
NBC NFL analyst Rodney Harrison joined Dennis & Callahan on Monday to discuss the Patriots’ game this Sunday against the Chargers. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
The Patriots are coming off a tough loss to the Packers and are looking to right the ship in San Diego. With the Broncos breathing down the Pats‘ necks for the No. 1 spot in the AFC, Harrison said this Sunday’s game is a must-win.
“I think they have to win,” Harrison said. “If you look at the Broncos‘ schedule, I think they’re going to win out, so it’s going to put a lot of pressure to pretty much have to win each and every week. But, trust me, you talk about all of that travel, this is a nationally televised game, the Chargers know their schedule, what they’re up against. Philip Rivers — he’ll be ready. He wants to show the world he’s just as good as Tom Brady, if not better. And trust me, the San Diego Chargers, they’re a very competitive team. They’re not just going to come out and say, ‘You’re the mighty Patriots.’ They watched the tape, they see some holes in the Patriots, they could probably take advantage of it.”
Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner have provided the Patriots with one of the best cornerback tandems in the entire league. Going against a pass-heavy offense in San Diego could potentially be a good matchup for the Patriots. Harrison, however, said Rivers’ receivers are better than people give them credit for.
“I disagree with you, they do have a lot of great weapons,” Harrison said of the San Diego offense. “I believe Keenan Allen is a top-10 receiver in this league. Eddie Royal‘s been a guy when he’s been there and healthy, he’s been very productive. And you look at Antonio Gates, one of the greatest tight ends to ever play the game, is still a very productive guy. You’ve got Malcolm Floyd, he’s a [6-foot-5] deep threat. So they have a lot of weapons. Ryan Matthews, he’s played halfway decent. He didn’t play a great game last week, they didn’t run the ball enough last week against the Baltimore Ravens. But they’re more than capable of putting up points. And like I said before, you’re going to see a team that’s very competitive, they’re not afraid of the Patriots.”
Continued Harrison: “You talk about the cornerbacks and being good, but it’s not about Darrelle Revis and Browner. It’s about the third and fourth cornerbacks: [Kyle] Arrington and Logan Ryan. And it’s also about Patrick Chung being able to match up against Antonio Gates.”
Rivers might have the receivers to compete against the Patriots, but he has lacked the consistency to sustain a long run of success. He closed out November with a 383-yard, three-touchdown performance against Baltimore, but he started the month with three interceptions in one game in Miami. Harrison couldn’t offer a clear answer for Rivers’ inconsistencies.
Said Harrison: “I don’t know. It’s the same thing as why some players are really great. Whether it’s ability, whether it’s study habits, whether it’s the talent around him, whether it’s coaching, whether it’s a comfort level, some players can just play like that. That’s what makes Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady and Peyton Manning three of the all-time greats — just the consistency in which they played and mental preparation and just having great coaching. Philip Rivers, he’s had a great career and we’ll see what happens. I can’t answer it definitively. I like Philip Rivers. For whatever reason, he’s put up big numbers, just hasn’t been able to win the big one.”
Rodgers gave the Patriots defense a tough test because of his mobility. Rivers plays a different style, mostly staying around in the pocket.
“You’ve got to get there,” Harrison said of the defense attacking Rivers. “It’s up to those guys in the middle. Obviously, you have those edge rushers. But [Bill] Belichick and Matt Patricia do a good job of running some tackle-end stunts to put some pressure right up the middle. Philip Rivers, the one thing I watch when I watch tape, he has a tendency to really stay in the pocket and hold on to the ball. And times he’s very careless with the ball. But he has a lot of confidence in his arm, he’s a big guy, he’ll stand in the pocket, he’s tough as nails and he doesn’t care if he gets hit, he’s going to try and deliver the ball down the field.”
|Rodney Harrison on MFB: Patriots can ‘play with any team’ in the NFL||12.02.14 at 12:57 pm ET|
NBC Sports NFL analyst Rodney Harrison made his weekly appearance on Middays with MFB on Tuesday to discuss the Patriots-Packers game and look ahead to this Sunday’s game against the Chargers. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
Even though the Patriots had their seven-game winning streak snapped Sunday against the Packers in a 26-21 defeat, Harrison says he would not be worried if he was a Patriots fan, as he feels the Patriots and Packers are the two best teams in the NFL.
“It’s one of those things where you have to just shake the other guys hand and say you guys beat us today. You were the better team today,” Harrison said. “But, I know [Bill] Belichick talked about the team playing hard and hanging in there and when you’re on the road in tough conditions you’re going to have to face adversity. They just made more plays than the Patriots, but if I am the Patriots I am not discouraged at all. I can learn from this definitely, and this team can play with any team in the National Football League. I still think the two best teams are the Packers and the Patriots, with Seattle being a close third.”
A major key in the game was the Packers picking on Patriots third cornerback Logan Ryan, as Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner were focused on stopping Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. Davante Adams led the Packers with 121 receiving yards on six catches, mostly coming against Ryan and Kyle Arrington. He also had a tie for a team-high 11 targets.
“I just finished watching the game, and that is exactly what I said,” Harrison said. “[Darrelle] Revis did a good job, he moved from the slot, he went outside, played a great game. Gave up that one play to Jordy Nelson — that has to be expected. The third cornerback Logan Ryan — I mean, they went after him. That was an excellent game plan by coach [Mike] McCarthy, Aaron Rodgers, they went after the third cornerback. Logan [Ryan] can be a good cornerback. I think at times, his technique just as well as [Kyle] Arrington, his technique breaks down. He puts himself in bad positions. When he got beat on the deep ball, he looked in the backfield, by Davante Adams. He looked, I mean, it was like third-and-2 and he looked in the back field. As soon as you look in the backfield you create a little separation and you lose sight of the receiver. It’s basic fundamental things that can be taught.”
|Tim Hasselbeck on D&C: ‘I would probably feel good about New England’ in possible Patriots-Packers Super Bowl matchup||12.01.14 at 10:09 am ET|
ESPN NFL analyst Tim Hasselbeck joined Dennis & Callahan on Monday to discuss the Patriots’ loss to the Packers and other news from around the league. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Sunday’s game was hyped as a possible Super Bowl preview. The game was close and lived up to a lot of the excitement going in, as the Packers came away with a 26-21 win. Hasselbeck said he would be stunned if these two teams aren’t playing each other for a championship come February.
Said Hasselbeck: “I would be surprised because I agree with your assessment of the teams. I think two really well-coached teams, as you said the quarterback play is outstanding for both sides. I think for some reason in this kind of era of if a team loses then they can’t be the best team in their conference at Sunday. And I don’t know that that’s true. But I thought that was a very good, competitive contest yesterday that was really only separated by a few key plays. So ultimately you look at it, I don’t think New England should be, and certainly don’t believe in these moral victories or things like that, but I don’t think New England should really be discouraged about how it went because I think there are some things they would do differently the second time around.”
If the two teams did end up facing each other for the Super Bowl, Hasselbeck said he might be inclined to pick a different winner.
“I think in a neutral environment with the preparation, if this were in fact going to be a Super Bowl rematch, I think I would probably feel good about New England because as I said I think they would do things differently,” said Hasselbeck. “I’ll give you an example: you look at the opening drive of the second half, they get a holding penalty on first down, [Tom] Brady is about to get hit. They actually got two guys open, but Tom’s forced to throw it early because Mike Daniels gets up the field. … And this after Green Bay scores to end the first half. Really a bad sequence there for New England, and I think how they would approach some of that play-action stuff may be different. Defensively, on third down they played a bunch of two-man. And they even at times would use [Rob] Ninkovich to try to spy Aaron [Rodgers] because Aaron definitely, when he saw two-man was eager to get out and run or eager to move around and buy some time. And I think they would approach that differently because Aaron really made them pay when they did that.”