Featured Image by: Josh Hallett
The AFC Divisional Round games left a mark on NFL fans as the two games raised blood pressure and nerves through both games. The first game was Saturday afternoon in Foxboro as the New England Patriots hosted the Baltimore Ravens.
Ravens fans were optimistic in this game because the Ravens seem to flip a different switch in the postseason and especially on the road. That was the way this game started, with the Ravens taking a 14-0 lead on touchdowns by Kamar Aiken (19 yards) and former Ute great Steve Smith Sr. (9 yards). The Patriots fought back and tied the game with 3:37 left in the first half on two touchdowns by Tom Brady (4 yard run) and Danny Amendola (15 yards). The Ravens managed to strike one more time on an 11 yard pass from Joe Flacco to Owen Daniels just before halftime to give the Ravens a 21-14 lead.
Baltimore came out and striked first in the second half on a 16 yard run by Justin Forsett and the Patriots found themselves down by 2 touchdowns once again. Tom Brady had to dig deep to get back in the game and he did as he found his favorite target, Rob Gronkowski, for 5 yards, and then performed a trick play where Brady threw a backwards pass to Julian Edelman and he then threw a 51 yard touchdown pass to Danny Amendola. Just like that the Patriots made another comeback as they are tied at 28 with 4:20 left in the third quarter.
Baltimore would strike again as Justin Tucker hit a 25 yard chip shot field goal to put the Ravens up 31-28 with 10:17 left. Tom Brady came out on the next drive and chewed over 5 minutes off the clock before hitting Brandon LaFell on a 23 yard touchdown pass to put the Pats up 35-31 with 5:13 left in the game. Joe Flacco would have to pull out some magic if they wanted to advance to the AFC Title game, but he wasn’t able to, as he threw an interception at the Patriots 36 yard line with 1:46 left. The Patriots survived the Ravens with a 35-31 win. Tom Brady was brilliant as always going 33-50 passing for 367 yards, 3 touchdowns and 1 interception. Joe Flacco had a strong 3 quarters but finished 28-45 passing for 292 yards, 4 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. The crazy stat in this game was that the Patriots ran the ball 13 times for 14 yards and still won the game while Baltimore ran the ball 28 times for 136 yards. I guess that is why the Pats pay Tom Brady the big bucks. The Patriots advance to the AFC Championship game for the 4th straight season.
The other AFC Divisional Playoff game was played Sunday in Denver as the Broncos and the Indianapolis Colts squared off. The Broncos came in with an 8-0 record at home while the Colts were 5-3 away from Lucas Oil Stadium. Denver started the game with the ball and Peyton Manning looked like himself as he drove the Broncos down the field on 7 plays and 68 yards and would connect with his favorite target Demaryius Thomas for a 1 yard score to put Denver up 7-0. The Broncos held Indianapolis scoreless in the opening quarter before the Colts scored on a Daniel Herron 6 yard touchdown followed by a 3 yard touchdown pass from Andrew Luck to tight end Dwayne Allen. Just like that, the Colts led the Broncos 14-7 with 7:23 left in the first half. Denver went on to get in field goal position and Connor Barth hit a 45 yard field goal as time expired in the first half.
Indianapolis put Denver in a difficult spot when Andrew Luck hit Hakeem Nicks for a 15 yard touchdown to give the Colts at 21-10 lead with 8:21 to go in the third. That was when the Broncos would go flat on offense, not getting anything started, even on short passes. They went 3 and out on 4 of their next 5 possessions in the third quarter. Denver had the ball in the 4th quarter and was starting to finally get down the field when Conner Barth hit a 41 yard Field Goal to bring Denver within 8, 21-13 with 13:50 left in the game. The Colts got the ball back and ran 13 plays and took 8:14 off the clock before Adam Vinatieri hit a 30 yard field goal, putting them up 24-13 with 4:06 left in the game. That was the nail in the coffin for the Broncos.
The Colts picked up the win 24-13. Andrew Luck had a great game going 27-43 passing for 265 yards, 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions (were just like punts). Peyton Manning 26-46 for 211 yards and 1 touchdown. This might be the future Hall of Fame QB’s last game, as he said he needs to process this game. On Monday, the Broncos parted ways with Head Coach John Fox. Could this be the start of a rebuilding process for the Broncos? Time will tell. Nonetheless, the Colts will play in the AFC Championship game for the first time since 2009. They will travel to Boston to take on the New England Patriots.
Make sure you check out “In The Trenches” Podcast on this site as Dave Gore, Jon Lafollette and myself will break down these two games and look ahead to the title game and much more!