The best weekend in the NFL, pitting the eight best teams still left in the playoffs, turned out to be the wildest weekend in NFL playoff history for yards piled up and points scored.
Let’s take a look at the Saturday-Sunday story lines:
San Francisco fries Green Bay
Sizzling is the only word to describe young 49ers’ QB Colin Kaepernick — a backup to start the season, and now the savior who has his team just one game away from playing in the Super Bowl. Kaepernick, pulled the trigger time and time again against the Packers with the newly designed “pistol” offense. He finished with 444 yards in offense and accounted for four touchdowns.
In doing so, he dispatched Packers’ record-setting quarterback Aaron Rogers and shipped Green Bay back to Lambeau Field. Kaepernick fired laser-like passes around the field and had lightning runs, finishing the day with 263 yards through the air and an NFL all-time record 181 yards rushing.
The kid QB gives San Francisco what they did not have a year ago this time — an explosive offense to match their physical force defense. Just ask the Packers.
Atlanta’s ghosts are gone
The Falcons not only had to play the Seattle Seahawks, they had to deal with the ghosts of playoff failures past. They blew a huge lead and it looked as if this would be their fourth playoff loss in a row, but they rallied in the final 50 seconds with a game-winning field goal.
It was a gut-wrenching loss for the Seahawks, considering they had to make three cross-country flights in a six-day span and then had to battle back from a 27-7 deficit. Rookie quarterback Russell Wilson made big play after big play in the second half and got his team a 28-27 lead with a minute left, only to see the Falcons complete two passes and kick a 49 yard field goal to win.
Wilson finished with an amazing 385 yards passing and two TDs, despite first half failures that nearly buried his team. His heroics were amazing, including 10 pass plays of 19 yards or more.
But in the end, Matt Ryan ran his Georgia Dome home field record to 34-6. Trust me — they will be tested next week with the San Francisco pistol in the NFC title game.
Baltimore dumps Denver
Depending on what weekend you watch the Baltimore Ravens, you might get a “Good Day Joe,” or maybe a “Bad Day Joe” Flacco at quarterback. The Ravens quarterback came up aces in frigid weather conditions in Denver, throwing for 333 yards and three touchdowns.
Young receiver Torrey Smith ran by Pro Bowl corner Champ Bailey all day and Jacoby Jones caught a 70-yard pass on the final possession with a half minute left to give the Ravens the win.
It was a strange day for iconic quarterback Peyton Manning. Coming off a week bye, the Broncos never looked right. He threw interceptions. His receivers dropped passes. And his offensive line got shoved around and committed penalties. There was never any flow on offense for the Broncos, and there went their 11-game winning streak and home field advantage.
The Broncos wasted a 90-yard touchdown punt return and a 104-yard touchdown kickoff return by Trindon Holliday. Somehow Baltimore survived the cold and the quarterback and gets to play next weekend, as Ray Lewis continues his farewell tour before retirement.
New England hammers Houston
Tom Brady took hits, but made plays, throwing for 344 yards in the win, but it was the lesser names that really shined against the Texans. Running backs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen combined for 210 all-purpose yards and Wes Welker, the mighty mite receiver, had eight catches for 131 yards.
Linebacker Rob Ninkovich had a crucial pass interception to stunt a rally, then recovered an on-side kick too for New England. The Patriots did this against the legendary Wade Phillips’ defense, did this without tight end Rob Gronkowski, who may have re-broken his forearm early in the game and did it by limiting Texans’ pass rusher J.J. Watt to half-a-sack and one tackle for loss. In going up and down the field for 457 yards, Brady set an NFL record, winning his 17th career postseason game and breaking the records of Joe Montana and John Elway. And those Pats are now 11-2 in the postseason at home with Brady, as they get ready to host Baltimore next weekend in the AFC championship game.
It was some weekend. Peyton Manning is gone. Houston’s high flying offense and defense are gone. Mr. Rogers and the Green Bay gang are home. Seattle’s hopes are dashed.
Fans got their money’s worth this weekend. Next weekend promises to be more of the same with a go-for-broke pair of games to determine who goes to the Super Bowl.