When it comes to the NFL playoffs, getting in is half the battle. Once a team is in the field, one never knows what can happen.
A week ago Saturday, who would have thought that only one number one seed would be playing in the two conference championship games? Who would have thought that home teams would win only three of the first eight playoff games?
It just goes to show you that anything can happen. And it also goes to show how far a great defense will go. Three of the four teams still alive (Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Philadelphia) have defenses that are just terrific. The fourth team left (Arizona) has a defense that played incredibly well this weekend.
Here are a few thoughts on this weekend’s divisional playoff games.
BALTIMORE 13, TENNESSEE 10
After seeing the Ravens throttle the Dolphins a week earlier, I was not surprised that the Ravens’ went to Nashville and escaped with a win. Most people probably figured it would be a physical, low-scoring game. It was definitely both.
It was too bad that the officials failed to call a clear delay of game penalty on what turned out to the game-winning drive. The Ravens’ converted a third-and-two situation when it should have been third-and-seven after the penalty. Of course, Baltimore could have converted that as well, but it never had to. Those calls have to be made.
Still, the Ravens are a worthy AFC Championship participant. Their defense has been simply outstanding and rookie quarterback Joe Flacco usually avoids making major mistakes.
PITTSBURGH 35, SAN DIEGO 24
This was vintage Pittsburgh. The Steelers’ running game churned out 165 yards and quarterback Ben Roethisberger was an effective 17-of-26 for 181 yards passing with one touchdown.
On the other side of the ball, the Pittsburgh defense held a LaDainian Tomlinson-less San Diego offense to 15 rushing yards. Awesome.
The Steelers controlled the ball for nearly the entire third quarter, running 26 plays to the Chargers’ one. Are you kidding? On San Diego’s only snap from center in the quarter, linebacker Larry Foote intercepted Philip Rivers.
San Diego made a good run to the playoffs and benefited from a weak AFC West. But they were no match for the more talented and more physical Steelers on Pittsburgh’s home field.
The Pittsburgh-Baltimore AFC Championship game should be a true headknocker.
ARIZONA 33, CAROLINA 13
I admit it; I am a Kurt Warner fan. I root for the guy. That was the overriding reason I was glad to see the Cardinals win. But I was also impressed at the way they got the job done.
The Cardinals were simply outstanding on defense. They forced six turnovers, including five interceptions of Panthers’ quarterback Jake Delhomme. The Cardinals turned the takeaways into 23 points.
The turnovers and subsequent points rendered the Carolina rushing attack almost completely ineffective. Usually the running game is the strength of the Panthers’ offense but on Saturday night, they only ran the ball 15 times for 75 yards. That’s what happens when you give the ball away and fall behind.
PHILADELPHIA 23, NEW YORK GIANTS 11
Maybe now we can all give Eagles’ quarterback Donovan McNabb the credit he is due. He has been right in the middle of five trips to the NFC Championship game in ten years as the Eagles’ quarterback.
I know the Philadelphia defense has been playing unbelievably well. And it did again on Sunday. But McNabb got more than enough done against a pretty good Giants’ defense on New York’s home field.
McNabb shook off a benching earlier in the season. He kept grinding away when the whispering started about a possible departure after the season. And he has been the glue of a team that has taken advantage of a fortunate set of circumstances on the last weekend of the regular season.
Philadelphia will play at Arizona for the NFC Championship. Who would have thought that?
What were your thoughts about the divisional playoff games? Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.
Tags: NFL playoffs