Great comeback by Seattle, and a great comeback by Atlanta
Matt Bryant kicked a 49-yard field goal with 8 seconds left and the Atlanta Falcons bounced back after blowing a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter, defeating Russell Wilson and the gutty Seattle Seahawks 30-28 in an NFC divisional playoff game Sunday.
The Falcons (14-3) appeared ready to allow the biggest fourth-quarter comeback in NFL playoff history when Marshawn Lynch scored on a 2-yard run with 31 seconds left.
But Matt Ryan completed two long passes after the kickoff, setting up Bryant’s winning kick and sending the Falcons to the NFC championship game for only the third time in franchise history. They will host the San Francisco 49ers next Sunday.
Buffalo over Miami
Packers over Lions
Falcons over Cards
Skins over Eagles
Broncos over Chargers
Cowboys over Browns
Bucs over Panthers
Jets over Rams
Bengals over Chiefs
Texans over Jags
Saints over Raiders
Pats over Colts
Ravens over Steelers
Niners over Bears
Week 10 10-4
Week 9 11-3
Week 8 6-8 UGH
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Week 3 picks 7-9 UGH
Week 2 picks 8-8 UGH
Week 1 picks 11-5
Even Eli Manning’s feet are dangerous.
Manning punctuated his best pro season Sunday by throwing for three touchdowns and scrambling for a 14-yard gain that woke up New York’s offense. He sparked the Giants to a 24-2 rout of the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC wild-card game Sunday, their first postseason victory since their Super Bowl upset of undefeated New England four years ago.
Next up is just as big a challenge for the Giants (10-7): the defending champion Packers in Green Bay next Sunday. New York lost 38-35 to Green Bay in December.
The team that couldn’t run the ball will be sprinting there, bringing along a defense the Packers (15-1) actually might fear.
And an offense led by Manning, who hooked up on a 72-yard catch and run by Hakeem Nicks in the third quarter that put away the inept Falcons (10-7). Manning also connected on a 4-yard TD with Nicks in the second period, and a 27-yard TD throw to Mario Manningham in the fourth quarter that finished it off.
The Giants head to Green Bay with more balance on offense and more stinginess on defense than they’ve displayed most of the season. Their last postseason trip to Lambeau Field was a 23-20 overtime victory for the NFC championship two weeks before they upset the Patriots.
The tempo in the first playoff game at MetLife Stadium was set by New York’s defense, which never allowed Atlanta to get going, and by the league’s lowest-ranked rushing game, which ran for a season-high 172 yards, 92 by Brandon Jacobs and 63 by Ahmad Bradshaw. The Giants averaged 5.5 yards a carry, 2 yards more than in the regular season.
For all of Jacobs’ and Bradshaw’s success, it was Manning’s escape and 14-yard dash on third down in the second period that got the Giants rolling. Jacobs soon broke a 34-yard run, and Manning hit Nicks on a post pattern to put the Giants up 7-2.
They never really had to look back as the Falcons bumbled their way to their third straight playoff loss under coach Mike Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan.
New York was aided greatly by Atlanta’s penchant for gambling on fourth downs — and failing. Twice the Giants stymied the Falcons on fourth-and-1 as Ryan’s sneaks went nowhere. The defense also stopped Michael Turner, supposedly the most effective runner on the field, on a third-and-inches late in the third period.
Atlanta missed on a fourth-down try in overtime that cost the Falcons a game against New Orleans during the season. While they negated New York’s recently revitalized pass rush for much of the day, the Falcons couldn’t gain any traction on the ground, being held to 64 yards rushing.
Both offenses sputtered in the first half with an assortment of penalties, drops and poor throws.
When the Falcons wheeled out the no-huddle offense, though, they marched from their 10 to a fourth-and 1 at the New York 24. On the first play of the second quarter, Ryan was stacked up on his sneak.
But it turned out positively for the Falcons anyway.
Giants guard Chris Snee was called for holding, and, from his 13, Manning was pressured back into the end zone by James Sanders. He threw the ball away to avoid the sack, resulting in a safety.
New York had its own fourth-and-inches run on its first touchdown drive. Jacobs ran over safety Thomas DeCoud on the play from the Atlanta 6.
Nicks caught his post pattern over Dominique Franks, the fill-in for injured cornerback Brent Grimes, to make it 7-2.
The Giants’ most recent home playoff victory was a 41-0 rout of Minnesota for the 2000 NFC title.
Atlanta’s last playoff win was in 2005 over St. Louis when Michael Vick still was the Falcons’ quarterback.
The Green Bay Packers got a virtuoso passing performance by quarterback Aaron Rodgers and more major contributions on defense by cornerback Tramon Williams. And they, not the Atlanta Falcons, played like a dominant team Saturday night at the Georgia Dome.
The Packers beat the Falcons with relative ease, 48-21, in a conference semifinal here to advance to next weekend’s NFC championship game.
Rodgers completed 31 of 36 passes for 366 yards and three touchdowns in a breathtaking showing that further justified the Packers’ decision to make him their starter and oust legendary quarterback Brett Favre, against Favre’s wishes, in the summer of 2008. Rodgers didn’t throw an interception and also ran for a touchdown, then gave way in the final minutes to backup Matt Flynn.
The sixth-seeded Packers, who needed a win on the final Sunday of the regular season to secure the NFC’s last wild-card playoff spot, scored 35 consecutive points after the Falcons grabbed a 14-7 lead on Eric Weems’s second-quarter touchdown on a kickoff return.
Williams, who had a late interception to seal the Packers’ first-round playoff triumph at Philadelphia, added two more interceptions Saturday of Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, the second of which he returned for a touchdown as time expired in the first half. Fullback John Kuhn had one touchdown run and one touchdown catch for the Packers. Rodgers also had touchdown passes to wide receivers Jordy Nelson and James Jones.
Place kicker Mason Crosby provided a pair of fourth-quarter field goals in what was, by then, a rapidly emptying stadium. The Packers will play at either Chicago or Seattle in the NFC title game, depending on the outcome of Sunday’s Bears-Seahawks game at Soldier Field.
The Falcons were the NFC’s top playoff seed after going 13-3 during the regular season. But they unraveled Saturday after starting the game solidly, crafting an early lead on a touchdown run by tailback Michael Turner and Weems’s kickoff return. Ryan threw a six-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Roddy White in the opening minute of the fourth quarter. But it was far too little, far too late.
The Packers were coming off a road triumph over the third-seeded Eagles. That win meant there wouldn’t be a return to Atlanta this postseason by Eagles quarterback Michael Vick to face his original NFL team. It also established the Packers as an extremely dangerous team in these playoffs, given that they’d gotten some effective running by rookie tailback James Starks to complement the passing of Rodgers.
The Falcons went 7-1 at home during the regular season, with the only loss coming to the New Orleans Saints in their next-to-last game of the season. That forced the Falcons to beat the Carolina Panthers in the regular season finale to wrap up the conference’s top seed. They defeated the Packers at the Georgia Dome during the regular season, but were short-handed in the secondary Saturday against Rodgers because cornerback Brian Williams was on the inactive list due to a knee injury.
It didn’t take the offenses long to get going. The Falcons took the lead on their second possession of the night. Coach Mike Smith left his offense on the field for a fourth-and-one gamble from the Green Bay 13-yard line, perhaps sensing this wasn’t the sort of game in which field goals would be sufficient to win. The Falcons got the first down on a one-yard run by fullback Ovie Mughelli, and on the next play Turner weaved his way around defenders for a 12-yard touchdown dash.
But Rodgers was on target from the outset, and the Packers had a swift reply. Rodgers’s passing took the Packers down the field, and he zipped a six-yard throw to Nelson for the touchdown.
Weems caught the ensuing kickoff in his end zone, sprinted straight up the middle of the field, eluded Crosby with a fake to the left and a sharp cut to the right and outraced everyone else in pursuit for a 102-yard touchdown. But Rodgers and the Packers were just getting started. Rodgers took the Packers 92 yards for a touchdown, ending with Kuhn’s one-yard run.
The Falcons squandered a scoring chance when Ryan threw an end-zone interception to Tramon Williams, and Jones outjumped Atlanta cornerback Brent Grimes to catch Rodgers’s 20-yard touchdown lob 42 seconds before halftime. That capped Rodgers’s 18-for-21, 234-yard, two-touchdown passing show in the first half.
The Packers weren’t finished, however. Ryan, trying to get the Falcons down the field in a hurry, rolled to his left and threw a pass toward his favorite receiving target, White, along the sideline. But Williams cut in front of White and grabbed the pass, then raced 70 yards to the opposite end zone with no time on the clock. That quickly, the Packers had a two-touchdown lead at the intermission.
They made it 28 straight points – and a 21-point advantage – in the third quarter when Rodgers improvised for a touchdown on a seven-yard scramble. The Packers got the ball back and made it a 42-14 game on Rodgers’s seven-yard touchdown pass to Kuhn.