Game-winning touchdown thrown by Andrew Luck to T.Y. Hilton
Look, let's just get this out of the way first: The Cincinnati Bengals had home field advantage, a better record and, at least according to some people, were supposed to win. But in what turned into the only letdown game of the first weekend of the 2014 NFL Playoffs, the San Diego Chargers won at Paul Brown Stadium to set up a rematch with the Broncos next weekend. Faithful supporters of the orange guys up north will remember that the Chargers and Denver split their regular season games, each team winning as the visitor.
Aside from that single blowout, though, the remaining three games in the National Football League's first weekend of Playoffs were decided by a collective six points. Three teams advanced to face the next round of playoffs and three teams are now at home, and will watch those games on TV. All because of only a single touchdown's worth of points. An amazing weekend of football, made better only by the sheer number of points that got it all started.
On Saturday, the Kansas City Chiefs, who started the season so well by becoming the last unbeaten team in the league in week 10, lost to Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts scored 35 points in the second half to mount the second-largest playoff comeback of all time. Luck had three—of his four total—touchdown passes in the second half and put the final points on the board with a beauty of a toss to a wide open T.Y. Hilton. The Chiefs had a chance to win the game after that drive by Indy, but fell short. However, the game was truly decided on the play before, when the Colts fumbled the ball going into the endzone. Luck, thinking quickly, scooped it up and dove in for a touchdown, which made Indy's momentum seem inescapable. The Colts finished the game 45-44 and will move on to play the New England Patriots in the next round.
Just after the Colts finished breaking the hearts of Kansas City fans all across the nation, the Saints took the field in Philadelphia. New Orleans had never won a playoff game on another field, and they had the better record, so there were legitimate concerns. But the Eagles allowed Drew Brees to get into field goal range, where Shayne Graham's 32-yard field goal was good for the win. After a snoozer of a first quarter, where neither team scored any points, the Saints and the Eagles went back and forth. In fact, halfway through the third, the game was verging on a Saints blowout over the Eagles, who finally got their mojo back on a TD pass from Nick Foles with just under five minutes left in the game. It wasn't to be, though, as Drew Brees fought to set his kicker up with great position. The Saints will now travel, once again, though this time without that daunting 0-5 record outside their home field in the Playoffs. They've got quite the matchup, though, traveling to Seattle, to play the NFC one seed Seahawks.
Finally, after the Chargers/Browns upset, the San Francisco 49ers traveled to Green Bay for the game that had been talked about all week. With concerns about the extreme cold settling in over the East Coast and parts of the Midwest, there had been inevitable comparisons to the infamous Ice Bowl and constant interview questions directed toward the Californians: How will you deal with the cold? Colin Kaepernick, quarterback for San Francisco, put on a cold-weather show, and then sat back and did his best Drew Brees impression, with kicker Phil Dawson ending the game. As time expired, the three points put the 49ers on top of the Packers, 23-20. San Francisco will journey to Carolina and face the Panthers next week.
So a weekend full of the visitors winning, almost all of the games coming down to the wire and some spectacular performances. What can the NFL do next weekend for a sequel?
Russia calls on Syria to turn over its chemical weapons and place them under international control.
The new iPhones might have a fingerprint scanner? What will they think of next? An eye-laser identification system?
A man died over the weekend after falling from an elevated walkway at San Francisco's Candlestick Park during an NFL game.
A man in Utah was airlifted to the hospital after being gored by his buffalo. According to news reports, this is the third animal goring to happen in Utah in less than a month.
Amanda Hobbs, 24, died this morning due to injuries received from a triple shooting that happened in Valencia County on Saturday. Her father, Wesley Hobbs, 54, died after being shot twice in the head, and her mother, Patricia Hobbs, was also shot but is now out of the hospital. Police have yet to pinpoint suspects or a motive for the shooting.
A candlelight vigil was held on Sunday evening to honor fallen firefighter, Token Adams, who went missing on Aug. 30 in Jemez Springs Park. His body was found a week later, and officials specified that he died after crashing his ATV.
Some New Mexicans are going to have to make arrangements when the SNAP (food stamps) program loses some of its benefits within the next two months.
Move over Ancient Egypt; it looks like a modern Eurasian has the market cornered on mummification.
At the start of NFL 2012 season, the regular crew of referees have not been in charge of officiating the games. The NFL Referees Association and the National Football League are having trouble agreeing on money (what else is new?), but early on it didn't seem like a particularly big deal. When quarterback Joe Flacco came out with strongly worded comments condemning the NFL for using replacement refs instead of hammering out a deal with the old guard, the news was largely met with silence, if not outright scorn. Flacco was just upset, said the contrarians, because his team lost.
Eagles' running back LeShean McCoy even claims that a replacement referee told him outright that he needed McCoy to do well for his own fantasy league.
None of this is good press for the NFL, which have seen Young's comments played out publicly. If they stand ground, they run the risk of confirming what he said. If they rush out of the gates in an attempt to show concern for both player safety and the integrity of the game, they risk appearing weak with the locked-out refs.
This turning point, however, does not mean that this matter has passed the point of no return. The upcoming choices the NFL makes in regards to the money they will or won't pay their old refs will be reflected one way or another in future games. And if we reach a point where it seems the replacement refs actually do decide a game, that point will have arrived, and Young's words will have their veracity tested.
News broke on Wednesday that football legendJunior Seau had been found dead. He was shot to death, according to the preliminary reports, but word started leaking pretty quickly that it looked like a case of suicide. This can still be termed a shooting death, sure, but there's a lot more impact to the word suicide.
In the days before this awful event occurred, the NFL had been aflutter with news of the Saints bounty program. Sports Illustrated was even linking to this article with the header "The Final Shoe Drops." It's incredible to think that a sport that is literally predicated upon players hitting one another could find itself so aghast at the existence of this bounty program.
The connecting factor between these two stories, of course, is the commissioner of the National Football League: Roger Goodell. Charged with protecting the sport that Americans cherish, and preserving its place at the top of the nation's sporting pyramid, Goodell has done more than a passable job. Football is constantly surpassing its old records: more money made, more games shown, bigger audience for the Super Bowl; the list goes on.
However, there's no denying that while Goodell has shown genuine concern about the concussion issue, that very issue is much larger than we previously understood. Take, for example, the case of former Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson, who shot himself to death last year. In his autopsy, it was concluded that Duerson was the victim of a neurodegenerative ailment symptomatic of concussions.
Junior Seau, by all accounts, was a highly successful, positive-thinking role model, celebrated in his community, by his team, and even by a large portion of the country, especially in his playing days. His intensity may have put some people off, sure, but practically everyone who was living in Southern California in the early and mid-90s was rooting for him. He doesn’t seem like a suicide risk at first glance, but the connection between getting your brain addled on a regular basis and coming down with serious depression afterwards seems like it's becoming more and more clear with every incident the sports-loving public suffers through. The saga of Barret Robbins and the litany of lawsuits concerning concussions seem to suggest we as an audience (and participants!) are reaching the breaking point.
It should be abundantly clear that I am not a medical expert, nor has it been confirmed that Seau actually killed himself. And plenty of people suffer through concussions and go on to lead rich, full, successful lives.
Despite the above disclaimers, though, if Roger Goodell's duty is to serve as the vanguard of the National Football League, there have got to be some common sense steps taken before the damning proof has been served. Americans love football and want to continue to, but as concussions and health care of ex-players are increasingly presented in the news, plenty of NIMBY mothers and fathers are going to extend those cares beyond their backyards and onto their children. Everybody wants to raise the next successful quarterback. But what if the risk is too high?
The Broncos’ budding wideout talks game time, overtime and Tebow time
By Adam Fox
Eleven seconds and 80 yards later, a perfectly threaded pass from Tim Tebow completed the shortest OT period in National Football League history. It also thrust 24-year-old Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas into the sporting spotlight with his swift sprint to the orange- and blue-shaded end zone.
The Giants beat the Patriots again, and all of a sudden, we've got a new meme. The idea that Tom Brady is incapable of beating Eli Manning gained some serious traction on Sunday night, as the New York G-Men beat New England's favorite son for the second time in the biggest game of them all.
While a big story at the water cooler today might revolve around the half time show and the maybe-controversy of Madonna's guest M.I.A. flipping the bird, there was plenty of football to comment on, too. The game, while sloppy in many places, proceeded at a pace that was far from predicted. The 38 total points fell pretty easily under the Vegas-based line of 53, and probably surprised many people who were expecting an offensive slugfest.
With two points scored in the first six minutes of play, the Giants seized control of the game quickly, thanks to an unusual safety. Brady had attempted a pass from his own end zone, which was ruled intentional grounding, resulting in the two points and a return of possession to the Giants.
Just five and a half minutes later, the Giants cashed in on that drive, making the score 9-0. The Patriots were seemingly on the ropes. However, New England started the second quarter by chipping in a field goal after five minutes. They proceeded to make two strong defensive stands, sandwiched by an anemic offensive set of three-and-out, but followed up that weakness by going 99 yards in just under 4 minutes—a performance that netted them a touchdown and the lead to go into halftime.
After the halftime controversy that wasn't—although it's probably a good thing Heather Wilson isn't our Representative here in New Mexico anymore—the big surprises started coming. The slow start might have been expected, given Super Bowl-sized nerves, but surely no one counted on 19 points in the first half being repeated in the second.
The Patriots grabbed a lead, seemingly confident even as the Giants first kicked one field goal and then another, to pull within two points. But the fourth quarter opened with Brady throwing it deep, only to be intercepted. The following drive by the Giants, while resulting in no points, killed enough clock that things were getting to an end point, no matter what. With that same two-point lead, the Patriots were in a delicate position.
That perilous footing proved to be disastrous when, following a null Patriots set, Eli Manning orchestrated a big drive, sparked by a dazzling 38-yard Mario Manningham sideline catch. The Giants milked the clock and got deep enough field position that Patriots coach Bill Belichick gambled on allowing the touchdown to go through, leaving Brady and co. just under one minute to put together a game-winning drive.
But it wasn't to be. Patriot receivers had ket drops as the game dwindled, and Brady's final Hail Mary pass was batted up in the end zone, falling just out of reach of a diving Rob Gronkowski. It resulted in a 21-17 G-Men win.
Belichick and Brady are now 3-2 in Super Bowls together, and Manning is 2-0. No one can deny the Patriots their place as a dynasty, but it appears there is a new force to be reckoned with at the top of the heap.
Obviously, the majority of the public wants to see a rematch of Super Bowl XLII with the Patriots facing the Giants. It's not that simple, though.
In order to get past the 49ers, the Giants will have to overcome the underdog story of the year. With Alex Smith (he of the No. 1 pick who has disappointed in almost every one of his six previous seasons in the NFL) gunning, the 49ers have impressed upon nearly everyone by now the fact that they are a serious team. By beating the New Orleans Saints in dramatic—if not overwhelming—fashion, the 49ers have proved that its sometimes-anemic offense (especially in regards to the passing game) is not a problem and its defense is a facet upon which they may hang their collective hat.
The Giants, on the other hand, rolled over the Green Bay Packers in such demonstrative fashion that their offense, which was well-heralded previously, may become secondary to a defensive unit that sacked opposing quarterback Aaron Rodgers four times. The Giants also had their way on offense, with Eli Manning picking apart the Packers' defense in way that was rather embarrassing.
In the AFC, the New England Patriots put an end to the miracle story of Tim Tebow's Broncos. The team-that-could just ran into a buzz saw and was clearly outmatched. Tebow outlived expectations this year and should be proud of the wins he (and the Broncos defense) managed this season, as well as making it to the playoffs, but the Patriots offense hung 45 points on the vaunted Broncos defense.
New England looks to continue its performance next weekend against the Baltimore Ravens, whose defense is miles ahead of the Broncos. The only hitch in the Ravens' game plan could be found in their regular season record: Of the four games they lost, all were away from home. Next week they'll play at Gillette Stadium, where New England is a tidy 7-1. That sole loss, by the way? It came to the New York Giants.
Both games will be televised on Sunday, with Baltimore and New England at 1 PM on CBS, and New York playing in San Francisco at 4:30 p.m. on Fox.
Before the season started, fans and critics questioned the potential of this year's Lobos. Head coach Steve Alford imposed multiple non-conference tournaments into the schedule to test his team’s mental toughness. Based on its 14-2 record, it seems this team has answered the challenge. The Lobos concluded non-conference play last Saturday at home against North Dakota. Despite having starting freshman point guard Hugh Greenwood recovering from an ankle sprain, the team didn't miss a beat, with six Lobos scoring in double figures. UNM only had a 10-point lead at half time, but turned up the pressure and blew out North Dakota 85-57. Now riding a 12-game winning streak, the Lobos have an extended break before facing the Wyoming Cowboys, Jan. 14 at Laramie. Alford has his team performing extremely well, but there's no denying some of its opponents have been subpar. Only time will tell if this could come back and haunt New Mexico when facing the top Mountain West Conference teams.
Chris Schnedier/AP photo
Tebow celebrates after an OT victory over the Steelers
The New York Giants may be experiencing deja vu during their attempt at another Super Bowl run. An underrated Eli Manning, an average regular season, great unknown wide receivers and a furious pass rush are creating a lethal combination that could lead the Giants to the promised land. But first they had to take care of the Atlanta Falcons. The Giants defense tormented Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, enabling Giants QB Eli Manning to have good field position and throw for 277 yards and 3 touchdowns. New York only allowed a safety and dominated the Falcons, 24-2. Now the Giants must face the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers for a spot in the NFC Championship. The Packers will be the favorite, but to count out Manning and the Giants would be a mistake.
For those hoping the hype surrounding Tim Tebow would eventually disappear, they’ll have to wait at least another week. Besides Denver Broncos fans, anyone who says they picked the Donkeys to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers is probably lying. The Steelers were fighting injuries to key defensive stars and Ben Roethlisberger was hampered by a leg injury. But going into the game Denver was given little chance to pull the upset, considering they lost three in a row prior to Sunday. The unsung Broncos defense stopped the Steelers in the fourth quarter to force the first new playoff overtime. That set the stage for another Tebow miracle. It only took a coin flip and one play and Tebow delivered another miraculous victory. His 80-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas not only gave the Broncos the 29-23 win but also should guaranteed Tebow's job for next season. His stats aren’t always impressive, but there's no doubt when it's crunchtime, he delivers. Tebow has to prove he can put a full game together before he can be worthy of all the media attention. Keep in mind this is Tebow’s first season as a starter. If he can improve, it wouldn't be surprising if he rises to be an elite quarterback in the NFL.
As the regular season finished up last week, New York Giants fans got another win to gloat about in their rivalry with the Dallas Cowboys. This one stung in a pretty spectacular manner, too, since the G-Men's win meant that the Cowboys would be nowhere to be found in this year's playoff schedule.
Things get started this wild card weekend with a quartet of games that offer plenty of excitement, plus the promise of water cooler talk to last the entire week. Cincinnati plays at Houston to open things up and then Detroit gets to play in New Orleans.
If you can find two better examples in the last ten years of cities with everything hanging out on the line playing each other in the playoffs, your memory is better than mine. The Saints' first season after Hurricane Katrina ravaged its city was kicked off with a bang and finished almost as near as one can ask for, without winning the big prize. Of course, New Orleans is past its sportly woes after taking home the Lombardi Trophy two years ago.
Detroit, on the other hand, has been awful for a long time, and has had its troubles well-documented as a result of the auto industry's meltdown. A win for either side will represent just another level by which the respective cities have overcome the tumultuous previous decade.
The Atlanta Falcons get things kicked off on Sunday with a game against the aforementioned Giants. That great game, though, serves merely as a precursor to the ongoing drama of Tim Tebow. The Pittsburgh Steelers (they of the most championships of all time in the NFL) will face off in Denver against the Broncos, hoping to end the miraculous season of a team that virtually no one picked to even make the playoffs.
Let's be clear: This is merely the wild card weekend of the playoffs. Details haven't even been given on the top dogs in each conference, which consist of the Green Bay Packers, the San Francisco 49ers, the Baltimore Ravens, and the New England Patriots. The Packers and the Patriots are the likely favorites to win their respective conferences, but their paths to Super Bowl XLVI are by no means guaranteed.
The best time of the year for a football fan is upon us. It's only going to get better.