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Super Bowl XLVIII Set

Broncos and Seahawks win division championship games

The play that sealed the game for Seattle over San Francisco
Image via ESPN.com
The play that sealed the game for Seattle over San Francisco

The final four teams in the National Football League have been whittled down to two. The Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks will meet on Sunday, Feb. 2 in Super Bowl XLVIII.

In the first game on Sunday afternoon, the New England Patriots visited Mile High Stadium in Denver, losing to the Broncos. Peyton Manning and company jumped out to a meager 3-0 lead in the first quarter. However, once the second quarter began, Manning went on a 7-minute drive for the first touchdown of the game. Nine minutes in, the Patriots finally kicked a field goal to get on the board. With only 30 seconds left in the first half, Matt Prater kicked his own for Denver, and New England couldn't do anything in the time remaining, sending the game to halftime with the Broncos up 13-3.

When the Broncos received the ball to start the second half, they began a drive that culminated with a Manning touchdown throw to Demaryius Thomas that took up almost half the quarter. Denver worked methodicallybut not slowlyand went up 20-3. Of course, Tom Brady and the Patriots have never been a team to roll over and die.

Subsequently, on their next drive, the Patriots, driven by Brady's accuracy and coach Bill Belichick's relentlessness, went for the first down on 4th and 2. Unfortunately for New England, Brady was sacked on the play by Terrance Knighton. To add insult to injury, on Denver's first play after the turnover, Manning threw for more than 20 yards to Thomas once again, setting up the switch of sides on the field between the third and the fourth. At the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Broncos had a mere 12 yards to conquer. However, it took the orange squad more than three minutes of game time to score, as Denver was called for holding twice on that opening drive. The Broncos settled for a field goal, going up 23-3 with 12 minutes left in the game.

Then things got crazy. 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw an impeccable touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin and the Seahawks drove back up their side for a field goal, kicked by Steven Hauschka. With a 17-13 edge, the 49ers began the 4th quarter on defense.

New England still gave it a go in the 4th quarter, driving for a touchdown with just over three minutes remaining. When the Pats went for 2 and failed in their conversion, though, the game took on an all-but inevitable feel. The proceeding onside kick was successfully caught by the Broncos and the formality of running through an obligatory offense began to unfold. Belichick took the timeouts he still had, and the two-minute warning stopped the action one more time, but the game was over.

In the second game of the afternoon, the Seahawks pulled out a victory in Seattle. The first half gave the illusion that the game was the 49ers' to lose, with San Francisco going into the tunnel up 10-3. But the third quarter started with a bang, as Marshawn Lynch ran in a touchdown for Seattle, knotting the score at 10-10.

Then things got crazy. 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw an impeccable touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin and the Seahawks drove back up their side for a field goal, kicked by Steven Hauschka. With a 17-13 edge, the 49ers began the 4th quarter on defense.

On 4th and 7, Seattle QB Russell Wilson tossed a bomb to Jermaine Kearse, going 35 yards for the touchdown and the first lead of the game for the Seahawks. When Hauschka kicked yet another field goal with only three and a half minutes remaining, the 49ers suddenly needed a touchdown. Kaepernick put them in great position to get the win, throwing a beautiful pass to Michael Crabtree with thirty seconds left on the clock. Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, though, was there for the block, tipping it to Malcolm Smith, who laid down in the end zone. The game ended with the Seahawks up 23-17.

With the Pro Bowl next weekend, Super Bowl XLVIII two weeks away and media week in between, we'll have plenty of time to ponder questions about the big game coming up. Sherman already made some provocative comments after the victory against San Francisco, which certainly dispel some of the pre-game narrative that Seattle was the blue-collar hard-working team. And Peyton Manning will face plenty of questions, yet again, about his ability to perform in cold weather. In 2 weeks, the 2013-2014 NFL season will be over. For now, though, we've got two teams left.

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sports

Superbowl recap

Manning might be Brady's kryptonite

Photo by Paul Sancya

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 minutesa performance that netted them a touchdown and the lead to go into halftime.

After the halftime controversy that wasn'talthough it's probably a good thing Heather Wilson isn't our Representative here in New Mexico anymorethe 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.

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Thanks again to Anjou for the links.

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