I predicted four out of four results from a very entertaining NFL Play-off weekend. However there’s only one place to start my review.
The catch that wasn’t a catch and the drama and suspense that follows the Cowboys was there for all to see at Lambeau Field as Dallas lost out to a harsh ruling. They believe they were robbed, but where they?
The play in question was on 4th and 2, a gamble play which looked to have paid off. Tony Romo went to Dez Bryant who leapt high, caught the ball, landed on the one yard line and rolled into the end zone. It was signalled completed inside the one yard line at first, but Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy threw the challenge flag as he believed that the pass was incomplete and the ball bounced off the turf into Bryant’s arms.
The call was reversed and given the Packers way and as the stadium exploded with ecstasy, the Cowboys exploded in anger. Remember just a week ago the Cowboys had a tight call given their way against Detroit. So was this the NFL getting them back? Were they robbed? No they weren’t. The rule is clear on this. It happens to be called the ‘Calvin Johnson Rule’ as it happened to him in 2010. It’s harsh, however the correct decision. It was a controversial moment but when McCarthy saw the replays on the big screen he knew, his players knew and he went with his gut instincts.
Even if the catch would have counted Aaron Rodgers had over three minutes left with the football and I believe he would have steered them to victory. On basically one leg he showed what an elite quarter-back he is and for me it was an MVP-sealing performance. Despite his calf injury he completed 24/35 passes for 316 yards and 3 touchdowns – he has gone the whole season without throwing an interception at home. He now returns to Seattle where the Packers started the season. They lost that night 16-36 and Rodgers was criticised in some quarters for not throwing towards Richard Sherman in the first match up. I imagine that will be very different on Sunday.
Dallas should be proud of being unbeaten on the road in the regular season. They were never expected to win the NFC East never mind reach the play-offs and have vastly exceeded expectations. Jason Garrett has signed a new 5 year deal as head coach, Romo had a great season – certainly a contender for MVP, Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray also had fantastic campaigns and and the talks to get them on new deals have already started. In the end they came up against the best QB in the game and at home, Rodgers is just unstoppable.
As I mentioned Green Bay face the Seahawks in the NFC Championship game – the toughest place to go in the NFL. They comfortably defeated the Carolina Panthers 31-17 but it will be a closer game against the Packers this weekend. The ‘Legion of Boom’ will be ready. Their trash talking will get under the skins of the Packers who gave away too many penalties against Dallas. Seahawks QB Russell Wilson is something special, but I trust Aaron Rodgers to lead Green Bay to the Super Bowl.
Meanwhile, in the AFC, I said it’s time for Andrew Luck to step out of the shadow of Peyton Manning in Indianapolis and he did just that, leading the Colts to a 24-13 win and the AFC Championship game.
Manning wasn’t quite himself, with overthrows and three & outs, but it was the defence that got the job done for the Colts. Denver Broncos only got into the end zone once in the entire game and with the fire power they have at their disposal, this was a shock.
Is it the end of Manning? Only time will tell. Coach John Fox has already parted company with the Broncos so it will be interesting to see if Peyton stays. On the other hand, Luck’s legacy has well and truly started and he has a fantastic opportunity to add to it.
Up next will be one of the other greats in the NFL – Tom Brady. Foxborough saw a thriller as the New England Patriots beat the Baltimore Ravens 35-31. It was a head-to-head shoot-out between Joe Flacco and Brady. The Ravens showed no fear and raced into a 14-0 lead but then Brady got to work. He was clearly pumped for this one, more than any game that I have seen in the regular season. From the intensity after his first touchdown when he spiked the ball forcefully and saluted the crowd, you knew this was going to be a cracker.
The play of the game was without a doubt when Patriots’ Wide Receiver Julian Edelman threw his first ever NFL touchdown pass to Danny Amendola. The trick play levelled the score at 28-28, then down the stretch Brady came good and guided his team to the AFC Championship game. However there was still time for a last second ‘Hail Mary’ attempt by Flacco. This game simply had it all.
So in the AFC Championship game it’s ‘Old school’ v ‘New school.’ Brady is chasing down his 4th Super Bowl ring whereas Luck is looking for his first Super Bowl appearance. If he can get past Brady after taking out Manning in his own back yard, a new star could be born.
Can Luck do it? I think this will be a close one and go down to the wire but I have to back Tom Brady’s greater experience. He won’t rest until he gets that fourth ring and that looks ominous for the Colts.
For more from Sean, visit his football blog http://threeminutesinjurytime.blogspot.co.uk/