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Mile High Sudden Death Shootout: Underdog Ravens Upset Broncos 38-35 to Go to AFC Championship Game

Divisional Playoffs - Baltimore Ravens v Denver Broncos

Joe Flacco of the Baltimore Ravens throws a 32-yard touchdown pass to Torrey Smith in the second quarter against the Denver Broncos during the AFC Divisional Playoff Game. He also had touchdown throws of 59 and 70 yards the last to Jacoby Jones (below) with 31 seconds left in regulation. (Photo: Doug Pensinger , Getty Images)

It took 76 minutes and 42 seconds in in freezing weather conditions. The game went into the second overtime period, but Joe Flacco and Ray Lewis led the elderly Baltimore Ravens to an upset win in Denver Saturday evening in the 1st AFC Divisional playoff game. The 13-3 Broncos led by future Hall of Fame Quarterback and his high octane offense as well as one of the best defensive units in the league were prohibitive favorites having won their last 11 games before the playoffs.

Temperatures hovered around 10 degrees most of the game and as darkness fell snow began to fall. In the thin air and cold weather conditions it seemed that the Ravens had little chance. However the Ravens had more in them than most people or experts gave them credit.

Joe Flacco had an outstanding day throwing for 331 yards and had touchdown passes of 59, 32 and 70 yards, the last coming with only 31 seconds left in the game. The Ravens cut through the Broncos defense for 479 net offensive yards.  The Ravens defense gave up almost 400 yards against the Bronco offense but held when they needed and provided the first Ravens score when Corey Graham intercepted a Peyton Manning pass and ran it back for a touchdown.

The Broncos appeared to dominate most of the game holding an edge in time of possession and number of plays going into overtime. However, every time they went ahead the plucky Ravens found a way to come back.

Manning was 28-43 for 290 yards with 3 touchdowns, but also had two interceptions, including the pick six by Graham. The Broncos defense which gave up an average 290.8 yards a game in the season bas battered by a relentless Ravens running game and gave up the deep ball for touchdowns too many times and gave up almost 14 points more than their average of 18.1 during the regular season. The Broncos scoring was helped by Trindon Holloway who returned a punt for 90 yards and a kick off 104 yards for touchdowns.

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Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Jacoby Jones (L) catches a pass behind Denver Broncos free safety Rahim Moore and then scores a touchdown with 31 seconds left in the fourth quarter in their NFL AFC Divisional playoff football game in Denver, Colorado January 12, 2013. (REUTERS Photo Rick Wilking)

The game went to overtime in a late game offensive flurry. Manning threw a 17 yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas with 1:09 remaining. Not to be deterred Flacco threw a 70 yard bomb to an open Jacoby Jones to tie the game 35-35 with 31 seconds left in the game. Flacco’s throw to Jones, which some are now calling the “Flacco Fling” ranks up with Roger Staubach’s “Hail Mary” in the 1975 NFC Championship, the “Immaculate Reception” thrown by Terry Bradshaw against the Oakland Raiders in the 1972 AFC Title Game and “the Catch” thrown by Joe Montana to Dwight Clark in the 1981 NFC Championship between the 49ers and the Cowboys.

After a scoreless first overtime period the Broncos appeared to be driving again. However Manning was intercepted again by Graham. The Ravens were able to move the ball into field goal range and Justin Tucker kicked a 47 yard field goal to give the Ravens the victory.

The game was one of the longest playoff games in NFL history and was a devastating defeat for the favored number one seeded Broncos who were Super Bowl favorites. Manning and the Broncos will now go home while the Ravens will go on to play the winner of the Patriots and Texans game.

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Future Hall of Famers Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (R) speaks with Baltimore Ravens inside linebacker Ray Lewis after the Ravens defeated the Broncos in their NFL AFC Divisional playoff football game in Denver, Colorado January 12, 2013. (REUTERS Photo, Jeff Haynes)

For the Ravens it was an emotional win in what is not an ordinary post-season. A 9 1/2 point underdog going into the game they played with pride and determination. With the oldest roster in the NFL it is doubtful how many players will return for another year. Future Hall of Fame Linebacker Ray Lewis has already announced his retirement and for many of these players this season could well be their last chance at NFL Super Bowl glory.

Despite the loss I expect that the relatively young and healthy Broncos will be back next year as Peyton Manning has demonstrated his ability to recover from what many thought would be career ending neck surgery. Expect John Elway to strengthen the Broncos roster and again dominate the otherwise weak AFC West.

After the dismal games of the Wild Card weekend it was good to see an exciting and competitive game. We’ll see how the rest of the weekend goes, but this game marked a good start to the rest of the NFL post-season.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Wild Finish to a Wild Card Weekend: Steelers “Tebowed”

Tim Tebow passing to Demaryius Thomas (Photo Jeff Gross Getty Images)

The Pittsburgh Steelers will play the New England Patriots in the AFC Division playoff game next Sunday…well that was what I heard all this week. The Steelers though hobbled by key injuries on their offense and defensive were nine point favorites to defeat the Denver Broncos and move on in the playoffs.  That did not happen. Since i listen to and watch a great amount of sports radio and television I can say that if there were “experts” out there picking the Broncos to win this game they were not saying so with any conviction. The best that I heard was that the Broncos would likely cover the point spread but not win.  That was even the talk before the game today.

And why not? Who could blame the experts? The Steelers were 12-4 during the regular season. The Broncos had lost their last three games and had not scored a touchdown in their last 22 offensive drives. The magic seemed to have disappeared for Tim Tebow, the defense was porous and a week ago the Broncos just looked bad against he Chiefs. They won the AFC West because the Oakland Raiders lost their final game against the hapless San Diego Chargers looking every bit as bad as the Broncos.

Yes the Steelers were banged up but certainly Tim Tebow stood no chance against their top ranked defense.  That was the line.  Tebow was history and had every possibility of being replaced by backup QB Brady Quinn during game if the Broncos fell behind according to some.

I didn’t have a dog in this fight. I don’t care for the Steelers and because I grew up with the Raiders really am not a Broncos fan. But given the choice I would root for the Broncos something that goes back to Franco Harris and the Immaculate Reception against the Raiders back in December of 1972 but I don’t hold grudges, I did root for the Steelers whenever they played the Cowboys in the Super Bowl.

However things did not play to the script of the experts.  I am not a big Tebow fan and don’t believe that he is at the same level as Aaron Rogers, Tom Brady or Drew Brees. That being said I do believe that Tebow has character and is a leader who can win in the most unlikely circumstances.  I also think that the mean spirited and cynical attacks on his faith are uncalled for and classless and that politicians that compare themselves to him are are even worse than Tebow’s most mean spirited critics.

Today Tebow and the Broncos offense dominated the Steelers defense and the Broncos defensive unit put the hit on Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger sacking him 5 times and intercepting him once.  Tebow who had struggled terribly over the past few weeks came though in a big way. He threw for 316 yards and ran for another 50 while throwing two touchdowns and rushing for another without committing the turnovers that plagued him in the last three games of the season.

After giving up two first quarter field goals the Broncos scored 20 points in just under 7 minutes during the 2nd quarter to lead the game 20-6 at the half.  The Steelers tied the game at 23 with 3:48 left in the game sending it into overtime.

The overtime was the first played under the new sudden death rules but those rules became irrelevant on the first play of overtime when the Tebow hit WR Demaryius Thomas on a 80 yard pass scoring 11 seconds into the overtime an NFL record.

It was a stunning play which electrified the Broncos fans and even owner John Elway who appeared exuberant on the sidelines.  The Steelers were stunned. Their season was not supposed to end in Denver.

Tim Tebow and the Broncos now travel to Foxboro to play Tom Brady and the powerful New England Patriots. The Patriots are already big favorites and are certainly the best team in the AFC.  They have been rolling over their opponents even after giving up big leads early.  I do expect that the miraculous season of Tim Tebow and the Broncos ends this week but if there is a quarterback and team that could upset the Pats in Foxboro it is Tim Tebow and the Broncos.  If they keep the game close it could be a classic.

In other playoff action the New York Giants dominated the Atlanta Falcons 28-2, the Houston Texans won their first playoff game in franchise history defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 31-10 after trailing 10-7 at the half and the New Orleans Saints defeated the Detroit Lions 45-28.

Demaryius Thomas stiff arms Ike Taylor on the way to the winning touchdown (Photo  Doug Pensinger Getty Images)

As for Broncos and Tim Tebow the season is the stuff that legends are made of and Tebow, well in my humble opinion he is going to become a legend in the NFL. It won’t be because he is or ever will be the best passer in the game, but it will be because of his athleticism, character and leadership abilities.  Of course I could be wrong but there is something special about him and I think that 10 years from now people will still be scratching their heads and wondering how he does what he does.

As for me, I’m cheering for my 49ers and they will only see the Broncos if they meet in the Super Bowl.

It will be interesting.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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The BCS (Bogus Championship Series) Sham, Tebow the Heretic wins Again, and Moolah over Miami…

It is amazing to see how the Bowl Championship series works. I think we should rename it the Bogus Championship Series.  I am old fashioned it just seems to me that we have an SEC West rematch as the national title game. Sorry, LSU won that Alabama should not be considered for the National Championship. Yes they are a solid team, one of the best in the country but it would have been far more “national championshippy” to have two teams out of the same division playing for the “national championship” if that is what it pretends to be. Even in sports that have “wild card” berths such as Major League Baseball and the NFL never can a wild card team play for the World Series or Super Bowl against a team from its own division. Same goes for the NHL and the NBA. The fact is that we should have LSU playing Oklahoma State for the Title or another team that actually won its Conference Championship.

The fact is that in most sports in fact all but the BCS there are times that an excellent team doesn’t get to play for the championship simply because someone in their conference, division or league had a better record.  If an entity wants to call its title a “national” title it should include two teams that represent different conferences.  What a sham, the real national title game will not be played just to replay the SEC West championship. When you look at the other BCS games it is clear that the BCS process has failed again. Since we are never going to get a playoff system in Division One NCAA College Football or a tournament like in NCAA Basketball we would be just as well off to go back to the old bowl system and let everyone argue about what team is number one.  We end up doing that now anyway most of the time so let’s end the BCS farce.  Actually you could probably have a real playoff system but there is far too much money in the current system for anyone, the NCAA, the Universities and the Bowl Game sponsors themselves to want to change it no matter how bad of system it is.

From real failures we go to the man that so many want to fail, Denver Broncos Quarterback Tim Tebow.  Now I am not a Tebow fan or promoter by far and certainly am not a Broncos fan unless they are playing the Cowboys or Steelers. However, despite the fact that he is not the kind of quarterback that has dominated the sport for decades.  Since the day he was drafted he has been treated with distain by most of the sports media and former players that serve as commentators.

Now I agree that Tebow doesn’t fit the template that the NFL uses now but he leads and inspires his team to win.  The way that he does it isn’t pretty and he will never be John Elway or Steve Young.  He is to use religious parlance a “heretic.” But who says that he needs to be? What if he is the kid that defies the rules wins games and inspires his team. Isn’t that what it is really about or is it about maintaining an illusion that there is only one way to lead teams and win games?  Tebow for all of his technical limitations finds ways to win and inspires his teammates.  He rapidly becoming a successful NFL heretic. I like heretics and despite it all I hope that he continues to win just to make “experts” look foolish shut his critics up.

Finally the Miami Marlins have spent more money on one player than they did for their entire payroll.  This is actually nothing new Jeff Loria buys a team, wins a world series and discards the team the next year.  However money talks and Loria has a lot to throw around. He signed closer Heath Bell for 27 million and Jose Reyes for a cool 102 million on a six year deal that includes no “no trade” clause.  It looks like they are also serious about spending big money on Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder and possibly Tiger starting pitcher Mark Buerhle. If they keep spending money like this and the Security Exchange Commission keeps investigating this could end up more like an episode of Miami Vice rather than last years CSI Miami season which ended with the Marlins dead on the slab.   Regardless the National League East will be radically different in 2012 with Ozzie Guillen at the helm and what looks like unlimited money to spend.  I can only say I wish the same would happen for the Orioles despite the fact that our uniforms are going to be way cooler than the Marlins new duds even if we lose over 90 games again.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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