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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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A Blowout, a Trouncing, a Massacre and an Upset the NFL Divisional Playoffs and Picks for Next Week

Well the Divisional Playoffs are behind us, I went 3 for 4 in my picks only missing the Chargers and Jets.  This patently is rather good for a member of the Church of Baseball who has no dog in the NFL fight. The only really interesting thing to me as only the Chargers and Jets game was competitive.

So let’s go through the results and look to next week.

Saints Defense Swarming (Getty Images)

In game one the Cardinals travelled to New Orleans to meet the Saints. The Saints were the clear favorite in the game despite the play of the Cardinals against the Packers last week.  I figured that the Saints would win but gave the Cardinals a chance at stealing one from the Saints.  In my heart I wanted the Cardinals to take it because I like Kurt Warner.  The game was dominated by the Saints who took advantage of Cardinals turnovers to win convincingly 45-14.  The Saints used aggressive defense to shut down the Cardinals and their offense led by the passing of Drew Brees and stellar performance of Reggie Bush put on a show against the porous Cardinal defense which in two playoff games gave up a record 90 points.  Warner was crushed by a tackle in the 2nd quarter which could factor into his decision to continue playing or retire.  The Saints take home field advantage into the NFC Championship game against Brett Farve and the Vikings this week.

Peyton Manning Leads the Colts over the Ravens (Getty Images)

In the evening game the Colts shut down the Baltimore offense and though did not have a spectacular game offensively producing only 275 yards but got the job done effectively.  Payton Manning was the offense for the Colts who rushed for only 46 yards.  The Ravens gave up 2 fumbles and 2 interceptions one of the fumbles coming on a potentially game changing interception by Ed Reed who was stripped of the ball deep in Colts territory after a 38 yard interception return.  The Ravens go home and Indianapolis breaks the “bye week jinx” to advance to the AFC Championship game which will be played in Indy against the scrappy New York Jets.

Brett Farve Tipping His Hat (AP Photo)

On Sunday Brett Farve and his Vikings faced off against the Cowboys in the Hubert H Humphrey Metrosexual Dome’s final NFL game.  Farve who had never beaten the Cowboys in the playoffs was spectacular leading the Vikings to a 34-3 massacre of the Cowboys making the pokes look like they didn’t belong on the same field.  Farve threw for 234 yards, with 4 touchdowns and no interceptions with a 134.4 quarterback rating while the Cowboys managed as a team a mere 248 yards. Tony “the over-rated” Romo went back to traditional post season form going 22 of 35 for a mere 198 yards and an interception for a 66.1 quarterback rating.  He also fumbled twice and was sacked 6 times.  Cowboys fans considered a late touchdown pass by Farve at the end of the game to be not “classy” but ever since the departure of Saint Tom Landry there has been little to call classy about the Cowboys including the new Cowboys Stadium which puts the T in tacky with the scoreboard larger than Eritrea.  Despite this being a massacre which I normally would have changed channels rather than continue to watch I kept watching taking a perverse pleasure in the Cowboy’s collapse.

Rex Ryan is Making Believers (Getty Images)

The final game of the weekend featured the hot San Diego chargers against the surprising New York Jets. This was the only game that was not a blowout and certainly the only upset.  The Jets won 17-14 in the best game of the weekend.  Perhaps only Rex Ryan and the Jets believed that they could go on the road to San Diego and win this one and win they did. The Jets opportunistic and aggressive defense shut down the vaunted San Diego offense and Philip Rivers allowing only 14 points and keeping Rivers to just on passing TD with an interception.  The league leading Jets running game ground up the Chargers defense and Mark Sanchez did what was needed to win the game.  The Jets love their coach and he loves his team.  Every week that goes by one gets the feeling that Cinderella might get to go to the ball this year and her name is the “Jets.”

Next week in the AFC Championship I pick the Jets to upset the Colts in Indy and the Vikings to upset the Saints down in the Bayou.  The numbers say that the home teams which have better records and home field advantage should win but there is an sense of magic in the air as Brett Farve looks to further detract from his detractors and the Jets befuddle all of us.  I should be a great football weekend.

Peace,

Steve+

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