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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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How Bad Can “America’s Team” Get? The Dallas Cowboy Season Collapses and Wade Phillips is Fired

Wade Phillips in Defeat (NFL.com photo)

Let’s get this straight. I am not a Dallas Cowboys fan. In fact I just find football mildly interesting and I pretty much will watch it to keep from watching the talking heads on the cable news channels, home shopping networks, televangelists or the latest episode of Law and Order Special Victims Unit Bucharest. However my favorite team was playing last night, actually my favorite team of the week, the Green Bay Packers who happened to be playing the Dallas Cowboys.

After having been subjected to the Cowboys up close and personal for 7 years in the Dallas Fort Worth area and having to suffer “America’s Team” about everywhere I go I spare no effort to root against them, even when they played the Red Army Team of Warsaw Pact back in the Cold War.  Call me un-American but I think that any team that really believes that it is “America’s Team” is pretty arrogant and deserves to lose just for the principle of it.

Now please know that this is nothing personal against any former Cowboys players, one of my friends from High School played on their Super Bowl teams in the 1990s.  Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith are all pretty cool and seem like generally nice people, so it is nothing personal against any Cowboys greats or even most of their fans including many that I know who are good people that pay their taxes, go to church and adore their kids except when they want something on Sunday afternoon that conflicts with the game.  In fact my only issue with these wonderful people is their choice of football team. The team that was the first to make an away jersey its home jersey stretching the overdone western cliché “the good guys in the white hats” just a bit too far.

For years the Cowboys have labored under the illusion that they are a good football team.  Now it is true that until this year under their now deposed Head Coach Wade Phillips won a lot of games but tended to choke in the playoffs having one just one playoff game this millennium or something like that.  This year playing in the Temple of Doom or as it is better known the New Cowboys Stadium and Arcade they really believed that this was their year. They were going to be the first team to ever play and win the Super Bowl in their home stadium….well that was the hype.  Unfortunately they forgot that they had to play 16 regular season games to get there. Now since a team usually needs to win 10-11 games to get a spot in the playoffs and the Cowboys had 11 last year I think that they really believed that all they had to do was show up and other teams would say “My God we’re playing America’s Team, we can’t win!” and then go back to their hotel rooms to get drunk and eat pork rinds while the Cowboys celebrated another well deserved win.

The mantra in Dallas was that the Cowboys were a great team, loaded with talent and potential destined for greatness like those that went before them. Even when they started losing they kept repeating this like if they just said it enough that it would be true. Each week they went out on the field and had their ass handed to them often by teams that were supposedly lesser quality and each week the mantra was repeated.

A Cowboys’ Fan in Green Bay (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

The only problem was that the other teams tended to show up and play good football and America’s Team failed to play good fundamental football. As my sophomore football line coach said “it’s the little things that count.”  The Cowboys stopped playing good fundamentals on day one and by Sunday night when they were annihilated by the Packers they were just going through the motions. Guys were quitting on plays, failing to make blocks and getting called for incredibly dumb penalties. It was an embarrassment that professional football players were performing in this manner. Heck if the Army went to war that way we would have our ass handed to us in about 5 minutes by the Moldavian Army, even faster by Serbania or any of those other “Anians.”  The Cowboys have been so bad the past few weeks that I think a College team from a less than elite conference could have beaten them.

The illusion crashed hard last night at the Packers pounded the Cowboys 45-7 and it wasn’t even that close.  I watched the Cowboys players and they had quit. Wade Phillips looked like Napoleon at Waterloo except he couldn’t run away in a carriage as his Army dissolved. Now don’t get me wrong I think that as a head coach that Phillips was way overrated but appeared to be a nice guy.  Everyone says that his players really liked him but if you ask me the way that they played they looked like they loathed him. It was like they were intentionally letting him down. If they liked him so much they picked one hell of a way to demonstrate their loyalty to him.

Last night I watched the Wade Phillips press conference. You hate to see a nice guy look like he did. He looked like he had lost his last best friend and his dog had run away with the couple next door. He was a beaten and depressed man. He had lost his ability to command and had to be fired by Cowboys Dictator and Cheerleader in Chief Jerry Jones.  When Jones was interviewed last night he said what everyone knew, that the Cowboys had more than one problem and that not just a few changes would be made. The first change came today when Phillips was given his walking papers and Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett was named the Interim Head Coach.

One hopes that for the integrity of the game that the Cowboys players and organization will get their act together. They are cheating their fans as well as the NFL and doing nothing for themselves. The first step to getting better is to admit that you suck and Jerry Jones basically said that last night and today. If the Cowboys are lucky and they pull themselves together they might eke out a couple of more wins but they will have to go through some really good teams to get them.  I really don’t think that much can be down with this bunch of Cowboys, even when the Cowboys went 1-15 in the first year of the Jones-Johnson years they didn’t stop trying and even though they were a bad team they played with heart and character. This team shows none of that. I may not be a Cowboys fan but this team is dishonoring the Cowboy’s legacy and tradition.  If Jones is smart he will dump half of these guys some even before the off season. The Cowboys’ culture which has been built on hype and ghosts of the past has to change.  I think that Jones now gets to point as he said:

“I think there are a lot of people here that certainly are going to suffer and suffer the consequences, I’m talking within the team, players, coaches. They’ve got careers, and this is certainly a setback. I know firsthand what it is to have high expectations. I think that unquestionably our expectations were thinking we were something we weren’t. … But again, we have so many things that we need to correct and address as this game so vividly exposed and previous games have. So I’ve got a lot of work to do, a lot of decisions to make, and it’s not just one, two, three or four. There are several decisions. I think everybody in this country would agree there’s a lot wrong with this team. We’ve got to address them and certainly I’m the one to address them.”

Of course as the GM Jones needs to should some of the blame as he helped pick the players and the coaches. He also because of his cheer leading helped promote a culture of hype.  He will need to get a strong coach and let him coach to make the Cowboys a winner again.  I think that he gets it. In his post firing press conference admitted that he had “been in denial” for a number of games prior to this.

It will be interesting to some to see what happens in the coming weeks and months. Real Cowboy haters will love it and Cowboys fans will have to wear bags over their heads just to get through the games. Like them or loathe them the Cowboys need to get better for the good of the game.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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