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Football Mon Jan 14 2013

NFL Playoffs Notebook: Divisional Round

I'll be honest, writing this week's NFL Notebook was tough. A lot happened in the Divisional Round, so trying to recap this all here on Gapers Block would be way too cumbersome.

If you missed the games this weekend there are a few good ways to quickly catch up. Read this column (Duh!), watch the highlights, read the game books on (I linked to them for you), and watch copious amounts of sports yak debate shows on Monday.

Anyway, here are the highlights and observations from a wild set of games.

• We, as football fans, were blessed with two memorable playoff games this weekend.

The Ravens-Broncos game...

1) was the most entertaining game of the 2012-13 season
2) featured the most exciting play since the Tim Tebow play from last year's playoffs
3) will go down as one of the best NFL playoff games ever

I say "best" in terms of drama and back-and-forth action. Each team would take a lead, and the other squad would come right back. Some sloppy play and bad officiating will mar this game just a bit. But still, a double overtime game with the super-passionate Ravens and the finely-tuned Broncos, in front of a rabid crowd in 10 degree weather? Classic.

• I was watching the game with my three roommates, and we all reacted the same way to Jacoby Jones' 70-yard touchdown to tie the game in regulation. We all stood up when Joe Flacco launched a deep ball down the middle of the field, and we all erupted when Jones beat his two men, hauled in the pass, and jogged into the endzone. It sounded like this:

"ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh..... OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

And it's not even like we're Ravens fans! We're all football fans, and we just enjoy those special remember-where-you-were sports moments. We watch a ton of sports together, and that moment, in terms of us going completely insane with screaming, ranks up there with the Tebow-Thomas touchdown and the Evan Longoria homer on the last day of the 2011 MLB season.

(By the way, how did Jones get open on that play? Horrible coverage and terrible situation awareness by the Denver secondary.)

• The Falcons won their game with a last-second field goal, narrowly escaping what would have been one of the worst losses of all time. Falcons coach Mike Smith and the Atlanta defense must be extremely thankful that Matt Ryan shook off his playoff woes and that Matt Bryant sank a 49-yarder after being iced.

After jumping out to a 27-7 lead, the Falcons D turned into a sieve. Seattle QB Russell Wilson led the Seahawks on a fairly easy comeback; Wilson was hitting WIDE OPEN receivers on almost every pass play. Plus, the Falcons seemingly scrapped all tacking fundamentals late in the game, as Seattle ballcarriers were bouncing off Falcons tacklers with ease.

• Matt Ryan looked tight down the stretch, and he was very close to taking yet another postseason loss, which would have dropped him to 0-4 on his career. Yet thanks to that last-second drive, and Bryant's golden foot, Ryan totally redeemed himself.

• In the Packers-49ers game, Colin Kaepernick was a beast. The second-year 49ers QB was great passing the ball, racking up 263 passing yards and two throwing touchdowns. But mainly he was unstoppable on the ground, rushing for 181 yards and two more scores.

Watching Kaepernick play was nothing short of amazing. He would drop back in the pocket, wait for the rush, make his initial run towards the line of scrimmage, and take off. It was like he was hitting the NOS or something.

It also helped that Green Bay's defense didn't show up. The Packers allowed 579 total yards and 323 rushing yards, while San Francisco gained 7.9 yards per rush. With the game tied at 24 in the third, the Niners engineered three consecutive 80+ yard drives to clinch the victory.

• As for the Texans-Patriots game... blah. It was the black sheep of the weekend.

The Patriots pretty much did what they wanted, jumping out to a 38-13 lead before the Texans tacked on a couple touchdowns that came too late. Again, blah.

• A few moments from this round reminded me of Madden.

1) Kaepernick was basically the 2004 video game version of Michael Vick. Remember when your buddy would pick the Falcons, and you would do all you could (QB spies, DE contains, zone defenses) to stop Vick from scrambling, but you couldn't, and your buddy would continuously run with Vick while you shouted "THIS GAME IS SO UNREALISTIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"? Well, your buddy was controlling Kaepernick on Saturday and you had the Packers D.

2) In the third quarter of the Falcons game, after Atlanta jumped out to a 27-7 lead, Richard Sherman jumped offside twice in a row to block Bryant's PAT tries, successfully blocking one. He was flagged each time. Come on, we've all done this in Madden when we were losing, being sore losers. We maybe even did this after Video Vick rushed for his fifth score, which of course was BS because it was on the "Pro" difficulty which is totally ridiculously easy, but whatever, I wasn't even trying.

3) Lastly, after the Ravens game, Joe Flacco said the Jones touchdown came on a play called "Four Verts." Everyone's favorite Madden play! Four wideouts go deep, one goes short, and you chuck it to the guy with the least amount of coverage. Sometimes it's that easy.

• Fox color commentator Brian Billick had the announcer screw up of the week, saying that the "Seattle Seahawks" confirmed their number one seed and were the team to beat.

• I'm not an NFL coach, but something confused me in the Denver game: The Broncos got the ball back after the Jones touchdown, tied 35-35. They took over on their own 20 with 31 seconds left, two time outs. Denver decided to kneel out the clock.

I didn't understand that. The Broncos could have easily tried to move the ball 40 yards for a last-second field goal. Why not? Really, why not? You have two time outs, so you can use the whole field. The only play that would hurt you is a turnover. You could live with every other outcome. Sacked? Missed field goal? Time runs out? You're going to overtime anyway! You go conservative when you're being outplayed and lucky to be in the game, not when you got Peyton Manning dicing up the Ravens' D with short passes all game.

• Champ Bailey got worked by Torrey Smith on Saturday. Bailey, probably the best cornerback in the NFL as recently as three years ago, couldn't keep up with the speedy Smith as he burned Bailey for two scores (and would have scored a third if Flacco didn't overthrow Smith on a different play). I think everyone felt bad for Bailey, who is one of the game's active greats. Perhaps Baltimore did too, as Smith only got one catch in the second half when it was glaringly obvious Bailey couldn't stop him. That's my only rationale for why the Ravens didn't look Smith's way anymore.

• This was quite a week for non-touchdown celebrations. Terrell Suggs got a sack and did a seizure-like dance, shaking head and arms as violently as he could. Kaepernick rushed for a first down and flipped the ball at a Packers defender, drawing a 15-yard penalty. Sherman clapped his hands sarcastically in Roddy White's face after White scored a TD. Golden Tate picked up a first down and flipped the ball emphatically despite the Seahawks trailing 20-0. And Brandon Spikes introduced America to the possession dance.

• Say what you will about Ray Lewis, but the guy is a leader.

• During slow stretches in game action over both days, my roommates and I played essentially a modified version of "Would You Rather?" Yes, we're all teenage girls. Anyway, the most debated question (at least of all the ones that are fit to print here) was this: If you could have any animal in the world that was twice the normal size and completely tamed, what animal would you pick?

My roommate Dale went with a blue whale, because a double-sized whale could be used for fishing and getting across the ocean (riding is acceptable). Another roommate, Xavi, went with a condor, because you could fly on a condor with a 20-foot wingspan, and it can take you anywhere you want (and you can drop stuff on your enemies).

This debate went on for 10 minutes, and I was called to be the mediator. Despite the fact that a blue whale could live 80 years while condors only live up to 50 or 60, I said that a condor would be a better choice because a whale simply would not be practical if you live in Chicago, or anywhere not near the ocean. Move over King Solomon!

Next Week

Hey, we've seen this before...

Ravens and Patriots, again! These teams are rivals, and this game should be good. We won't have Billy Cundiff, though.

The 49ers also head back to another conference title game, this time heading to Atlanta. The Falcons have a week to patch up their defense and prep for Kaepernick, who can very well have another video game-esque performance.

But unlike Madden, there will be no reset button.

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james / January 17, 2013 11:39 AM

You are absolutely correct when you describe the Broncos/Ravens game as "one of the best...". I loved it, and even though I'm a huge Broncos fan, I can still appreciate the beauty of a great game. I was working at DISH during the game, but had my DISH Hopper at home recording everything from the Divisional round. I can't believe the Seahawks almost squeaked it out, and Colin Kaepernick is DANGEROUS!! My Hopper can store up to 2,000 hours, so I have a ton of games stored for later. I also like that I can record 6 live HD programs; my family doesn't like football that much. but i know the Hopper can handle all my football, AND whatever else the family wants to watch.

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