Wednesday, January 25, 2012

NFL Conference Championship Recap

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
The Ravens were that close to reaching the Super Bowl. Sterling Moore would end up stripping Lee Evans,
 and a missed field goal two plays later resulted in a heartbreaking loss for Baltimore. 

Midterm week isn't stopping me from the weekly NFL recap. Going into last week's matchups, four teams entered but only two would remain. The Patriots got lucky and are advancing to the Super Bowl after a dropped touchdown and a missed field goal saved their season. As for the NFC matchup, the Giants took advantage of TWO fumbles by punt returner Kyle Williams, and barely squeezed out a victory against the 49ers.

Ravens vs. Patriots: 23-20 Patriots
Ravens Player of the Week: Joe Flacco- 306 pass yards, 2 touchdowns, 95.4 passer rating
Patriots Player of the Week: BenJarvus Green-Ellis- 68 rush yards, touchdown

Who would have guessed that Joe Flacco (2 touchdowns, 1 interception) would outplay Tom Brady (0 touchdowns, 1 interception) and still come out on the losing end? Brady even admitted that he sucked after the game, saying that the defense kept them in the game. What really won the game for the Patriots though, was luck.

Besides the disappearance of Pro-Bowler Ray Rice, the Patriots lucked out when Lee Evans couldn't hold on to a potential game-winning touchdown catch with under a minute to play. Initially, it looked like Evans came down clean with the catch, coming down on one foot and bringing the ball into his chest, but right before he got his second foot down, cornerback Sterling Moore punched the ball free. Then if it couldn't get any worse for the Ravens, Billy Cundiff missed the game-tying field goal with less than 10 seconds left to send the game into overtime.

Imagine if Evans held on to the catch though. Joe Flacco's whole career would suddenly evolve. Headliners would be "Flacco's three touchdowns lead Ravens over Patriots in AFC title game" or "Flacco outshines Brady to advance to the Super Bowl". Flacco has received tons of criticism this season, but actually played well in the game. Instead of being in the spotlight though, the Ravens were sent packing while the Patriots head to Indianapolis.

Giants vs. Niners: 20-17 Giants (OT)
Giants Player of the Week: Eli Manning- 316 pass yards, 2 touchdowns, 82.3 passer rating
Niners Player of the Week: Vernon Davis- 3 receptions, 112 receiving yards, 2 touchdowns

I've been saying it all along, this season for the Giants is all Dejà Blue. The offense wasn't great on Sunday, but it was the Giants' defense and special teams that won them the game. Although Eli Manning was hit more than Alex Smith, Manning delivered in the clutch, unlike Smith. Besides the two fumbles by Kyle Williams, the other reason the Giants won this game was because of their third-down defense. Alex Smith and the Niners only converted one third-down on 13 attempts.

Even with Victor Cruz shut down in the second half, Eli and the Giants found a way to respond in the fourth quarter and retake the lead. And just like in 2007, Lawrence Tynes kicked the Giants into the Super Bowl, this time from 31 yards out.

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