The culmination of a fabulous football weekend happened with the BCS National Championship in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA. Dating all the way back to Friday Night, the quality of football in both the collegiate and professional level ranks as some the best I’ve seen. The Cotton Bowl and Orange Bowl were going at the same time on Friday and it was a tremendous start to what ended up being an epic set of games.
The Orange and Cotton Bowls were being concurrently played in Miami, Florida and Arlington, Texas. Both games came down to the final snaps before they were decided. At the end of the Cotton Bowl, the SEC Defensive Player of the Year stepped up after being held down all night as Michael Sam made a strip sack that turned into a fumble recovery for a score as Oklahoma State was ready to go in for the winning touchdown. The Orange Bowl was no different as WR Sammy Watkins of Clemson displayed his future in the NFL with over 200 receiving yards. Braxton Miller of Ohio State had a chance in the end to win it, but threw an ill-advised pass that was intercepted sealing the win for Clemson. This was just Friday, the pros had yet to kick-off!
On Saturday the Wild-Card Playoffs started with a thrilling come-from-behind win by the Indianapolis Colts that would send them to New England this Saturday Night. The Kansas City Chiefs led by as many as four touchdowns, and by 17 points entering the fourth quarter. However Andrew Luck and the Colts never gave up despite being down by such a large deficit. Andrew Luck connected with T.Y. Hilton for a long pass play that would give the Colts the lead for good. Luck’s signature play came with the second-half comeback when Donald Brown fumbled the ball inside the five yard line only to have it picked up by Luck who would dive across the goal line to cut the deficit to three (41-38).
In the nightcap on Saturday, the New Orleans Saints would excise their road demons as they won in “Chilly Philly” by a score of 26-24. The game wasn’t nearly as climactic as the game earlier in the day, but still compelling nevertheless as Chip Kelly’s run-and-shoot offense was kept very much in check by the resurgent Saints Defense. It was the run game that saved the Saints in this one as Drew Brees continued his struggles both on the road and outdoors which leads some to believe that they’ll meet their demise next Saturday in Seattle. The Saints racked up 185 rush yards, while former Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram had one of his best games as a pro gaining 97 yards and a score.
Sunday brought a surprise result, and another classic between two of the oldest rival franchises in the NFL. In the early game, Andy Dalton proved that he can’t get his team over the hump when it matters most. Dalton had a horrific game as the Bengals – who’d previously been undefeated at home – lost by a wide margin. Although Dalton wasn’t the only one who contributed to his team’s downfall, he certainly didn’t help himself. Giovanni Bernard had a huge gaffe as he was stripped inside the 15 yard line which would’ve set the Bengals up for a two score advantage. The Chargers would dominate the second half as they shut out Cincy and scored 20 points themselves en route to a comfortable 17 point victory to send them to Denver next Sunday.
The late game on Sunday had all the hype as Colin Kaepernick again found a way to eliminate the Green Bay Packers from the playoffs. This time it was San Fran’s third year in a row in doing so. San Francisco had to go on the road this time, and in conditions that they weren’t accustomed to. The temp for Green Bay was supposed to be between -5 and -10, but ended up being a balmy 4 degrees with a wind chill of -14. In the end Colin Kaepernick used his legs to get it done as the Niners got the ball with five-minutes left to go in the game and bled the clock setting up Phil Dawson’s 33-yard field goal that would eliminate the NFC North all together this season. The kick would send the Niners to Carolina whom they’d previously lost at home to 10-9. The Niners currently have the longest win streak in the NFL at 7 games.
The Divisional match ups are as follow:
New Orleans @ Seattle (-8) 3:35PM , Indianpolis @ New England (-7) 7:15PM
San Francisco 49ers (1-) @ Carolina 12:05PM, San Diego @ Denver (9-)