The "matchup of the ages" didn't produce a "game of the ages" but it did produce the all important result. The Denver Broncos AFC Championship game victory over the New England Patriots saved us from a two week Patriots love fest. All we would have heard about was "The Patriot Way" and how this was Bill Belichick's greatest coaching performance. Thanks to Peyton Manning and company, we won't be subjected to that.
Maybe all the talk about Manning's legacy, some of his playoff failures and the matchup against Tom Brady,
whose post season success dwarfs Manning, brought out the best in the Broncos QB. Manning was precision-like while posting the first ever 400 yard passing day against a Patriots defense in the Belichick era.
He put together a couple of long scoring drives, produced points on six consecutive drives and helped Denver hold on to the ball for more than 35 minutes. Manning had a stretch where he completed 19 of 20 passes.
I think the injuries suffered by the Pats defense this season finally caught up with them. Not having the likes of Vince Wilfork, Tommie Kelly, Jerrod Mayo and Brandon Spikes is a problem when you face the NFL's top rated offense. When New England's best cover corner, Aqib Talib, was lost for the game in the first quarter, it spelled the end for Belichick and his 2013 season.
By the way, so much for the return of the power running game and New England pulling the wool over everyone's eyes with the LeGarrette Blount acquisition. One week after running for 166 yards in a win over Indianapolis, Blount had six yards on five carries.
The NFC Championship provided the drama for the day with San Francisco and Seattle slugging it out to the very end. The Seahawks defense, top rated in the NFL, came out the big winner with three second half takeaways and the game ending pass breakup by standout cornerback Richard Sherman.
Colin Kaepernick's runs were the best offensive threat for the Niners. Seattle turned Vernon Davis into a non factor. Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree had 53 and 52 yards receiving respectively. San Francisco's running backs produced nothing.
Marshawn Lynch, on the other hand, had a big second half after finding it tough to run against the Niners defense in the first half. Lynch became the first running back in 23 games to top 100 yards against San Francisco. Lynch was also the last back to do it at the tail end of the 2012 season. His 40 yard touchdown run was a thing of beauty which included a beautiful cutback move at the start and some nice balance work at the end as he stumbled and nearly went down shy of the goal line. Lynch had a classy celebration as he shook hands with his offensive linemen. This was going on as skittles were flying down on to the field.
The NFC game produced yet another "boy, the NFL has some really stupid rules" moment. A fumble recovery by San Francisco linebacker NaVorro Bowman at the Niners one yard line didn't count because the play wasn't reviewable.
According to NFL rules, recovery of a loose ball in the field of play isn’t reviewable because the fumble itself cannot be reviewed unless it’s been called a fumble on the field by the refs. Such plays are reviewable if they happen in the end zone or the sideline. Huh?
The NFL needs to change its replay/review policy and follow college football. Give the review power to a guy up in the press box and allow him to buzz down to the referee and stop play, any time he needs to look at a play that might have been called wrong. As it turned out, Seattle would fumble on the next play so that sequence didn't affect the outcome of the game.
The other bad part to the Bowman play was having to watch the replay over and over. Bowman was injured on the play as his left leg was bent in a way it isn't meant to be. You know its a bad injury when players from both teams immediately wave for the medical staff to come to a player's aid. Since the injury took place on a controversial non call, Fox had to keep showing the replay and I kept grimacing.
Before I turned off the TV and headed to bed, I did manage to see the post game interview with Sherman, who went off on the 49ers' Crabtree. I'm not a big fan of trash talking and ripping other guys but Sherman's comments didn't bother me. The Niners are widely viewed as a team of bullies who can ran their mouths with the best of them so what goes around, comes around. Sherman made a game saving, season saving, Super Bowl berth clinching play and decided to vent. In the heat of the moment, with the emotion he was experiencing just after the game ended and quite likely after a bunch of trash talking, I cut Sherman some slack.
I'm happy with the matchup for the Super Bowl since it will pit the best team/top seed from the AFC against the best team/top seed from the NFC. It will also be a battle between the NFL's number one offense(Denver) and the number one defense(Seattle).
We'll also have a chance to see history being made. If Denver wins, Manning will be the first quarterback to start and win a Super Bowl with two different teams.