LOS ANGELES, January 5, 2014 — The NFL playoffs began with a bang, with thrilling action on the field and several overrated myths being put to rest.
Cold weather did not give the home teams an advantage. A dome team did just fine in the cold for the first road win in franchise history. A dome kicker made four field goals in the cold, one of two kickers to hit the game winner in front of a hostile crowd on the final play. A pair of California teams traveled east and functioned in the bitter cold quite well. A 28-point lead was no longer safe as the second greatest NFL playoff comeback ever took place.
With that, here is the NFL 2013-2014 wildcard wrapup.
Kansas City Chiefs at Indianapolis Colts—This was a game for the ages. Jamal Charles was injured on the sixth play of the game, but pass-happy Walrus Lite Andy Reid did not seem to notice. Alex Smith is known for being a West Coast offense dink and dunk game manager, but he looked more like a very real NFL quarterback in the first half.
Smith threw short touchdown passes to Dwayne Bowe and Anthony Sherman and went bombs away to Donnie Avery for a 79-yard touchdown. Kenneth Davis took it in from four yards out and caught another short touchdown pass from Smith for a 38-10 Chiefs lead early in the third quarter.
While Smith was throwing four touchdowns, Andrew Luck was throwing three interceptions. Then momentum changed and Luck led a furious rally. A pair of short touchdown runs by Donald Brown made it a two-score game. Luck’s third interception led to a 42-yard Succop field goal to give the Chiefs more breathing room with a 41-24 lead.
Kansas City would not be breathing easy for long. A short touchdown pass to Cory Fleener had the Colts within ten. In the fourth quarter, Andrew Luck gave new meaning to his last name. Luck led the Colts to the two yard line. Brown got the carry and got blasted, resulting in a fumble.
The ball bounced straight to Luck, who corraled it and dove over the goal line to get the Colts to 41-38 with a full 10 1/2 minutes left in regulation.
A field goal made it 44-38 Chiefs with 5 1/2 minutes left, but the collapse was complete 60 seconds later. Luck went deep to T.Y. Hilton for the second time on the day as the 64-yard touchdown erased the 28-point deficit and put the Colts up by a point.
On fourth and 11 at the Colts 43 and at the two minute warning, going for it was the only sane option rather than try a 61-yard field goal. The Chiefs burned their last timeout before even running the play. Smith fired deep to Bowe, who made the catch but saw his second foot come down out of bounds. The teams combined for 1052 yards, an NFL record. The biggest comeback since the 1993 Bills-Oilers game will be talked about forever. 45-44 Colts
New Orleans Saints at Philadelphia Eagles— A hideous first half ended with the Saints down 7-6. In the third quarter, Drew Brees threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Lance Moore and Mark Ingram banged in from six yards out to make it 20-7 Saints. Lesean McCoy got in on fourth and goal at the one with the third quarter ending to get the Eagles were within 20-14.
After an exchange of field goals, with five minutes left in regulation, Foles went deep and defensive pass interference put the ball on the three yard line. Foles hit Zac Ertz for the touchdown as the Eagles led 24-23. Brees moved the Saints and converted a critical third and one from the Eagles’ 27 with a quarterback sneak at the two minute warning.
Brees bled the clock and it all came down to Shane Graham from 32 yards out with three seconds left. Graham was dead center as the Saints won their very first road playoff game in franchise history. 26-24 Saints
San Diego Chargers at Cincinnati Bengals— The Bengals were 8-0 at home and facing the warm-weather San Diego team that barely made the playoffs. The weather was cold, but not like when these 1981 teams met in the AFC title game. Instead of Dan Fouts and Ken Anderson, Philip Rivers and Andy Dalton got the nod.
While the Bengals led 10-7 at halftime, in the second half the Chargers clamped down and the rain and sleet came down. Rivers led an 80-yard drive that ended with a four-yard touchdown pass to Green to put the Chargers in front 14-10. Dalton then turned the ball over on three straight possessions with a fumble and two interceptions.
The Chargers capitalized with a pair of chip shot Nick Novak field goals. Ronnie Brown added a 58-yard touchdown run just before the 2 minute warning for the exclamation point.The Bengals have not won a playoff game in 25 years, while the Chargers are off to face a Denver team they already beat a few weeks ago in Denver. 27-10 Chargers
San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers— This was not the Ice Bowl, but it was a brutal five degrees at kickoff. A pair of early Phil Dawson field goals and a ten-yard Frank Gore touchdown run had the 49ers clinging to a 13-10 lead after three quarters. Early in the fourth quarter the Packers faced fourth and two at the Frisco 30. Mike McCarthy decided to go for it rather than try the tying 48-yard field goal in the bitter cold.
Rodgers somehow escaped a sack and went deep to Randall Cobb for 26 yards. John Kuhn banged in from the one to put the Packers up 17-13 with 12 minutes left in regulation. Only 90 seconds later the 49ers retook the lead 20-17 when Colin Kaepernick threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Vernon Davis.
The Packers responded but settled for a 24-yard Crosby field goal to tie the game 20-20 with five minutes left. On third and eight from the Green Bay 38 with 1:13 to play, Kaepernick scrambled for 11 yards and a key first down.
The 49ers took the clock down to three seconds and brought Dawson in for the winning kick from 32 yards out. The kick was good, the Packers were done, and the 49ers were off to Carolina. 23-20 49ers
The matchups for the Divisional Playoffs are set (all times EST).
Saturday, January 11:
NFC: New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks, 4:30 p.m. on Fox
AFC: Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots, 8:00 p.m. on CBS.
Sunday, January 12:
NFC: San Francisco 49ers at Carolina Panthers, 1:00 p.m. on Fox
AFC: San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos, 4:30 p.m. on CBS
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