Baltimore Ravens 24 Indianpolis Colts 9
17 years is a long time, in any walk of life.
In 17 years you could be born, go through school, start college and even get a motorbike license. Or, if you’re incredibly gifted and you have the desire and will power to overcome any, and all adversity, you could be like Ray.
17 years at the most physically demanding position in the game, fresh off an injury that many though hadn’t healed properly, Ray Lewis put on the Baltimore purple and went to work one last time in the city that he loves.
Fittingly he led the Ravens to a dominant win in one of the most emotionally charged games of recent memory.On the flip-side of Ray’s, almost imminent, retirement were the young Colts led by rookie sensation Andrew Luck. Described by many as ‘in the midst of a rebuilding phase’, the Colts have had a tremendous season. Luck has played solidly, despite his early wobbles, and certainly looks like the long-term successor to Peyton Manning.
Sunday was all about the Ravens irreplaceable middle linebacker though. Leading the team in tackles, Lewis was at his best and, if he hadn’t let the ball slip from his grasp, he would have had an interception to top the day off. Lost in the hysteria was the performance of the Ravens receiver Anquan Boldin. Boldin, acquired from the Cardinals in 2009, put in a real shift, setting a new franchise playoff record for receiving yards, with 145, as he outmuscled whichever corner was tasked with covering him.
However, while the Ravens passing game shone, its running game spluttered. Ray Rice, who only fumbled once in the regular season, fumbled twice against the Colts, losing possession both times. Conversely, Bernard Pierce had a great day en-route to racking up over 100 yards on the ground.
The Colts, in fairness, never really got going. All 9 of their points came from the, ever-reliable, Adam Vinatieri. It wasn’t for a lack of effort though. Andrew Luck ended up with 28 completions from 54 attempts, the most attempts ever by a rookie in a playoff game.
The Ravens will now look forward to looking horns with the Bronco’s at Mile High on Saturday hoping to atone for the 34-17 beating they suffered three weeks ago.
Houston Texans 19 Cincinnati Bengals 13
In the other AFC game, the Texans sneaked past the Bengals without ever really looking anything special. In a repeat of last years playoff game JJ Watt manhandled the Bengals line while, on the other side of the ball, Arian Foster made sure the offense kept moving.
Importantly, while the offense struggled, the Texans defence didn’t allow a single third down conversion as the Bengals struggled to get anything going. This bodes well for the Texans who now travel to Gillette to face the, well rested, Patriots who beat them so convincingly a few weeks back.
Green Bay Packers 24 Minnesota Vikings 10
In the NFC the Packers, finally, figured out how to slow Adrian ‘All Day’ Peterson. It must be said that had Christian Ponder been fit, the challenge facing the Packers may have been a much harder one. Instead, just hours before kick off, there was confusion as to who was starting and, when Joe Webb was announced, it’s a safe bet to assume the confidence in the Green Bay locker room skyrocketed.
It’s harsh on Webb to point the finger of blame at him, although he must take his share of the blame, but the Packers defence deserves credit too. Peterson started brightly but, once the Packers had sussed out Webb, the pressure came thick an fast. Webb’s inclusion also included the lack of depth at receiver for the Vikings. Had Webb had an outlet, like a Boldin, or anyone of any note, then he may have been able to connect on some desperation throws. Instead he looked like a deer in headlights at times as he took too long to read the Packers defense and, as a result, was sacked three times.
The Packers sudden change of gear is ominous for though. With Charles Woodson back, Rodgers first choice receivers all fit again and running on the confidence provided by shutting down the best runner in the league, the Pack seem to be clicking into gear at the right time.
Seattle Seahawks 24 Washington Redskins 14
The final wildcard game saw an injured RGIII face off against the, equally talented, Russell Wilson. If RGIII had been fully fit we could have witnessed a, truly, special game. Unfortunately for us, and his teammates, it became quickly apparent that he was far from fully mobile.
After leading 14-0 early on, the Redskins fell apart offensively as RGIII’s struggles became more apparent. It was argued at the time, and still is, that Coach Shanahan should have benched him for Kirk Cousins as soon as the severity of his knee injury became apparent. Instead Griffin stayed in and ended up flexing his knee outwards to such an extent that he didn’t attempt to recover the fumble as he lay motionless on the turf.
It was a sad end for one of the most exciting players to have emerged in recent times. The only positive to emerge from the whole situation is that he now has months off to recover. It must be said though that once the Seahawks remembered they had a certain Marshawn Lynch, the game swung in their favor. Lynch’s hard nosed approach, mixed with his extraordinary footwork, makes him a nightmare to prepare for and, despite his fumble close to the ‘Skins goal line, Lynch was as impressive as Wilson in leading the Seahawks to victory.
Lynch finished with 132 yards while Wilson, who’s been as impressive as RGIII all year long, finished with 187 yards passing, 67 yards rushing and a huge block. The block in question highlights Wilson’s attitude, although he made it seem trivial in the after game interviews.
“Marshawn always tells me, ‘Russ, I got your back, no matter what, so I just try to help him out every once in a while” he said of his sprint to get a crucial block (or hand off depending on how you saw it) to allow Lynch in for the score.
The win means the Seahawks will travel to Atlanta next week to face off against the highly rated Falcons for the right to play in the NFC Championship against the winners of the Green Bay V San Francisco encounter.