Both Saturday NFL games draw big TV ratings

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The Patriots’ blowout win over the Broncos on Saturday night didn’t draw quite the massive television ratings that some expected, but both of Saturday’s NFL playoff games did big ratings for their TV networks.

The thriller in San Francisco between the 49ers and the Saints was the higher rated of Saturday’s two playoff games, with a 21.7 overnight rating on FOX, according to USA Today. That’s a big number for a Saturday afternoon — and a 4 percent increase from last year’s Saturday afternoon divisional game, which featured the Ravens and Steelers.

The prime time game between the Patriots and the Broncos got a 20.6 overnight rating, which is also very good — it’s a 14 percent increase over last year’s Packers-Falcons game on Saturday night in the divisional round, and CBS is hailing it as the highest rating for an NFL divisional playoff game in prime time in 11 years.

But the rating is still something of a disappointment, compared to the expectations for what kind of audience Tom Brady vs. Tim Tebow would draw. As it turned out, only Brady’s Patriots held up their end of the bargain, and Tebow’s Broncos were essentially out of it by halftime. That resulted in the peak rating coming between 9 and 9:30 p.m. Eastern and millions of viewers turning the game off once it was out of reach. Last week’s monster rating for the Steelers-Broncos game was aided by the audience growing as the game went on.

Brady and Tebow playing into overtime would have been a dream come true for executives at the NFL and CBS. But even a Brady-Tebow blowout generated a strong audience.