Mike Florio recaps all the action from Sunday’s NFC and AFC Championship games. Florio discusses Ray Lewis‘ comments claiming the Ravens are Super Bowl-bound because it’s God’s will. Florio also talks about Brady losing his thunder and the all-Harbaugh Super Bowl that will dominate headlines for weeks.This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
PFT Live: Harbaugh brothers meet again
One good quarter was all the Colts needed to put away the Jaguars.
Shaking off a sloppy first half, Indianapolis cantered to a 23-3 victory vs. visiting Jacksonville on Sunday afternoon.
The vast gulf in the capability of the two offenses was the difference in the game. The Colts’ attack wasn’t overly impressive, but it racked up nearly 400 yards, with quarterback Andrew Luck completing 21-of-32 passes for 253 yards, with a 73-yard TD pass to T.Y. Hilton giving Indianapolis a commanding 20-3 third quarter lead. Indianapolis also racked up 175 yards on 36 carries, with Boom Herron racking up 65 yards on 12 carries and Trent Richardson adding 42 yards and a TD on 13 carries.
The Jaguars, on the other hand, were held to 194 yards on 53 plays. Quarterback Blake Bortles was just 15-of-27 passing for 146 yards, and he was sacked four times behind an offensive line that struggled with the Colts’ pass rush.
The Colts had their problems with the Jaguars’ pressure, too. Luck was sacked five times, losing a pair of first-half fumbles. But as the second half began, the Colts’ offense figured out the Jaguars, and Indianapolis’ 17-point burst over the first 16 minutes of the final two quarters was far too much for Jacksonville (1-10) to answer.
The Colts moved to 7-4 with the win. They host Washington next Sunday. The Jaguars — who are very much now in the race for the No. 1 pick — host the Giants.
Brian Hoyer appeared to open the door to calls for a quarterback change in the fourth quarter on Sunday, but he wound up slamming it shut before the final seconds could tick off the clock.
Hoyer threw a pair of terrible interceptions in the final quarter, costing his team a chance for at least three points and setting the Falcons up with a chance to take the lead in the final minutes. The Falcons did take the lead on a 53-yard Matt Bryant field goal after the second interception, but some curious clock management by Mike Smith left Hoyer 44 seconds to come back down the field.
Hoyer did just that. He completed passes to Miles Austin, Gordon, Gary Barnidge and Austin again to move the Browns into position for a 37-yard field goal. Billy Cundiff hit the kick and the Browns got a 26-24 win that they needed to stay in the thick of the race for playoff spots in the AFC.
The Falcons elected to throw the ball deep on third-and-2 with 55 seconds left to play in the game, which meant the clock stopped when the ball fell incomplete. If they were willing to kick a 53-yarder, it might have benefitted them to run the ball and at least force the Browns to use a timeout to stop the clock. The Falcons also called a timeout before that deep pass to make a pair of decisions that wound up enhancing the Browns’ chance to make comeback. The loss leaves them at 4-7 and they’ll fall behind the Saints in the NFC South if New Orleans can beat Baltimore this week. This being the 2014 NFC South, that’s hardly a sure thing and Atlanta may have only bruised their chances.
Hoyer also threw an interception in the first half and had a rough day overall, but still finished 23-of-40 for 322 yards thanks to his work on the final drive. Gordon had eight catches for 120 yards, but he and Hoyer seemed to be on different pages for much of the day as they worked in a game situation for the first time. There were a bunch of plays left on the field that would make for a much richer Browns Offense if they can find a way to click with some more time together.
New England remains the class of the AFC, and Detroit will need to turn things around to make the playoffs in the NFC.
Brady completed 38 of 53 passes for 349 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception. The Patriots’ game plan was to beat the Lions through the air, and it worked. Newly acquired running back LeGarrette Blount led the Patriots’ rushing game and scored two touchdowns, but New England primarily put this game on Brady. (Last week’s star of the Patriots’ running game, Jonas Gray, was benched after showing up late to practice this week.)
Stafford struggled throughout and finished 18 for 46 for 264 yards, with no touchdowns and one interception. His 39 percent completion rate was the worst completion percentage in any game of his NFL career. The Patriots’ defense didn’t even play particularly well, but the Lions couldn’t capitalize on several New England coverage breakdowns. Three different Stafford passes into the end zone went through his receivers’ hands, and on multiple other occasions, Stafford had open receivers and missed them.
Now the Patriots enter the home stretch of their schedule knowing that if they can win four of their remaining five games, they earn home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. The Lions fall a game behind the Packers in the NFC North, and they now know that they’ve lost any room for error. With the Bears coming to town on Thanksgiving, the Lions have to start playing better or watch the playoffs slip from their grasp.
For most of the day, Andy Dalton looked like his normal day-game self.
Then prime-time Dalton kicked in, and the Bengals had to hang on to beat the Texans 22-13.
Dalton was his efficient best early in the game, but the Bengals couldn’t pull away. A 60-yard interception return for a touchdown by Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph opened the door for the Texans to have a chance late.
It was Dalton’s first road turnover of the season, and came at a time when he fell out of his first-half rhythm (when he hit 16 of his first 18 passing).
Ryan Mallett wasn’t able to rally them adequately, and the Texans fell to 5-6, which might end any reasonable hopes they had of the postseason. Mallett was 21-of-45 passing for 189 yards, as they clearly missed the ballast Arian Foster provides their offense.
The Bengals, meanwhile, improved to 7-3-1, keeping pace in the AFC North. Jeremy Hill ran for 87 yards and a touchdown, as they were able to keep the Texans at arm’s length.
They appear to have lost right tackle Andre Smith to what has been reported a a torn triceps, which will hamper them moving forward. But they were able to keep the Texans from creating too much disruption up front.
The Packers didn’t have their normal offensive firepower.
But they had Eddie Lacy, and that was enough.
The Packers held on for a 24-21 win over the Packers, thanks to an offense boosted by the physical running of Lacy.
Lacy had 25 carries for 125 yards and a touchdown, and looked particularly strong during the fourth quarter. He was able to keeps clocks and chains moving, and had a nice spin move through contact to punctuate a 10-yard shovel pass touchdown.
That allowed them to survive a day when quarterback Aaron Rodgers failed to pile up the kind of huge numbers he’s had in recent weeks. Rodgers was still 19-of-29 for 209 yards and two scores.
And on a day with the Lions losing to the Patriots, that allowed the Packers to move to 8-3 with a one-game lead in the NFC North.
They looked like a team with one eye on next week’s game against the Patriots, as this one was closer than it should have been longer than it should have been.
The Vikings were competitive but sloppy, playing well enough on defense. But with Teddy Bridgewater missing too many opportunities, it was hard to say they were ever really a threat. Bridgewater was 21-of-37 for 210 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception. He cut it to within a field goal late by cobbling together a nice drive, but missed too often too early for it to matter.
The Vikings fell to 4-7 with the loss.
After a slow start, the Colts have run away from the Jaguars.
Leading just 6-3 as the third quarter began, Indianapolis has scored 17 unanswered points to take a 23-3 fourth-quarter lead at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Colts tallied a pair of third-quarter TDs, with Andrew Luck’s 73-yard TD pass to T.Y. Hilton building the Indianapolis edge to 20-3. Trent Richardson has also added a one-yard scoring run for Indianapolis, which has dominated the second half.
The Jaguars’ offense has had a day to forget, struggling to get much going at all, especially in the passing game. Rookie quarterback Blake Bortles has been sacked four times.
With their playoff hopes flickering as they trailed 10-0, the Bears started the third quarter of Sunday’s game vs. Tampa Bay on a tear.
Then, the Bears’ defense made a pair of takeaways. First, defensive end David Bass forced Buccaneers quarterback Josh McCown to fumble, and linebacker Christian Jones made the recovery. One play later, tailback Matt Forte darted in from 13 yards, giving Chicago a 14-10 edge.
And on the Bucs’ next series, their offensive woes deepened, with Bears safety Ryan Mundy picking off a deflected pass. Four plays later, Forte was back in the endzone, scoring a one-yard TD to extend Chicago’s lead to 21-10.
For the Buccaneers, it has been a wicked and surprising turn of fortune after playing very well in the first half. But the third quarter belonged to Chicago.
The Browns are clinging to a lead in the fourth quarter against the Falcons and they’ll need to protect it for the final 9:31 without safety Tashaun Gipson.
Gipson and cornerback Joe Haden collided with each other while trying to make a play on a pass to Julio Jones and Gipson needed medical assistance while Haden made his way to his feet without delay. Gipson tried to get up with the help of trainers, but couldn’t put any weight on his right leg and the cart was summoned to take him from the field. He’s been ruled out with a knee injury for the rest of the game.
The play also saw Haden flagged for holding, which gave the Falcons a first down inside the red zone. Steven Jackson ran into the end zone from a yard out a few plays later and the Browns lead was cut to 23-21.
The Browns Defense stood up well in the third quarter, allowing Atlanta to gain just 30 yards while they went from being down 14-13 to holding a 23-14 lead. Running back Isaiah Crowell provided the touchdown with a nifty 26-yard scamper through the Falcon defense.
Titans center Brian Schwenke handles the ball on every offensive play, but he doesn’t usually get it back after snapping it to the quarterback.
On Sunday, though, Schwenke found himself with the ball in his hands a second time after a pass was deflected by an Eagles defender. Schwenke made the decision to run with the ball and gained some yardage, but his lack of experience as a ballcarrier showed when Eagles linebacker Mychal Kendricks knocked the ball loose.
The Eagles recovered and Mark Sanchez hit James Casey with a pretty throw in the end zone to extend Philly’s lead to 34-17 early in the third quarter. Sanchez is now 21-of-29 for 224 yards and LeSean McCoy is up to 114 rushing yards during a good day for the Eagles Offense.
It’s been a pretty good one for the defense as well, although a couple of breakdowns in the second quarter have kept this game closer on the scoreboard than it has looked on the field for most of the day.
The 49ers had a lot of success attacking Giants backup right tackle Charles Brown last Sunday.
They’ll get a shot at a backup left tackle this Sunday. Redskins left tackle Trent Williams is inactive for the game after suffering sprains to both his ankle and MCL. Rookie Morgan Moses took over after he was injured last week and the need to turn to him this week won’t do much to help an offense that’s been the subject of many bad vibes in recent weeks.
Washington also ruled out cornerback David Amerson, who wasn’t on the injury report. There’s been no announcement from the team about why Amerson, who is a starting cornerback, is out for the game.
The 49ers ruled out right tackle Anthony Davis and defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey on Friday. Quarterback Josh Johnson, WR Bruce Ellington, WR Quinton Patton, cornerback Tramaine Brock Brock, tight end Vance McDonald are the other inactives for the 49ers.
The Packers are playing like a team confident it can make a play whenever it pleases.
There’s a reason for that, based on things Aaron Rodgers has done today.
But the Vikings are hanging around, trailing just 14-13 after a 51-yard field goal by Blair Walsh.
The Packers made of the day’s most remarkable plays, with Rodgers rolling to his right then throwing a lob back across his body to a wide open Richard Rodgers for a touchdown.
But they’ve also made enough mistakes on defense and special teams to let the Vikings keep it within reach. If Teddy Bridgewater were more acccurate (he’s 13-of-27 passing), they’d be in position to lead, but dropped passes and inaccurate ones have forced them to settle for field goals.
If anything, the Packers look a bit too relaxed.
As might be expected, the Buccaneers’ defense has shown up big time in Lovie Smith’s return to Chicago.
A 19-yard Mike Evans TD catch and a 32-yard Patrick Murray field goal have given Tampa Bay a 10-0 halftime lead at Soldier Field. However, the Bucs’ defense has been star of the show, holding the Bears to just 68 yards on 28 plays.
The Bears have gotten little going in the ground game, gaining just 14 yards on seven carries. Quarterback Jay Cutler, meanwhile, lost a fumble on a Gerald McCoy sack, which helped lead to Evans’ eight TD of the season.
As the first half ended, Bears fans booed their club off the field, for Smith’s Buccaneers had been the far better side in the first 30 minutes.
The reasons for concern about Eagles running back LeSean McCoy’s drop in production haven’t been in evidence in Philadelphia on Sunday afternoon.
McCoy has run 14 times for 100 yards and scored a touchdown in the second quarter on the way to a 27-17 lead over the Titans at halftime. It’s McCoy’s third time with at least 100 rushing yards this season and comes a few days after McCoy insisted he’s the same player that led the league with more than 1,600 rushing yards last season. Another half like this one will convince a few other people of that.
The Eagles would likely appreciate it as the Titans came back from 17-0 down in the first quarter to get back into the game. Zach Mettenberger hit one long pass to Justin Hunter, with the help of a well-angled deflection, for a touchdown and one to Delanie Walker to set up a Shonn Greene score as the Titans found some footing after a brutal opening quarter for the offense. The rookie was 8-of-15 for 170 yards overall while Mark Sanchez went 19-of-27 for 195 yards.
Sanchez made a bad throw that wound up as an interception, but he’s delivered more good than bad for Philly thus far. That includes a couple of completions just before halftime that led to a 49-yard field goal try. Cody Parkey couldn’t hit it, however, and the lead held at 10 when the teams went to their locker rooms.
If the Cardinals are going to beat the Seahawks in Seattle, the Cardinals will have to do it without receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald is inactive for Sunday’s game with a knee injury suffered last week against the Lions. Although Fitzgerald finished the game, he suffered a Grade 2 MCL sprain. That’s enough to wipe a player out for at least a week — and indeed it has.
The Bengals haven’t had much of what you’d call a flow today, but they’re building a commanding lead.
They let Houston hang around in the first half, but just took advantage of a turnover to build a 16-3 lead early in the third quarter.
The Texans had to have been relieved trail just 9-3 at the break, considering they got the ball first. But quarterback Ryan Mallett was picked off by linebacker Rey Maualuga, and the Bengals answered quickly with a Jeremy Hill touchdown run.
The Bengals are fortunate to have gotten the good Andy Dalton today, as he’s 17-of-19 passing. A.J. Green has caught 10 of those for 101 yards, as they’ve played a stable game, without much of what you’d call drama.