USA TODAY Sports
We recap another wild weekend in the NFL playoffs and set the stage for next weekend's conference championship games.
Here's what happened this weekend in case you missed anything... and why would you?
Things got crazy right away as the Ray Lewis Retirement Tour, despite the poor performance of the Baltimore defense (and generally good showing by the Denver offense), rolled on, getting a gritty grind-out performance by Ray Rice and a great performance by the oft-criticized, not elite, but still pretty good Joe Flacco (331 yards, 3 touchdowns, no picks). Trindon Holliday ran back both a punt and a kickoff for a touchdown, and Peyton Manning matched Flacco's three touchdowns with three of his own, but his blunder in the first overtime - an interception by former Bear Corey Graham - set the stage for the Ravens to kick the game winning field goal in the second overtime.
One of Flacco's touchdowns was a a 70-yard strike to Jacoby Jones with all of 31 seconds left, and the most criticized moment of the game would then be Manning's kneel-down to send the game to overtime instead of getting down the field for a chance at a field goal.
The Packers are out, as they couldn't solve Colin Kaepernick, who ran all over the field and on the Packers' faces to the tune of 181 rushing yards and two touchdowns to go with his 263 passing yards, two touchdowns and one interception. The teams alternated scores until the middle of the third quarter, when the Niners went ahead for good on Kaepernick's second scrambling touchdown of the night, a 56-yard sprint - part of the Niners' 579-yard offensive outburst.
Aaron Rodgers threw for 257 yards, two touchdowns and a pick. Sam Shields took Kaepernick's first-quarter interception for a touchdown, and James Jones had a couple pretty big catches, but the Green Bay defense was overmatched by the second-year quarterback, Frank Gore's 119-yard performance, and Michael Crabtree's 9-catch, 119-yard, two touchdown day.
The Falcons got out to a 20-0 lead by halftime and most everyone thought Seattle would pack it in - someone should have told Seattle, because they stormed back to score 21 unanswered points and take the lead with 31 seconds left on a Marshawn Lynch two-yard run. The Falcons were able to get back into field goal range to kick the leading field goal with 8 seconds left, and the Seahawks' Hail Mary attempt was snuffed out by Julio Jones picking the ball off in the end zone.
Russell Wilson had himself a day throwing the ball - the rookie threw for 385 yards, two touchdowns and a pick and ran for another 60 yards and a touchdown, and Zach Miller and Golden Tate each cleared the 100-yard mark with a touchdown. Matt Ryan only threw for 250 yards but had three touchdowns and two interceptions to go with it, and his final drive put together two perfectly placed 20-yard throws to get into Matt Bryant's field goal range for the game-winning 49-yarder.
Compared to the other three, this one was kind of a letdown. The Patriots opened up a 17-3 lead with 3:43 left in the second quarter, but the Texans added ten points before the half and went into halftime down 17-13. The Patriots added three touchdowns to open up a 38-13 advantage, but like the Seahawks, the Texans had no quit in them either as they added a pair of touchdowns to close to 38-28 with about five minutes left. It just wasn't enough, however, as New England tacked on a final field goal.
So here's what the schedule looks like for next weekend's conference championships:
San Francisco 49ers At Atlanta Falcons
Time: 3:00 PM ET / 2:00 PM CT - Sunday, January 20th
Baltimore Ravens At New England Patriots
Time: 6:30 PM ET / 5:30 PM CT - Sunday, January 20th
Which matchup are you looking most forward to next Sunday? Who are your Super Bowl picks? What was your favorite or least-favorite moment of the weekend?