I’m a sucker for a great human story and the NFL divisional playoffs provided them.
In many ways, we look at football in the abstract. Players are reduced to fantasy football statistics and the gladiators in the Roman Colosseum as we watch on our big screens.
Tony Gonzalez of the Atlanta Falcons provided us a great reminder that underneath the helmet and pads and flesh-and-blood human being.
The greatest tight end who ever lived couldn’t stop the tears after the Falcons came back to beat the Seattle Seahawks 30-28 after blowing a 20-point fourth-quarter lead.
Gonzalez has played for 16 years but had never experienced a playoff win during his time with the Falcons and the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Seahawks, though, have some serious swagger. They remind me of a professional version of Pete Carroll’s teams at USC (insert joke about USC here).
Seattle believed it could come back from 14 points down on the road at Washington last week and the Seahawks did.
They believed they could come back from 20 points down on the road at Atlanta and they did. Russell Wilson broke a 75-year-old record for passing yards in a playoff game by a rookie with 385 yards and directed three scoring drives that covered 203 yards in less than 8½ minutes.
Wilson broke a record originally set in 1937 by Hall of Famer Sammy Baugh, who threw for 335 yards while leading the Washington Redskins—in their first season in D.C. after moving from Boston—to a 28-21 victory over the Chicago Bears at Wrigley Field.
Seattle surrendered a late drive to the Falcons and learned that games are 60 minutes, not 59½. On the other hand, the way they played in the second half of the season and the playoffs should put the rest of the league on notice for next year.
The New England Patriots aren’t as pass happy as we think. The Patriots were second in the league with 523 rushing attempts and led the league with 25 rushing touchdowns. Their receivers are tough over the middle and they played the Houston Texans like a fiddle.
The Texans faded late in the season and never really recovered from their infamous Monday night beating at New England in December and Matt Schaub again showed why he is not viewed as one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL despite his gaudy statistics.
All the Baltimore Ravens did was keep Ray Lewis’ career going by winning the fourth-longest game in NFL history on Saturday at Denver.
Peyton Manning’s comeback for the Broncos isn’t diminished by a loss in the playoffs and a terrible interception he threw early in the second overtime that helped set up Baltimore’s game-winning field goal.
Colin Kaepernick went into Saturday night’s game with people wondering if he was the right quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. Then he threw a pick-six on his first pass.
He followed that by rushing for 181 yards and two scores, throwing for two touchdown passes and emerging as a budding star. Not a bad first playoff start for the kid.
And for the Green Bay Packers, well, the defense had no answers for Kaepernick or the rest of the 49ers as they gave up nearly 600 yards, including 323 on the ground.
In all, the divisional round became the highest-scoring single round in NFL playoff history, with the teams combining for 276 points. Every team scored at least 28 points the week after a wild-card weekend during which no team scored more than 24.
So, conference championship Sunday … whatcha got to top this?