Three underdogs survived this past wild-card weekend in the NFL, and will be tough to duplicate for sheer excitement in the four divisional matches.
For starters, the host Seattle Seahawks, with the worst regular-season mark in league history at 7-9, stunned defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans, 41-36, in an NFC collision Saturday with Matt Hasselbeck throwing four scoring passes, and Marshawn Lynch turning in a memorable 67-yard touchdown run with 3:22 left in the fourth quarter, en route to 131 rushing yards, and Green Bay remained on a roll after holding off the high-flying Philadelphia Eagles 21-16, in an NFC clash Sunday when Michael Vick was intercepted.
In another tight match Saturday, Nick Folk’s 32-yard field goal as time expired was the difference in a dramatic 17-16 victory by the visiting New York Jets over Indianapolis in an AFC battle, outshining the Colts’ Adam Vinatieri, who booted a 50-yard field goal with 53 seconds remaining that gave Indy a two-point lead.
In the only one-sided affair, the Baltimore Ravens toyed with the host Kansas City Chiefs in an AFC showdown, 30-7, Sunday behind Joe Flacco’s two touchdown passes.
Flacco’s first strike went to running back Ray Rice (57 yards and 17 carries) for nine yards with 19 seconds left in the second quarter to make it 10-7, and wide receiver Anquan Boldin (64 yards and five catches) for four yards late in the third quarter that made it 23-7.
The Eagles trailed by five points with 1:45 on the clock as quarterback Vick prepared to drive 66 yards. Alas, Vick’s pass was underthrown in the end zone, and picked off.
All things considered, it was a remarkable season for Vick, once the face of the Atlanta Falcons until he strayed and found himself in federal prison for nearly two years. That’s past history, and now he’s on the straight and narrow.
This day belonged to Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, who finished with three scoring throws, and rookie running back James Starks, who rushed for 123 yards on 23 carries.
With the win, Rodgers carved out his own niche, and finally removed the shadow of Brett Favre, the longtime Packers’ field general, who should call it a career after setting every important passing record.
“I don’t think there was a monkey on my back,’’ said Rodgers, who picked up his first playoff victory. “We ran the ball, and we did what we had to do.” The visiting Packers garnered 138 yards on the ground and 309 total net yards.
When Rodgers (18 of 27 for 180 yards and no interceptions) found wide receiver Tom Crabtree with a seven-yard toss late in the first quarter, Green Bay moved in front 7-0.
Rodgers then drilled James Jones with a nine-yard pass to make it 14-0 and 5:21 left before the half.
Midway through the third quarter, Rodgers spotted Brandon Jackson with a 16-yard screen pass that made it 21-10, capping an 11-play, 80-yard march.
Vick (20 of 36 for 292 yards) was able to get the Eagles into the end zone with a 24-yard pass to wide receiver Jason Avant (93 yards and seven catches) early in the third quarter, slicing Green Bay’s lead to 14-10.
Vick’s one-yard sneak with 4:02 remaining in the fourth quarter made it 21-16. Vick hit Brent Celek on the two-point conversion, but the tight end stepped out of bounds, and then caught the pass. There was a five-yard penalty and a replay, but this failed as Vick injured his ankle while getting rid of the ball.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, and is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at email@example.com.