Packers and Steelers to face each other in Dallas
The stage is set for one of the most anticipated Super Bowls in recent memory.
The AFC Champion Pittsburgh Steelers are trying for the team’s seventh Vince Lombardi Trophy. However, they will have to beat the team Lombardi won the first two Super Bowls with, the Green Bay Packers, in Super Bowl XLV.
Since the Super Bowl will be in Dallas and won’t take place until Feb. 6, I’ve decided to save my Super Bowl preview for next week. Instead, I will provide a recap of the wild NFL playoffs and how we ended up with this historic matchup.
The NFL playoffs started off with a bang, as the NFC West Champion Seattle Seahawks, with a regular season record of 7-9, upset the defending Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints 41-36 in an entertaining shootout.
The Seahawks sealed the game on an electrifying 67-yard touchdown ran by Marshawn Lynch in which he broke several Saints tackle attempts, including a stiff-arm for the ages, throwing Super Bowl hero Tracy Porter to the ground like a rag doll.
Last year’s other conference champions, the Indianapolis Colts, were second in elimination from the postseason.
The team lost 17-16 to the Jets on a last-second Nick Folk field goal.
On the possession prior to Folk’s game-winner, Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri nailed a 50-yard field goal to give the Colts a 16-14 lead with 0:53 remaining.
The Colts failed to convert a third down that would have allowed them to kick the game-winning field goal as time expired. Instead, Mark Sanchez led the Jets into field goal range to give New York the victory.
In the other AFC Wild-Card game, the Baltimore Ravens, led by 265 passing yards and two touchdowns from quarterback Joe Flacco, defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 30-7 in the least competitive game of the playoffs.
The final game of wild-card weekend featured the 10-6 Green Bay Packers against the 10-6 NFC East Champion, the Philadelphia Eagles.
In one of the best games of the playoffs, Green Bay sealed the game as cornerback Tramon Williams intercepted Michael Vick in the end zone in the final minute to preserve a 21-16 win.
The divisional round in the AFC featured two games involving division foes. The Patriots faced the Jets and the Steelers hosted the Ravens.
In the first game of the divisional round, Baltimore rushed out to a 21-7 halftime lead over the Steelers after the Ravens forced two first-half turnovers, one of which was returned for a touchdown.
But in the second half, Pittsburgh flipped the script and began to capitalize on Baltimore turnovers. The Steelers turned three Ravens’ third-quarter turnovers into 17-0 points on way to outscoring Baltimore 24-3 in the second half for a 31-24 victory.
In the Saturday nightcap, the NFC No. 1 seed, the Atlanta Falcons, hosted the Green Bay Packers at the Georgia Dome — a place in which Falcon quarterback Matt Ryan had been almost unbeatable during the regular season of his first three seasons.
Despite his success at home, Ryan threw two uncharacteristic interceptions late in the second quarter,. The second interception was returned for a touchdown on the final play of the half, which led to 14 points for Green Bay.
The Packers turned a tie game into a 35-14 lead with three touchdowns over the course of eight minutes of game action. The route was on as Green Bay won 48-21.
In the other NFC divisional game, the Chicago Bears handily defeated the Seahawks 35-24 at Soldier Field. The Bears opened up a 28-0 lead midway through the third quarter before the Seahawks scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns to make the score look respectable.
The final divisional round playoff game featured the biggest upset of the postseason, as the 14-2 New England Patriots were defeated at home 28-21 by the Jets.
This came only a month and a half after the Jets were blown out 45-3 at New England on Monday Night Football with the division lead at stake.
The Patriots made some uncharacteristic miscues, and the Jets answered New England’s first touchdown of the game with a touchdown of their own to pull off the road win.
The two conference championship games featured four of the teams with the largest fanbases in the NFL: New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers, Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears.
Green Bay went into Soldier Field and beat its longtime rival on that team’s home turf in an unusual game.
Despite dominating most of the game, the Packers found themselves only up a touchdown and facing Chicago’s third-string quarterback, Caleb Hanie. Hanie was in because starter Jay Cutler injured his MCL and backup Todd Collins’ play was ineffective.
The undrafted Hanie recovered from an interception returned for a touchdown by leading the Bears down the field for a touchdown and cutting the Packers’ lead to 21-14 with 4:43 to play.
After forcing the Packers to punt, Hanie had one last chance to lead the Bears down for the game-tying touchdown. However, on fourth-and-four from the Packers’ 29, Hanie’s pass into double-coverage was intercepted, sending Green Bay to its fifth Super Bowl.
The Steelers advanced to the team’s eighth Super Bowl with a 24-19 win over the Jets.
The Steelers opened up a 24-0 lead with a defensive touchdown late in the second quarter.
The Jets scored the final 19 points of the game but the team was unable to get the crucial stop on Pittsburgh’s final possession to get the ball back, as Ben Roethlisberger was able to convert two first downs to kill the clock.
Wacky NFL playoffs have left us with two of the most historic teams in the NFL, Green Bay and Pittsburgh, playing for the world championship at Jerry Jones’ palace in what promises to be a great game.
Jones didn’t get to become the first owner to host a Super Bowl, but he did get a great Super Bowl matchup.