The NFC side of the Divisional round of the Playoffs may not have the same rivalries as the AFC side, but it still has some pretty good stories. First you have those surprising Seahawks. I find it interesting that there are people who still believe that a 7-9 team doesn’t belong in the playoffs. Really? I mean I can understand why one might feel that way, but after they stunned the Saints, can we really still feel that way? Also keep in mind that the Seahawks already beat Chicago once in week 6…at Chicago. Can they do it again and keep their unlikely post-season run going? Then there’s Atlanta and Green Bay. At the start of the season, very few probably would have thought Atlanta would be the number one seed; that honor was being given to Green Bay. But while the Falcons soared, Green Bay has struggled. The Packers took it to the wire the last time they were in the Georgia Dome, so you know they aren’t intimidated playing on the road there. With some solid football by Rodgers and more production from rookie surprise Jackson, could the Packers make that run at the Super Bowl everyone felt they would? Well, let’s see what Madden 11 reveals about these storylines:
Chicago vs. Seattle - Bears 24, Seahawks 21:
Those pesky Seahawks just won’t go away. Whether or not they deserve to be in the playoffs, they keep playing like they do. They dominated the first quarter of this game, scoring two TDs in quick succession; one an 11 yard pass for Forsett and one a 19 yard pass to Stokely. Plus, Lynch rumbled for 57 yards in this quarter alone. Fortunately, the Bears were able to regroup in the second, scoring on their first drive of the quarter with a 31 yard TD pass to Knox. However, the Seahawks came right back and drove down the field for their third TD of the half, but Bears weren’t fazed. With steady, methodical drive, Chicago used up the rest of the time in the first half to drive down the field and ended it with a 1 yard TD rush by Cutler. In the third quarter, the Bears defense finally got a handle on that slippery Seattle offense. Despite a Chicago fumble recovered by Seattle, the Bears didn’t let them turn it into points. However, Chicago couldn’t get any offense of their own going either. Finally in the beginning of the fourth, the Bears were able to get close enough for a 49 yard field goal. After forcing the Seahawks to punt, they again put together a time consuming drive that ended with a 1-yard TD run by Forte. With just 30 seconds left, Seattle couldn’t muster enough offense against a suddenly stifling Bears defense to get in range for tying field goal, and the Bears were able to squeak out with a win. Both quarterbacks performed admirably, with Cutler going 23/39 for 280 yards and 1 TD while Hasselbeck went 13 of 20 for 194 yards and 3 TDs. Lynch was a beast again, amassing 104 yards on the ground, but half of that came in the first half, after which the Beard defense found a way to contain him. Both Knox and Bennet for the Bears had over 80 yards receiving, with Knox having a TD while Stokely was the main target for Seattle with 92 yards and TD. The Seahawks just wouldn’t go away, and in this instance, once the Bears defense finally figured out how to contain things, it was mainly a matter of running out of time for the team no one thought belonged in the Playoffs. It was a good run, though.
Atlanta vs. Green Bay - Falcons 20, Packers 0:
Perhaps the best thing to happen for the Falcons this season was securing home field advantage throughout the Playoffs; they don’t lose at home. Oh I know they’ve had some close ones, but they find a way to win. One of their closest ones came at the hand of the Packers, who have been surprisingly hit or miss this season. Well in our Madden 11 sim, for some reason the Packers were back in miss mode. They started the game with a promising drive that looked like it would put points on the board when they fumbled the ball, which Atlanta recovered on the four-yard line. However, the Falcons couldn’t do anything with it. Again the Packers moved the ball down the field, but they missed a 55 yard field goal attempt that had plenty of distance but went wide right. The Falcons opened up the second quarter with a 24 yard pass to Gonzalez for a TD, and on their next drive they hit a 38 yard field goal. The Packers tried to get on the board before half-time, but missed another field goal, this one from 46 yards. On the opening drive of the third, Atlanta got into position for a 29 yard field goal, and then got the ball right back when the Packers fumbled the kickoff return. The Falcons wasted little time turning that into points with a 5 yard run by Turner for a TD. Things settled down a bit in the fourth, and again when it looked like Green Bay would score, they missed as Rodgers was intercepted in the endzone. It was a rough end for the uneven Packers. Rodgers went 13 of 22 for 151 yards and an INT, while Ryan went 16 of 27 for 216 yards and 2 TDs. Turner had 68 yards on the ground with 1 TD while Jackson only found enough room for 45 yards on the ground. Tony Gonzalez had another great game with 66 yards and a TD.