The theme for the divisional round of the playoffs was turnovers. The teams that committed the turnovers found themselves on the short end of the stick at game’s end, and the team’s that forced the turnovers found themselves heading to the next round. Sure the Texans and Saints did a pretty good job of overcoming their mistakes, but then they kept making them and in the end, it was just too much. Meanwhile, the Broncos looked scared. I don’t know why, they just won against the number on defense in the league. But then again, the way Brady played and the way the defense played, and the fact that the early part of the game seemed eerily similar to their last lost to the Patriots (turnovers!), maybe they got psyched out. In any event, we got these games right with our Madden sim, so here how they turned out:
Broncos 10, Patriots 45: Okay, there’s just no way to sim how scary good Tom Brady was in this game. I think he was a little irked about all the Tebow coverage and set out to remind everyone that his is a championship team and that he’s a pretty decent two-time Super Bowl MVP. The Broncos, meanwhile, retreated into their shell and played this game like they did against Kansas City. Why? What happened to “pull the trigger”? Why do they continue to try the run options when it’s obvious it’s not working? I just don’t know. No comparison really for our stats compared to what Brady really did. He went 26 of 34 for363 yards, 6 TDs and 1 INT. Interestingly, tight end Hernandez was their leading rusher with 61 yards. Meanwhile, Tebow went 9 of 26 for 136 yards and once again struggled to hit receivers while receivers struggled to catch the ball. Ugly. However, 9 completions was exactly what we said he’d get. Weird. McGahee had 76 rushing yards and a TD, almost exactly what we predicted (77 and a TD). Not the way Denver and Tebow wanted to end their season, proving to everyone that perhaps they aren’t as good as their win over the Steelers might have suggested, but perhaps it’ll motivate them to improve for next season.
Texans 13, Ravens 20: The Texans were in this one right up to the very end, and I though they just might do it. Despite their turnovers, they certainly had plenty of opportunities to get the win, but in the end, a veteran defense trumped a rookie, third-string quarterback. Still, it wasn’t a bad run for the first time playoff Texans. Yates when 17 of 35 for 184 yards and 3 INTs, pretty close the 7 of 13 for 186 yards and 2 INTs that we had. Foster had 157 yards and 2 TDs in our sim, and had 132 yards and 1 TD in the actual game. Meanwhile, Flacco went 14 of 27 for 176 yards and 2 TDs which was close to the 14 of 24 in our game for 264 yards 3 TDs and one INT. The Texans D helped keep Rice in check for just 60 yards and had five sacks on Flacco (three in our sim). All in all, the game unfolded pretty close to how it did in our sim, and was exciting to the end.
Denver 7, New England 17: This was a pretty weird game, to be honest. Nothing unfolded as I thought it would. The Denver D pretty much shut down Brady and his tight ends on offense, but on the other side of the ball they had the same problem against the Patriots that they did last time; turnovers. Still, there was a chance there right at the end during Tebowtime, but I played the Broncos more aggressive than they’ve ever been during the regular season and paid for that big time.
The first quarter was a bust for both sides. Neither offense was clicking, the Denver wide receivers were back to dropping passes left and right, and the Patriots were stuffing the run. However, toward the end of the first and early in the second, New England got something going and their methodical drive eventually ended up in the endzone on a 3 yard run from Green-Ellis. Denver tried to respond on their next possession, but ended up throwing an interception. The Broncos D held New England to a 42 yard field goal, and then the offense finally got things rolling and ended the half with a 2 yard run from McGahee.
The third quarter didn’t start out much better for the Broncos as they got intercepted once again on a long drive that held some promise. However, the defense did their job and sacked Brady. A couple of punts by each team later and we’re already headed into the fourth. Still, it remained a stalemate, and while New England had a chance to run the clock, the Denver D got to Brady again, and now it was Tebowtime. With time running out, the Broncos began a methodical drive down the field. They made it to the ten yard line, in easy field goal range, but I wanted the win. I wanted Denver to be aggressive, and so Tebow threw is third INT going for the winning TD, and what’s worse, that INT was returned for a New England TD; thus ending the game.
It wasn’t a pretty game for anyone. Tebow went 9 of 17 for 109 yards and 3 INTs, and he also rushed for 25 yards. However, the receivers dropped way too many balls that should have been catches, and Tebow also had some wildly inaccurate throws, which led to one of his INTs. Brady had a dismal day, 11 of 15 for 163 yards. The Denver D was all over him with a couple of sacks and constant pressure. The ground game wasn’t all that effective for either team as well, with Green-Ellis going 43 yards and getting a TD, and McGahee getting 77 very tough yards and a TD. Ugly game that was still within reach for Denver but ended ugly on an aggressive play that admittedly the real Denver would never do. So what does this mean for the real Denver/New England match-up? It means anything is possible and New England may have more of a fight on their hands then they’re expecting, especially if Denver’s D is playing in top form.
Houston 24, Baltimore 27: The last thing I expected out of this game was for it to turn into a shoot-out, but it did. The Ravens and Texans exchanged leads back and forth on some crazy, crazy plays. So much of this game was flukey that I honestly don’t know what to expect out of the real one after running this sim.
The first quarter started out great for the Texans. Their defense made a difference on the very first possession, intercepting Joe Flacco and giving their offense a short field. The Texans took advantage and used a heavy dose of Foster to get into the endzone on a 1 yard run. Raven couldn’t get anything else done in the first, and with the ball in their hands to start the second quarter, the Texans were able to get into field goal range for a 30 yard score. The Ravens threatened to close the gap on their next possession, but that tough Texans D kept them out of the endzone, and they settled for a chip-shot 16 yard field goal to wrap up the first half.
Houston had a chance to take a commanding lead by getting the ball to start the third, and it looked like they just might do that, but then Yates got picked-off. The Ravens then turned that around for a TD on a 21 yard pass to Boldin who made an amazing catch in double coverage. The Texans quickly broke the tie, however, with a 100 yard kick return for a TD. However, the Ravens weren’t fazed at all, and they put together a scoring drive with a 29 yard TD pass to Smith. The Texans fired right back, again on just one play, as Foster broke free for an 80 scramble into the endzone. And then finally, the wild third quarter came to an end. Apparently, the Texans ran out of steam after all that activity. The Ravens kicked a 45 yard field goal to close the gap, and after Houston fizzled on their drive, the Ravens got another crazy, lucky play. A deep ball on third down to Evans got tipped and was still caught in the endzone for a 55 yard TD and the lead.
Time was now against the Texans, and while they tried to do their best impression of Tebowtime, their final attempt to score ended with an interception. The better defense won the day.
Flacco had probably one of his best games of the season with 14 of 24 for 264 yards, 3 TDs and just 1 INT. Yates ended his rookies experience in the playoffs with 7 of 13 for 186 yards and 2 INTs. Foster had a huge day on the ground, with 157 yards and 2 TDs, but it wasn’t enough. The Texans were able to keep Rice in check, who only had 34 yards, but they weren’t counting on Flacco being able to make up for that. Boldin had 103 yards and a TD, making a huge difference in the game despite the fact that Flacco was sacked three times and harried almost constantly. Who would have thought with these great defenses that the offenses would have such a flurry of scoring? Still, it was the defense that made the difference in the end, which will probably be true as well this weekend.