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:
Packers 20, Giants 37: Our sim predicted a tough game that could go either way, but in the end, the Packers prevailed. In reality, the game was even tougher than predicted and the Giants were the ones to come out on top. I don’t know about you, but the Packers looked a little rusty to me. They were dropping passes like the Denver Broncos (about half of Rodgers’ incompletions were due to drops) and that weak secondary gave up some big plays (like the hail mary into the endzone to end the first half). It was crazy. Rodgers ended his day 26 for 46 for 246 yards, 2 TDs and an INT while Manning went nuts with 21 of 33 for 330 yards, 3 TDs and an INT. Bradshaw had 62 yards in our sim and rumbled for 63 yards in the actual game. The Giants were the tougher team this time out, but we’ll see how they fare against those surprising 49ers.
Saints 32, 49ers 36: This was easily the most exciting game of the weekend. About three different times I was convinced one or the other team had put it away, but it wasn’t determined until the final seconds. The difference between this game and ours, the 49ers made the last second TD play in the real game whereas they missed it in our sim, otherwise this game would have had the exact same result. Alex Smith went 24 for 42 for 299 yards and 3 TDs, including the last second thriller; far better than he did in our sim. Brees went 40 out of 63 (yeah, you read that right) for 462 yards and 2 INTs, and despite those numbers, they still found a way to lose (by the way, Brees had 2 INTs in our sim as well). We said Vernon Davis would be big in this game. He had 121 yards in our sim, but he did even better in the real game with 180 yards and 2 TDs. Neither running game was explosive as we predicted, with the Saints having an almost non-existent game on the ground, and Gore getting just 89 yards in the real game compared to the 150 plus in our sim. Our sim came down to the final seconds and the final play, and the real game delivered exactly that scenario but with a different outcome. Good stuff.
Green Bay 22, New York 20: The Giants took the Packers to the limit the last time they played, and even in Lambeau and especially after the way they played last week, you have to think that they could do it again. They certainly did in our simmed game.
The Giants didn’t get off to a great start. Their first possession ended with a fumble that was recovered by the Packers for a touchdown. However, they settled in and the defense kept the explosive Packers scoring machine from getting on the board. Early in the second, the Giants finally found the end zone themselves with a long drive ending with a 2 yard TD scramble by Bradshaw. Green Bay tried to respond, but had to settle for a field goal, but after stopping the Giants and forcing them to punt, Rodgers hit Driver for a 62 yard TD pass on their next possession. It was pretty much a case of blown coverage, as you can see:
The Giants tried to stay aggressive, especially since they still had time and timeouts. But a couple of sacks later they found themselves giving up a safety as time expired. Probably not the smartest choice.
The Giants remained unfazed and worked their way down the field in the third quarter in order to get Bradshaw into the endzone on a 8 yard rumble. The drive took a lot of time, and the Packers returned the favor, taking up the rest of the third and the early parts of the fourth to drive within field goal range for a 32 yard score. New York now had a chance to go for the win, but they fumbled the ball instead and the Packers recovered. However, the Giants defense held and so nothing was lost other than time. The Giants then put together a spectacular drive in the waning moments of the fourth and score on an 11 yard TD pass to Ballard. With only seconds left, the Giants now needed a 2-point conversion to tie. This time, however, it was the Packers D that came up big, and the game ended.
Eli Manning worked hard to get 18 of 30 for 235 yards and 1 TD. Meanwhile, the Giants D contained Rodgers for the most part, 9 of 15 for 162 yards and a TD. Bradshaw rumbled for 62 yards and 2 TDs, while tight end Ballard got 90 key yards, a few of them on that final drive, and an important TD. Driver had a big game as well, most of it on one catch, with 72 yards and a TD. It’s going to be close, but just like last time, I think the Packers will find a way to win.
New Orleans 26, San Francisco 21: The Saints aren’t as good outside as they are under the dome. The 49ers have the best defense the Saints have seen all season. Will that be enough for the 49ers to win. Well, I still think the Saints will score plenty, and the 49ers offense may not be quite good enough to keep up, even if the defense keeps the score lower than the 30 or so points New Orleans typically averages.
The Saints got things rolling early in the first quarter as their first drive ended with an 8 yard TD sprint by Sproles. Then, after a quick three and out, they got the ball back and were able to get close enough for a 33 yard field goal. At this point, you had to wonder if San Fran’s defense was up to the challenge.
After a very slow and ineffectual start in the first, the 49er offense settled down and went to work, putting together their own scoring drive with a 45 yard field goal. Then the defense came up big as they picked-off Drew Brees, and were able to get three more points out of that with a 41 yard field goal. Scoring is good, but to keep with the Saints, you need more than field goals. The Saints looked like they were about to add to their lead, but again the defense got in Brees’ way and intercepted him in the endzone as the second quarter expired.
The Saints, however, were unfazed. They stormed out in the third quarter with yet another scoring drive as Brees hit Moore for a 43 yard score. However, the 49ers showed that they could score just as quickly when Gore rumbled through the Saints D for a 80 TD. San Fran went for two, got it, and now the game was really interesting as the 49ers were just a field goal down.
The Saints had another drive fizzle and settled for a 49 yard field goal. Then San Fran came roaring back as Gore broke free again, this time for a 61 yard TD scamper. Now the 49ers were up by one, but there was still one more quarter to go.
The Saints’ high powered offense was definitely getting hindered by that big San Fran D, but they were still able to get in range for a 52 yard field goal. More importantly, however, was the fact that the Saints were able to keep Gore and the San Fran offense in check and forced them to punt. New Orleans took as much time as they could off the clock, but still needed to score, but again the 49ers D did what they needed to give their offense a chance as New Orleans settled for a 46 yard field goal. With no time outs and only a minute left, the 49ers began the drive to try and save their season. They were methodical, they were accurate, they made the plays they needed, but as they marched down to the 11 yard line, they ran out time with now way to stop the clock. One time out, just a little more time, and perhaps this game would have been different. But in the end, the Saints marched on.
Smith went 11 for 26 for 176 yards and an INT, but there were some pretty key dropped passes by his receivers that contributed to that. Brees didn’t have a stellar day, but he did enough with 15 of 29 for 247 yards, 2 TDs and 2 INTs. Gore dominated the turf in the second half, ending the day with 158 yards and 2 TDs. Sproles and Ivory for the Saints both had just over 40 yards for the Saints, while tight end Davis was the go-to target for the 49ers with 121 yards. The San Francisco defense did what they could to keep that New Orleans offense in check, and did a decent job; the score could have been much more lopsided. However, as was expected, the 49er offense just couldn’t produce enough to get them the win. Again, this could be a close one, but I don’t think all the home teams are going to win again this weekend, and this is one of the home teams that will have to stay home while others move on.