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Here is a recap of Championship Sunday of the 2015 NFL Playoffs with Monday Afternoon QB. Thanks again to the AP Sports/Pro 32 for photos & articles.
NFC Championship– Packers 22, Seahawks 28 OT
SEATTLE (AP) — The loudest stadium in America was silent. A return trip to the Super Bowl was slipping away.
Time for the Seattle Seahawks to show why they are champions.
“You have the belief these guys have in one another, there is nothing you can’t do,” coach Pete Carroll said after an implausible comeback for a 28-22 victory over Green Bay in the NFC championship game Sunday.
Plagued by turnovers and outplayed much of the day, the Seahawks staged a stunning rally built on resilience. Russell Wilson, who struggled until the final minutes, hit Jermaine Kearse for a 35-yard touchdown 3:19 into the extra period to win it.
The Seahawks became the first defending champion to make the Super Bowl in 10 years, and will play the AFC champion New England Patriots, who routed Indianapolis 45-7. How Seattle got there was stunning.
“The will and the drive of these men is unbelievable,” Wilson said. “We always find a way to finish.”
Seattle (14-4) trailed 19-7 with about four minutes remaining and had been ineffective on offense all game. Wilson finally put a drive together with passes to Doug Baldwin and Marshawn Lynch — initially ruled a touchdown but called back because he stepped out of bounds. Wilson finished with a 1-yard scoring run to cut the lead to 19-14 with 2:09 left.
The onside kick went high to Packers tight end Brandon Bostick, but he couldn’t gather it, and Seattle’s Chris Matthews recovered at the 50. The crowd, quiet since Seattle fell behind 16-0, came alive, and Lynch sped and powered his way to a 24-yard TD run. On the 2-point conversion, Wilson — about to be sacked — threw a desperate pass hauled in by Luke Willson to make it 22-19 with 1:25 remaining.
Aaron Rodgers, limping on an injured calf, calmly led the Packers (13-5) downfield to set up Mason Crosby’s fifth field goal, a 48-yarder with 14 seconds to go to force overtime.
Then Wilson and Kearse struck, with Kearse — the target on all four of Wilson’s interceptions — beating Tramon Williams on the winning pass. Kearse has also caught the winning score in last year’s conference title win over San Francisco.
“Just making the plays at the end and keep believing,” said Wilson, who was overwhelmed and sobbing after the game. “There was no doubt … we had no doubt as a team.”
Kearse, who has caught touchdown passes in four straight postseason games, and several other Seahawks leaped into the stands behind the end zone, saluting the stadium-record crowd of 68,538. Wilson ran through cameramen to jump on Kearse’s back, and defensive end Michael Bennett borrowed a bicycle from a police officer and rode around the edge of the field saluting the “12s.”
Until the final minutes, there seemed to be no doubt the Packers were headed to the big game Feb. 1 in Glendale, Arizona. Despite All-Pro Rodgers’ injury, Green Bay and its overlooked defense was carrying the day.
“It’s going to be a missed opportunity that I’ll probably think about for the rest of my career,” Rodgers said. “We were the better team today, we played well enough to win. We can’t blame anybody but ourselves.”
Special teams trickery lifted the Seahawks back into the game after falling behind 16-0. Their first touchdown came on a fake field goal when holder Jon Ryan threw 19 yards to tackle eligible Garry Gilliam in the third quarter. And Matthews’ onside kick recovery kept the Seahawks alive.
Lynch rushed for 157 yards on 25 carries and was the one consistent offensive force Seattle had. He was crucial to both late scoring drives in regulation.
And after the Packers tied it, Seattle wouldn’t be denied in overtime, winning the coin toss and going 87 yards in six plays.
The 16-point comeback was the largest ever in a conference title game. The Colts defeated the Patriots after trailing 21-6 in 2006.
“It takes everybody and everybody had to contribute to get that done,” Carroll said. “It was so much heart, so much belief today. Somehow, somehow we pulled it out.”
The matchup of Green Bay’s top-ranked scoring offense against the league’s stingiest defense instead was being controlled by the Packers’ ability to stop — and turn over — the Seahawks. The five giveaways were the most in the Carroll era that began in 2010.
The silence of the fans was remarkable for much of the windy, intermittently rain day. Rookie safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix had two interceptions and Green Bay sacked Wilson five times.
Yet it wasn’t enough.
“I felt our football team was a special group. They’ve been great all year,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “This is a hard one to swallow.”
Seahawks All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman played much of the final quarter holding his left arm at his chest. The center of conversation after last January’s NFC championship win against the 49ers, he quietly left the field with his arm still pinned to his body, an NFC championship towel hanging off his right arm.
Sherman said after the game about the Super Bowl: “I will 100 percent be able to play.”
Rodgers didn’t shy away from throwing at Sherman, and in an early matchup of All-Pros, Rodgers’ pass to rookie Davante Adams in the end zone was snagged by Sherman.
But the Pack was right back in scoring position moments later when Clinton-Dix grabbed a tipped pass and returned it 26 yards to the Seattle 4. Fullback John Kuhn, another All-Pro, had his TD dive reversed by a replay review and Seattle held. Crosby made it 3-0.
Doug Baldwin fumbled the ensuing kickoff at his 23, and Crosby made a 19-yarder.
It didn’t get better in the first half for the hosts. Randall Cobb caught an 18-yard TD pass on the final play of the opening quarter to make it 13-0; Green Bay outgained Seattle 137-3 in the period.
The Seahawks’ initial first down came nearly eight minutes into the second quarter.
Crosby nailed a 40-yarder to conclude Green Bay’s dominant first half. Wilson was picked off three times, had a QB rating of 0.00, and Seattle was fortunate it didn’t trail by more.
Even after the fake field goal TD made it 16-7, the Seahawks didn’t seem likely to pull off the comeback. Yet they did, becoming the first team since New England a decade ago to return to the Super Bowl.
“I’m honored to be on this team, Wilson said. “I’m going to the Super Bowl again.”
AFC Championship– Colts 7, Patriots 45
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are headed to a special place where no coach or player has gone more — the Super Bowl.
They earned their trip with the second most lopsided AFC championship victory ever.
The New England Patriots dominant duo earned a sixth trip to the Super Bowl with a 45-7 wipeout of the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC championship game before a raucous, rain-soaked crowd Sunday night.
The Patriots tied Dallas and Pittsburgh for most appearances in the big game with eight.
Scoring touchdowns on their first four second-half possessions, the Patriots (14-4) moved on to face defending champion Seattle (14-4) for the NFL title on Feb. 1 in Glendale, Arizona. Belichick will face Pete Carroll, whom he replaced as Patriots coach 2000. The Seahawks beat the Green Bay Packers 28-22 in overtime in the NFC title game.
In his first year as a starter, Brady led the Patriots to a Super Bowl win in the 2001 season, starting a run of three championships in four years. Now he and Belichick have a chance for their first in 10 years.
Brady threw three touchdown passes, LeGarrette Blount ran 30 times for 148 yards and three scores and the Patriots charged away after leading just 17-7 at halftime.
With his sixth Super Bowl berth, Brady surpassed John Elway for the most by a quarterback and tied defensive lineman Mike Lodish for most by any player. Belichick’s sixth visit tied him with Don Shula’s for most by a coach.
Brady completed 23 of 35 passes for 226 yards before being replaced by Jimmy Garoppolo with 3:20 left. Brady went to the sideline where he was embraced by Belichick. Moments earlier, while sitting on the bench, Brady was shown on the video board with soaked hair. He pumped his fist in the air 12 times then slapped hands with teammates.
The biggest blowout in AFC title history was Buffalo’s 51-3 win over the Los Angeles Raiders in the 1990 season.
For Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, it was the worst game of his three-year career and the fourth rout in his four career games against the Patriots, all by at least three touchdowns. He completed 12 of 33 passes for 126 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions.
He lost 43-22 in last season’s divisional playoff with Blount rushing for 166 yards and four touchdowns. And on Nov. 16, he lost 43-22 as Jonas Gray rushed for 201 yards and four touchdowns.
The Indianapolis defense was porous against the run again Sunday night. They weren’t much better against the pass.
And when Luck threw an interception that Darrelle Revis late in the third quarter, Blount ran 13 yards for the touchdown that made it 38-7.
One fan held up a sign: “No Luck In Our House”
But there was plenty of skill — and a touch of surprise — from the Patriots.
Eight days after baffling Baltimore with a four-man offensive linemen formation that drew a loud protest from Ravens coach John Harbaugh in the Patriots 35-31 divisional win, Belichick called a pass to left tackle Nate Solder, who was eligible, that resulted in a 16-yard touchdown that made it 24-7 with just under five minutes gone in the third quarter.
The Patriots kept rolling with touchdowns on each of their next three series — a 5-yard pass from Brady to Rob Gronkowski, and Blount’s runs of 13 and 2 yards.