words // Brandon Richard
The term “Any Given Sunday” was on full display in Denver on Sunday, as the improbably AFC West Champion Denver Broncos took on the veteran Pittsburgh Steelers in the Wild Card round of the NFL Playoffs. A lot of experts and critics felt that with an 8-8 record, the Broncos simply didn’t belong in the playoffs, and they certainly played like it in the first quarter of the game. Though the Steelers were held to just two field goals, the Tim Tebow-led Broncos offense managed just 8 total yards and looked to be stagnant. The turning point the game was when wide receiver Eric Decker went down with a knee injury in the second quarter, making Demaryius Thomas the team’s primary receiver. Standing at 6’3, Thomas made big play after big play for the Broncos, catching four balls for 201 yards, an average of more than 50 yards per catch. Big catches by Thomas helped set up a dominant second quarter from the Broncos, who outscored the Steelers 20-0 in the frame. Ben Roethlisberger, playing on a severely injured ankle, showed exactly why he’s one of the league’s best. Behind “Big Ben’s” effort, the Steelers stormed back, outscoring Denver 17-3 in the second half. Tied at the end of regulation, the two entered overtime as the first teams to play under the new OT rules. The irony there is that the Broncos and Steelers were the first teams to ever play an overtime in NFL history.
Under the new rules, both teams have an opportunity to possess the ball, unless a touchdown is scored by either offense or defense. The extra frame didn’t last long, as Tim Tebow took the first snap and connected with Thomas, who sped down the field for what would be a game-winning 80-yard touchdown in front of a raucous Denver crowd. With the win, the Broncos will now head to Foxborough for a rematch with Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
It looked to be business as usual for Drew Brees, who continued his historic season with 466 passing yards and three touchdowns in a 45-28 New Orleans Saints victory over the Detroit Lions. Brees completed 33 of his 43 passes to eight different receivers, guiding Marques Colston and Robert Meachem to 100+ yard receiving days. Meachem, along with Devery Henderson and tight end Jimmy Graham were the recipients of Brees’ touchdown passes, while Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas scored on the ground. In a losing effort, Calvin Johnson may have cemented his status as the league’s best wide receiver. He caught 12 passes for 211 yard and two touchdown to help the Lions’ efforts. Quarterback Matthew Stafford went 28-for-43, 380 yards, 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. New Orleans advances to a divisional matchup with the San Francisco 49ers on Saturday.
Much like their Super Bowl run in 2008, the New York Giants are peaking at the right time. One could argue that no team looked as good on both sides of the ball during Wild Card Week than the Giants, who blasted the Atlanta Falcons by a score of 24-2. Eli Manning continued his remarkable season by completing 23 of his 32 passes for 277 yards and three touchdowns. Brandon Jacobs looked like the Brandon Jacobs of old, rumbling his way to 92 tough yards on 14 carries. Wide receivers Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham both caught touchdowns (two for Nicks) and kept the chains moving for a fluid-looking Giants offense. However, the story of the day was the Giants’ defense, which limited a good Falcons offense to no scores. Matt Ryan completed just 24 of 41 passes; Michael Turner couldn’t manage to get anything going on the ground; and no receivers from that electric group managed to have a 100-yard day. The Giants will travel to Green Bay this weekend for a rematch with the Packers.
The real sleepers of the playoffs may be the Houston Texans, which opened up their improbable playoff run with a dominant 31-10 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. Star players for the Texans all came to play on Saturday; T.J. Yates went 11-for-20, 159 yards and a touchdown pass; Arian Foster was pretty much unstoppable, gaining 153 yards on 24 carries and scoring twice on the ground; wide receiver Andre Johnson caught five balls for 90 yards, including a 4o-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter. With all that said, the player of the game may have been defensive end J.J. Watt, who managed to sack Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton once and had a game-changing interception for a touchdown right before halftime. Next up for the Texans are the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.
“Big Ben” gutted it out in two different colorways of the Nike Air Zoom Super Bad 3, one equipped with a special ankle brace.
Isaac Redman found plenty of success running in the upcoming Lunar Super Bad Pro TD Nike football cleats.
LaMarr Woodley scoops up a fumble in a PE colorway of the BCT Speed Mid Jordan football cleats.
Demaryius Thomas took it to the house in overtime wearing Zoom Huarache II Nike football cleats.
Tim Tebow locates a receiver in the new Alpha Talon Elite 3/4 Nike football cleats.
Ahmad Bradshaw sheds a would-be tackler in Zig Reebok football cleats.
Victor Cruz celebrates making a catch in Vapor Talon Elite Low TD Nike football cleats.
Julio Jones tries runs after making a catch in Nitro Diablo CompFit Under Armour football cleats.
Roddy White had a tough outing, also wearing Zig Reebok football cleats.
Drew Brees warms up in his PE Nike Air Zoom Super Bad 3 football cleats.
Darren Sproles falls backward in the adidas Scorch X Superfly Mid.
Calvin “Megatron” Johnson catches a touchdown in the Nike Zoom Vapor Carbon Fly.
Will Heller spikes the ball after catching a touchdown pass in the Nike Zoom Alpha Talon.
Andre Johnson makes a grab wearing Jordan BCT Speed football cleats.
Arian Foster eludes a tackle for a touchdown in the Nike Super Speed TD.
A.J. Green fights for a catch in the new Vapor Talon Elite 3/4 Nike football cleats.
Cedric Benson looks on in the Nike Super Speed D 3/4.
images via Yahoo