The Packers and Cardinals had one of the most ridiculous finishes in NFL history, the Panthers held off a 24-point Seahawks second half to win, and Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are set to meet in the AFC Championship Game because of course they are. We cover those topics and much more at today’s Cheat Sheet…
NFC Divisional Round: Cardinals beat Packers in legendary finish, Panthers hold off second-half rally from Seahawks
The Green Bay Packers-Arizona Cardinals divisional playoff game on Saturday was infreakingsane. An instant classic and one of the best finishes we’ve ever seen. The Cardinals came out winners in overtime, 26-20, but we’re left thinking just as much about the incredible plays Aaron Rodgers and the Packers made to get the game into overtime.
There were so many crazy plays in the final minutes of regulation and overtime, but we’re going to focus on just a few of them here at the Cheat Sheet (otherwise this would turn into a novel really). First, this lucky tip drill touchdown caught by Michael Floyd to give the Cardinals the lead (17-13 after the extra point) with 3:45 to go in regulation:
Sometimes it’s definitely better to be lucky, good or not. Cardinals TD pic.twitter.com/Cd4yTPxQMs
— The Cauldron (@TheCauldron) January 17, 2016
Carson Palmer had to be so thankful for that friendly bounce, as frankly he looked terrible in the red zone all night (even threw an interception on an awful first and goal pass).
The Cardinals would add a field goal to go up 20-13, and with under a minute left, Aaron Rodgers completed an awesome 4th and 20 pass from the Packers own four-yard line to get Green Bay into territory where they could take shots into the end zone.
Fast-forward to five seconds left in the game, with the Packers at the Cardinals’ 41, and Aaron Rodgers having to attempt a Hail Mary pass. We’ve seen this before (like, just a month ago):
Absolutely AMAZING. So then we head to overtime, and there is a coin flip controversy just in case this finish needed anymore drama. The Cardinals then end up with the ball and on the first play from scrimmage in overtime, Larry Fitzgerald turns back the clock:
Fitzgerald would take soon take a Palmer shovel pass into the end zone for a game-winning touchdown, sending the Cardinals to the NFC Championship Game. Fantastic finish and it’s a shame Rodgers never got a chance to touch the ball again after the magic he pulled off on the final drive of regulation.
As for the other NFC game of the weekend… we had the Seattle Seahawks-Carolina Panthers on Sunday, and the first Carolina play from scrimmage pretty much summarized the first half.
First play of the game, Jonathan Stewart rips off big run pic.twitter.com/TCXOZGYJR8
— The Sports Daily (@SportsDailyBlog) January 17, 2016
Incredibly, the final score ended up being 31-24, as the Seahawks shut out the Panthers 24-0 in overtime. But as The Comeback’s Matt Zemek writes, the Panthers were clearly the better team on Sunday and the game wasn’t truly as close as the scoreboard said at the end:
The Seahawks competed honorably, but the drawn-out nature of the second half should not obscure the larger reality on Sunday: The Panthers were better. A lot better. Yes, even with the 31-24 final score, Carolina did nothing out of desperation and everything from a position of strength.
The fourth quarter was interesting instead of being a total snoozer, but just about everyone watching — in the stands or on TV — knew with about five minutes left that the Seahawks would need another onside-kick miracle to send this game into overtime or win it. Needless to say, teams can’t depend on opponents bobbling onside kicks every season. The Seahawks were a few cuts below the best teams in the NFL this season. Carolina markedly exceeded them on Sunday.
Also, the Panthers’ Twitter account had the tweet of the day:
AFC Divisional Round: It’s going to be a Brady-Manning AFC Championship. Weird!
The New England Patriots are going to their fifth straight AFC Championship Game after beating the Kansas City Chiefs 27-20 on Saturday. Like the Panthers-Seahawks game, it just never felt like the Chiefs were ever a real threat to win this game, even if the scoreboard said it was a one-score game at the end.
The Chiefs had no answer for Rob Gronkowski, but then again, who does?
Rob Gronkowski’s 8th career postseason TD gives him the most by a TE in NFL playoff history. pic.twitter.com/Le2LDQSYFc
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 16, 2016
So the Pats got their win at home without too much trouble. The Denver Broncos, on the other hand, had a very tough time with the Pittsburgh Steelers. It looked like the Broncos were even going to lose the game, until Steelers running back Fitz Toussaint fumbled in Denver territory in the fourth quarter:
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) January 18, 2016
After settling for field goals all game, the Broncos marched down the field and scored a touchdown to really make the Toussaint fumble look like a huge play.
At the end of the day, the Broncos are happy to come away with a 23-16 win and move on to the AFC Championship Game, but — even with the game in Denver — they will need to play much better if they’re going to beat the Patriots too.
Oh, and this means we have Peyton Manning vs Tom Brady, AGAIN.
— Brad Gagnon (@Brad_Gagnon) January 18, 2016
What will there be more of? — CBS Sports (@CBSSports) January 18, 2016
– Someone farted during the Broncos-Steelers broadcast. We’re obviously blaming Phil Simms for it.
– Huge report at Buzzfeed on Sunday about match-fixing in tennis:
Secret files exposing evidence of widespread match-fixing by players at the upper level of world tennis can today be revealed by BuzzFeed News and the BBC. The sport’s governing bodies have been warned repeatedly about a core group of 16 players – all of whom have ranked in the top 50 – but none have faced any sanctions and more than half of them will begin playing at the Australian Open on Monday.
– Sad stuff here as ESPN’s Chris Mortensen has been diagnosed with throat cancer. Mort is one of the best in the business and has been for a long, long time. Even Larry Fitzgerald, after the game of his life, went out of his way to give Mort best wishes.
– Chris Davis and the Orioles agreed to a 7-year, $161 million deal. Massive, surprising contract, but Davis is a big-time power bat in an era where power is so hard to find.
– Oregon State’s Jarmal Reid was ejected after tripping a referee, and it was was most definitely intentional.
– UFC Boston left Matt Mitrione with a an eye from hell. Seriously, it’s gross. So you know you want to see it.
– On Friday night, Patrick Kane scored his first career regular-season hat trick and took over the NHL goal-scoring lead. That was in the Chicago Blackhawks’ 10th straight win, and they’ve since extended it to an 11-game winning streak (and Kane also scored another goal Sunday, his 29th).
– Joakim Noah is out 4-to-6 months with a dislocated shoulder. The Bulls center was having a pretty rough year and it’s possible this is it for his career (which has overall been a great one) in Chicago.
– FOX plans to revive 24 (again), this time without Jack Bauer. “DAMMIT!”. It will probably still be watchable for 24 fans, but will never be the same without Kiefer Sutherland. Jack Bauer is one of the best on-screen characters (TV or movie) of all-time. I really thought Yvonne Strahovski was great as “Kate Morgan” in 24: Live Another Day and would’ve been a fine Bauer replacement, but it looks like they’re going with entirely new people for 24: Legacy.
– Netflix is developing ‘Punisher’ series, a spinoff from Daredevil season two. Jon Bernthal plays the Punisher in Daredevil and will continue to do so in the spinoff.
– How to make pizza-stuffed waffles. Probably the most important thing you will find out ever.
One last breath of gratuitous procrastination
The Mountain from Game of Thrones sparring with UFC Featherweight Champion Conor McGregor.