The Divisional round truly is the greatest weekend of the year. We saw some interesting games last weekend in the Wild Card, but the teams we truly trust don't play until the second weekend. The four teams with a bye deserved to be there and in large part, they proved that this weekend. Even the Broncos, the only home team to lose, played well enough to win that game, losing in one of the most intriguing games all season.
There will be those that point the finger at Peyton, or Champ, but we should know well enough by now that it can't be just one player, nor is it likely to be either of them. The Ravens defense certainly stepped up in crucial situations. When the Broncos opened up with a punt return for a touchdown, the pressure in facing a player like Peyton can mount. But they recovered to create a turnover and score on a deep ball to Torrey Smith running past Champ. The Ravens showed that they're not going to back down, and it seems that Ray Lewis' proclamation of retirement has galvanized this team into legitimate contenders.
But the play that will live on is the bomb from Flacco to Jones near the end of regulation. The Broncos went into a predictable thirds coverage, with the two safeties and the Mike backer splitting the deep coverage responsibilities. Rahim Moore was playing deep coverage on Jones' side of the field, however, he cheated up just a bit on the in-breaking route and the rest is a highlight we'll be watching for some time to come.
What baffles me is a play that won't live on because it never happened. Following the Jones touchdown, the Broncos got the ball on their own 20 with 31 seconds left and two timeouts. I get it. That's not a lot of time, despite the timeouts. There's significant risk; turnovers are not out of the question. But your quarterback is Peyton. The Sheriff. If you don't have faith in him, you're never going have faith in anyone. But the Broncos elect to kneel the ball. This didn't receive too much criticism immediately after the game, but I think the activities of Sunday shed a new light on this strategy.
Matt Ryan and the Falcons had just put themselves in a tough situation by giving up a go-ahead touchdown and salting away a 20-0 lead to the Seahawks. Matty Ice got the ball on his own 28 with 31 seconds and two timeouts. Sound familiar? Granted, it was 8 yards closer, and more importantly, the Falcons had no choice but to attack downfield since they were down by 1. But I have to believe the fact that you have the Sheriff makes all of that completely moot. While Pete Carroll gets flack for his late timeout, John Fox deserves his fair share of criticism for being too conservative with a hall of famer at the helm.