Once the Superbowl is over, this section will return to your regularly scheduled Vikings content.
By Jordan Wright
But until then, I will be giving you a recap of the NFL playoffs, the Pro Bowl and the Superbowl.
The divisional round of the NFL playoffs featured four great match ups between the remaining eight teams. In the NFC, you had Arizona versus Green Bay and Carolina versus Seattle, while the AFC brought us New England versus Kansas City and Pittsburgh versus Denver.
Green Bay Packers at Arizona Cardinals
Three weeks ago, Green Bay traveled to Arizona and suffered the worst loss of their season. In the divisional round of the playoffs, the Packers proved to be a different team than the one that was beaten 38-8. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers led a furious fourth quarter comeback, eventually heaving a Hail Mary with five seconds left to Jeff Janis, who was pressed into action because of injuries. The touchdown tied the game, and it was off to overtime.
If the first four quarters were crazy, overtime proved to be no different. Before overtime even started, the referee was unable to get the coin to flip and had to re-do it. On the first play from scrimmage, Carson Palmer hit Minnesota native Larry Fitzgerald for a 75 yard gain. With the ball on the five yard line, Palmer again got the ball to Fitzgerald who went into the end zone to seal the victory.
Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers
If the Green Bay/Arizona game was a thriller, the first half of the Seahawks/ Panthers game was a snooze fest. Cam Newton and company put up 17 points, and the defense added two pick-sixes to make the score 31-0 going into halftime. Most fans watching, as well as the Carolina Panthers, thought the game would be over. Unfortunately for the Panthers, the Seahawks didn’t get that particular memo.
In the second half, the Seahawks looked like a completely different team. Being down 31 points, Seattle elected to get quarterback Russell Wilson going instead of focusing on running back Marshawn Lynch. Seattle’s defense also turned it around, and after giving up 17 points in the first half, Seattle pitched a shutout in the second half. With a 1:12 left on the clock in the fourth quarter, Seattle kicked a field goal that brought the score to 31-24, making it a one score game. Carolina was able to recover the ensuing onside kick and close the game out, preventing what would have been one of the most improbable comebacks in NFL history.
Carolina will remain home and welcome in the Arizona Cardinals for the NFC Championship game, with the winner moving on to the Superbowl.
Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots
The Chiefs came into the game riding the NFL’s longest win streak, winning their last 11 games (their last loss was to the Vikings, week 6). On the flip side, New England was dealing with a multitude of injuries and had lost four of their last six games to end the regular season. Everything was pointing Kansas City’s way, but then they ran into Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.
With Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski back, Tom Brady was looking like his old self. Kansas City has a tremendous defense, equally stout against both pass and run. But Coach Belichick must have seen something he could take advantage of, as he elected to drop back and throw 47 times, compared to only nine runs. In the end, New England won 27-20.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos
Even though the Steelers were without their top receiver, top two running backs, and their quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was playing at less than 100 percent, they were still able to keep it close against the Denver Broncos. However, the Steelers ended up losing 23-16.
Peyton Manning was able to do just enough to keep the game close, and Denver’s defense was able to do the rest, keeping Pittsburgh’s high powered offense in the stable for most of the game. Denver is able to remain at home to prepare for the visiting New England Patriots and the two teams will play this weekend in the AFC Championship game. The winner of this week’s game will face either Carolina or Arizona in the Superbowl.
Random Vikings notes
Minnesota chose to not bring back offensive line coach Jeff Davidson. Instead, the Vikings have hired former Miami Dolphins Head Coach Tony Sparano for Davidson’s vacated position.
Everson Griffen will replace J.J. Watt in the Pro Bowl. This is Everson’s first Pro Bowl, and he will join Adrian Peterson as the only representatives in Hawaii for the Purple and Gold, a travesty when considering Linval Joseph, Anthony Barr and Harrison Smith were all more than deserving.
Blair Walsh has received plenty of criticism for missing the 27-yard field goal that possibly would have sent the Vikings to the next round of the playoffs. However, Walsh has also received plenty of support, sometimes coming from unusual places. First graders from Northpoint Elementary in Blaine, Minn., made and sent cards of support to Blair, who in turned visited the school to let the students know how much he appreciated the kind words.