During the playoffs and through the Superbowl, I will be bringing you coverage of the games as they happen, as well as news and notes from the Vikings. Skol!
By Jordan Wright
New England Patriots at Denver Broncos
The Patriots flew to Denver to take on the Broncos, and this game was one for the ages. In possibly their last contest against each other, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning went back and forth in what has become one of the greatest rivalries in sports between two players, having now played 17 times (with this being Manning’s sixth win against Brady.)
Peyton Manning had one of the plays of the day, a play he called (finger air-quotes and all) “the run”. It was during the third quarter, with the Broncos facing third down. Manning dropped back to pass, didn’t see anyone open, so he decided to run for a gain of 12 yards and a touchdown. That play was one that helped seal the game for Denver.
To me, the biggest factor came down to the Broncos’ defensive line, which is one of the best in the league, against the Patriots’ offensive line which has been in flux this entire season. Brady was sacked or hit 23(!) times on Sunday on his 56 drop backs, and he was also pressured into throwing two interceptions with only one touchdown.
Even after taking a pounding all game, Brady and the Patriots still had a chance to tie the game in the fourth quarter. Down by eight points with under two minutes remaining in the game, Brady was able to drive the Patriots down the field and hit Gronkowski in the end zone with twelve seconds remaining, making the score 20-18. All of a sudden, this back and forth game came down to one play: the two point conversion. On the final play for the Patriots, Brady dropped back but was unable to find an open receiver before being rushed, which forced Brady to heave the ball into the end zone where a Denver player intercepted it and sealed the game for Peyton Manning and the Broncos.
Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers
If the Patriots/Broncos game was an instant classic, the Cardinals/ Panthers game must be considered a classic beat down. The final score was 49-15 in favor of Carolina, and to be honest the score makes this game appear closer than it actually was.
Arizona was simply unable to get anything going offensively. Until this season, the knock on Carson Palmer was that he is unable to win playoff games. He was able to get that monkey off his back when the Cardinals beat the Packers last week. But Palmer did not look like himself in the game against the Panthers, only able to throw for one touchdown against four (!) interceptions and two fumbles.
Carolina looked like a juggernaut against Arizona, and Cam Newton looks liked like the best quarterback playing on Sunday. Cam was able to complete 19 of 28 passes for 335 yards and two touchdowns, while also running the ball 10 times for 47 yards and two more touchdowns.
Superbowl 50 is set, and Carolina is an early four point favorite. Denver will have to bring their A game if they want to bring the Lombardi Trophy back to the Mile High city. The biggest matchup to me will be Broncos’ defense attempting to slow down Cam Newton and the rest of Carolina’s offense. I know Denver was able to pressure Tom Brady 23 times on Sunday, but there is a big difference between Brady and Newton. Brady is not known for being a mobile quarterback, while Newton will scramble to extend plays and can pick up yards with his feet if needed. Not to mention, Newton is 6’5” and 245 pounds, so even if you get a hand on him it’s difficult to bring him down. As much as I respect Peyton Manning and would love to see him get one more ring before he calls it quits, I just don’t think there is any way Denver will be able to slow Carolina down enough, and because of that I believe the Panthers will be the next Superbowl champions.
Random Vikings notes
Harrison Smith has been named to the Pro Bowl, which now makes three Vikings who will be in Hawaii (Adrian Peterson and Everson Griffen).
The Vikings brought in former Head Coach and recent offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, although it is unclear what his role will be. The only opening on the Vikings’ coaching staff is at the running backs coach position, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Vikings create a position just for Shurmur. This is a great addition in my opinion, as it never hurts to have more coaching experience on the team.
The Vikings have signed Terrell Sinkfield, a standout CFL wide receiver. Standing 6” and weighing 200 pounds, it has been reported that Sinkfield ran the 40-yard dash in 4.19 seconds in 2013 at Minnesota’s Pro Day.