Four powerhouses remain in battle for Super Bowl
18 Jan, 2012 17:22
Four teams remain in what’s been a wildly unpredictable NFL post-season. Baltimore, New England, San Francisco and the NY Giants are the squads with the Super Bowl on their minds. RT looks back at how they moved to within a game of the big dance.
Starting in the AFC, where the Baltimore Ravens were more than ready to spoil the dreams of the Houston Texans as they came off their first playoff win ever in their maiden appearance.Houston were unable to keep control of the ball like they did in their 31-10 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in the Wild Card round. A muffed punt by the Texans' Jacoby Jones allowed Baltimore to run the table early on. Joe Flacco took advantage of a short field to find tight end Kris Wilson for a 7-3 lead.The Texans made a game of it but rookie quarterback TJ Yates had three interceptions and couldn't deliver when it mattered most. The Ravens won 20-13, and now face the same Patriots they crushed 33-14 back in the 2009 playoffs. New England will no doubt remember that embarrassing home loss in the wildcard round.But the Patriots are playing nothing like the team of a few years ago, absolutely demolishing the Denver Broncos over the weekend. Tom Brady threw six touchdown passes to tie the post-season record in a 45-10 romp.The three-time champions have now won nine straight games and ended a three-game playoff winless streak in style. New England are now the only high-octane offensive team still in the hunt after both the New Orleans Saints and the Green Bay Packers tapped out.Over in the NFC, The San Fransicso 49ers came out firing against the Saints with Alex Smith finding Vernon Davis to draw first blood. The imposing tight end would play an even bigger role later on, and it looked as if the Saints would once again outscore the opposition in the fourth quarter.Pint-sized speedster Darren Sproles outmaneuvered the defense to make it 24-23. Smith, however, found Davis again when San Francisco were down by three with just 9 seconds left in the game. Saints safety Roman Harper felt the pain of that 36-32 loss in a collision with the 27-year-old.The red-hot New York Giants will now try to stop the 49ers after a confident win over reigning champions Green Bay.Hakeem Nicks exposed the Packers' Achilles heel by outrunning their shaky defense and making it 10-3 in the first quarter.Few teams ever score on a last-second long bomb to end the half, but the Giants benefitted from a resilient Nicks again as the 24-year-old held on to the ball to make it 20-10 at the break.One of the best offenses in the National Football League were unable to get it together in the second. The Packers' Ryan Grant fumbled the ball allowing the Giants' Mario Manningham to score.37-20 is how it ended, meaning there will be a new Super Bowl champion this year.The remaining teams are now just one win away from their respective conference titles – and a trip to the biggest game of the NFL season.