|Alex Smith scores on a touchdown run. (AP photo)|
* Alex Smith: The San Francisco 49ers quarterback had the signature moment of his disappointing career in a shootout victory over the New Orleans Saints. Smith, the No. 1 overall draft pick out of Utah back in 2005, came from behind twice in the final 2:11 to beat the Saints last Saturday and send the Niners to the NFC Championship game. First, Smith scored on a fantastic 28-yard run down the left sideline to put San Francisco ahead 29-24. Then, after Drew Brees led the Saints back into the lead, on a 66-yard touchdown pass, Smith got the ball back with 1:37 to go. He hit Vernon Davis for a 47-yard pass that got the 49ers to the Saints' 20 and into field goal range. After a short pass and a spike it appeared the game was headed for overtime if David Akers could make the short kick on fourth down. But Smith and Davis wasn't about to let that happen. Smith threw a bullet that Davis brought in at the goal line with nine seconds left to win the game. The play was reminiscent of two other big catches in San Francisco history, the always-seen highlights of Dwight Clark and Terrell Owens bringing in winning grabs. Smith was 24-of-42 passing for 299 yards and three touchdowns. "It shows he's becoming an elite quarterback," linebacker Patrick Willis said of Smith. "I'm glad the world could see what he did today."
|Vernon Davis. (AP)|
|Tom Brady. (AP)|
* Tom Brady: Granted, the New England Patriots lucked out by having to play and beat the Denver Broncos to advance to the AFC Championship game, but Brady made sure early on that there would be no Tim Tebow heroics in Foxboro. Brady threw five first-half touchdown passes and six overall in an easy win over a sub-par Broncos team Saturday night. Brady tied a postseason record with the six scoring passes, joining Steve Young and Daryl Lamonica. He was 26-of-34 passing for 363 yards and the six touchdowns. His favorite target again was tight end Rob Gronkowski, who caught 10 passes for 145 yards and three touchdowns. "I have no idea about records and stuff like that," Brady said. "Anytime you score 45, obviously with the help of our defense, and special teams played great - hopefully we can go out next week and play even better." It will be hard for Brady to equal this performance next week, but nobody would put it past him.
* New York Giants: Click here for all the winners from the Giants victory over the Packers.
|Aaron Rodgers. (AP)|
* Green Bay Packers: The Packers loss to the New York Giants wasn't all that surprising for us here at GameDay, as we picked Big Blue to win the game, but when you go 15-1 on the season and not only get beat in your first playoff game, but get run out of your own building, it's an embarrassing end to the season. The Packers could be the most flawed 15-1 team in NFL history. The defense has been terrible all season long and was bailed out time and time again by the team's high-scoring offense. But what happened against the Giants is why team's built on offense alone won't go far in the postseason. The Packers offense turned the ball over four times and couldn't do much when they kept possession. After their Super Bowl run last year and play this season it was obvious the Packers players thought they were the chosen team and would win back-to-back title without problem. But the Giants punched them in the mouth, especially with the completed Hail Mary pass at the end of the first half, that had the team moping to the locker room. "[Hakeem Nick's catch] kind of broke their backs," Giants running back Brandon Jacobs said. "Because I saw them walking off the field, had their heads down. I pretty much knew they were done." Now the Packers will be watching the rest of the playoffs from home.
|Cover your eyes. (AP)|
* Saints Defense: Twice in the final 2:11 of the fourth quarter the Saints defense allowed "game manager" Alex Smith to drive the field and come from behind to take the lead. On the first, they allowed Smith to break outside and rush for a 28-yard touchdown, a play that was both spectacular for the offense and depressingly bad for the defense. The Saints offense quickly got the lead back, but the defense collapsed again, as Smith completed a 47-yard pass to Vernon Davis to get the team into field goal range and then hit Davis again for the game-winning 14-yard pass in the end zone. On the final drive, the Saints allowed the 49ers to drive 85 yards in seven plays, scoring the final touchdown with nine seconds to play. Again, this is an example of a great offense being supported by a poor defense. In the end, those team's will lose in the playoffs.
|John Fox and Tim Tebow. (AP)|
* John Fox: The Patriots jumped out to a 35-7 lead at the half, which should have meant the Broncos would come out in the second half throwing the ball on nearly every down. But the first drive, Denver called two straight runs before Tim Tebow threw an incompletion on third down. After the Patriots scored another touchdown, to make it 42-7, the Broncos called a run play on a third-and-21 play, gaining two yards. After the Patriots punted the ball back, the Broncos called seven run plays to six passes in setting up a field goal. In a third quarter where the Broncos had their postseason lives on the line and down four touchdowns, Fox and company dialed up 10 run plays to nine pass plays. Does that make any sense to anyone? I don't think so. If Tebow is going to be your quarterback, then use him as a quarterback. Of those 19 plays run in the third quarter, at least 15 should have been passes. Down 28 the running game should have been scrapped. But the Broncos stuck with it, basically giving up at halftime. They would have been better served to simply kneel on the ball every play. Hopefully the coaching staff give Tebow a chance to succeed next year.