AFC West: 2012 Divisional Rapid Reaction
January, 12, 2013
By Bill Williamson | ESPN.com
DENVER -- A look at a classic AFC divisional playoff game, won 38-35 by the Baltimore Ravens in the second overtime:
What it means: The Denver Broncos' season is over. Ravens rookie Justin Tucker connected on a field goal 1 minute, 42 seconds into the second overtime to stun Denver in a wild, wild game. Denver had won the previous 11 games and was the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs. Now, its season is done. Denver quarterback Peyton Manning threw an interception late in the first overtime to set up the game-winning field goal. Manning committed three turnovers (two interceptions and a fumble); they resulted in 17 Baltimore points. It is the eighth time in his career Manning has gone one-and-done in the playoffs. He is 9-11 in the postseason and 0-4 in games in which the temperature was less than 40 degrees. The temperature was in single digits by the end of this one. The loss snapped a nine-game win streak by Manning over Baltimore.
Stunned: In the final minute of the fourth quarter, Baltimore tied the game at 35-all with a desperation 70-yard bomb from Joe Flacco to Jacoby Jones with 31 seconds left. Denver safety Rahim Moore badly misplayed the ball. The miracle attempt will go down in playoff history.
D. Thomas does it again: Denver receiver Demaryius Thomas broke several tackles on a 17-yard screen pass for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to break a 28-all tie. Last season, Thomas ran for much of an 80-yard touchdown pass from Tim Tebow to beat Pittsburgh on the first offensive play of overtime in a wild-card game. This time, it wasn’t enough.
It’s a Holliday: Trindon Holliday is becoming a folk hero in Denver. The tiny return man brought a punt back 90 yards for a score in the first quarter, then took the opening kickoff of the second half 104 yards for a touchdown. Both were NFL playoff records. Again, it wasn’t enough.
Miller, Dumervil shut down: Denver pass-rush stars Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil were shut down until they combined on a huge sack of Flacco in overtime to force a punt. The Baltimore offensive line did a great job in this game after struggling when the teams met last month in Baltimore.
Tough game for Bailey: Denver's future Hall of Fame cornerback Champ Bailey was burned twice by Torrey Smith for touchdowns in the first half. Denver did a nice job of adjusting in the second half.
Moreno hurt, Hillman steps up: Denver running back Knowshon Moreno left with a knee injury, which left rookie Ronnie Hillman as Denver’s primary running back in the second half. The third-round pick made some big runs in the fourth quarter to help. Hillman has a bright future.
What is next: Denver's season is over. On to free agency and the draft. An AFC West team has not gone to the Super Bowl since the 2002 Oakland Raiders. It is the longest division drought in the NFL.
January, 14, 2012
By Bill Williamson | ESPN.com
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A look at a classic playoff mismatch:
What it means: The Broncos’ season ended at 9-9. The Broncos were never in this game as New England was clearly out to show the rest of the playoff field that it means business. The upstart Broncos were nothing more than practice fodder for New England on Saturday night.
Huge gap: The Patriots led 35-7 at the half, and the Broncos could barely do anything on either side of the ball.
Denver still needs help: The Broncos made great strides on defense this season. They were 32nd in the NFL in most statistical categories in 2010. Yet, Denver became a solid unit this season under first-year head coach John Fox and first-year defensive coordinator Dennis Allen. But on Saturday night, the Patriots showed Denver it still has work to do on that side of the ball.
Miller gets jumped: After he fought with two New England offensive linemen late in the game, Denver rookie linebacker Von Miller was hammered by several New England players. Expect Miller to get fined for his actions.
Bradyed and Gronked: We saw New England quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski at their finest. Brady tied an NFL postseason record with six touchdown passes. Gronkowski had 10 catches for 145 yards and three touchdowns. They connected at will. Denver had no answer.
Tebow can’t help: Denver quarterback Tim Tebow wasn’t the reason why Denver lost. He started the game well, but as the game got out of hand he got more desperate and couldn’t do much. In a season in which Tebow was memorable, he really didn’t stand out in the finale.
What’s next: The Broncos stagger into the offseason, but they have to feel great about their progress this season. No one would ever had thought the Broncos’ 2011 season would have ended in the divisional round of the playoffs when this team picked No. 2 in the draft.
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