US PresswireTom Brady is trying to win a fourth Super Bowl title, but he'll have
to contend with Ray Lewis and the Ravens defense on Sunday.
MVP candidates Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees were both eliminated over the weekend, but it’s still the quarterbacks stealing headlines heading to the conference championships.
• Tom Brady: a three-time Super Bowl winner and two-time NFL MVP
• Eli Manning: a first-overall pick and Super Bowl winner
• Joe Flacco: never failed to make the playoffs but has never made a Pro Bowl
• Alex Smith: a first-overall pick who was 19-31 as a starter entering the season.
AFC Championship: Brady Faces Stout Baltimore Defense
Brady’s postseason accomplishments are unquestioned. He’s 230 yards away from joining Brett Favre, Joe Montana and Peyton Manning as the only players with 5,000 career postseason pass yards, and nine touchdown passes away from tying Montana’s NFL postseason record.
Next up: the Baltimore Ravens, who limited opposing quarterbacks to a 36.5 Total QBR this season, the lowest mark in the NFL. In seven of their 16 regular season games, the Ravens limited opponents to a Total QBR of under 20, tied for the most such games this season.
Joe Flacco struggled to an 18.2 Total QBR on Sunday, largely because of his performance on third downs, when he was sacked four times and converted just three of his 13 dropbacks into a first down.
It was the second-lowest QBR by a starting quarterback in a playoff win over the last four seasons. Flacco also has the lowest, a 13.9 against the New England Patriots in a 2009 Wild Card game.
Flacco has led the Ravens to a 5-3 record in the playoffs. With one more win, he’d tie Tom Brady for the most playoff wins by a starting quarterback in his first four seasons.
NFC Championship: First-Overall Picks Square Off
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Sunday's NFC Championship will be just the fourth time first-overall picks have met in a postseason game, and the two have had differing career paths. Alex Smith struggled until 2011, while Eli Manning already has a Super Bowl victory for the New York Giants.
Manning is already just the sixth quarterback in postseason history to have a pair of games with 275 pass yards and three touchdowns in the same postseason. Nobody has done it three times in the same postseason.
Manning’s strength this postseason has been on throws 15 or more yards downfield. On such throws Sunday against the Green Bay Packers, Manning was 8-10 for 206 yards and two touchdowns.
Smith’s postseason debut was a remarkable one, and he was at his best in the fourth quarter, putting up a 99.7 Total QBR. That's the third-highest fourth-quarter mark this season, regular season or postseason.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the San Francisco 49ers also become just the fourth team in NFL postseason history to score a go-ahead touchdown when trailing with fewer than 10 seconds left in regulation. The others comprise some of the greatest postseason moments in NFL history.
• 1999 Wild Card (Titans vs Bills): After a lateral from Frank Wycheck, Kevin Dyson returns a kickoff 75 yards for a touchdown with three seconds left.
• 1998 Wild Card (49ers vs Packers): Steve Young throws a 25-yard touchdown to Terrell Owens with three seconds left.
• 1972 Divisional (Steelers vs Raiders): Terry Bradshaw’s deflected pass lands in the hands of Franco Harris for a 60-yard touchdown with five seconds left.