2013 NFL Playoffs: Winners and Losers Of Championship Sunday
Along with the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs, Championship Sunday provides some of the greatest games a fan will see all year long. The season has been decided, the contenders all put into their place. All that is left is to see who deserves to play in the final game of the season.
The battle for the Conference Titles comes down to the four final contenders, two teams from each division, each with Super Bowl dreams dancing through their head. Four teams who have fought and clawed their way to Championship Sunday take the field and put it all on the line, as though their careers depend on this one game, as though their legacy hangs in the balance of the win/loss column.
The 2012-13 season did not disappoint the fans of the NFL. It did not matter if they supported the NFC or the AFC, the match-ups presented something for everyone, and the teams delivered with their performances on the gridiron.
The NFC was represented by the number one seeded Atlanta Falcons who played host to the number two seeded San Francisco 49ers. It was the first time these two teams had met this season, and it proved to be one of the best games either team played this season.
The AFC was filled with drama, as well, when the Baltimore Ravens traveled back to challenge the New England Patriots, a repeat of the AFC Championship game of just a season before. For the Ravens, who had come so very close to winning the year before, it was a chance at redemption, and for the Patriots it was all that was standing between them and a shot at some redemption of their own.
Any time you have two games like this, the battles are fierce, the victories sweet, and the mistakes disastrous. It is with this in mind that we present to you the Winners and Losers of Championship Sunday.
Among the following pages you will find 10 of the best moments of the Championship contests, as well as 10 moments that will eat at the minds of players and fans for the foreseeable future. If there is anyone you feel that should be on this list, or if you take exception with the players chosen, please feel free to make you voice heard in the comment section below!
Jeff Everette is a Featured Columnist for RantSports.com, covering the NFL and NBA. Follow Jeff on twitter @jeverettesports, like his page on FaceBook, or add his Google + to your circles for all of his latest articles, thoughts, and rants.
Shane Vereen came into Championship Weekend with the type of momentum that only a three touch down performance can give. Unfortunately, he was unable to replicate his success against the Ravens, accruing just 38 total yards and not even getting a whiff of the endzone.
10.New England O-Line
Surprisingly someone from the Patriots does make the list as we give credit to the New England offensive line. Against the Ravens nasty pass rush, the line still managed to keep Tom Brady off of his back. Not that it did them any good.
Matt Ryan makes the list of losers, not simply because of the loss against the 49ers, but more specifically because of the fumble. The only way San Francisco is able to get back into this game is with the help of the Atlanta Falcons, and Matt Ryan was more than willing to oblige.
Anqyan Boldin has come on strong just when the Ravens have needed it the most. His two touchdown performance against the Patriots was exactly what the team had to have after last season's dropped touchdown by Lee Evans cost the a Super Bowl appearance.
Terrell Suggs makes our list of losers for his post game rant against the Patriots. The Patriots may have deserved the obscenity riddled outburst, but Suggs did not need to be the one to deliver the message. Be happy in where you are going, not focused on the team you defeated to get there.
When everything seemed to be falling apart for the 49ers, the team turned to Frank Gore to get them back on track. They not only did not give up on the run game, they rode it until they broke the Falcons will. Gore racked up 90 yards and scored two huge touchdowns, including the game winner that sent them on to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
Harry Douglas gets the nod as a true loser even though he made the key catch that was thrown his way. The problem was, Douglas stood a good chance at getting into the end zone, or at the very least within striking distance. Instead, he looked as though the moment was too big for him and was barely able to get to the ball.
Coach Jim Harbaugh gets all of the credit on the San Francisco 49ers sideline, but Greg Roman deserves some of the kudos. As the 49ers offensive coordinator he was a major part of the play calling that had the guts to run the ball seven straight plays with the team down 17-0 and on the verge of being blown out of the Conference Championship.
There is no telling what way the contest between the Patriots and Ravens would have gone had Stephen Ridley not knocked himself cold and lost the ball. If you watch the video you see Ridley gets drops down and lowers his head into the hit from the Ravens' Bernard Pollard. The resulting tweety-birds accompanied Ridley to the locker room and out of the playoffs.
IT would be easy to single out members of the Baltimore D, but the group as a whole needs to be given their props. Holding Tom Brady and the Patriots high-powered to just 13 points is simply unheard of, but in New England's most important game of the year, that is exactly what happened to them on Sunday.
5-Facemask on 3rd Down
The first Atlanta turn over resulted in a missed field goal and no points for the San Francisco 49ers. The defense appeared to have done its job once again when a 3rd down pass to Vernon Davis fell harmlessly to the ground. The 49ers were saved though by Clay Mathews who thought it would be wise to slap his hand down on the face mask of Colin Kaepernick, keeping the drive alive and contributing to the meltdown that bounced Atlanta from the playoffs.
The world knew there was something special about Julio Jones a long time ago. His performance in the NFC Championship game made sure there was no doubters left. 182 yards and two early touchdowns should have been enough to ensure he would play one more game this season. Unfortunately, his team would fall four points short and Jones will watch the final game instead of participating in it.
4-Wes Welker and his Wife
For the second straight season, Wes Welker failed to match a key catch, costing the Patriots momentum, and ending promising drives without putting any points on the board. This season, though, he is joined by his wife, Anna Burns Welker, who thought it showed good character to bash Ray Lewis on Facebook. She later apologized and admitted to being a poor sport, but the damage was done and it seems to be a fair representation of the New England style.
Vernon Davis had been inexplicably missing for nearly the entirety of the San Francisco 49ers' 2012 season. The coaching staff and quarterback Colin Kaepernick were able to get him involved at just the right time, and the one-of-a-kind talent gave a 100 plus yards and a touchdown performance as his contribution towards keeping the 49ers alive and in the hunt for the Lombardi Trophy.
3-Atlanta Running Backs
Running for an average of 3.5 yards per carry simply will not cut it in a win-or-go-home game against a team like the San Francisco 49ers. Michael Turner left early after tweaking his ankle, but had only managed 30 yards before hi exit. Jacquizz Rodgers is commonly thought of as the future of the Falcons rushing attack and from what he accomplished on Sunday, fans should be worried.
3.The Harbaugh Brothers
For the first time in NFL history, the Super Bowl will be coached on opposing sides by two brothers. Jim and John Harbaugh have shown themselves to be among the greatest coaches in the NFL and now face each other on opposite sides of the field. Ask them and they will tell you this game is not about them as brothers, but about the two teams getting set to face off for all of the marbles. Still, the media frenzy is going to focus on this historic event and the brothers should be proud.
2-Tom Brady Gets Dirty
When you think of the dirtiest players in the NFL, Tom Brady's name does not jump to the front of your mind, but after the stunt he pulled in the AFC Championship game, maybe it should. The frustration was evident as Brady finished off a short scramble by throwing his legs up at a fast approaching Ed Reed. Reed was forced to try to jump and contort his body to avoid the contact, and without a little luck on his side, he could have been tragically injured. Brady admitted his failure in this choice of action and he let Reed know he was sorry right away, but this should not excuse him from what is arguably the ugliest moment of Brady's decorated career.
For the second straight week, Joe Flacco out-preformed a future Hall Of Fame quarterback. It seems like such a long time ago that critics were calling for Flacco's resignation papers. Now the young quarterback is the toast of the town and is one game away from writing his own check this offseason.
The fans of the New England Patriots take our top spot as the losers of Championship Sunday for their post-game behavior. Being upset when your team loses is understandable, but tweeting an opposing player and talking about his deceased brother is taking it too far. A team needs to show class whether it is in victory and defeat, and the fans are an extension of an organization. From the coach to the quarterback to the fans, there was a reason to have them all on this list. Using a dead sibling as your prod though? Unbelievably classless.
With Atlanta's loss on Sunday, Tony Gonzalez appears to have played his very last game in the NFL. If this is the case, the 16 year veteran has nothing to be ashamed of and will be a first ballot Hall Of Fame inductee. Gonzalez owns nearly every record you can imagine a tight end owning and with the win against the Seattle Seahawks in the Divisional Round, he even has a playoff win. All in all, we consider Gonzalez career as one of the best ever, and call him the top Winner of Championship Sunday.