NFL Playoff Roundup
Ravens, Packers advance from wild-card round
Monday, January 10, 2011
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Lovers of bone-crunching defensive football, the AFC has just the game for you: Ravens-Steelers III.
The NFC has a juicy one upcoming, too: surging Green Bay at Atlanta.
The Packers discovered a running game Sunday in beating the Eagles 21-16, the third road victory during wild-card weekend. Shockingly, the only home winner was Seattle, which beat defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans on Saturday.
All four games next weekend are rematches: the Jets are at New England in the AFC, the Seahawks at Chicago in the NFC.
Aaron Rodgers threw for three scores and sixth-round draftee James Starks, who had 101 yards rushing during the regular season, powered through NFC East champ Philadelphia for 123 yards.
“It was huge the way James ran the ball, maybe the most important factor in our win,” said Rodgers, who got his first playoff victory in his third season as a starter — after sitting behind Brett Favre for three years.
Earlier, Baltimore set up what figures to be a crunching third meeting with AFC North rival Pittsburgh when it beat the Kansas City Chiefs 30-7. Baltimore and Pittsburgh finished tied atop the division at 12-4, with the Steelers holding the tiebreaker and getting a bye.
They split two smashmouth games during the season, with the Ravens winning 17-14 at Pittsburgh in Week 4, the last game of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s suspension. The Steelers took the rematch in one of 2010’s showcase games, a 13-10 outcome that turned on safety Troy Polamalu’s sensational forced fumble.
A veteran playoff team that has won four of its last five postseason road games, the Ravens completely shut down AFC West champion Kansas City’s passing game and forced five turnovers. They won’t be intimidated in the least by a trip to Heinz Field next Saturday.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” said Joe Flacco, who threw for two touchdowns. “This is going to be the second time in my career that we’ve played them three times in a season. And those games are always a lot of fun. We’re going to go up there and give it our best.”
The Chiefs have lost seven straight postseason games, a league record that dates back to the 1993 season.
“We turned the ball over and that’s not characteristic of us,” Pro Bowl left guard Brian Waters said. “When we had to make plays, we weren’t able to. When they had to make plays, they did. You can’t turn the ball over.”
On Saturday, Seattle became the first team with a losing record to win a playoff game when it stunned New Orleans 41-36 behind four TD passes by Matt Hasselbeck. The Seahawks (8-9) visit Chicago (11-5) next Sunday; Seattle won at Soldier Field 23-20 on Oct. 17.
Green Bay, the sixth seed in the NFC, heads to top-seeded Atlanta (13-3), where it lost 20-17 in November.
In the AFC, the New York Jets improved to 3-1 in road playoff games under bombastic coach Rex Ryan by edging Indianapolis 17-16 on Nick Folk’s 32-yard field goal as time expired.
Those results sent both of last February’s Super Bowl teams out on the first day of the postseason.
The Jets (12-5) are at New England (14-2) next Sunday. The last time they met, the Patriots won 45-3 in a prime-time romp. In Week 2, though, the Jets won 28-14.
That December rout remains firmly in the Jets’ memories.
“We’ve been wanting the Patriots for a while now,” tight end Dustin Keller said. “Ever since that game.”
Packers 21, Eagles 16
Rodgers had TD passes of 7 yards to Tom Crabtree, 9 to James Jones and 16 to Brandon Jackson, who used a convoy of blockers on a screen pass for the winning points midway in the third quarter.
Then Green Bay (11-6) held on as Michael Vick brought Philadelphia (10-7) close, but was intercepted in the end zone by Tramon Williams in the final seconds. The Packers have won three in a row; the Eagles finished with three straight defeats.
“We have a lot of resilient guys in this locker room,” Rodgers said, noting that Green Bay lost 15 players to injured reserve this season. “We have guys who believe in each other, a lot of guys we might not expect a lot from who step up, like James Starks tonight.”
Green Bay began the 2010 season with a win at the Linc and ended the Eagles’ season with another one Sunday.
“They have a great team over there, and they play fast,” Michael Vick said after his sensational comeback season ended. “We set ourselves back. We did some things out there, still, but we just didn’t do enough.”
Ravens 30, Chiefs 7
Billy Cundiff kicked three field goals to support Flacco, but it was the savvy defense that dominated, as it often does for Baltimore (13-4). The Ravens led 10-7 in the third quarter when they stopped Kansas City on fourth-and-inches. Baltimore got a field goal out of that, then another after Ray Lewis forced a fumble by rookie Dexter McCluster.
Dawan Landry’s interception moments later led to Anquan Boldin’s 4-yard TD reception for a 23-7 lead, and the Chiefs (10-7) were headed for that unenviable NFL record. Their last playoff victory came with Joe Montana as their quarterback.
Ravens safety Ed Reed sparked the defense even as he and his family were dealing with the disappearance of his brother, Brian, who jumped into the Mississippi River as he ran from police in Louisiana.
The Ravens gave Reed the game ball in an emotion-filled locker room.
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