Saturday’s NFL Playoff Capsules
Sunday, January 15, 2012
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Tom Brady’s way of dealing with Tebowmania was to silence it with a record-shattering performance.
Brady threw six touchdowns passes, five in the first half, and put the New England Patriots into the AFC championship game after roughing up Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos 45-10 Saturday night.
The Patriots (14-3), winners of nine straight games, will host either Baltimore or Houston next Sunday for a spot in the Super Bowl. Saturday night’s romp snapped a three-game postseason losing streak, two of those at Gillette Stadium, and lifted the Patriots to the verge of their fifth Super Bowl appearance in 11 seasons. They’ve won it three times.
Brady even punted with 2:56 remaining, 48 yards on third down.
And so ended one of the season’s most exciting story lines — one that caught the nation’s attention and began when Denver was 1-4 and made Tebow a starter. The one-time third-stringer promptly won six in a row and seven of eight, with a string of stunning comebacks, and the Broncos ended up backing into the AFC West title.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Alex Smith completed a 14-yard touchdown pass to Vernon Davis with 9 seconds left just after Drew Brees had put the high-powered Saints ahead, and the resurgent San Francisco 49ers capitalized on five New Orleans turnovers for a thrilling 36-32 playoff victory Saturday.
Smith ran for a 28-yard TD with 2:11 left and threw another scoring pass to Davis. Coach Jim Harbaugh’s NFC West champions (14-3) proved that a hard-hitting, stingy defense can still win in the modern, wide-open NFL by holding off one of league’s most dynamic offenses.
San Francisco triumphed in its first playoff game in nine years, moving within one win of returning to the Super Bowl for the first time since capturing the proud franchise’s fifth championship after the 1994 season. The Saints finished at 14-4.
Next up for the 49ers is the NFC title game against the winner of Sunday’s New York Giants-Green Bay Packers matchup.
Smith was 24 of 42 for 299 yards, with three TD passes and one running. Brees was 40 of 63 for 462 yards and four touchdowns. He threw two interceptions and was sacked three times.