It might've taken six full games through the 2016-2017 NFL playoffs for it to happen, but we finally got to see a highly competitive and wildly entertaining football game. It was just a bonus that two of the most renowned franchises in the the NFL happened to be playing each other in said game.
When the Green Bay Packers traveled to Arlington, Texas, to take on the Dallas Cowboys, it had all the makings of a spectacular match-up. Dallas was the best team in the regular season, finishing with a 13-3 record thanks to the exploits of two rookie phenoms in running back Ezekiel Elliott and quarterback Dak Prescott. Green Bay, however, had Aaron Rodgers: the guy who might be playing the best football, at any position, in the entire league. Dallas looked largely unstoppable through the course of the regular season. Green Bay was fresh off dismantling the New York Giants, who boasted one of the better defenses of any playoff team.
Rarely does a game with so much build up live up to the hype, but this game not only lived up to it, but it exceeded it. In the Packers 34-31 upset over the Cowboys, fans were treated to everything: another magnificent performance from Rodgers, tremendous performances from Prescott and Elliott, and a whole mess of drama and intrigue that lasted right up until the clock hit 0:00 to end the game.
After the Cowboys kicked a field goal on the opening possession of the game, Green Bay spent most of the first half throttling the Cowboys defense the way they had done to the Giants defense just one week prior. Rodgers and the Packers scored touchdowns on their first three drives of the game, spanning 75, 90, and 80 yards. Halfway through the second quarter of the game, Green Bay was already up 21-3, thanks to Rodgers throwing the ball all over the field, and wide-receiver-turned-running-back Ty Montgomery running in two touchdowns himself.
Right when the colossal AT&T Stadium seemed its quietest and right when fans and talking heads on social media essentially declared the game to be over, the Cowboys found a way to claw themselves back in the game, and show why they finished the regular season with the best overall record in the NFL. The Cowboys scored points on five of their next six possessions, and never punted the football from halfway through the second quarter onward.
Dallas cut the lead to 21-13 by halftime, and even after the Packers scored a touchdown on the opening drive of the second half, increasing their lead to 28-13, the Cowboys continued to fight back, tying the game at 28 all with just over four minutes left in the fourth quarter, signifying what would be a wild end to this game.
In the next four minutes, the Packers and Cowboys would trade field goals, driving the score up to 31 all, and giving the Packers the football back with 35 second left in the game. But, as the great ones are apt to do, Aaron Rodgers made another throw that will likely be discussed for years to come, threading the needle on a 36-yard pass to tight end Jared Cook, when the Packers were facing 3rd down and 20 yards to go. That catch put the Packers on the Cowboys 32-yard line, setting up Mason Crosby's game-winning 51-yard field goal.
Green Bay will continue to take their wild playoff ride on the road, facing the Atlanta Falcons next week in the NFC Championship game. NFL fans will be in for a treat for this game. Fans everywhere can buy a unique, custom jersey at http://recreationandsportsworld.com/custom-nfl-football-jerseys
Sunday, January 1, 2017, the Falcons won in more ways than one.
The Atlanta Falcons defeated NFC South rival New Orleans Saints in a 38-32 shootout in Atlanta at the Georgia Dome in their final regular season game. They finished the regular season with 11-5 record. It didn’t start that way in the first half as the Falcons dominated the first half against their Bourbon Street rivals as they took 35-13 lead in the 1st Half. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, aka Matty Ice, continued making his underrated case for MVP as he finished with 331 yards, 4 TDs and 0 interceptions. It’s the 4th time this season that Ryan threw 4 touchdowns in one game. He finished the season with over 4,000 yards, 37 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions, the best regular season stats of his career.
All-pro wide receiver Julio Jones had 96 yards and a touchdown. The running back duo of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman finished with a total of 140 yards and a touchdown. Freeman eclipsed his last season yardage with 1,079 yards and finished with 11 touchdowns as he did last season. Also, Coleman had a pretty solid sophomore season as he improved by finishing with 520 yards and 8 touchdowns. He is starting to make a strong case to be Atlanta’s 2nd running back. The Falcons defense forced two turnovers off of the Saints, and kept the Saints offense in check for most of the game as they forced many three-and-outs.
But, despite being down big, the New Orleans Saints would not quit. They made a ferocious comeback in the 2nd half. Saints quarterback Drew Brees led a long drive that led to a Michael Thomas touchdown to cut the Falcons’ lead to 35-19, a 2-point conversation attempt by running back Mark Ingram was stopped by Atlanta’s defense. Thomas finished the season with 1,054 receiving yards, which is a new franchise record for a rookie wide receiver. He surpassed Marcus Colston, who had the rookie receiving record in 2006 with 1,038 yards.
Late in the 4th Quarter, Mark Ingram scored a 1-yard touchdown to cut the lead down to 38-25 as another 2-point conversion failed. Ingram finished with 1,000-plus yards, which broke a drought for team who didn’t have running back average 1,000-plus yards in a season. Brees led a late touchdown drive to get the Saints within 38-32. But, it was too much for the Saints to overcome and their rally fell short as the Saints finished the season with a 7-9 record. This is the 3rd straight year that the Saints have missed the postseason. Drew Brees also finished with a huge accomplishment in his career. He had his 5th career 5000-plus season, which hadn’t been accomplished by any quarterback. Previous quarterbacks only had four seasons of averaging 5,000-plus yards.
Meanwhile, the Falcons have clinched the 2nd seed in the NFC and a first-round bye. So, the Falcons will have a week of NFL Playoffs off. They won’t have to play until next weekend’s NFC Divisional Playoffs. They will either host the Seattle Seahawks, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers or New York Giants as they set to play their Wild Card games during Wild Card weekend, which kicks off Saturday.
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