Three of four games were decided by three points or less,
including two by field goals on the final play over a weekend that
saw the Indianapolis Colts, San Diego Chargers, New Orleans Saints
and San Francisco 49ers advance.
But bigger hurdles await this weekend as each conference's top seed
enters the mix with the NFC's Seattle Seahawks hosting the Saints on
Saturday while Peyton Manning and the AFC's Denver Broncos welcome
red-hot San Diego on Sunday.
In the two other divisional round playoff games, Tom Brady and the
New England Patriots host the Colts on Saturday while the 49ers
visit the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
Wild card weekend lived up to its name with a gridiron feast packed
with drama, breathtaking comebacks and meltdowns that will be hard
But with future Hall of Fame quarterbacks Manning, Brady and Brees
in action alongside their counterparts in Seattle (Russell Wilson),
San Francisco (Colin Kaepernick), Carolina (Cam Newton) and
Indianapolis (Andrew Luck), the stage is set for even bigger
fireworks with a berth in the conference championships at stake.
Wild card weekend began with a comeback for the ages as the Colts
became just the second playoff team to rally from a 28-point deficit
for a 45-44 victory that ended a Cinderella season for a Chiefs team
that went 2-14 last year.
"Obviously an incredible victory, a great team victory, one for the
ages I've never seen anything quite like it," Colts coach Chuck
Pagano told reporters.
The Chargers, whose playoff hopes seemed all but dead a month ago,
took full advantage of a second-half meltdown by the favored Bengals
to claim a 27-10 win.
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Trailing 10-7 at halftime, the Chargers took advantage of
three second-half turnovers by Cincinnati quarterback Andy
Dalton for a 27-10 victory that put their win streak at five
games and marked the Bengals' first home loss of the season.
"We know what's ahead of us, Denver is an awesome team," said
rejuvenated Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers. "We'll be
confident. It's going to be a tough task but we're excited about
Both NFC wild-card matchups came down to the final play.
In frigid Green Bay, where the temperature at kickoff was 5
degrees Fahrenheit (-15 Celsius), Phil Dawson booted a 33-yard
field goal to give the 49ers a last-gasp win over the Packers.
In Philadelphia, Shayne Graham kicked a 32-yard field goal as
time expired to give the Saints a 26-24 upset win over the
Eagles and their first road playoff victory
The Saints, humiliated 34-7 by the Seahawks during the regular
season, return to Seattle looking for revenge and a second
straight road win while 49ers head to Charlotte also looking to
avenge a regular season defeat to the Panthers.
"We know what type of team we are," said Brees. "We know how
good we can be. It was just a matter of putting it all together.
"This was great, coming on the road, in a hostile environment
against one of the hottest teams in football."
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto;
editing by Frank Pingue)
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