_ Every week, we'll bring you the highlights, lowlights, and good fights from the weekend in pro football. _
If you wanted good football, the weekend did not disappoint. If you wanted a stress-free, non-bowel-churning viewing experience, well, too bad. This is how the games stacked up:
Baltimore 38, Denver 35: Those of you waiting in blissful ignorance for the night game were pretty sure the Broncos were going to wrap this up and seal it with a Manningface -- until you received a text, probably along the lines of "OMG r u watching this? Crazy turn it on nowww!." And there it was, in all of its frigid, -10-degree double-overtime glory. It was almost painful watching Peyton Manning and Joe Flacco, swaddled in blankets and breathing like Clydesdales in the cold, and it became clear in the 1,530th hour of this game that it was going to come down to who made the first mistake. Alas, it was Manning, who threw his second interception of the game and set the Ravens up for a 47-yard field goal and the win.
How did it even get to this point? After allowing two enormous touchdowns by Broncos WR Trindon Holliday, including a 90-yard effort on the opening kickoff, the Ravens looked like more like Dodo birds as the game wound down to 35-28. Then, with less than a minute left, Flacco threw an impossible 54-yard pass to Jacoby Jones, who outran the Broncos D to dump it off in the end zone. (These "less-than-a-minute" things would become a theme of the weekend.)
And that is how what was expected to be an easy Broncos win turned into the NFL's fourth-longest game in history. At least we got this tantalizing picture of Manning and Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis sharing a nice moment after the game. Oh, to be a fly on the wall. But somewhere not too far away, another, far less exciting game was already underway...
San Francisco 45, Green Bay 31: Blah blah blah Colin Kaepernick. That's all you need to know. Alex Smith's game successor proved to be the weapon the 49ers needed to flatten Green Bay and bring small chin-beards back in style. And to think, in this solid victory, Kaepernick smashed the record for most running yards by a quarterback in an NFL game ever. Final tally: Two passing TDs, two rushing TDs, 260 yards in the air and 180 on the ground. Boy was on fire.
It cannot be understated, as good as Kaepernick and the 49ers were, they were helped along by a sub-par showing by Green Bay. The outfoxed Pack served up a potpourri of errors -- including one ugly muffed punt -- that only underscored Kaepernick's trickery. It is totally believable the Packers just didn't know what they were in for, but if we all have to watch Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews use their pretty faces to hawk insurance and chicken, surely they should be able to get it together to stop a young QB and his team.
If there was one disappointment for the 49ers on Saturday night, it was that they won't be facing their division rivals Seattle next week. BECAUSE...
Atlanta 30, Seattle 28: Folks in Atlanta are probably still weak from this gut-wrenching game that gave the Falcons their first playoff win in, like, forever. True to Falcons fashion, this was high drama up until the very last second. The Seahawks, still chippy after their victory in Washington last week, mismanaged the clock, lost the ball on downs twice and missed a field goal opportunity with mere seconds left on the clock in the first half. No bueno all around, unless you were a Falcons fan. But those good feelings were swiftly shot down as Atlanta let the lead trickle away in the second half, eventually coughing up 21 unanswered points. The dome was full to the brim with sads as the Falcons faced a 1-point deficit at 28-27, with a mere 31 seconds left. Goodbye, playoff win. Goodbye happiness forever.
But then, LIKE MAGIC Matt Ryan and his boys seemed to jolt back to life, and Ryan threw two clean and long passes to put the Falcons sorta within field goal range with eight seconds on the clock. At 49 yards, its wasn't the longest try for Matt Bryant, but with the hopes and tears of a whole city on his back, Bryant took advantage of a botched timeout call/ice attempt by Pete Carroll to kick a mulligan. The second, real try sailed straight through the uprights and brought the dome to its shaking, unsteady feet.
Of course, since the Falcons can never do anything easily, an insanely short squib kick put the Hawks dangerously close to field goal range, but once again, they faltered under pressure. The Falcons limped away with the win, and every person in Atlanta went to go lie down for a while.
It's understandable that Falcons fans may forget what happens next, but they will get to do the dance all over again with the 49ers next week. Yayy?
New England 41, Houston 28: The Patriots embarrassed the Texans and made themselves the clear favorite for victory in New Orleans. For once, it was sort of nice to watch an uneventful game. Maybe their mojo ran dry because JJ Watt reportedly spit on the Patriots logo before the game. Not cool, bro. In other news: Rob Gronkowski messed up his arm again and won't be back for the playoffs, and Bill Belichick is not impressed with anything. Even 33-yard touchdown passes by his own players. Especially 33-yard touchdown passes by his own players. Why won't everyone just get off his lawn?
The Patriots will face the Ravens next week in an AFC Championship rematch. Will it be as thrilling as this weekend? As heartbreaking as last year? Oh, we can dream.