The second week of the NFL playoffs got off to a much faster start than Wild Card weekend, with the Ravens winning an instant classic and the 49ers earning a repeat trip to the NFC championship game.
In Denver, the Ravens and Broncos put on such an entertaining show they decided to extend the game into a second overtime. Neither team ever went up by more than one touchdown in a game that saw more nearly 900 yards of combined offense.
Trindon Holliday opened the scoring on a 90-yard punt return three minutes into the game. He then gave Denver the lead in the third quarter, returning the opening kickoff of the second half 104 yards for another touchdown. Peyton Manning threw the other three scores to Brandon Stokley, Demaryius Thomas and Knowshon Moreno.
But Manning likely ended up costing the broncos the game. He had a first-quarter interception returned 39 yards for a touchdown by Corey Graham, and then Graham intercepted Manning again in the second overtime at midfield, setting up a 47-yard Justin Tucker to win the game.
Joe Flacco set up the Ravens for the win, though, and perhaps established himself as part of the top tier of NFL signal-callers. We went 18-of-34 for 331 yards and three touchdowns, including a 59-yard bomb to Torrey Smith in the first quarter. His most amazing throw, though, came on third down with 31 seconds left in the game. He heaved the ball 50 yards downfield to Jacoby Jones. The ball went just past the reach of the diving safety, and Jones ran it in the remaining 20 yards to tie the game 35-35.
Ray Rice had 131 on 30 carries for the Ravens. Manning threw for 290 yards and had one fumble in addition two his two interceptions. Ray Lewis postponed retirement at least one more week and led the Ravens with 17 tackles.
The Ravens will be on the road in next weekend's AFC championship against either New England or Houston. This will be the Ravens' third AFC title game appearance in the past five seasons.
In San Francisco, meanwhile, a see-saw battle slanted heavily the 49ers' way late thanks to Colin Kaepernick, who set a record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 183. Green Bay held an early 14-7 lead, but the Niners scored three straight second-half touchdowns to pull away in the 45-31 decision. The Niners had an amazing 325 rushing yards, as Frank Gore added 119 yards on 23 carries.
He and Kaepernick combined for three rushing touchdowns. Kaepernick threw two more, both to Michael Crabtree. Aaron Rodgers went 26-of-39 for 257 with two touchdowns and an interception for the Packers.
The Niners will make their second straight trip to the NFC championship. They will travel to Atlanta or host Seattle, depending on how Sunday's game turns out.
Sunday's games feature the Seahawks at the Falcons at 1 p.m. on FOX and the Texans at the Patriots at 4:30 p.m. on CBS.
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