NFL Football 2013: 5 Things Learned From Regular-Season Finales
The 2013 NFL regular season ended with many exciting games which helped to finalize the first-round playoff match-ups. Here are five things we learned on Sunday:
The San Diego Chargers Are Lucky
Both Miami (8-8) and Baltimore (8-8) needed to win on Sunday for a shot at the last AFC playoff spot, but neither team could come up with a victory. The Jets (8-8) rolled over the Dolphins, 20-7, and the Bengals (11-5) handled the Ravens, 34-17. In addition to eliminating the defending Super Bowl champions, the losses opened the door for Pittsburgh (8-8), which downed Cleveland, 20-7. All the Steelers needed was for the Chargers to lose to the Chiefs.
However…Kansas City’s Ryan Succop missed a 41-yard field goal with 4 seconds to play in regulation, sending the game to overtime tied at 24. San Diego (9-7) got a 36-yard field goal from Nick Novak on the first possession of overtime and kept the Chiefs from scoring on the ensuing possession to secure the 27-24 victory and the AFC’s final playoff berth. The Chargers will play at Cincinnati next Sunday (1:05 p.m. EST). Kansas City will travel to Indianapolis (11-5) next Saturday (4:35 p.m. EST).
Aaron Rodgers and Languishing Lions Were All Packers Needed to Win NFC North
The Green Bay Packers (8-7-1) were less than a minute away from missing the playoffs. Enter Aaron Rodgers. The Packers’ franchise quarterback, making his first start since suffering a broken collarbone on Nov. 4 against the Chicago Bears (8-8), threw a 48-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb with 38 seconds to play to give Green Bay a 33-28 win and the NFC North crown. Of course, the Packers could not have done it without the Detroit Lions losing six of their last seven games, ending their regular season 7-9 with a 14-13 loss at Minnesota. It’s probably Jim Schwartz’s last season as the Lions coach. Green Bay will host the 49ers next Sunday (4:40 p.m. EST).
The Road to the Super Bowl Goes Through Denver and Seattle
The NFL’s two most dominant teams in 2013 — the Denver Broncos (13-3) and the Seattle Seahawks (13-3) — each clinched home-field advantage throughout their respective conference championship games with convincing victories on Sunday.
Denver routed the Raiders (4-12) in Oakland, 34-14. Broncos’ quarterback Peyton Manning completed his MVP resume by throwing four more touchdown passes and running his NFL single-season record total to 55. He also set a NFL single-season record with 5,477 passing yards, eclipsing Drew Brees’ record. The Broncos drew a first-round bye and won’t play until the weekend of Jan. 11 and 12.
Seattle beat St. Louis (7-9) by a 27-9 count at CenturyLink Field, where some NFC team will have to win to prevent Pete Carroll’s Seahawks from going to the Super Bowl. The NFC West champs looked beatable at times over the past few weeks, but they are nearly unstoppable at home, especially with quarterback Russell Wilson, running back Marshawn Lynch and a lock-down defense ready for the post-season.
The Panthers Are NFC South Champs
Trailing the Falcons 17-14 in the second half, Carolina (12-4) nearly let the NFC South title slip away, but Cam Newton had other plans. The Panthers’ quarterback threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Greg Olsen late in the third quarter, and the defense made it stand up for a 21-20 win. The victory assured Carolina of the No. 2 seed in the NFC and a home playoff game in two weeks. It also meant the Saints (11-5) won’t play a game inside the Superdome this post-season: New Orleans plays at Philadelphia next Saturday (8:10 p.m.).
Dallas’ Kyle Orton Is a Little Too Much Like Tony Romo
After pulling to within two points thanks to a late 32-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Kyle Orton to Dez Bryant, Dallas (8-8) got the ball back with a chance to drive for a game-winning field goal. Unfortunately, Orton’s first pass of the Cowboys’ final drive was picked off by Brandon Boykin, giving Philadelphia (10-6) a 24-22 win and the NFC East title. The Eagles will host New Orleans this Saturday (8:10 p.m.). Orton threw for 358 yards and two scores, but it was the two interceptions, especially the last one in crunch-time, that reminded Cowboys fans all too much of Tony Romo, Dallas’ star-crossed starting QB who had season-ending back surgery this week.