All four divisional-round NFL playoff games Saturday and Sunday were competitive and full of drama, making the league the biggest winner. With the matchups now set for next weekend’s conference championship games, here's a look back at the other biggest winners (and losers) from Round 2 of the postseason.
Julian Edelman: The prettiest pass of the day in the Patriots-Ravens game was a 51-yard touchdown pass from the New England receiver (and former Kent State QB) to Danny Amendola on a trick play. It was the first pass thrown in his NFL career, but it gave him a perfect passer rating. It has also launched a sale of special T-shirts on his website to commemorate “The Pass.” As a senior at Kent State in 2008, Edelman threw 13 TD passes.
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Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy: First, the Packers quarterback overcomes a torn calf muscle and obvious inability to move, yet throws for 316 yards and three TDs in a 26-21 victory over Dallas. Then Rodgers’ head coach throws the challenge flag on Dez Bryant’s apparent game-changing catch — and wins his first challenge of the season just when he needed it the most.
Seahawks: With two more wins, Seattle could be the first NFL team to repeat as Super Bowl champions since 2004. And, after a comeback victory over Carolina on Saturday — in which they scored 17 fourth-quarter points to pull out the win — the Seahawks (with home-field advantage for the NFC Championship Game) certainly seem likely of doing just that.
Gary Kubiak: The Ravens offensive coordinator, whose unit put up 428 yards on the Patriots, has become a hot coaching commodity again, especially now that Baltimore has been eliminated. He’s now available for interviews while other coveted coordinators such as Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Seahawks defensive leader Darrell Bevell are not.
NFL rule book: By the way the NFL’s co-called “Process Rule” is written, it was properly enforced by officials in the Packers-Cowboys game Sunday, when it was decreed Dez Bryant's magnificent catch was in fact not a catch. But there’s something horribly wrong when a catch by any measure of non-biased eyes is ruled not to be a catch. And especially when the ruling killed Dallas’ last hope of pulling out the game. Expect more tweaking to the "Process Rule."
Broncos: Denver improved its running game and defense from its AFC championship team of a year ago and for most of this season looked like a more physical, better-rounded team than the one that lost the last Super Bowl. Yet the Broncos get bounced by the Colts on their own home turf.
Bill Belichick: Yes, the Patriots coach guided his team to the AFC Championship Game with a victory over the Ravens Saturday. But his reputation — already bruised by allegations of bending or breaking the rules in the past (and being called “Belicheat” by Hall of Fame coach Don Shula this past week) — took another hit when Ravens head coach John Harbaugh accused the Pats of using “deception.” Harbaugh went ballistic during the game and was vocal afterward, saying New England used trickery to help it win. The Patriots on three plays used just four offensive linemen, meaning one of the remaining skill players had to be designated ineligible. But the Baltimore defense had little time to adjust and allowed wide-open receptions because it was hurried and confused. Said Harbaugh: “It was clearly deception.” He protested vehemently. Belichick and QB Tom Brady disputed the accusation. “Maybe those guys gotta study the rulebook and figure it out," Brady said.