Favorites no longer playing as conference title tilts loom
Posted: Monday, January 17, 2011 4:43 pm
By: By PAUL NEWBERRY, AP Sports Writer
So much for those No. 1 seeds.
They’re both one-and-done in the NFL playoffs.
The trash-talking New York Jets delivered the latest stunner, upsetting the New England Patriots 28-21 Sunday.
Mark Sanchez threw three touchdown passes, Tom Brady was sacked five times and Rex Ryan’s team put itself one win away from backing up his Super Bowl boast.
The Patriots — who had the league’s best record during the regular season — were bounced less than 24 hours after NFC top seed Atlanta went down with a 48-21 rout by Aaron Rodgers and the streaking Green Bay Packers.
The Jets will travel to Pittsburgh for their second straight AFC championship game, looking for their first Super Bowl appearance since Joe Namath boldly predicted a win in the 1969 title game — then backed up his words against the heavily favored Colts.
This New York team is from the same mold, knocking off the Patriots after back-and-forth verbal sparring that turned this into the most anticipated matchup of the weekend.
Ryan didn’t mind all the jawing, but New England held out star receiver Wes Welker on the opening series after he made not-so-subtle references to recent foot-fetish reports involving the Jets coach and his wife.
None of it seemed to bother Ryan, who guided the Jets to the AFC title game a year ago before the season ended with a 30-17 loss to Indianapolis.
This time, the Jets will face the Pittsburgh Steelers, who rallied from a two-touchdown deficit to beat division rival Baltimore 31-24 on Saturday.
In Sunday’s other contest, the Chicago Bears completed a matchup between two of the NFL’s most storied teams by cruising past the under-.500 Seattle Seahawks 35-24.
Jets 28, Pats 21
At Foxborough, Mass., the Jets (13-5) had a 14-3 lead over their fierce rival at halftime and made it stand up, getting a leaping touchdown catch from Santonio Holmes after New England rallied.
Brady and the Patriots (14-3) lost their third straight postseason game, this defeat coming to the team they beat 45-3 during the regular season, a team that became media darlings with their preseason appearance on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” reality show.
Bears 35, Seahawks 24
Chicago (12-5) raced to a 28-0 lead at snowy Soldier Field, ensuring the NFL won’t have a .500 team playing for a spot in the Super Bowl.
The Seahawks (8-10) had eliminated defending champion New Orleans in the opening round, but they didn’t come close to pulling off another upset.
Jay Cutler passed for two touchdowns and ran for two more to lead the Bears.
Packers 48, Falcons 21
Rodgers turned in another dynamic performance for the Packers (12-6), throwing for 366 yards and accounting for four touchdowns in the highest-scoring playoff game in team history.
After leading an upset of Michael Vick and the Eagles in Philadelphia, Rodgers thoroughly dominated the team that had home-field advantage on the NFC side.
The Falcons (13-4) were set up to make a run at just the second Super Bowl in franchise history, but four turnovers and five sacks made for an ugly night that sent most of the home fans heading for the exits before the final quarter.
Steelers 31, Ravens 24
Pittsburgh (13-4) earned its 15th trip to the AFC title game, and this one will be more satisfying than most after the Steelers overcame a tumultuous offseason that resulted in a four-game suspension for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
After trailing 21-7 at halftime, Pittsburgh won it with a classic drive at the finish.
Roethlisberger, who threw for two touchdowns, completed a 58-yard pass to rookie Antonio Brown on third-and-19.
That set up a two-yard scoring run by Rashard Mendenhall with 1:33 left.