1. AFC: Broncos 20, Patriots 18: Denver won this game with defense. The Broncos’ relentless pressure on Tom Brady was remindful of Super Bowl 42, when the Giants stormed past the unbeaten Pats. Linebacker Von Miller played like a man possessed, and would have been the game’s MVP if the NFL awarded conference championship honors. The missed extra point by Stephen Gostkowski haunted New England all game. Gostkowski had made 523 PATs in a row since having one blocked in his rookie year, 2006.
2. NFC: Panthers 49, Cardinals 15: Cam Newton’s roll continued with a tour de force that squashed the Cardinals. Passing, running, theatrics, the former Heisman Trophy winner from Auburn stole the show. Carolina set a new record for most points scored in the NFC Championship game, bettering the 41 scored the Giants in 2001 and the Redskins in 1992. BTW, I wouldn’t trust Carson Palmer to fold my laundry, much less play championship-caliber football.
3. On to Super Bowl 50: Now get ready for two weeks of hype. We do know that this is the fourth straight year that the No. 1 seeds from both the AFC and NFC have advanced to the Super Bowl. And Cam Newton joins Joe Namath and Joe Montana as the only quarterbacks to win a college football championship and play in the Super Bowl.
4. Back to the beginning: Super Bowl 1: The Lost Tape was a fabulous watch on the NFL Network. Both CBS and NBC carried the game between the Packers and the Chiefs, This was the only Super Bowl that was carried on two networks, yet the tapes were lost and the game was reassembled from existing video. Although tickets were priced between $6-12, plenty of good seats were still available in the Los Angeles Coliseum that day. Although players today are much bigger and faster, it would be tough for any team to beat coach Vince Lombardi’s club.
5. Good reads: Been test-driving David Baldacci lately. His fast-paced mysteries match the style of other best-selling novelists like Ken Follett, John Grisham and Nelson DeMille.
1, We’re back: The Steelers have 49ers share the record for most appearances in a conference championship game with 15. Pittsburgh, the Patriots and the Cowboys have won eight championship games apiece. The Raiders (1973-1977) and Patriots (2011-present) share the record with five consecutive title game appearances.
2. The very first time: The first AFC and NFC championship games were held following the 1970 season. That year the Cowboys beat the 49ers 17-10 for the NFC crown and the Colts stopped the Raiders 27-17 to win the AFC championship. Prior to 1970, the NFL and AFL held separate title games.
3. Giant killers: The Giants hold the record for most appearances in the NFC championship game without a loss – 5. The Seahawks are 3-0 in NFC championship games, and the Bengals top all AFL teams with a 2-0 mark.
4. Longest droughts: The Bengals last appeared in the AFC championship game in 1988, 27 years ago. The Redskins defeated the Lions 41-0 in the 1991 NFC championship game. Neither team has been back since. That’s 24 years if you’re counting.
5. Long, long time: The Texans, an expansion team that entered the AFC in 2002, are the only NFL team never to reach the conference finals.The Browns, Jaguars, Jets, and Chiefs, along with the Texans, have never won at AFC title. However, both the Jets and Chiefs previously won AFL titles and both won the Super Bowl. The Lions are the only NFC team never to make it to the title game.
1. Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes: January has been a rough month for musical artists, highlighted by the passing of David Bowie,who graced the cover of TIME magazine. Other notables have included Glenn Frey of the Eagles, Dale Griffin of Mott the Hoople and the unforgettable Natalie Cole. The talent may be gone, but the music will always be with us.
2. Bonus cantos: Fans at Madison Square Garden are certainly getting their money’s worth this week, with feature events the last three days all going into overtime. The Knicks held off the 76ers in a double overtime win Monday afternoon, then stopped the Jazz in overtime last night. The Rangers edged the Canucks in overtime on Tuesday.
3. There’s a first time for everything: When the Panthers host the Cardinals this weekend in the NFC Championship game, it will mark the first time in NFL history that Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks meet head-to-head in the playoffs. Carolina’s Cam Newton won the Heisman at Auburn in 2010, and Arizona’s Carson Palmer took college football’s highest honor at USC in 2002. That’s similar to what happened in last year’s World Series, when the Royals and the Mets staged the first Fall Classic encounter between two baseball expansion teams.
4. A Cespedes for the rest of us: Can’t fathom why the Mets don’t bite the bullet and at least try and retain Yoenis Cespedes. Without Cespedes, the Mets would not have made the playoffs last year. Be a shame to waste all that young pitching for lack of a big bopper in the middle of the lineup. And it will be tough for Met fans to swallow if Cespedes goes to the Nationals as rumored.
5. The people’s choice: Knicks rookie Kristaps Porzingis, tabbed a precocious neophyte by New York’s legendary guard and broadcaster Walt Frazier, is a popular guy. Already sales of KP’s #6 jersey rank fourth in the NBA, behind only Stephen Curry, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant and ahead of Kevin Durant. Porzingis is now a favorite of Knick fans, who booed his selection on NBA draft night and now cheer his every move.
The Lions score en route to a rout of the Browns in the 1957 NFL Championship game.
Already, three of every four NFL teams are home for the season, eliminated from the playoffs. The Vikings and the Bengals suffered the cruelest fates. Minnesota, which went to the Super Bowl four times in the 70s and lost each time, missed a golden opportunity when kicker Blair Walsh missed a 27-yard field goal that would have giving the Vikings a win over Seattle. Undisciplined mistakes in the fourth quarter cost the Bengals, who lost in the first round of the playoffs for the fifth year in a row.
It could be worse, Vikings and Bengals fans. You could be rooting for the Browns or the Lions, neither of which has ever been to the Super Bowl.
Back in the 50s, the Cleveland Browns and the Detroit Lions were the two best teams in the NFL. The Browns joined the NFL in 1950 after winning four straight championships in the old All-American Football Conference (AAFC), and went on to win NFL championships in 1950, 1954 and 1955. The Lions beat the Browns in the title game in 1952, 1953 and 1957, a 59-14 rout that remains Detroit’s lone NFL title. The Browns crushed the Lions 56-10 for the 1954 NFL championship.
Those teams were blessed with Hall of Famers like Otto Graham, Jim Brown and Lou Groza of Cleveland and Bobby Layne, Doak Walker and Joe Schmidt of Detroit.
The Browns did manage to beat the Baltimore Colts 27-0 in 1964, the city of Cleveland’s last championship in any sport. The Browns lost the NFL championship the following year to the Packers and later suffered heartbreaking AFC Championship defeats to Denver in 1986 and 1987. The Lions lost to the Redskins in the 1991 NFC title game.
The Lions made their last playoff appearance in 2014, a loss to the Cowboys. The Browns last made it in 2002, when they were knocked out by the Steelers.