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Best and Worst of Divisional Round

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

Things pretty much went as expected, with plenty of highlights and lowlights along the way.

Best and Worst of Divisional Round

There wasn't nearly as much drama during the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs as there was during the Wild Card round, but that didn't mean we were devoid of some fantastic highs and terrible lows. Here's the best and worst of what we saw during this weekend's action.

Seattle Seahawks 23 - New Orleans Saints 15

Best - Marshawn Lynch

I have family and friends from Buffalo, New York, Lynch's first landing spot from the University of California. Lynch was a solid back during his time with the Bills, but nowhere near the running back he has been with the Seahawks. One of my friends had this amazing line: "Stupid Bills. Why didn't you just feed him Skittles?"

Lynch was dominant against the Saints in the postseason once again, ripping off 140 yards on 28 carries for two touchdowns, including what should have been the icing 31-yard score with just 2:08 left in the game. Lynch was too much for the Saints and his effective running helped keep the Saints offense off the field and helped offset a rough outing for quarterback Russell Wilson.

Best - Marques Colston 

With Jimmy Graham again contained, the Saints needed someone to step up in the receiving game. Colston answered the call, catching 11 passes for 144 yards and the touchdown that gave New Orleans a glimmer of hope at coming back late in the fourth quarter. He also recovered the onside kick after catching that touchdown pass. He was doing it all for the Saints on Saturday.

Worst - New Orleans' Special Teams

Shayne Graham, who came up huge for the Saints last weekend in Philadelphia, missed both of his field goal attempts on Saturday wide left. Adding injury to that insult, punter Thomas Morstead took the snap on his first punt attempt straight to his crotch. He somehow recovered to punt the ball, but it only went 16 yards.

Worst - Seattle Hands Team

You had one job. ONE JOB.

Worst - Marques Coltston's Forward Lateral

After such a great game, Colston really botched up the ending. With time winding down, Colston caught a pass inside the Seahawks 40-yard line and right near the right sideline. He could have gone out of bounds with right around 10 seconds left to allow the Saints to run another play. Instead, Colston heaved the ball across the field to another receiver, but the lateral was blatantly forward. With that much time left, the safe play owuld have been to go out of bounds. Whether it was the play call or not, it was an obviously disappointing way for the season to end for the Saints.

New England Patriots 43 - Indianapolis Colts 22

Best - LeGarrette Blount

As good as Marshawn Lynch was in the first game of this doubleheader, he couldn't top what Blount did to the Indianapolis Colts. Blount rushed 24 times for 166 yards and a staggering four touchdowns. Doug Martin scored four touchdowns last November for the Bucs, but that wasn't in the playoffs. Blount had three scores before the midway point of the second quarter, getting in on goal line rushes of two yards each. Soon, though, the balanced rushing attack of the Patriots wore down the Colts defense. Early in the fourth quarter, when it was still a one-score game, Blount burst through for a 73-yard run that effectively iced the game. Blount came through in a big way for New England.

Worst - Andrew Luck

Luck was able to get around all of his interceptions last week when he led the team back against the Kansas City Chiefs, but lightning doesn't strike twice. Luck threw four interceptions, and they all came at pretty inopportune times. The first was on the first possession of the game. The interception was returned to the two-yard line where Blount would score his first touchdown. The second came after the Colts had attained momentum following a safety. With the chance to apply more pressure at the end of the first half, Luck as picked off after crossing into New England territory, stalling the momentum.

The third pick came in the fourth quarter immediately after the already backbreaking 73-yard score by Blount. That interception gave New England terrific field position and basically gift-wrapped their three-score lead. The fourth came right at the end of the game, but things were decided by then. It's easy to forget that Luck is still just a second-year player, and that he'll likely improve, but his inaccuracy was costly on Saturday night.

Best - Postseason Records

Former teammates Adam Vinatieri and Tom Brady both set or extended postseason records on Saturday. Vinatieri kicked his 59th and 60th PATs in the game, surpassing David Akers for the all-time mark at 58. Brady won his 18th career postseason game, extending his playoff record even further. Patriots coach Bill Belichick won his 19th career postseason game, tying him for second all-time with Don Shula. Belichick has a chance to pass the man this coming Sunday.

San Francisco 49ers 23 - Carolina Panthers 10

Best - Anquan Boldin and Frank Gore

Boldin and Frank Gore were the most consistent contributors on offense for the San Francisco 49ers Sunday. Boldin reeled in 8 catches for 136 yards. The rest of the 49ers receivers only caught seven more passes for 60 yards. Boldin was the main threat through the air, and he continually got under the skin of the Panthers secondary. Gore helped balance things out, rushing 17 times for 84 yards, and they were able to take pressure off of Colin Kaepernick (who performed admirable and didn't make any crippling mistakes).

Worst - Referees

The officials seemed to be out of sorts all afternoon, but nowhere were they more egregious than on a pivotal 49ers drive late in the second quarter. After a big Anquan Boldin reception for a first down, he got up and head-butted a Carolina defender. Earlier in the game, a Panthers defender had been flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct on a play just like that. Boldin was not flagged. That lack of consistency plagued the officials all game and really took a lot from my enjoyment of the game.

Worst - Carolina's Goal Line Playcalling

Carolina decided to go power against the 49ers whenever they were faced with a goal line scenario, and they lost out on two key situations that could have changed the complexion of the game. The first series, down 6-0, they opted for four straight runs up the middle, including two from the 1-yard line. The 49ers held and forced the turnover. While Carolina scored off good field position as a result on their next possession, their next opportunity saw them squander two plays from the one with more unimaginative runs right into the line. Why not put Cam Newton into space and let him create? Why not attempt to spread the defense out with a wide receiver? Again, we're complaining because they didn't work, but they didn't work on consecutive goal line series. Getting just three points out of those two possessions really hurt the Panthers.

Best - Ahmad Brooks' Offsides

It was a dumb play, but it resulted in this glorious GIF from CJ Fogler (@cjzero) and an incredible Cam Newton flop.

Denver Broncos 24 - San Diego Chargers 17

Best - Denver's Running Game

All four teams that won this weekend controlled the game on the ground. The Broncos have found a great way to have their balanced run attack compliment the passing game. Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball are able to eat up yards on early downs and give Manning plenty of short-yardage situations to work with. They did that effectively against the Chargers. Moreno racked up 82 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries and Ball picked up 52 yards on 10 carries. The effectiveness of Moreno and Ball made San Diego pay attention, opening things up for the passing game and putting Manning in better situations.

Best - Keenan Allen

Philip Rivers was really solid again for the Chargers, and Keenan Allen's continued production was a huge part of that. Allen continued his incredible rookie season with six catches for 142 yards and both of San Diego's touchdowns. Allen is something special, and he and Rivers have some tremendous chemistry early.

Best/Worst - Peyton Manning

Manning didn't have a flawless game, but he was tremendous down the stretch. He fired a great pass on a pivotal third and 17 late in the fourth quarter to Julius Thomas for 20 yards, then followed that with another third-down conversion to Thomas. It was a shorter pass, but he really fired it in there.

The worst for Manning came after the game during his press conference, where he became a corporate shill for Bud Light. Manning jokingly brushed off a question about offseason health concerns in favor of an ice-cold BL and got plenty of laughs from the press. Denver is a great place for craft beer, and you really want to settle for Bud Light of all beers? You're better than that, Peyton.

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Worst - San Diego's Clock Management

Rivers had to throw a couple tantrums when his team was forced to call timeouts in the first quarter and avoid delay of game penalties. They weren't the most consequential of events, but they turned Rivers into angry Philip Rivers, and no one likes him.

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