"The Sunday Five" is a loosely-titled piece where I talk about five NFL- or Browns-related topics related to this past week. In today's edition, we take a look back at yesterday's amazing game between the Saints and 49ers, the not-so-hot game between the Broncos and the Patriots, and the anticipation action for today's games.
In his seventh season and his first playoff game, 49ers quarterback Alex Smith finally put on a performance that made him look worthy of being a former first-round pick. Most quarterbacks aren't going to get that long to prove themselves, and Smith was aided by the fact that San Francisco never had anybody better to replace him as a long-term answer. Head coach Jim Harbaugh deserves a lot of the credit for Smith's success, because he has been the first coach who has been able to bring this team of talented players together with smart football and creative playcalls. The throwback trick play earlier in the game might not have worked, but the Smith quarterback keeper for the first go-ahead score with just over two minutes to play was certainly unexpected.
When the Saints scored a touchdown less than a minute later -- something everyone knew they were perfectly capable of doing -- I was about 90 percent confident the game would either be over or headed to overtime. Surely, the career-underachieving Smith wouldn't be able to deliver the pinpoint throws necessary to march down the field so quickly, right? Wrong. Smith drilled Vernon Davis on two passes, both of which led to an electric atmosphere in San Francisco. They did what few teams are able to do against the Saints -- they scored the go-ahead touchdown with no time left for Drew Brees to work his magic. The 49ers put 36 points on the board, and they probably played one of the better defensive games you'll see from a team that gives up 32 points. Their defensive effort was ten times better than what Detroit did a week earlier.
With how long of a game the Saints/49ers match-up was, I barely had any time to get hyped for the Broncos/Patriots match-up. Maybe that was a good thing. As I flipped the channel to the AFC game, New England was already marching toward their first touchdown. The rest of the game doesn't need much of a detailed description: Tom Brady torched the Broncos' defense, and Tim Tebow was defensed exactly how the Steelers should have approached him a week earlier. I don't know if I'd want to be a Broncos fan this offseason. It's difficult to project whether Tebow can be a long-term answer or not, and that will be all the media focuses on over there for the next year or so.
Today's first game features the Texans and the Ravens. I am not a big Baltimore fan, and even with their undefeated home record, I feel that Joe Flacco is going to fail to deliver when they need him most. The Texans' running game is the best among the playoff teams, and I think they are going to ride the momentum they had from a week ago to pull off an upset on the road.
The night game between the Giants and the Packers is another very intriguing NFC match-up. The Giants somehow know how to turn on a switch when the postseason comes around. Their defensive line can get pressure like no other, but Aaron Rodgers is so good that he can fire it to any of his receivers on a rope and have them break the big one. The difference between the 49ers containing Brees early on and the Giants [probably] not being able to is the level of play from their secondaries. The Packers will win this one at home.