On the weekend of Jan. 16, four games of the divisional matches of the NFL playoffs took place across the country. On Saturday, the New England Patriots hosted the Kansas City Chiefs in Boston and Green Bay visited Arizona to take on the Cardinals. On the following day, the Pittsburgh Steelers took on the Broncos in Denver and the Seattle Seahawks traveled to Carolina to duel the Panthers.
In the first game, the Patriots came out strong and looking like a team that had indeed rested over their week off from the sport. They drove the ball 80 yards on their first drive to take a 7-0 lead over the Chiefs early whereas the Chiefs would later settle for a field goal. By halftime the trade had repeated itself and the Patriots were ahead 14-6 at the half. The Chiefs received the kickoff but fumbled and the Patriots turned it around for a touchdown, bringing their lead to 15 points over the New Englanders. This touchdown, a 16-yard pass to tight end Rob Gronkowski, helped him set an all-time NFL record for most postseason touchdowns by a tight end, at eight. After this, the Patriots never let go of their lead and ended the game at 27-20.
Afterwards, the Cardinals hosted the Packers in what would become a messy overtime showdown. The game finally started three drives in when the Cardinals flew 42 yards for a touchdown ending on an 8-yard pass to Michael Floyd, putting them up 7-0 early in the first quarter. The only other points in the half came from two Green Bay field goals, leaving the halftime score at 7-6 in favor of the Cardinals. With just over 10 minutes left in the third quarter, the Packers scored off an 8-yard touchdown to Jeff Janis, putting them ahead 13-7. After another touchdown and two field goals by the Cardinals, the Packers had the ball on their own 4-yard line with just less than two minutes on the clock. In the final drive, Rodgers threw to Janis two more times, one for 60 yards and another for 41 that tied the game at 20, leading into overtime. The glory of the potential comeback was short-lived when just one minute of possession by the Cardinals was all they needed to score a touchdown and put the game to rest at a score of 26-20.
The Steelers-Broncos game was maintained by field goals until late in the first quarter, when a goal line run put Pittsburgh ahead 7-6. Two more field goals brought the game to halftime with a score of 10-9. After yet another field goal early in the second half brought the Steelers’ lead to 13-9, the Broncos turned up the heat. With three minutes left in the third quarter, Denver began their comeback with a 41-yard field goal. Almost exactly one quarter later, the Broncos capped off a 65-yard drive with a goal-line touchdown run to put them up 20-13. Another field goal sealed the victory for Denver as Pittsburgh could only score one more kick of their own with 30 seconds remaining in the game. The Broncos were allowed to advance with a victory of 23-16.
The Seahawks-Panthers game started off really well for Carolina. On their first drive, they made it 75 yards, ending with a touchdown off a 4-yard run by Jonathan Stewart. Less than a minute of game-time later, Russell Wilson threw an interception to Luke Kuechly who returned it 14 yards for another touchdown, putting the Panthers up 14-0 only three and a half minutes into the game. Less than a minute into the second quarter, Carolina followed up with a touchdown and then another briefly after, giving the Panthers all 31 points they would score that game but marking one of the most dominating first halves the NFL has ever seen. On the first drive of the second half, the Seahawks began a comeback, but the third quarter ended 31-14. With 6 minutes left in the final quarter, Seattle scored again and kicked a field goal to bring the score to 31-24 with a minute left in the ball game. However, Seattle’s onside kick was recovered by Carolina and the game ended there with Seattle’s run in the playoffs coming short.