The final four teams in the National Football League have been whittled down to two. The Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks will meet on Sunday, February 2 in Super Bowl XLVIII.
In the first game on Sunday afternoon, the New England Patriots visited Mile High Stadium in Denver, losing to the Broncos. Peyton Manning and company jumped out to a meager 3-0 lead in the first quarter. However, once the second quarter began, Manning went on a 7-minute drive for the first touchdown of the game. 9 minutes in, the Patriots finally kicked a field goal to get on the board. With only thirty seconds left in the first half, Matt Prater kicked his own for Denver, and New England couldn't do anything in the time remaining, sending the game to halftime with the Broncos up 13-3.
When the Broncos received the ball to start the second half, they began a drive that culminated with a Manning touchdown throw to Demaryius Thomas that took up almost half the quarter. Denver worked methodically but not slowly and went up 20-3. Of course, Tom Brady and the Patriots have never been a team to roll over and die. Subsequently, on their next drive, the Patriots, driven by Brady's accuracy and coach Bill Belichick's relentlessness went for the first down on 4th and 2. Unfortunately for New England, Brady was sacked on the play by Terrance Knighton. To add insult to injury, on Denver's first play after the turnover, Manning threw for more than 20 yards to Thomas once again, setting up the switch of sides on the field between the third and the fourth. At the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Broncos had a mere 12 yards to conquer. However, it took the orange squad more than three minutes of game time to score, as Denver was called for holding twice on that opening drive. The Broncos settled for a field goal, going up 23-3 with 12 minutes left in the game.
New England still gave it a go in the 4th quarter, driving for a touchdown with just over three minutes remaining. When the Pats went for 2 and failed in their conversion, though, the game took on an all-but inevitable feel. The proceeding onside kick was successfully caught by the Broncos and the formality of running through an obligatory offense began to unfold. Belichick took the timeouts he still had and the two-minute warning stopped the action one more time, but the game was over.
In the second game of the afternoon, the Seahawks pulled out a victory in Seattle. The first half gave the illusion that the game was the 49ers' to lose, with San Francisco going into the tunnel up 10-3. But the third quarter started with a bang, as Marshawn Lynch ran in a touchdown for Seattle, knotting the score at 10-10.
Then things got crazy. 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw an impeccable touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin and the Seahawks drove back up their side for a field goal, kicked by Steven Hauschka. With a 17-13 edge, the 49ers began the 4th quarter on defense.
On 4th and 7, Seattle QB Russel Wilson tossed a bomb to Jermaine Kearse, going 35 yards for the touchdown and the first lead of the game for the Seahawks. When Hauschka kicked yet another field goal with only three and a half minutes remaining, the 49ers were put in the position of needing a touchdown. Kaepernick put them in great position to get the win, throwing a beautiful pass to Michael Crabtree with thirty seconds left on the clock. Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, though, was there for the block, tipping it to Malcolm Smith, who laid down in the end zone. The game ended with the Seahawks up 23-17.
With the Pro Bowl next weekend, Super Bowl XLVIII two weeks away, and media week in between, we'll have plenty of time to ponder questions about the big game coming up. Sherman already made some provocative comments after the victory against San Francisco, which certainly dispel some of the pre-game narrative that Seattle was the blue-collar hard-working team. And Peyton Manning will face plenty of questions, yet again, about his ability to perform in cold weather. In 2 weeks, the 2013-2014 NFL season will be over. For now, though, we've got two teams left.