STEELERS 34-BRONCOS 17 (Sportz 6-3). The first half was completely owned by Pittsburgh who did everything right. They controlled the ball. They created two turnovers from Jake Plummer. Ben Roethlisberger picked the Broncos secondary apart. A fumble was overturned via replay. And they got pressure on Plummer. This game was nearly the exact same as the one they played in Indiana last week. They jumped in the QBs face and that offense was nearly unstoppable. They then hung on in the 2nd half to finish off the road win.
Denver essentially imploded. Plummer fumbled the ball on a sack, then threw a horrible interception towards the end of the first half. That made it nearly impossible for a team that hadn't stopped anyone on defense nor really had the ball at all on offense to mount a comeback from a 24-3 deficet. The Broncos then became one-dimentional...but did make a strong run to get it to 27-17 and with the ball. But, it was too little, too late.
What the Steelers have done is nearly a miracle. They are the first #6 seed to get to the Super Bowl since the format began in 1990. They beat the #1, #2 and #3 seeds in the AFC playoffs....all on the road. They beat up Carson Palmer, Peyton Manning and Jake Plummer.....Rudi Johnson, Edgerrin James and Mike Anderson....Chad Johnson, Marvin Harrison and Rod Smith. They go to the Super Bowl for the first time in a decade [they've been in Super Bowl 10, Super Bowl 30 and Super Bowl 40] and their 6th trip overall to the big game.
This is the fifth time in the last 7 years that the road team has won the AFC Championship game. The AFC Champion has won 6 of the last 8 Super Bowls.
SEAHAWKS 34-PANTHERS 14 (Sportz 6-4...ugh) In what amounts to the mirror image of the AFC title game....the NFC Championship was decided fairly early. This time, the Seahawks jumped all over the Panthers....controlled the clock and forced QB Jake Delhomme into two horrific early turnovers. Now Seattle is in their first Super Bowl.
The story here was how Seattle controlled both lines. On offense, they did a pretty good job protecting Matt Hasselbeck and opening running lanes for Shaun Alexander. The Panthers D-line had a tough time getting to Hasselbeck and when they did, Matt had scrambling lanes to pick up yards. On defense, they shut down Carolina's run [knocking Nick Goins out was the clincher]...which allowed them to use coverages to stop Steve Smith. That line also did an excellent job pressuring Delhomme, which led to those two early picks.
Carolina did absolutely nothing on offense, their only TD coming on a Steve Smith punt return for a TD. There are two Jake Delhommes...and the two cannot be any different. The one going in had the best passer rating in the history of the NFL playoffs. Instead, the bad one showed up, the one who makes bad throws and even worse decisions. Not just those interceptions...but he missed a lot of open guys with passes above, behind or in front of them. Going in they knew that the running game would be hindered, there had to be a big game from Jake, or at least not a tank job. Delhomme played about as poorly as you can play.
The defense wasn't much better, as Seattle routinely drove down the field on them. Alexander walked all over them....and Hasselbeck picked them apart.