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First Pro Bowl, then Super Bowl XLIX!

Now the NFL playoffs are over and the big game is set — New England vs. Seattle in Super Bowl XLIX. These playoffs produced some remarkable results.

Can you believe Arizona started 9-1 on a mission to host the Super Bowl and lost a playoff game with a third-team QB named Ryan Lindley, who threw for just 76 yards? NFL record!

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New England became the first team to rally twice from 14-0 and 28-14 deficits and win a playoff game? NFL record!

The Patriots had just 14 yards rushing, the fewest yards ever in a playoff win. Detroit had a 14-0 lead at Dallas — do you remember that fourth-quarter interference call that would have given the Lions a first down with minutes left up 20-17? Yes, that one, the one that got picked up? No explanation at all by the officials, followed by a 10-yard Lions punt?

Cincinnati in the playoffs again lost to Andrew Luck and Indianapolis. Head Coach Marvin Lewis 0-6 in the playoffs. Quarterback Andy Dalton 0-4 as a starting quarterback.

The great Peyton Manning loses at home in the playoffs (Denver) to Andrew Luck, the man who replaced him in Indianapolis. Manning, the five-time MVP, is just 11-13 over his career in the playoffs. Green Bay survived Dallas upset; it was the first time these two teams played in the playoffs since the Ice Bowl in 1967.

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The Packers won 26-21, but only after Dez Bryant of Dallas was robbed of a sensational leaping catch at the goal line that was overturned on review by officials on a technicality. The Packers and Aaron Rodgers had a 16-0 lead at half at Seattle in the NFC Championship only to blow it and lose in overtime 28-22. Seattle will have a chance to repeat as Super Bowl Champions, first time since 2003-2004 New England.

Tom Brady and Head Coach Bill Belichick continue to assault the NFL playoff record books. Brady has now reached six Super Bowls, the most ever. If he wins Sunday, February 1 vs. Seattle, he can tie Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana with four Super Bowl titles. Belichick has now won 21 playoff games, number one all-time.
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This Sunday I’m off to the desert for the Pro Bowl. The NFL All-Star Game will take place in Glendale, Arizona. Then, the following Sunday, the game we’ve been waiting for, the most-watched event annually in television history: Super Bowl XLIX.

Who do you have winning? New England 14-4 vs. defending champ Seattle 14-4? Send your emails to Larry@Larry-Fitzgerald.com. Thanks.

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

How about them Buckeyes!

ARLINGTON, TX — Hear Ye Hear Ye: College football has crowned its first-ever National Playoff Football Champion. In August of 2014, no fewer than 300 Division One Schools with football programs set out in pursuit of a national title. The Ohio State Buckeyes, seeded fourth in the four-team playoff, upset number-one Alabama 42-35 in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day while the high-flying Oregon Ducks dominated defending champion and previously unbeaten Florida State in the Rose Bowl 59-20.

Ohio State, a six-point underdog, dominated the Ducks Monday Night 42-20 to capture the biggest prize in college football, the National College Football Championship. Not everyone was happy when Ohio State leaped over previously higher rated Texas Christian University and Baylor listed at numbers three and four respectively in the next-to-last college playoff poll. The Buckeyes smacked Wisconsin 59-0 in the Big 10 Championship game and thereby moved into the fourth seed.

The Big 12 no longer has a Conference Championship game, and that opening allowed the Buckeyes to qualify for the first four-team Final Four playoff by smashing Wisconsin. Head Coach Urban Meyer joins only Nick Saban (LSU and Alabama) as a winner of National Championships at two different schools. This was Urban’s third title; he won twice previously at Florida.

It’s the sixth National Championship for Ohio State and their first since 2002. This is a remarkable accomplishment considering the Buckeyes overcame so much adversity, like an early season loss to Virginia Tech 35-21. The Buckeyes reeled off 13 straight wins with three different quarterbacks.

Red Shirt sophomore quarterback Cardale Jones, the team’s third quarterback, remarkably started the Big Ten Championship game (59-0), the Sugar Bowl playoff win (42-35) over number-one Alabama, and out-dueled Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota in the pressure-packed national playoff title game.

Mariota threw for 333 yards and two touchdowns but had some receivers drop critical passes while he missed a few open receivers when the game was in the balance.

Oregon led 7-0 early before Ohio State rallied to lead 21-10 at halftime. Oregon roared back to cut Ohio State’s lead to 21-20 in the third quarter after back-to-back turnovers by the Buckeyes.
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It appears to be coming together for the Vikings after winning their third straight game 23-20 with a photo finish in Chicago last Sunday. The Vikings are now 5-2.

It’s been a long time since the Vikings last won in Chicago. It was the team’s first win in Chicago since 2007.

The Vikings improved to 3-0 in the NFC North with a thrilling comeback win in Chicago in the final seconds over the tough-luck Bears. For the fifth straight time, running back Adrian Peterson ran for over 100 yards against the Bears. “We fight no matter if we’re down 10, 15, 20 — guys continue to fight,” said Peterson.

Marcus Sherel put the Vikings on the board early with a brilliant 65-yard punt return for a touchdown. But it was quarterback Teddy Bridgewater who engineered a fourth-quarter comeback, and kicker Blair Walsh kicked the 36-yard game-winning field goal as time expired.

The Vikings trailed 20-13 late in the fourth quarter with just 1.49 left when Bridgewater connected with red-hot receiver rookie Stefon Diggs on a 40-yard touchdown strike. Diggs had another big game with six catches for 95 yards and a touchdown.

Last week the Vikings rallied from being down 14-3 to beat Detroit 28-19; the back-to-back road wins for the Vikings is their first since 2012. The Vikings are playing smart, tough football. They have figured out that if they don’t beat themselves, they have a good chance to win.

The Vikings on offense, defense, and special teams combined are the least penalized team in the NFL, just 39 times in seven games — not bad. Sunday they had just four penalties for 35 yards.

Vikings rally, beat Bears

Around the NFL, several teams are putting up and allowing a lot of points, but not the Vikings. With the controlled, balanced attack, with the running of Peterson and passing of Bridgewater to Diggs, the Vikings are winning and getting it done. Diggs is doing special things in the passing game with Bridgewater, 25 catches for 419 yards and two touchdowns since week four.

On defense, rookie linebacker Eric Kendricks has been making a big impact. He was last week’s NFL Defensive Rookie of the week.

The Vikings return home Sunday to play St. Louis. Then in two weeks they get Green Bay at home. With the Packers getting smashed 29-10 by Denver, both 6-0 teams, in the battle of Peyton Manning versus Aaron Rodgers, the Vikings are now just a game back of the previously unbeaten Green Bay.

The Vikings are a tough, hardnosed team on both sides of the ball, and Peterson is again among the NFL rushing leaders, running hard with 633 yards already. On special teams, Walsh kicked five field goals in the win at Detroit last week, and Sunday Walsh kicked three more field goals, including one from 48 yards and the game winner from 36 yards.

Bridgewater is now 11-8 as a starting quarterback in the NFL. His poise and talent in his second year has him climbing the ladder among NFL quarterbacks. That ladder is steep with Tom Brady at the top.

Sunday, Drew Brees threw for 511 yards and seven touchdowns in the Saint’ 52-49 win over New York. Manning threw for 300 yards in Denver’s win over Green Bay, his career 186th win as a starter, tying him with Brett Favre for the most all-time in the NFL. Bridgewater is delivering for the Vikings, and he’s just getting started.

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Then the Buckeyes got back to business, dominating the line of scrimmage, and running back Ezekiel Elliot was sensational, running for 246 yards and four touchdowns. He was named the game’s outstanding offensive performer. The Buckeyes’ theme all year has been to play for each other, and the great leadership of Meyer guided this young, talented group of Buckeyes to the championship. Ohio State finishes 14-1, Oregon 13-2. Ohio State gets the $2 million check to share with the Big 10 Conference.

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

NFL Wild Card? Not for long!

CHARLOTTE, NC — Here we are on the other side. In 2015, the NFL playoffs start for 12 deserving franchises. They are rewards for great playing, planning, drafting and living to pursue the dream of winning the Super Bowl.
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Only one team gets to hold that Vince Lombardi Trophy on Sunday February 1, 2015. The University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona is where the action is.

The hometown Arizona Cardinals, who started 9-1 and for a long time looked potentially like the best team in football, had their personal dream of playing in their very own stadium on Super Bowl Sunday come to a crushing end 27-16 to the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.

Former Auburn Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Cam Newton threw two touchdown passes in grabbing his first career playoff win. Just three weeks ago, Newton survived a car accident in which he suffered a bone fracture in his back.

The Panthers won the NFC South with the NFL’s worst record by a playoff team, 7-8-1, and proved they belonged by smothering the Cardinals’ anemic offense. Quarterback Ryan Lindley, who was cut by the team in the pre-season, started the last three weeks for the Cardinals. Arizona produced only 78 yards total offense, establishing an NFL post-season record for the fewest yards ever in an NFL playoff game.
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The Cardinals were forced to play with their fourth quarterback of the season. Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton, Thomas Logan and Lindley were the Cardinals quarterbacks. After losing starter Palmer on November 9 to a torn left ACL, and later his backup Stanton to a sprained right MCL-ACL, it was a matter of survival for the Cardinals.

The Cardinals have been on offensive life support for weeks. They lost their top running back Andre Ellington to a late season-ending injury weeks ago. The Cardinals scored the fewest points the last six regular-season games of any team previously in NFL history, just 73 points. Subsequently, they lost four of six games and finished 11-5. By virtue of Carolina winning its division even with an inferior (7-8-1) record, they got to host the playoff game as NFC South Champions.

The nearly 72,000 fans in attendance helped infuse the charged-up Panthers. Arizona led at the half 14-13, but a Cardinals nightmare-like third quarter with two turnovers and -3 yards on offense led to two quick Panthers touchdowns. The Panthers have now won five straight games and, at 8-8-1, travel next week to Seattle to play the rested Super Bowl defending champions.
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The Cardinals fought to the very end despite the burden of virtually no offensive potential. Veteran Pro Bowl receiver Larry Fitzgerald Jr. may have played in potentially his last game as an Arizona Cardinal.

His contract and the $23 million salary cap number with it for 2015 is such that the Cardinals may lose Fitzgerald. As they say in the business, time will tell.

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.