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NFL 5 43 NFL divisional round: What we learned 30560896 Niners should 'Grab' your attention Niners+should+%27Grab%27+your+attention NFL

It's one thing to control a game, as the San Francisco 49ers did for 55 minutes Saturday. It's another to win the game after it goes completely out of control. That's a gut-check, and the 49ers passed theirs in dramatic fashion with a 36-32 victory over the New Orleans Saints. The 49ers made Saints play their game most of the way, only to see New Orleans take its first lead with 4:02 to play. That's when the teams started trading TDs like Thomas Hearns and Marvin Hagler traded punches. When Vernon Davis (pictured) grabbed his second TD reception of the game, with nine seconds left, the Niners were the last team standing. Davis dubbed his clincher "The Grab," an homage to "The Catch" by Dwight Clark three decades earlier. With apologies to Tim Tebow, we might suggest "The Miracle" because 49ers QB Alex Smith, who threw a dart to Davis, has has more critics in his seven NFL seasons than Tebow ever has, with a fraction of the fan support. Or, with apologies to LeBron James, we might call it "The Decision" because 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh was gutsy as heck to let Smith throw over the middle on third-and-3 while down by three points. Most coaches would have tried a far-less-risky play, knowing a field goal is a gimme and you can take your chances in overtime.

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Cary Edmondson - USA TODAY Sports
NFL 5 43 NFL divisional round: What we learned 30560895 Patriots still have playoff touch Patriots+still+have+playoff+touch NFL

Hard to believe, but it had been a week shy of four years since the New England Patriots won a playoff game before their 45-10 thrashing of the Denver Broncos on Saturday. Since they defeated the San Diego Chargers in the AFC championship game on Jan. 20, 2008, the Patriots suffered a Super Bowl upset at the hands of the New York Giants, a season out of the postseason and two straight one-and-done appearances. But coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady (pictured) recaptured the old playoff magic with a clever game plan, near-flawless execution and a strong showing from a defense that ranked next-to-last in the league in the regular season. Belichick and Penn State-bound offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien used talented tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez to counter Denver's linebacker-heavy pass rush. The tight ends combined for 14 catches, 200 yards and four touchdowns. O'Brien broke out a new wrinkle by using Hernandez out of the backfield five times, good for 61 yards rushing. Brady tied an NFL playoff record with six TD passes, five in the first half alone. The Patriots looked a bit one-dimensional in the regular season despite their 13-3 record. They might have just been sandbagging. Scary thought.

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Charles Krupa - AP Images
NFL 5 43 NFL divisional round: What we learned 30563064 There's no room for error There%27s+no+room+for+error NFL

The Houston Texans brought the No. 2 defense in the NFL to Baltimore to face the No. 3 defense. So, of course, the AFC divisional playoff game Sunday was decided by . . . special teams. Houston's Jacoby Jones mishandled a punt to hand the Ravens a gift touchdown, and that proved the difference in a 20-13 game. Jones' gaffe came in the first quarter when he tried to gather in a bouncing punt at the 13-yard line. He botched it (pictured) under pressure from Cary Williams, and the Ravens fell on the ball at the 2. Given the early lead and playing in front of a home crowd, the Ravens rode their defense to victory. It won't come so easy next week, when the Ravens must travel to Foxborough to face Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. If the Ravens' D and Patriots' offense cancel each other out, that one might be in the hands of the special teams, too.

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Evan Vucci - AP Images
NFL 5 43 NFL divisional round: What we learned 30563223 15-2 is not always a good record 15-2+is+not+always+a+good+record NFL

For the past 12 months, the only NFL story bigger than the Packers was the lockout. From catching fire at the end of last season and running the postseason table, to this season’s 13-0 start and Aaron Rodgers’ run at the greatest season ever by a QB, Green Bay was all the rage. But after a 15-1 regular season and a week off before Sunday’s playoff game, the Packers were taught the same lesson they dispensed in 2010-11 — a month of momentum can trump a season of greatness. Despite playing at Lambeau Field with some of their key offensive personnel back in the lineup, Rodgers and his Packers were no match for Eli Manning and the New York Giants, losing 37-20 in the divisional round. Manning outplayed Rodgers (330-264 in yards, 3-2 in TDs) and Green Bay was uncharacteristically sloppy with the ball, turning it over four times. Instead of a repeat champion, we may have a repeat of Super Bowl XLII, as the Patriots and Giants stand one victory away from Indianapolis. And we have a new bit of history, as well. The Packers are the first team to ever win 15 games in the regular season then lose in their first playoff game that season.

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Jerry Lai - USA TODAY Sports
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