Championship games set: Packers at Seahawks; Colts at Pats
Andrew Luck spoiled another Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning showdown.
It’s the Indianapolis Colts at the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game next Sunday. The Green Bay Packers visit the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC title game earlier in the day.
Luck threw for 265 yards and a pair of touchdowns Sunday to lead the Colts over Manning and the Broncos 24-13, sending Indianapolis (13-5) to its first conference championship game since Manning led them past the New York Jets in January 2010.
”I think we’re playing good team ball,” Luck said. ”It’s a great night, so proud to be part of this Colts victory.”
Luck, who replaced Manning in Indianapolis in 2012, enters Championship Sunday as the only one of the four starting QBs without a Super Bowl ring.
Brady and Manning went head-to-head in three previous AFC championship games, including last year’s won by the Broncos. But Manning fell to 11-13 in the postseason following one of his worst playoff performances ever.
New England (13-4) opened as 7 1/2-point favorites against the Colts. The Patriots beat the Colts 42-20 at Indianapolis in Week 11 as Jonas Gray ran for a franchise-record four TDs.
In the NFC, the Packers (13-4) and Seahawks (13-4) are set for a rematch of this season’s NFL opener. The Seahawks opened as seven-point favorites.
Aaron Rodgers threw for 316 yards and three touchdowns and the Packers rallied from an eight-point deficit to beat the Dallas Cowboys 26-21 on Sunday and advance to the conference title game for the first time in four years.
Now, the Packers travel to Seattle to face the defending Super Bowl champions, who dominated Green Bay in a 36-16 win Sept. 4.
Rodgers overcame a calf injury that limited his mobility to lead the Packers over the Cowboys. His 13-yard TD pass to backup tight end Richard Rodgers in the fourth quarter gave Green Bay the lead for good.
A video review reversed a 31-yard catch by Dez Bryant to the Packers 1 on fourth-and-2, and the Cowboys didn’t get the ball back.
”I’ll do everything I can to get ready to go to Seattle and play a great team,” Rodgers said.
The Packers finished the season 9-0 at Lambeau Field, but they’ll have to go on the road to face a team with a similar home-field advantage in a noisy environment created by the 12th Man. The Seahawks are 25-2 at CenturyLink Field in quarterback Russell Wilson’s three years, including 8-1 this season.
In Week 1, Marshawn Lynch ran for 110 yards and two TDs as the Seahawks blew past Green Bay. Rodgers was 23 of 33 for 189 yards, one TD and one interception. He looked almost exclusively for Jordy Nelson matched up against Byron Maxwell and never threw in Richard Sherman’s direction.
Eddie Lacy, who ran for 101 yards against the Cowboys, was mostly a non-factor at Seattle with 34 yards rushing on 12 carries and left in the fourth quarter with a concussion.
On Saturday, the Seahawks moved one step closer to becoming the first team to ”Re-Pete” since the Patriots a decade ago.
Wilson threw three touchdown passes, Kam Chancellor returned an interception 90 yards for a touchdown, and the Seahawks beat the Carolina Panthers 31-17.
”It’s exciting but the job is not done. There is still a lot more to do,” Wilson said.
At Foxborough, Massachusetts, Brady twice rallied the Patriots from 14-point deficits – the first team to do that in NFL playoff history – to advance to the AFC championship game for the fourth straight year with a 35-31 win over the Baltimore Ravens.
Brady completed 33 of 50 passes for 367 yards for an offense that ran for only 14, the second fewest in team playoff history. Brady’s 46th career playoff touchdown pass, a decisive 23-yard toss to Brandon LaFell with just over five minutes left, surpassed Joe Montana’s 45 for most in NFL history.
”Behind twice by 14 wasn’t necessarily in the plan,” Brady said. ”It took a lot of execution to overcome it.”
AP Pro Football Writers Barry Wilner and Arnie Stapleton and AP Sports Writers Tim Booth and Howard Ulman contributed.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org
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