Call it “Surprise Saturday”.
Despite the difference in record, the Seahawks looked like the Super Bowl team putting up 41 points in a 41-36 victory. Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselback, who has playoff experience, returned from injury to play the game of his life throwing for 4 touchdowns. However the play of the game was running back Marshawn Lynch’s 67-yard run through a minimum of eight Saints defenders to give the Seahawks a 41-30 and effectively seal the upset win.
The Seahawks now await the winner of the Green Bay – Philadelphia game to see who their next opponent will be. If the Packers beat the Eagles, the Seahawks will play the Chicago Bears. If the Eagles win, the Atlanta Falcons will host the upstart Seattle team.
In a rematch of the AFC title game from a year ago, the New York Jets took on Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts in an equally thrilling game that came down to the final seconds. The Colts held the Jets scoreless in the second half of that AFC title game to secure a Super Bowl berth. Jets coach Rex Ryan swore to avenge the loss and his team responded after being down 7-0 at halftime.
The Jets came out in the second half a completely different team buoyed by their running game. The rejuvenated LaDanian Tomlinson, oft-injured in the playoffs while a member of the San Diego Chargers, came alive rushing for 2 touchdowns, the final score giving the Jets a 14-10 lead. No lead is safe with Peyton Manning under center and the future Hall-of-Famer marched his team down the field on two consecutive drives to allow Adam Vinatieri, arguably the most clutch kicker in NFL history, the chance to kick two field goals, the second one a 50-yard bomb to give the Colts a 16-14 lead with 57 seconds left.
However, the Jets did not go away. On the ensuing play Antonio Cromartie ran the kick off back 48 yards putting the Jets right back in position to kick their own field goal. Mark Sanchez did what he has done all year: play well at the end of games, this time going 9 for 11 through the air to set-up Nick Folk for the field goal that would give the Jets a 17-16 win.
The Jets are 3-1 against the Colts in playoff history and earn the right to avenge their worst loss of the season against the New England Patriots next week (Jan. 16).
This is the first time both Super Bowl participants from the previous season lost on the same day in the playoffs.