LED BY EZEKIEL ELLIOTT'S HARD-CHARGING RUNS, CARDALE JONES'S RESILIENCE AND A DEFENSE THAT DIDN'T REST, OHIO STATE GROUND DOWN HIGH-FLYING OREGON, AND THE LOWEST SEED IN THE FIRST PLAYOFF EVER TOOK HOME THE TITLE
The Packers' D was ordinary until a daring decision to move their best pass rusher from outside to inside linebacker. Now Green Bay is tough on the ground—and in position for a run at another Lombardi Trophy
He may be the least discussed of the Legion of Boom DBs—such is life when you're shutting down the deep regions beyond the TV cameras' view. But Seattle's heat-seeking free safety is the one you most ought to talk to
PHOTOPHOTOGRAPH BY AL TIELEMANS SPORTS ILLUSTRATED
Many Pats on The Back New England defensive backs Devin McCourty (with ball) and Darrelle Revis—with surrogate safety support from 6'6" tight end Rob Gronkowski (87)—made sure Ravens receivers Steve Smith and Kamar Aiken (11) couldn't haul in a Hail Mary, sealing a 35--31 AFC divisional playoff win last Saturday in Foxborough, Mass. In addition to his defense, Gronkowski had seven catches for 108 yards and a touchdown.
PHOTOPHOTOGRAPH BY JOHN W. MCDONOUGH SPORTS ILLUSTRATED
Better Luck This Time Colts quarterback Andrew Luck frustrated end Derek Wolfe and the Broncos on Sunday, throwing for 265 yards and two touchdowns in a 24--13 upset of Denver (page 47). In the teams' first meeting this season—the 2014 opener—Denver came up with three sacks in a 31--24 win; in the AFC divisional playoff matchup Luck wasn't sacked once.
PHOTOPHOTOGRAPH BY ROD MAR FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED
Leap Before They Look Seahawks strong safety Kam Chancellor took the direct route—twice—to try to block field goals by the Panthers' Graham Gano late in the second quarter of their NFC divisional game in Seattle. The first time Chancellor hurdled the line Gano made his kick, but the play was whistled dead for a Carolina false start; the second time Gano missed, but Chancellor ran into the kicker. The third time Chancellor chose not to jump, and Gano connected on a 35-yarder to cut the lead to 14--10. The Panthers got no closer in a 31--17 loss (page 42).
Before he became the premier postseason performer of his generation, the Patriots icon was a middling college quarterback who invited skepticism, even scorn, from fans and his coaches. That was all—and that was everything