Another controversial week of NFL action has led to a lot of questions heading into the most important show of the year.
The biggest question mark came from the decision to end the Vikings magical run just one week after what was the wildest finish to a game in years. It’s possible that there are plans in the works that could make up for this blunder, but it’s hard to imagine what those may be. The fact of the matter is, fans were rallying around a new team and had it all taken away just as it was gaining momentum. The only explanation I can come up with is that this was a swerve for the sake of having a swerve. Sometimes, logical booking is correct.
Today, we look back at other booking decisions from past Conference Championship games in recent history that led to some no-brainer Super Bowl matchups that still gave us memorable moments.
Chapter I: History Repeats Itself
The 2011 NFC Championship game brought us a highly entertaining game between the New York Giants and the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers were rising in popularity as coach Jim Harbaugh took the league by storm.
However, it wasn’t their time yet. The winner of this game got a shot at the Patriots, and Harbaugh and company were up against the Pats greatest postseason rival. By the end of a back and forth overtime game, the stage was set for a Patriots-Giants rematch. New England was given their chance to redeem themselves following a loss a few years earlier that ended what could have been a perfect season, while the Giants were asked to do the unthinkable once again.
Despite the loss here, the 49ers were properly protected. Unlike the Vikings who were just blown out of the building, the 49ers lost a nailbiter. On top of that, they left with a clear scapegoat in the form of return man Kyle Williams while the Giants appeared to benefit from a couple of questionable calls. The 49ers took a loss but stayed strong.
Chapter II: Sibling Rivalry
One year later, the 49ers found themselves in the spotlight once again. This time, they faced the Falcons. Unlike the year before, they completed a big comeback to earn their spot in the big game.
Jim’s win earlier in the day put all eyes on the AFC Championship game between the Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens. A Ravens win would put Jim in the Super Bowl against his brother John. It was a storyline being discussed for a few weeks leading up to the event, so when Baltimore took the field, it felt like a foregone conclusion. Booking them against Brady was a good way to plant a little seed of doubt in the viewers head though. At the end of the day, Baltimore won handily, 28-13, with a late flurry that set up the Harbaugh Bowl.
Vikings fans today are hoping they get a run next year similar to the 49ers before them following a heartbreaking loss in the title game. It may take a compelling storyline to do it, however. Maybe the Colts will call an audible and hire Mike Zimmer’s brother to coach. Sounds like a move they’d make.
Chapter III: Last Rodeo
The postseason leading up to Super Bowl 50 had one primary storyline: Peyton Manning. Would this be his final season as a player? Could he bounce back and win again after getting replaced during the season?
Once we arrived at the AFC Championship game, another question was added to the list. Could he take down his greatest adversary one last time?
The answer to all three questions ended up being the same. Yes. Manning had his best game in weeks in front of the home fans for what would wind up being the final time in his career as the Broncos toppled the Patriots to win an exciting game, 20-18. The Manning vs Brady rivalry came to a close with Manning topping Brady for the third time in four title games. It was a predictable way of booking this season, but it was the right way to go about it.
One of the biggest stars ever created by the League was given one last crack at winning the biggest game.