Losers in tight conference championship games a year ago, they are returning to the final step before the big game in the Big Easy after wins Saturday.
Baltimore took the long, frigid route, rallying at Denver for a 38-35 victory in an AFC divisional playoff. The Ravens will go to either New England, where they lost 23-20 in the conference championship match last January, or Houston. The Patriots and Texans face off Sunday in Foxborough, Mass.
San Francisco took the NFC game at night 45-31 over Green Bay behind the running and passing of quarterback Colin Kaepernick. That gave both coaching Harbaughs victories Saturday: Jim with the 49ers, John with the Ravens.
San Francisco fell in overtime to the New York Giants for the NFC title last year. The Niners will either visit Atlanta or host Seattle in next weekend’s championship matchup.
The wild-card Seahawks are at the Falcons in Sunday’s early game.
Second-year QB Kaepernick made Jim Harbaugh’s decision to stick with him over incumbent Alex Smith during the season look brilliant. He set a playoff mark for the position by rushing for 183 yards, including a 56-yard TD, and threw for 263 yards. Kaepernick hit Michael Crabtree for two scores and Frank Gore rushed for 119 yards.
“It feels like we’re in the same place,” Crabtree said. “Winning that game last year, we’re in the same place. It’s just what we do the next game. It’s all about the next game.”
The NFC North-winning Packers (12-6) beat Minnesota in the wild-card round last weekend, but their defense was overmatched at San Francisco.
Aaron Rodgers finished 26 for 39 for 257 with two TDs and an interception.
Ravens 38, Broncos 35, 2 OT
Rookie Justin Tucker’s 47-yard field goal 1:42 into the second overtime of the longest playoff game in 26 years advanced the Ravens and kept star linebacker Ray Lewis‘ career going at least another week.
Joe Flacco’s 70-yard heave to Jacoby Jones with 31 seconds remaining forced the overtime. Flacco is the only quarterback to win playoff games in each of his first five seasons, and he heads to his third AFC championship match. He also lost to Pittsburgh in the 2008 title game.View Entire Story
By Douglas Holtz-Eakin
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