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IFL CONFERENCE FINALS
PATRIOTS 27 BENGALS 18
Bengals, winners of 12 of their last 13 games, make the trip to New England looking to advance to the Super Bowl. New England, without all-pro WR Antonio Brown and star LB Jamie Collins, were still installed as 5 point favorites by the sharps in Vegas. Foxboro doesn't often see 70 degrees in the middle of January - but it was the case on this day. What other strange occurrences would this day bring?
Bengals took the opening kickoff and faced an early 3rd an 8. Aaron Rodgers dropped back to pass and was sacked by a blitzing Erik Walden, forcing a fumble which was recovered by New England. With barely a minute off the clock, NE had the ball at the Bengal 27 yard line.
Coming off a 4-TD game in the Divisional round against the Titans, Jordy Nelson once again was active early. Bradford hit him for 11 yards on the first play from scrimmage. A Bengal penalty and it was 1st and 5 from the 11 yard line. A short Lat Murray run was followed by two Bradford misfires however, and the Patriots were forced to settle for a short FG. 3-0 New England.
A Bengal 3 and out gave NE the ball again, this time starting at their own 39 yard line. On first down, Latavius Murray took the pitch but was blasted by the Bengal D for no gain. The crowd quickly went silent as Murray lay flat on the Foxboro turf. He would soon walk off under his own power, but would be escorted immediately to the tent with a suspected concussion. Just like that, Murray was done for the day.
The injury to Murray sucked quite a bit of air out of the stadium, with the Patriots already missing their top WR and now their top RB. Bradford tried to rally the troops, but misfired on a pass to Rod Streater. Then on 3rd down, Bradford looked to connect with spare WR Wendall Williams but was PICKED OFF by Micah Hyde...................who returned it all the way to the NE 16 yard line!!!! Like the Patriots had done to the Bengals earlier in the quarter, the Bengals had now turned NE over in their own territory.
A quick 10 yard pass from Rodgers to Heuerman was followed by a 6 yard Melvin Gordon scamper for the TD!! The PAT was missed, but Cinci had the lead 6-3.
CJ Prosise started the next Patriot drive with a nifty 13 yard sweep. However, Bradford was sacked by Jurrell Casey on the next play, FORCING THE
F-U-M-B-L-E!!! Bengals recovered and had the ball at the NE 39 yard line. Rodgers and company could not get a first down, and Robbie Gould came on to hit a 45 yard field goal. 9-3 Bengals.
The Patriots looked to answer and on the 2nd play of the next drive, Prosise took a screen pass 52 yards to the 23 yard line of Cincinnati. A Bradford to Nelson (double teamed) 9 yard pass gave NE a 2nd and 1 from the 14. However, after Prosise was stuffed on 2nd down, Bradford missed Nelson on a crossing pattern. 4th and 1 - and the Patriots decided to go for it. Prosise rambled for 7 yards to give NE another first down at the Cinci 7 yard line.
Bradford to Greg Olsen was stuffed for a loss of 1. Prosise ran for another 7 yards down to the 1 yard line. Rather than running it in, Bradford tried Nelson on a short slant but it was broken up. Having converted on 4th and 1 just a minute earlier, the Patriots tried again, this time handing it to Prosise............who was STUFFED for no gain!!! Bengals take over and the quarter would end with the Bengals up 9-3.
Rodgers responded like the champ that he is, methodically leading the Bengals from the shadow of their own goal line across midfield, thanks to completions to Eifert, Jeffery and Heuerman. The drive would stall at the 24 yard line however and Cinci would get another 3 points on a Gould FG.
The two teams would exchange punts on their next drives, though NE had tilted the field in their favor. With 3 minutes remaining in the half, NE would take over at their own 44. Bradford to Olsen for 13, followed by a Bradford to Prosise for 7 yards. Out of the two minute warning, Prosise then swept right for 15 yards down to the Bengal 9 yard line. Then on the next play, Bradford to Prosise from 9 yards out and it was 12-10 Bengals heading to the half.
The third quarter saw the defenses take over. Both teams had their first two drives of the quarter end in punts, eating up nearly 13 minutes of game time. With under two minutes left in the quarter and NE at their own 15 yard line, Bradford looked to make something happen with the wind at his back before the end of the quarter. A quick strike to Olsen for 6 yards started things off. Then on 2nd and 4 from their own 21, he found Jordy on a quick out. Rookie CB Jalen Ramsey failed to wrap him up however and JORDY WAS GONE!!! 79 yards later and NE had the lead just like that! 17-12.
Enter Ty Montgomery, who quickly broke off runs of 5 and 8 yards to get Cinci off to a nice start as the 3rd quarter would end. Completions to Royal (8 yds) and Jeffery (13 yards) book-ended another nifty 12 yard Montgomery run, and it was first and 10 from the NE 29 yard line with 12 minutes to play.
Montgomery was stuffed on his next attempt and the drive stalled. A 44 yard Gould FG cut the lead to just 2 points however. 17-15 Pats
With 11 minutes to play, the Patriots knew they couldn't get complacent. Three consecutive completions to Green-Beckham, Olsen and Nelson moved the Pats from their own 25 out to midfield. Then on 2nd and 3, Prosise busted off a 27 yard run down to the Bengal 24. Two plays later Prosise ran for another 17 yards. Then after a misfire to Jordy, Bradford connected with Prosise for their 2nd TD hookup of the day, this one from 7 yards and it was 24-15 NE!
Things looked bleak for the Bengals as they went 3 and out on their next drive. However Trevor Davis muffed the punt giving Cinci new life!!
With 6:27 to go, the Bengals had it at the NE 34 yard line.
A sack by Stefon Tuitt made it 2nd and 15, but Rodgers found Royal and Gordon on consecutive pass plays for a Bengal first down. A sack by Erik Walden derailed the Bengal TD hopes, but Gould hit on his 4th FG of the day - this from 35 yards - and it was 24-18 with 3:07 to play.
Bengals chose to kick deep, and the Pats had it from their own 25 yard line. With Prosise showing signs of fatigue, Bradford threw caution to the wind. With the defense keying on CJ, Bradford hit Nelson on another quick out - and Nelson did all the work again - this time racing 43 yards to the Bengal 32! Another 10 yard pass to Nelson before the 2 minute warning gave NE 3rd and inches. Fullback Zach Line would dive for the first down, and the game was essentially over. Bradford would take 3 knees before Sturgis kicked the game clinching FG - Patriots win it 27-18.
CJ Prosise was the star of the game, rushing for 87 yards on 10 carries while also catching 6 passes for another 87 yards and two touchdowns. Jordy Nelson followed up his 4 TD effort in the Divisional round with another fantastic day, hauling in 7 passes for 170 and a TD. Erik Walden had two QB sacks, following up his 3 sack effort from a week earlier.
For the Bengals, Aaron Rodgers completed 21 of 36 passes for 197 yards. He did not throw a TD nor did he turn the ball over. Melvin Gordon carried the ball 21 times but managed only 56 yards against the Patriot D.
New England managed to overcome 3 turnovers and injuries to two more starters as both Lat Murray and William Gholston left the game in the first quarter. With 5 starters on the sidelines, NE still somehow managed to overcome a gritty and tough Bengal squad.
Congratulations to John on a truly great season. The Bengals ripped off 11 consecutive wins after starting the season 2-2. Winning 14 of the 18 games they played, the Bengals were truly among the elite squads in the IFL in 2017.
New England moves on to their 2nd consecutive Super Bowl, in what should be a great game against the NFC's best - the Washington Redskins.
REDSKINS 27 RAMS 23
Los Angeles would head to Washington for a little family feud with the winner heading to the Super Bowl.
LA would get the kickoff first and would take advantage of an aggressive Washington defense mixing and matching personnel. A 3rd and 13 would be picked up by the dynamic White on a screen while Dixon would punch it in from 7 yards out to go up 7-0. While the Rams fans were thrilled to see them get into the end zone the cheers quickly turned to fear as it was announced star RB Mark Ingram would be lost for this game and the following week should they win. Fearing Lee as a return man LA would squib the kickoff but a short kick still resulted in the Redskins starting at the 42 yard line. 3 Plays later Prescot would hit Parker for 47 yards and Hill would finish off the drive with a 6 yard run to tie it up 7-7. LA would follow up with a 3 and out and the Redskins would get it back and be aided by a 24 yard PI call. They would dink and dunk it the rest of the way and Prescott would sneak it in from the goal line.
LA and Washington would exchange a few 3 and outs however the special teams play would provide Washington with the advantage. Good returns and punting during the exchange would lead to LA having to punt from their 5 yard line giving Washington great field position and allow Janikowski to bang through a 55 yard field goal despite a 3 and out to give them a 17-7 lead. Following the score the Rams would go to the ground and run the ball 7 out of 8 highlighted by a 24 yard Luck scramble. Dixon would again find paydirt from 1 yard out. However the LA kicker would shank the XP leaving the score 13-17. With only 2 minutes remaining neither team was able to get anything going before the half.
Washington would get the ball at the half and were looking to put some distance between them. However Prescott would throw a pick on 3rd and 8 giving the Rams amazing field position on the 36 yard line. 2 plays later the Rams would be looking at a 3rd and 12 from the 26 yard line. The Redskins gambled and expected the Rams to go for the score and brought a lot of pressure. The Rams had called a play action pass hoping to catch the Redskins keying on the run and Luck would go down for a 12 yard loss. Now looking at a 4th and 12 in no-mans land and with little confidence in their kicker they would go for it. The gamble would pay off big as Luck would hit the Gronk and he would steamroll the Redskins D on his way to the end zone and a 20-17 lead. Washington would put together a decent drive in response but it would stall out on their own 42. Washington would elect to punt on the 4th and 1 and Martin would deliver pinning LA on its own 2 yard line for the second time in the game. LA would punt a few plays later and set Washington up on the Rams 47 yard line. Prescot would lead them to the 10 yard line but the drive would stall and they would have to settle for the tying FG.
The Rams would answer back with a nice drive of their own sucking up some clock using just about every offensive weapon they have. They would get the ball to the Washington 2 yard line and face a big decision. 4th and 2 tie game on the road. While it appeared as though the initially thought going for it the Rams ultimately made the decision to take the points and put the game on their defense. The FG would be good and the Rams would lead with 10 minutes left in the game. Washington would be bailed out early on their next drive with a 3rd and 6 holding call against Rhodes. Later in the drive Prescot would pick up a big 3rd and 10 by hitting Marqise Lee for 11 yards to put hte ball on the 38. A few runs later and a Rams challenge would put the ball at 3rd and inches from the 11 yard line. They would call a play action pass looking for Ebron in the middle of the field while the Rams were expecting another QB sneak from Prescot. Ebron would be open and take it in for 6 to give the Redskins a 23-27 lead.
The Rams would try to answer and with just under 6 minutes left they would still be able to use the ground game. Some heavy running by Dixon and Jones would get them to the Washington 34 yard line but a 4th and 3 Jones would come up 2 yards short. With only a minute left the Redskins would force LA to burn its timeouts and put the game on their D. With 40 seconds left with the ball on their own 20 Luck wasn't able to get anything going and Washington would head to the Super Bowl.
IFL DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS
PATRIOTS 45 TITANS 21
New England jumped out to a 35-7 halftime lead thanks to three Bradford to Jordy Nelson TD passes in route to a 45-21 win over Tennessee.
Sam Bradford threw for 347 yards and 5 TD passes, while Jordy Nelson caught 10 balls for 197 yards and 4 TDs.
Beckham Jr caught 8 for 154 and scored all three Titan TDs.
New England was hit hard by injuries in this one, losing 4 starters along the way. Star WR Antonio Brown (D) and LB Jamie Collins (Q) are both uncertain to play in the AFC Championship game against the Bengals. Starting G Josh Kline was also injured and will miss time.
Congrats to Rick on another strong season.
BENGALS 17 RAIDERS 16
The AFC West champion Oakland Raiders traveled to Cincinnati to take on the AFC Central champion Bengals in the divisional round of the IFL playoffs. The Raiders held off the Colts 26-17 in the wild card round last week.
The Bengals looked like a well oiled machine on their opening drive, going 68 yards on 13 plays and using over seven minutes as Rodgers scrambled in from six yards out to give Cincinnati the early 7-0 lead.
The teams would exchange punts until Oakland put together a five play 90 yard drive with Bernard going in to tie the game from four yards out with about six and a half minutes left in the half. Travis Kelce's 46 yard reception was the key play of the drive.
The Bengals offense continued to sputter going three and out. The Raiders struggled as well until their final possession of the half as Stafford found Benjamin for a couple first downs setting up a Myers 29 yard field goal to end the half giving Oakland a 10-7 lead.
The Raider offense continued to march down the field to begin the second half. Stafford hit Wallace for 18 and Moncrief for 23. But the Cincinnati defense stiffened and Oakland had to settle on another Myers field goal to extend their lead to 13-7.
The Bengals finally got a big play as Rodgers connected with Jeffery for a 50 yard score as Cincinnati regained the lead 14-13 with about nine minutes remaining in the third.
Oakland begin their march to regain the lead eating up all but one minute remaining in the third quarter. The Raiders recovered two of their own fumbles on the drive but at the Cincinnati 13 Stafford was intercepted by Rey to end the threat.
The Bengals moved to their own 40 before Hicks sacked Rodgers resulting in a fumble and an Oakland recovery. The Cincinnati defense held once more as Myers missed the 47 yard field goal attempt.
Cincinnati took over at their own 37 and Gordon burst for 10 yards on the first play. However, after another run for one yard, Rodgers was intercepted by Slay. The Raiders drove to the Cincinnati seven but a offensive pass interference penalty moved Oakland back ten yards and they had to settle on another Myers field goal attempt. This time the Raider kicker was true from 27 yards out giving the Raiders a 16-14 lead with four minutes remaining in the game.
The Bengals methodically marched up the field. Montgomery ran for seven, Jeffery's caught a pass for 13 yards, Eifert for 10 yards, a Gordon screen pass went for 11 more. Cincinnati was in the 90% success range for a field goal. Meanwhile Oakland started using their time outs. On third and seven with 1:34 remaining Gordon ran for eight to pick up the first. After a couple Gordon dives to center the ball in the middle of the field, Cincinnati called time out with three seconds remaining.. Gould made the 29 yard attempt and the Bengals advance to the AFC Championship game 17-16.
Congrats to Keith on a fine season. His Raiders will be tough again next season.
Stafford finished 25 of 49 for 305 yards and an INT. Kelce caught four passes for 82 yards.
Rodgers went 15 of 26 for 214 yards with a TD and an INT. Jeffery caught six passes for 107 yards and the TD. Gordon rushed 19 times for 69 yards.. He also caught three passes for 58.
Next week the Bengals await the winner of the Tennessee at New England game for the right to represent the AFC in the IFL Super Bowl.
RAMS 33 BUCCANEERS 13
On a hot 84 degree day in Los Angeles the Central Division Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers battled the Los Angeles Rams. The local Angelinos appeared to still be getting used to football's return to Southern California. An unofficial count by a reporter at the game suggested there were more people participating in a Global Warming demonstration at the stadium, citing the unseasonably hot weather, than actual Rams fans. Luckily both teams were well equipped to take advantage of the weather, great QBs with explosive wide receivers. The Bucs, combo of Derek Carr, Davante Adams and Desean Jackson can shorten a defensive coordinators' life-span. The Rams were a team though that could keep pace, with Andrew Luck AJ Green and TY Hilton. As it turned out the deep passing game played an important role in the outcome of the game, but instead of the number of completed deep passes determining the outcome it was the timing of the deep passes (complete or incomplete) that turned out to be important.
Rams won the toss and deferred. Unfortunately that meant the Rams had to start the game by kicking to Cordarelle Patterson, he of a 33 yards per return average. He caught the first kick 5 yards deep and nearly broke free. He only made it to the 29, but the Rams coach was clearly shaken by the decision to kick deep to Patterson. He immediately fired the Special Teams coach during the game, the Rams from then on squibbed kickoffs, without much better results. When asked about Patterson after the game coach Heaton simply stated "He sucks to play against, sucks big time."
The Buccaneers first drive would fizzle after a key holding penalty. The Rams took over at their 20 yard line. The Bucs defense to start was dialed in to the Rams game plan. Whether it was home-field advantage or a soft spot Koch has for Los Angeles, two key third down conversions by penalty and a Luck scramble kept the drive alive. Still the Rams went immediately into another 3rd down. The next play was a key one, a deep fly to AJ Green went for 36 yards. Rams offense was in business and eventually a 12 yard Mark Ingram run put the Rams up, 7-0. The Bucs second drive turned into a 3 and out in what would be a theme for their offense in the 1st half, an incomplete check down on a deep pass attempt on 3rd and 1. Rams next possession leads to a Field Goal, 10-0 Rams. After a couple punts the Bucs found some footing, a short drive leads to a Field Goal 10-3 Rams. Bucs force another Rams punt, the next drive was an important turning point in the game. The Bucs sat 3rd and 3 at the Rams 22. Bucs coach Mike Chase staying aggressive calls another deep pass and catches the Rams in a short zone pass defense, but again it was incomplete. Bucs settle for a field goal, 10-6 Rams. The Rams put together a drive to end the half adding another field goal despite some questionable clock management, 13-6 Rams.
Rams get the ball in the situation they hoped for after ending the half with a score a chance to really extend the lead. But the Bucs pass defense stifled the drive and once again Rams settle for a Field Goal, 16-6 Rams. Bucs trying to stay within striking distance needed points on the next drive. They pushed the ball to the Rams 42 and faced a 3rd and 2. The Bucs, with a game plan you had to love, were just going for it. Again another deep pass attempt, but still Carr couldn't connect. Now 4th and 2, what would the Bucs do, Go Deep! But the Bomb wasn't there so Carr scrambled, but was stripped and the Rams recovered. Rams methodically drive the ball to the 32 yard line when Luck hit RB James White on a short pass. White broke a tackle and took it to the house, 23-6 Rams. The Bucs, time running out, got to the Rams 33 and faced a 4th down. This time a Gurley dive was stuffed. The Rams again capitalized, scoring another touchdown, 30-6 Rams. The Bucs fought all the way to the end even as it looked bleak. They scored a touchdown and recovered an onside kick, but that drive fizzled out after the Bucs did not convert a 4th down essentially ending the game.
It was not as explosive an offensive game as initially expected, the Rams offense was fairly efficient boosted by some key Andrew Luck scrambles. The Bucs had success running the ball, but hard trouble finding the range on those deep passes sometimes even against favorable coverages.
The Bucs end the season 11-7, Division Winners, winning a playoff game with impressive seasons by QB Derek Carr and their Wide Receives. Congrats to Mike on a great season and a great game plan.
The Rams await the outcome of the Saints and Redskins two teams the Rams know well for different reasons.
Bucs playoff game Stars:
Spencer Ware 18 Carries 81 yards
Desean Jackson 6 catches 86 yards
Cordarelle Patterson (mainly just pure fear factor)
Rams playoff game Stars:
Andrew Luck 20-29 265 yards and 1 Touchdown
T Y Hilton 9 catches 93 yards
Ryan Succop 4-4 Field Goals
REDSKINS 17 SAINTS 14
This would be a rematch of a regular season game where Dak Prescott would lead a monster time consuming drive for a game winning FG over the Saints. This one would not disappoint and would be played in a cool Washington with heavy 10-20 mph winds playing a big role in the game. Nola would get the ball first with the wind at their back and get it to midfield but be forced to punt. Washington would go 3 and out and punting in the wind would give the ball right back to Nola at midfield. The Saints would play a little aggressive and go for it on 4th down turning it over to the Redskins in good field position. The Skins would punt it back to the Saints just as quickly and this song and dance would go on for the rest of the 1st quarter. At the very end of the 1st on their own 27 Colquitt would launch the final play of the 1st with the wind at his back and hit a 73 yard punt that would go out the back of the endzone.
With the wind finally at their back Washington had some hope to move the ball through the air but Prescott would throw a pick and Nola would take over at the Redskin 30. Faced with a 3rd and 7 a 11 yard screen pass to Asiata would keep it going and Stewart would punch it in from 3 yards out for the first score of the game. The Redskins would respond with a nice drive themselves as Prescott would finally settle in but instead of 7 they would have to settle for a FG. Nola would go 3 and out and the Skins would get the ball again. They would push the ball to the 50 with 46 seconds left and a 4th and 3 coming up. With the wind in their favor and realizing Nola would have to move the ball pretty far into the wind for a FG chance the Skins went for it. Unfortunately they would not succeed as Perkins would be stopped for no gain. Nola would fail to capitalize so they would go into halftime up 7-3.
In the 2nd half Washington would again take advantage of the weather and move the ball on a long time consuming drive to move the ball into FG range. Again they would have to settle for 3 but would close the gap to 7-6. THe saints would again go 3 and out giving the ball back to the Redskins on the 26 yardline. On 3rd and 2 Prescott would hit Marqise Lee on a short slant that he would take 58 yards. One play later Hill would punch it in from 8 yards out. Up 12-7 with 4 minuets left in the 3rd the Redskins knew they were about to lose the wind in a defensive struggle so they rolled the dice and went for 2. Prescott would take the bootleg and convert giving them a 14-14 lead. The Saints would finally wake up on offense and put together their own time consuming drive and hit Dez Bryant for a 30 yard TD to tie it up. Washington and the Saints would trade long drives but neither could put any points on the board. The 4th would end on a Prescott fumble in Saints territory but time was on nobodies side as that would end regulation.
In overtime the Redskins would get the ball first but have to go into the wind. a few plays and a penalty would have them at the 25 yard line but then on 1st down Paul Perkins would fumble and the Saints would recover. We would now be entering sudden death. The Saints starting from the 25 would put together a promising drive but at midfield the yellow flags started to fly stalling the drive and forcing a punt.
The Skins would be forced to punt it to the Saints who would then be backed up at the 1 yard line. They would move the ball some but then be forced the punt. The Redskins would then mount another drive and get into comfortable field goal range to win 17-14.
IFL WILDCARD WEEKEND