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DENVER, Colorado: Justin Tucker booted a 47-yard field goal in the second overtime yesterday to give the Baltimore Ravens a wild 38-35 victory over the Denver Broncos in the second round of the NFL play-offs.
The improbable victory means Baltimore veteran Ray Lewis -- who says he’ll retire at the end of the season -- isn’t done yet, while quarterback great Peyton Manning’s stellar first season in Denver ended on a disappointing note.
The Ravens advanced to the American Conference (AFC) championship game, where they will face either New England or Houston for a berth in the Super Bowl. The NFL championship spectacular will be played in New Orleans on February 3.
In San Francisco, the 49ers advanced to the National Conference (NFC) championship game with a 45-31 victory over the Green Bay Packers.
San Francisco signal-caller Colin Kaepernick, making his post-season debut, recovered from an early interception to set an NFL rushing record for a quarterback with 181 yards and two scores. He also threw for 263 yards and two touchdowns -- both to Michael Crabtree.
The 49ers next play the winner of today’s game between NFC top seeds Atlanta and Seattle.
Kaepernick, a Wisconsin native who was a fan of the Packers as a youngster, outplayed reigning NFL Most Valuable Player Aaron Rodgers, who threw for 257 yards, two touchdowns and an interception during the match.
“It’s pretty frustrating,” Rodgers said. “To go out and play like that is disappointing. We didn’t do enough on offense to help our defence.”
Kaepernick got off to a rocky start when Green Bay’s Sam Shields picked off his second pass of the game and returned it 52 yards for a touchdown.
“He does a great job of responding. He’s done that every time he’s thrown an interception, safety, or turnover,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. “He’s responded with a scoring drive. That’s a rare quality. He’s shown he’s had the ability to come back.”
The 49ers set a club record for most yards in a play-off game with 579, surpassing their total of 537 yards in a Super Bowl win over Miami after the 1984 season.
“It’s a great accolade. It means a lot to this team,” Kaepernick said of the record.
In Denver, Tucker’s deciding field goal came four plays after the Ravens’ Corey Graham intercepted Manning in Broncos territory for the second time of the game. Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco had connected with Jacoby Jones on a 70-yard touchdown pass with just 31 seconds left in regulation to tie the score at 35-35 and force overtime in the match.
Flacco also hit Torrey Smith for a pair of touchdowns earlier in the game, finishing with 331 passing yards.
Ray Rice contributed 131 rushing yards and a touchdown.
“It was pretty incredible,” Flacco said. “We overcame some things today and we fought until the very end.”
Manning entered the matchup having beaten the Ravens nine consecutive times -- including a pair of post-season contests -- during his long tenure with Indianapolis. He threw for 290 yards and three touchdowns and the two interceptions.
The Broncos, who had won their last 11 regular-season games to claim the top seed in the AFC and a first-round bye, endured their first pla-yoff loss at home since 1996.
Speedster Trindon Holliday delivered a stand-out performance in the defeat, returning both a punt and a kickoff for Denver touchdowns and establishing an NFL play-off record for the longest return for each.
“Unless you’re hoisting that Lombardi Trophy at the end, it’s disappointing,” said Broncos head coach John Fox.
“We had plenty of opportunities in this game, we just came up short,” he added after yesterday’s match. AFP