The National Football League playoffs for the 2014 season began on January 3, 2015. The postseason tournament concluded with the New England Patriots defeating the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX, 28–24, on February 1, at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
Further information: NFL playoffs § Current playoff system
Within each conference, the four division winners and the two wild card teams (the top two non-division winners with the best overall regular season records) qualified for the playoffs. The four division winners are seeded 1 through 4 based on their overall won-lost-tied record, and the wild card teams are seeded 5 and 6. The NFL does not use a fixed bracket playoff system, and there are no restrictions regarding teams from the same division matching up in any round. In the first round, dubbed the wild-card playoffs or wild-card weekend, the third-seeded division winner hosts the sixth seed wild card, and the fourth seed hosts the fifth. The 1 and 2 seeds from each conference then receive a bye in the first round. In the second round, the divisional playoffs, the number 1 seed hosts the worst surviving seed from the first round (seed 4, 5 or 6), while the number 2 seed will play the other team (seed 3, 4 or 5). The two surviving teams from each conference's divisional playoff games then meet in the respective AFC and NFC Conference Championship games, hosted by the higher seed. Although the Super Bowl, the fourth and final round of the playoffs, is played at a neutral site, the designated home team is based on an annual rotation by conference.
- * Indicates overtime victory
NFL Playoff schedule
|Away team||Score||Home team||Date||Kickoff|
(ET / UTC-5)
|Wild Card playoffs|
|Arizona Cardinals||16–27||Carolina Panthers||January 3, 2015||4:35 p.m.||ESPN|
|Baltimore Ravens||30–17||Pittsburgh Steelers||January 3, 2015||8:15 p.m.||NBC|
|Cincinnati Bengals||10–26||Indianapolis Colts||January 4, 2015||1:05 p.m.||CBS|
|Detroit Lions||20–24||Dallas Cowboys||January 4, 2015||4:40 p.m.||Fox|
|Baltimore Ravens||31–35||New England Patriots||January 10, 2015||4:35 p.m.||NBC|
|Carolina Panthers||17–31||Seattle Seahawks||January 10, 2015||8:15 p.m.||Fox|
|Dallas Cowboys||21–26||Green Bay Packers||January 11, 2015||1:05 p.m.||Fox|
|Indianapolis Colts||24–13||Denver Broncos||January 11, 2015||4:40 p.m.||CBS|
|Green Bay Packers||22–28 (OT)||Seattle Seahawks||January 18, 2015||3:05 p.m.||Fox|
|Indianapolis Colts||7–45||New England Patriots||January 18, 2015||6:50 p.m.||CBS|
|Super Bowl XLIX|
University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona
|New England Patriots||28–24||Seattle Seahawks||February 1, 2015||6:30 p.m.||NBC|
Under the new U.S. television broadcast contracts that took effect starting this season, TV network coverage was slightly altered. The AFC playoffs were split between CBS and NBC. Each network televised one AFC game in the first two rounds of the playoffs, while CBS held exclusive rights to the AFC Championship Game. The NFC playoffs were televised mainly by Fox, which had rights to all NFC playoff games except for a single Wild Card game televised by ESPN. This marked the first time an NFL playoff game was aired on a cable channel. NBC exclusively televised Super Bowl XLIX. All games were broadcast on Westwood One radio.
Playoff games TV ratings
|Rank||Game||Date||Matchup||Network||Viewers (millions)||TV Rating|
|1||Super Bowl XLIX||February 1, 2015, 6:30 ET||New England Patriots||28–24||Seattle Seahawks||NBC||114.4||47.5|
|2||NFC Championship||January 18, 2015, 3:05 ET||Green Bay Packers||22–28|
|3||Divisional Round||January 11, 2015, 1:05 ET||Dallas Cowboys||21–26||Green Bay Packers||44.4||24.9|
|4||Wild Card Round||January 4, 2015, 4:40 ET||Detroit Lions||20–24||Dallas Cowboys||42.3||23.6|
|5||AFC Championship||January 18, 2015, 6:50 ET||Indianapolis Colts||7–45||New England Patriots||CBS||42.1||22.5|
|6||Divisional Round||January 11, 2015, 4:40 ET||Indianapolis Colts||24–13||Denver Broncos||41.8||23.3|
|7||Divisional Round||January 10, 2015, 4:35 ET||Baltimore Ravens||31–35||New England Patriots||NBC||34.1||19.6|
|8||Divisional Round||January 10, 2015, 8:15 ET||Carolina Panthers||17–31||Seattle Seahawks||Fox||31.0||17.2|
|9||Wild Card Round||January 4, 2015, 1:05 ET||Cincinnati Bengals||10–26||Indianapolis Colts||CBS||28.3||17.0|
|10||Wild Card Round||January 3, 2015, 8:15 ET||Baltimore Ravens||30–17||Pittsburgh Steelers||NBC||27.9||15.8|
|11||Wild Card Round||January 3, 2015, 4:35 ET||Arizona Cardinals||16–27||Carolina Panthers||ESPN||21.7||12.5|
Wild Card Playoffs
Saturday, January 3, 2015
NFC: Carolina Panthers 27, Arizona Cardinals 16
Carolina's defense forced three turnovers and held Arizona to an NFL playoff record low of 78 total yards as they advanced to their first postseason win since the 2005 season.
Short punts by Drew Butler on Arizona's first two drives gave the Panthers excellent field position from the Cardinals' 48-yard line and their own 43-yard line on their first two possessions, which they converted into ten points: A 48-yard Graham Gano field goal and a 13-yard touchdown run by Jonathan Stewart. The Cardinals had to punt again on their next drive, but Panthers receiver Brenton Bersin muffed the kick and Justin Bethel recovered the ball for Arizona on the Carolina 30-yard line. A 15-yard roughing the passer penalty on defensive tackle Charles Johnson and a 14-yard reception by Larry Fitzgerald moved the ball to the 1-yard line, where Ryan Lindley finished the drive with a touchdown pass to tight end Darren Fells on the first play of the second quarter, cutting the score to 10–7.
Carolina responded by moving the ball to the Cardinals' 25-yard line, but came up empty when Gano missed a 43-yard field goal attempt. Later in the quarter, Arizona defensive back Antonio Cromartie intercepted a pass from Cam Newton and returned it 50 yards to the Panthers' 17-yard line. Three plays later, the Cardinals took their first lead of the game, 14–10, on a 1-yard touchdown run by rookie running back Marion Grice. Grice lost the ball as he went into the end zone, and the play was initially ruled a fumble recovered by the Panthers. But after a replay review, the call was reversed on grounds that Grice crossed the goal line before the ball came out of his hands. The Panthers struck back with a 59-yard drive, including Newton's 23-yard completion to receiver Corey Brown, to score on Gano's 39-yard field goal, making the score 14–13 at the end of the half.
In the second half, the Panthers completely took over the game, holding Arizona to just 12 yards from scrimmage. Early in the third quarter, Butler's 31-yard punt gave Carolina the ball on the Cardinals' 39-yard line. On the next play, running back Fozzy Whittaker caught a screen pass from Newton and raced all the way to end zone to retake the lead for his team at 20–14. Then Melvin White forced a fumble from Cardinals kick returner Ted Ginn Jr., which Kevin Reddick recovered for Carolina on the Arizona 3-yard line. Two plays later, Newton's 1-yard touchdown pass to fullback Mike Tolbert increased their lead to 27–14.
At this point, 4:04 remained in the third quarter, but the Panthers defense would shut out Arizona's offense for the rest of the game. In the fourth quarter, the Cardinals had a chance to get back in the game when linebacker Sam Acho forced a fumble while sacking Newton, which safety Rashad Johnson picked up and returned 30 yards to the Panthers' 8-yard line. But on the next play, Lindley was intercepted by linebacker Luke Kuechly. Later on, they got another scoring chance when Panthers punter Brad Nortman fumbled a snap and was forced out of bounds at the Panthers' 47-yard line. But once again the Cardinals lost a turnover, this time an interception by safety Tre Boston. Arizona would not score again until Nortman deliberately downed the ball in the end zone for a safety with three seconds left on the clock, making the final score 27–16.
Lindley, filling in for injured starter Carson Palmer and injured backup Drew Stanton, completed 16 out of 28 passes, but for just 82 yards and two interceptions. Newton threw for 198 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, while also rushing for 35 yards. Stewart was the top rusher for the game with 123 yards and a touchdown, and Charles Johnson had 2½ sacks. This was the second time in NFL history that a team made the playoffs with a losing record and still won their first game.
AFC: Baltimore Ravens 30, Pittsburgh Steelers 17
Baltimore forced three turnovers and scored on 6-of-9 possessions to defeat Pittsburgh on the road for the first time in franchise playoff history.
The Steelers scored first with a 43-yard drive, including a 22-yard completion from Ben Roethlisberger to Martavis Bryant, that ended on a 45-yard Shaun Suisham field goal. Baltimore responded with a 9-play, 80-yard drive that gave them a 7–3 lead on Bernard Pierce's 5-yard touchdown run with 12:28 left in the second quarter. Roethlisberger struck back with an 18-yard completion to Antonio Brown and a 30-yarder to tight end Heath Miller that set up Suisham's 22-yard field goal. Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco countered with a 23-yard pass to Steve Smith Sr. and a 19-yard completion to Owen Daniels on the way to a 28-yard field goal by Justin Tucker, making the score 10–6. With 42 seconds left in the half, Suisham kicked a 47-yard field goal that cut the score to 10–9 going into halftime.
On the Ravens' opening drive of the second half, Flacco completed a 17-yard pass to Torrey Smith on third and 12, allowing the team to hang onto the ball and drive to a 45-yard field goal by Tucker. Then after a Steelers punt, Flacco hooked up with Smith Sr. for a 40-yard completion before throwing an 11-yard touchdown pass to Smith, increasing the team's lead to 20–9.
Early in the fourth quarter, Pittsburgh defensive end Stephon Tuitt recovered a fumble from running back Justin Forsett on the Ravens' 45-yard line. Roethlisberger completed a 44-yard pass to Brown on the next play, and eventually got the ball into the end zone with a 6-yard toss to Bryant. Their two-point conversion attempt failed, but the Steelers had cut their deficit to one score at 20–15. However, they would get no closer. Baltimore responded with a 23-yard reception by Daniels that set up Tucker's 52-yard field goal. Then linebacker Terrell Suggs intercepted a pass from Roethlisberger, and Flacco increased the Ravens' lead to 30–15 with a 21-yard touchdown pass to tight end Crockett Gillmore on the next play. The Steelers responded with a drive to the Baltimore 14-yard line, but came up empty when safety Darian Stewart picked off a pass from Roethlisberger in the end zone. Pittsburgh did manage two more points when lineman Shamarko Thomas blocked Sam Koch's punt, knocking the ball through the end zone for a safety. But after the free kick, Stewart put the game away by recovering a fumble from Miller.
Roethlisbeger finished the day 31-for-44 for 334 yards and a touchdown, with two interceptions. His top target was Brown, who caught nine passes for 117 yards. Flacco was 18-for-29 for 255 yards and two touchdowns, while Smith Sr. was the Ravens top receiver with five receptions for 101 yards.
The win gave the Ravens their first postseason victory over the Steelers in four tries, having previously lost to them in 2001, 2008, and 2010, all at Heinz Field. It is the Steelers' first loss in the playoffs against a division opponent since losing to the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1947 NFL Eastern Division playoff, and first-ever postseason loss to an AFC Central/AFC North rival since the 1970 merger.
Sunday, January 4, 2015
AFC: Indianapolis Colts 26, Cincinnati Bengals 10
Missing their starting two receivers (Marvin Jones and A. J. Green), their top two tight ends (Tyler Eifert and Jermaine Gresham), and their starting right tackle (Andre Smith), the Bengals' injury-depleted offense could only muster 254 yards, while Indianapolis racked up 484 yards and 26 points.
The Colts scored on their opening drive, advancing the ball 71 yards in nine plays, including a 27-yard burst by Dan Herron, on the way to Herron's 2-yard touchdown run. After an exchange of punts, an 18-yard run by Bengals running back Jeremy Hill and Andy Dalton's 26-yard completion to Rex Burkhead sparked a 74-yard, 9-play drive that tied the game with Hill's 1-yard score.
In the second quarter, Colts quarterback Andrew Luck completed a 30-yard pass to T. Y. Hilton that set up Adam Vinatieri's 38-yard field goal, putting the team back in front at 10–7. Then after a punt, Luck completed a 45-yard pass to Hakeem Nicks, leading to another Vinatieri field goal that made the score 13–7. The Bengals were subsequently forced to punt again, but with just under two minutes left in the half, defensive back Darqueze Dennard forced a fumble from Herron that safety Reggie Nelson recovered and returned six yards to the Cincinnati 41-yard line. Dalton then led the team to the Colts' 39-yard line, where Mike Nugent made a 57-yard field goal, the second longest kick in NFL playoff history, cutting the score to 13–10 going into halftime.
The Colts' defense dominated the Bengals in the second half, forcing them to a three-and-out on their first four drives. On the opposing side, Luck threw a 36-yard touchdown to rookie receiver Donte Moncrief with 7:48 left in the third quarter. Then after a punt, the Colts drove 57 yards and scored on Vinatieri's 22-yard field goal, bringing the score to 23–10. On their next possession, Vinatieri made his fourth field goal of the day, a franchise playoff record 53-yard kick, giving the Colts a 26–10 lead. Meanwhile, the Bengals' following three possessions would result in another punt, a lost fumble by Dalton, and time expiring in the game.
Dalton finished the game 18-for-35 for 155 yards, along with 34 yards on the ground. Luck completed 31 of 44 passes for 376 yards and a touchdown, while also rushing for 18 yards. Hilton was his top target, with six catches for 103 yards. Herron had 56 rushing yards and ten receptions for 85 yards.
The game marked another round of dismal postseason milestones for the Bengals, who have not won a playoff game since the 1990 season, the longest active streak in the NFL. They became the first team in NFL history to lose in the opening round of the playoffs for four consecutive seasons, while coach Marvin Lewis tied Jim E. Mora for the worst coaching record in playoff history (0–6). The Bengals have now lost seven consecutive playoff games, the second highest total ever behind the Detroit Lions and Kansas City Chiefs' record of eight.
NFC: Dallas Cowboys 24, Detroit Lions 20
Dallas faced an early 14-point deficit and trailed for most of the time in regulation, but after a controversial non-call on an apparent pass interference against their defense in the fourth quarter, quarterback Tony Romo led the team 59 yards for the game winning score.
Detroit forced a three-and-out on Dallas' opening possession and then scored on their own with Matthew Stafford's 51-yard touchdown pass to receiver Golden Tate. Later on, Dallas punter Chris Jones pinned the Lions back at their own 1-yard line with a 51-yard kick. The Lions were forced to punt from the 6-yard line, but Cowboys linebacker Dekoda Watson was penalized for running into the punter on the play, giving Detroit a first down. Taking full advantage of their second chance, Detroit ended up driving 99 yards in 14 plays to score on an 18-yard burst by Reggie Bush, giving them a 14–0 lead with less than two minutes left in the first quarter.
There would be no more scoring until 1:50 remained in the second quarter, when Dallas had the ball on their own 24-yard line. Romo fired a pass to receiver Terrance Williams, who caught the ball in stride on a 10-yard slant and took off past the defense for a 76-yard touchdown completion, cutting the score to 14–7. Stafford responded by completing 6-of-8 passes for 59 yards, including a 19-yard completion to Calvin Johnson, on a 59-yard drive that ended with Matt Prater's 39-yard field goal, putting the team up 17–7 going into halftime.
Dallas had a great opportunity to score when linebacker Kyle Wilber intercepted a pass from Stafford and returned it five yards to the Lions' 19-yard line on the first play of the second half. However, after picking up nine yards with their first two plays, Romo was sacked for a 13-yard loss by Ezekiel Ansah on third and 1, and then Dan Bailey missed a 43-yard field goal. Stafford then hooked up with Johnson for a 28-yard completion that led to Prater's 37-yard field goal, increasing Detroit's lead to 20–7. However, Dallas responded with an 80-yard scoring drive, featuring a 43-yard reception by receiver Dez Bryant, that ended with a 1-yard touchdown run by DeMarco Murray on fourth and goal, trimming their deficit to one possession, 20–14.
On the second to last play of the third quarter, Romo threw a 19-yard completion to Cole Beasley. Then on the first play of the fourth quarter, an unnecessary roughness penalty on linebacker Tahir Whitehead turned Beasley's 12-yard reception into a 27-yard gain. The Cowboys were pushed back to the Detroit 33-yard line after Romo was sacked on consecutive plays by Ndamukong Suh, but Bailey made a 51-yard field goal, cutting the score to 20–17. On the Lions' ensuing possession, the most controversial play of the game occurred. Stafford threw a pass intended for tight end Brandon Pettigrew who was being covered by Cowboys rookie linebacker Anthony Hitchens. Hitchens held Pettigrew's jersey before knocking him down as the pass fell incomplete. Back judge Lee Dyer threw a flag for defensive pass interference. After referee Pete Morelli announced the penalty, head linesman Jerry Bergman determined that Hitchens' actions did not warrant a penalty. Morelli then announced there was no foul on the play and the flag was picked up. The decision to change the initial call received significant media attention after the game and was widely decried as incorrect. NFL Vice President of Officiating, Dean Blandino stated that the no-call on pass interference was debatable, but holding definitely should have been called on the play.
The reversed call turned out to be crucial. Detroit tried to force the Cowboys to go offside on fourth and 1, but failed to do so and were penalized five yards for delay of game. Now faced with fourth and 6, Detroit decided to punt, and Sam Martin, who had averaged 48 yards on his last three kicks, shanked the ball, sending it out of bounds after netting just 10 yards to the Cowboys' 41-yard line. Romo then led the Cowboys 59 yards in 14 plays for the game-winning score, converting a fourth down and two third downs along the way. Faced with fourth and 6 from the Detroit 42-yard line, Romo completed a 21-yard pass to tight end Jason Witten. The NFL later admitted that Suh was held on the play despite the game officials' no-call. Later on, Romo threw an incomplete pass on third and 7, but a defensive holding call on DeAndre Levy gave Dallas a first down on the Lions' 7-yard line. Two plays later, on third and 8, Romo finished the drive with a touchdown pass to Williams, giving the Cowboys their first lead of the game at 24–20 with 2:32 left in regulation. A few plays into Detroit's ensuing drive, Stafford lost a fumble that was recovered by Dallas rookie lineman DeMarcus Lawrence. Instead of falling on the ball, he returned it and ended up fumbling it back to Detroit. The Lions got the ball back and drove into Cowboys territory, but on fourth and 3 on the Cowboys' 42-yard line, Lawrence redeemed himself and forced and recovered a fumble from Stafford, enabling the Cowboys to run out the rest of the clock.
Stafford completed 28 of 42 passes for 323 yards and a touchdown, with an interception. Tate caught eight passes for 89 yards and a touchdown, while Johnson had five catches for 85 yards. Romo finished 19-for-31 for 293 yards and two touchdowns. Williams caught three passes for 93 yards and two scores. Murray rushed for 75 yards and a touchdown, while also catching three passes for 22 yards.
Saturday, January 10, 2015
AFC: New England Patriots 35, Baltimore Ravens 31
With only 13 rushing attempts for 14 total yards, New England put the game almost entirely in the hands of quarterback Tom Brady, who proved up to the task, completing 33 of 50 passes for 367 yards and three touchdowns while also rushing for a score as he led the team back from two 14-point deficits to earn their fourth consecutive AFC Championship Game and their ninth in his 14 years as the team's starter.
Baltimore stormed to an early lead on their first drive, as Joe Flacco connected with Steve Smith Sr. for 19 yards and Torrey Smith
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