Super Bowl XLVII: We look at how the baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers made it to New Orleans
By Paul Higham Twitter: @SkySportsPaulH. Last Updated: 25/01/13 2:54pm
Eight teams made it to the post-season dance, but only two were still left standing as they extended their run all the way to Super Bowl XLVII.
We have twists and turns at every step of the way, including Baltimore somehow beating Denver in Denver thanks to a last-minute Hail Mary touchdown, ending Payton Manning's season.
Colin Kaerpernick exploded onto the scene as well with his all-action quarterback play eventually firing the 49ers to the big game for the first time since 1995, while the Falcons finally won a play-off game but could not make it all the way.
Tom Brady also fell one game short of an immediate return to the Super Bowl, as Ray Lewis booked himself a retirement party on the biggest stage of all.
Here we run down the play-off picture and how the two teams made it to the Super Bowl in New Orleans.
Again the Falcons made a fast start, with Matt Ryan and Julio Jones picked apart the Niners secondary for two of the three TDs in a 17-0 lead. However, it was another comeback game as the 49ers defence responded superbly in the second half, as they held the Falcons without a single point. Colin Kaepernick maintained a calmness way beyond his years and Frank Gore ran in two scores, while tight end Vernon Davis had a big game with a TD and some crucial catches from his young QB. Atlanta had a chance late on but the 49ers defence held strong to book their place in Super Bowl XLVII.
History all over the field at Foxborough, with Ray Lewis moving his retirement party to New Orleans and John Harbaugh joining his brother Jim on the sidelines at Super Bowl XLVII. Again it was another comeback, and again the home side were held pointless in the second half as the Ravens defence turned the screw on Brady and company. The Patriots could not get anything going all night really, and Joe Flacco proved all his doubters wrong with yet another road play-off win, connecting mainly with Anquan Boldin. Ray Rice also had a solid game at running back as the Ravens avenged last year's AFC title defeat.
Ray Rice celebrates as Baltimore beat Denver
What a game! The Broncos had it in the bag until Joe Flacco's last-ditch Hail Mary to Jacoby Jones forced the game into overtime. It went to double overtime in the end and Peyton Manning threw a vital interception right at the end and Baltimore capitalised to kick the winning field goal to put them into the AFC title game.
This one was all about Colin Kaepernick as he exploded onto the scene. On just his eighth NFL start, he responded to throwing a pick six on his first drive by ripping the Packers defence to shreds with his arm and his legs to send the 49ers to Atlanta. Green Bay simply had no answer to the dual-threat quarterback.
Tom Brady was at his best as he pulled apart the Texans defence to put New England into yet another AFC title game. Brady won a record 17th play-off game, eclipsing the great Joe Montana in the process, while running back Shane Vereen had a field day with three touchdowns to sink Houston who could not roll with the Pats' hurry-up offence.
Matt Ryan and Mike Smith finally got the play-off monkey off their backs as they ended their long wait for a post-season victory, but they were made to work hard and sweat for it by a tough Seahawks side. Russell Wilson stormed back from 20-0 down to put Seattle 28-27 ahead in the final minute, but Ryan responded with a quick drive to set-up the winning field-goal.
Only the second all-rookie quarterback battle in play-off history went all RGIII's way early on with two TD throws putting the Skins 14-0 up, but Seahawks QB Russell Wilson was the last man standing, quite literally, as Griffin's knee gave way just as Washington did.
Revenge was sweet for the Packers, who missed a bye thanks to a loss in Minnesota the week before, but even the super-human Adrian Peterson could not help the Vikes this time around.
Ray Lewis came dancing and screaming onto the field, and Ravens fans responded by cheering his every move as his last home game ended in victory and Baltimore extended his glittering career for one more game at least.
After a late-season struggle for Houston, many fancied the Bengals to avenge last season's play-off loss, but it never looked likely as the Texans proved too good - especially on defence.