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NFL conference championship games all about rematches

For the second week in a row, the NFL playoffs features games that are rematches from the regular season. The Cardinals and Eagles, who meet for the NFC championship, played once; the Steelers and Ravens, who will play for the AFC title, played twice. Here's a look at how those regular-season meetings played out.

Philadelphia Eagles vs. Arizona Cardinals

Nov. 27 at Philadelphia

What was at stake

The Cards were 7-4 coming in and weren't playing for much because they had a huge lead in the NFC West. The Eagles, however, were 5-5-1, winless in three straight and were trying to salvage their season.

What happened

The Eagles pummeled the Cardinals 48-20 in a game that was even worse than the score. Philadelphia crushed Arizona in virtually every statistic: first downs (32-12), total offense (437-260), rushing (185-25) and time of possession (39:33 to 20:27).

What it meant

It meant the Eagles' season was saved. They went on to win three of their final four regular-season games and to make the playoffs. For the Cardinals, the loss started to make doubters out of everyone, especially when they finished 2-2 in their final four, including a 47-7 loss at New England.

What it told us

Upon reflection, this game didn't tell us a whole lot. First off, it was a Thanksgiving night game, meaning Arizona had to travel cross-country in a short week. But three things jump out about that game. First, Philadelphia QB Donovan McNabb threw four touchdowns. Second, Arizona QB Kurt Warner struggled. He threw three touchdowns but three interceptions as well. He came in with five consecutive 300-yard games but was held to only 235 yards. Finally, the Cards had no answer for Eagles RB Brian Westbrook, who rushed for 110 yards on 22 carries.

Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, Part I

Sept. 29 at Pittsburgh

What was at stake

An early showdown for AFC North supremacy as the Ravens came in 2-0, while the Steelers were 2-1.

What happened

The Steelers won 23-20 on Jeff Reed's 46-yard field goal in overtime. That seemed a high-scoring game for these teams, but that score was deceiving. Neither team reached 250 yards of total offense, though the Ravens did rush for 103 yards. The key for the Steelers was scoring 14 points in a 15-second span in the third quarter.

What it meant

It meant that these two teams really don't like each other. Before the game there were rumors that Ravens players had bounties on Steelers players. Though nothing came of those allegations, the Steelers lost two key players for the season: G Kendall Simmons and RB and first-round pick Rashard Mendenhall.

What it told us

The game told us that the Steelers could have problems matching up against Ravens WR Derrick Mason, who had his highest yardage total of the season, 137 on eight catches.

Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, Part II

Dec. 14 at Baltimore

What was at stake

The AFC North was on the line as the Steelers entered the game with a one-game lead over a Ravens team that had won seven out of eight.

What happened

The Steelers won a controversial 13-9 game on a touchdown catch by Santonio Holmes with 43 seconds left. The third-down play was first ruled just shy of the goal line, but officials determined after looking at a replay that the ball had crossed the line.

What it meant

It meant the Steelers won the AFC North and Baltimore had a little more work to do to secure a wild-card spot.

What it told us

While Ravens QB Joe Flacco had a solid rookie season, he struggled against Pittsburgh in the two meetings. A 60 percent passer for the season, Flacco was 27-for-59 against the Steelers with one touchdown, two interceptions and seven sacks. But this game told us what we already knew: These are the two toughest, meanest and best defenses in the NFL.

NFL conference championship games all about rematches 01/12/09 [Last modified: Monday, January 12, 2009 7:21pm]
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