Jan. 6 (Bloomberg) -- The San Francisco 49ers overcame the Green Bay Packers and sub-freezing temperatures to become the third visiting team to win in the National Football League’s four opening-round playoff games.
Phil Dawson made a 33-yard field goal as time expired to lift the 49ers to a 23-20 victory over the Packers yesterday at Lambeau Field in Wisconsin, where the temperature was 2 degrees Fahrenheit (-17 Celsius) in the final quarter, with a wind chill that made it feel like minus-13.
The game was played before an Arctic blast reached the city, so the cold weather didn’t rival -- as some meteorologists speculated -- the league’s record-low temperature of minus-13 degrees at Lambeau Field for the 1967 NFL Championship game between the Packers and Dallas Cowboys. While the temperature was 5 degrees at kickoff yesterday, the National Weather Service has said it might feel like minus-50 in Green Bay today when factoring in the wind chill.
“It wasn’t that cold, it’s all mental,” said 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who opted against long sleeves as he passed for 227 yards and a touchdown while rushing for a game-high 98 yards on seven carries.
The San Diego Chargers also won on the road yesterday, taking advantage of four Bengals’ turnovers for a 27-10 upset in Cincinnati. The Bengals had been favored by 6 1/2 points after winning all eight of their games at home this season.
The New Orleans Saints two days ago won their first road playoff game in six chances dating back to 1967, defeating the Philadelphia Eagles 26-24 on Shayne Graham’s 32-yard field goal as time expired.
The Indianapolis Colts were the only home team to win during the NFL’s wild-card round, erasing a 28-point deficit for a 45-44 win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Jan 4. It was the second-biggest comeback in an NFL playoff game, trailing only Buffalo’s rally from 32 points down in a 41-38 win over the Houston Oilers in an AFC wild card game on Jan. 3, 1993.
The 49ers, the defending National Football Conference champions, improved their record to 13-4 with yesterday’s win in Green Bay and now advance to a second-round matchup against the Carolina Panthers (12-4).
The Panthers won 10-9 in San Francisco on Nov. 10 and the point spread is even for their Jan. 12 rematch with the 49ers in Charlotte, according to the Las Vegas Hotel’s SuperBook.
“We owe them for the last time they came to our house,” Kaepernick said in his postgame news conference.
The Seattle Seahawks (13-3), the NFC’s top seed, host the Saints (12-5) in the other divisional semifinal. The Seahawks are 8 1/2-point favorites, according to the LVH SuperBook.
The Chargers (10-7) move on to face the top-seeded Denver Broncos (13-3) in the second round. The Broncos were beaten in Denver by the Chargers 27-20 on Dec. 12 -- their only home loss of the season -- yet are listed by oddsmakers as 10-point favorites for their playoff rematch after a season in which they set an NFL-record for points-scored.
“We know what’s ahead of us; it’s a tough task,” Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said. “Our defense will be excited about the challenge of Peyton Manning and that offense. We’ll go and see if we can score one more point than they do.”
In the other AFC matchup, the New England Patriots (12-4) are home to the Colts (12-5), who had trailed 38-10 in the third quarter against the Chiefs. Andrew Luck passed for 443 yards and four touchdowns in leading the Indianapolis comeback.
“They’ve shown a lot of mental toughness,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said of the Colts. “To be that far behind in the third quarter, it didn’t look too good for them and all of a sudden in a hurry you could feel them coming back, or at least I could. They’re a very explosive and dangerous team.”
The Patriots, who have won 13 straight home games, are listed as 7 1/2-point favorites.
Underdogs won three of the first four playoff games, with the 49ers the lone favorite to pull out a win.
San Francisco, who were three-point favorites according to oddsmakers, trailed 17-13 in the fourth quarter before Kaepernick connected with Vernon Davis for a 28-yard touchdown pass. After the Packers tied the score 20-20 on Mason Crosby’s second field goal of the game, Kaepernick drove the 49ers 65 yards for the winning kick. Kaepernick broke free for an 11-yard run on a 3rd-and-8 play from the Packers’ 38-yard line.
“Colin Kaepernick is a clutch performer,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said at a news conference.
The Saints won as 3-point underdogs, while the Colts had been 1 1/2-point underdogs at kickoff. The Chargers were the biggest underdogs in the opening round after winning their final four regular-season games to slip into the playoffs.
“We were left for dead five weeks ago when we were 5-7,” Rivers said. “We’ve been in that playoff mode for a month now and just want to keep it going.”
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