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January 20, 2014

NFL Wolverines: And then there were none

Former Michigan quarterback Tom Brady and the New England Patriots fell to Denver in the AFC Championship Game, while center Jonathan Goodwin and the San Francisco 49ers lost to Seattle in the NFC title contest. That means there are no Wolverines left standing in the NFL playoffs for the first time.

Brady completed 24 of 38 passes for 277 yards and a touchdown in a 26-16 setback, only his fifth loss in 15 head-to-head matchups with quarterback Peyton Manning. The numbers were solid, but the Patriots trailed most of the game and Brady missed a few passes he'd normally make, including two long ones to wide receiver Austin Collie that could have been difference makers.

"I just overthrew them," he said in his postgame press conference. "We definitely had some chances on third downs and I had a chance down some lanes, and I certainly wish I would've made that. It's a tough day for our team. We fought hard and we came up short against a pretty good team."

"We just didn't make enough plays. Certainly early, we didn't get third downs to go down the field and score points or move the ball. We got in a hole. It was just too tough to dig our way out." We didn't do much of anything at the beginning of the game. We didn't pass it and it was hard because we didn't complete those third downs. It is hard to get into the run game when you have two three and outs to start the game. It's hard to be productive when you aren't getting third downs. The third down conversions early were not good and we just didn't make enough plays."

The Patriots finished six for 12 on third down but only two for six in the first half when the Broncos opened a 13-3 lead. It quickly became 20-3, and it was 26-10 late before Brady scored on a five-yard scramble with 3:07 remaining to make the score more respectable. It was all but over when Denver recovered the onside kick.

Brady and the Patriots enjoyed another outstanding season, finishing 13-5 despite a lack of playmakers and a number of injuries. The veteran didn't put up gaudy numbers in the regular season - he completed 380 of 628 passes for 4,343 yards with 25 touchdowns and 11 interceptions - but the Patriots won the AFC East and overachieved.

"Certainly for the New England Patriots we want to win every time we take the field," he said. "We did a decent job to get ourselves to this position …

"I think this team is a resilient, tough, team. We just got beat today by a team that played really well and a good football team that plays really well at home. We have a good team. We just didn't play well today. One team gets to advance, and that's the NFL Playoffs."

Brady and Goodwin, the 49ers' starting center, were the only two Wolverines left standing heading into weekend play, though former Michigan quarterback Jim Harbaugh coaches the 49ers and wide receiver Mario Manningham was on San Francisco's injured reserve with a knee injury.

Goodwin recovered a fumble and advanced it for a two-yard gain in his team's 23-17 loss at Seattle. Manningham, meanwhile, missed the last two regular season games with a knee injury and went back on injured reserve before San Francisco's 23-20 win at Arizona in week 17, so he didn't play in the 49ers' 23-10 NFC divisional win at Carolina. He hauled in nine receptions for 85 yards through six games (three starts) in the regular season after returning from the physically unable to perform list.


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