Buffs In The NFL: Divisional Playoffs
There will be a CU football alum playing in Super Bowl XLVII next month in New Orleans. Whether it is Jimmy Smith or Nate Solder will be determined this Sunday as Baltimore and New England will face off for the AFC Championship (4:30 p.m. MST, CBS).
Smith and Solder are the only former Buffaloes still alive in the 2013 addition of the NFL playoffs as three other Colorado alums were eliminated in the divisional round this past weekend.
In order for Baltimore to advance to the AFC Championship game, they had to defeat Justin Bannan and the No. 1 seed Denver Broncos. To do so, it took two overtimes and one huge tackle from Jimmy Smith.
Denver's Trindon Holliday became the first player in NFL playoff history to return a punt and a kickoff for a touchdown in the same game, and Baltimore had to punt to him one more time with 3:59 remaining in the first overtime period.
Holliday fielded the punt with seemingly no Raven defenders in sight and the end zone on his mind. However, Jimmy Smith was only thinking about bringing Holliday down, and he delivered with one of the most important tackles of his NFL career.
The Broncos ensuing drive would end with an interception, which the Ravens took advantage of and kicked the game-winning field goal early in the second overtime.
Bannan had been working hard in the trenches all game to prevent the end of his 11th season in the NFL. He recorded five tackles in the game and finished the season with 47 total tackles.
Also playing on Saturday was the Green Bay Packers, featuring former Buffs Mason Crosby and Brad Jones. Unfortunately for Crosby and Jones, their season would come to end as well, but both put forth impressive performances in the final game.
Jones capped off his best NFL season thus far in his career by racking up 10 total tackles, nine of which were unassisted during the Packers' 45-31 loss at San Francisco. Crosby connected on his only field goal attempt of the day, coming from 31 yards out.
On Sunday, New England continued its offensive dominance that it has displayed all season as they rolled over Houston, 41-28, and setting up a rematch of last year's AFC Championship game.
With the win, Nate Solder now helps protect the winningest quarterback in postseason play as Tom Brady won his 17th NFL playoff game versus the Texans.
Solder and Smith will meet for the third time during their NFL careers after they played together at CU from 2007-2010 and were drafted in the 2011 NFL Draft. The first time the two former teammates ever faced each other in the professional ranks was during last year's AFC Championship game.
That meeting saw Smith intercept Tom Brady and return the pick 39 yards before being brought down. Yet, it would be Solder and New England that scrapped out a hard-fought 23-20 win to advance to Super Bowl XLVI.
Now a trip to Super Bowl XLVII is on the line, and both Smith and Solder know that only one Buff can move on.