In elite company
Bill Belichick has won five conference championships as a head coach, tied with Tom Landry for the second most in the Super Bowl era (since 1966). The only head coach to bring his team to the Super Bowl more often is Don Shula (6).
Bill Belichick has the third-best winning percentage of any coach in postseason history to have coached at least 10 postseason games. A win Sunday in the AFC Championship Game will move him past Raiders coach Tom Flores into second place all-time, behind only the legendary Vince Lombardi.
Off to a rousing start
With Saturday's divisional playoff victory over the Green Bay Packers, the San Francisco 49ers' Jim Harbaugh became the fifth coach since 1970 to reach the conference championship game in each of his first two seasons as a head coach. Three of the four to accomplish this feat -- Don McCafferty, George Seifert and Barry Switzer -- won a Super Bowl in one of those two years. Only Rex Ryan, whose New York Jets reached conference championship games following the 2009 and 2010 seasons, did not win a Super Bowl.
Successive success in postseason
From 1991-96, the Jimmy Johnson/Barry Switzer-led Dallas Cowboys went a record six consecutive seasons with a postseason win. John Harbaugh has led his Baltimore Ravens to least one postseason win in five consecutive seasons, placing him in a tie with coaches such as John Madden, Mike Holmgren, Andy Reid and Bill Belichick (2003-07).
Knowing nothing but winning
For Mike Smith and John Harbaugh, five consecutive winning seasons to start their coaching careers places them in a tie for fourth place all time, behind George Seifert (eight), Mike Holmgren (eight) and Bill Cowher (six). Seifert won Super Bowls in his first and sixth years, and Holmgren won the Super Bowl in his fifth year. Although Cowher reached the Super Bowl in his fourth year, he did not win until his 14th year. Of the three other coaches with five consecutive wins to start their coaching careers -- Mike Tomlin, Mike Sherman and Chuck Knox -- only Tomlin won a Super Bowl.
Kevin Terrell/Associated Press
The gold standard
The San Francisco 49ers are the only remaining team with a defense ranked in the top half of the NFL in total defense. They had the NFL's third-ranked defense during the regular season (294.4 yards per game). The Baltimore Ravens had the 17th-ranked defense (350.9 YPG), the Atlanta Falcons had the 24th-ranked defense (365.6 YPG) and the New England Patriots had the 25th-ranked defense (373.3 YPG).
Is eight enough?
With a win Sunday, the New england Patriots will advance to their eighth Super Bowl, tying the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers for the most Super Bowl appearances.
When Brady is at his best
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has won five conference championship games, tied with John Elway for the most conference titles in the Super Bowl era (since 1966). Brady has now reached the AFC Championship Game in seven of the 11 seasons in which he has started 14-plus games. He is 5-1 in conference championship games and 3-0 in conference championship games at home.
Brady will start his seventh AFC Championship Game (fourth at home) on Sunday. His seventh start in a conference championship game will tie him with Joe Montana (six NFC, one AFC) for the most all-time. Brady's start on Sunday will give him one more AFC Championship Game start than both Elway and Terry Bradshaw.
Brady has passed for 5,629 yards in his playoff career, the fourth-most all-time. With 227 yards against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, he will pass Montana, Peyton Manning and Brett Favre, in that order, to become the all-time leader in postseason passing yardage.
In familiar territory
The New England Patriots are 14-3 (.824) all time in home playoff games, the best among teams with at least 10 home playoff games. The Baltimore Ravens are 8-5 (.615) all time in road playoff games, the best among teams with at least 10 road playoff games. No other team that has played a minimum of 10 road playoff games has a winning record in such games.
Joe Mahoney/Associated Press
Who says you need momentum entering playoffs?
The Baltimore Ravens lost three of their last four games entering the playoffs. With their win in the divisional playoff round, the Ravens became only the second team since 1990 to win more than one playoff game after losing three of their final four regular-season games. The 2009 New Orleans Saints are the only other team to accomplish this feat.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has won seven games in his postseason career, including five on the road. New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning is the only other quarterback in NFL history to have won five postseason road games. A Ravens win Sunday will break Flacco's tie with Manning, giving him his sixth career playoff road win. It would also be Flacco's second road playoff win at Gillette Stadium, which would make him the only quarterback to defeat Bill Belichick's New england Patriots twice at home in the postseason.
Among the all-timers
The NFC Championship Game features the two active NFL players with the most career receiving touchdowns, receiving yards and receptions. San Francisco 49ers receiver Randy Moss leads all active players in receiving TDs (156) and receiving yards (15,292), and is second in receptions (982). Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez leads all active players in receptions (1,242) and is second in receiving TD (103) and receiving yards (14,268).
The San Francisco 49ers are the eightth team to make back-to-back conference championship games with different starting quarterbacks since 1970. The last team to do so was the 1986-87 Washington Redskins. Starting quarterback Jay Schroeder (the starter in 1986) suffered a separated shoulder in the opening game of the 1987 season and was replaced by Doug Williams. Though Schroeder was able to return later in the season, the team handed the reigns to Williams for the playoff run. With Williams at the helm, the Redskins won Super Bowl XXII against the Denver Broncos.
Paul Spinelli/Associated Press
In a sack slump
San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith had 19.5 sacks this season, second-most in the NFL. All 19.5 sacks came in his first 13 games; Smith does not have a sack in his last four games, including the divisional playoff round. Smith's last sacks came in Week 14 against the Miami Dolphins, when he sacked Ryan Tannehill twice.
Why they call him 'Matty Ice'
Matt Ryan has more game-winning drives (23) than any other quarterback since entering the league in 2008. Including the playoffs, that number is four more than Drew Brees and five more than Peyton Manning.
Ready for a run
The San Francisco 49ers' Colin Kaepernick is coming off the greatest rushing performance by a quarterback in NFL history (181 yards). He will face an Atlanta Falcons defense that allowed the fifth-most rushing yards to quarterbacks during the regular season.
Two of the top six single-game rushing yardages by quarterbacks came against the Falcons this season. Both were by Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (116 yards in Week 14, 86 in Week 4). Because of his size-speed combination, Kaepernick is frequently compared to Newton (Newton is 6-foot-5, 245 pounds; Kaepernick is 6-foot-4, 230 pounds). Newton has more rushing yards against the Falcons (285) than he has against any other team in his two-season career.
More Photo Essays:
- Fantasy best fits for 2014
- Throwback Thursday - Michael Irvin
- All-Time Team - Green Bay Packers
- Mind-blowing stats for free agency
- Throwback Thursday - Extraordinary Combine Busts
- Mind-blowing stats for the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine
- Throwback Thursday - Wish you could've stayed
- NFL players from historically black colleges
- Top 10 coaching change fantasy winners