RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. What a day for NFL fans yesterday. It started with a close game and ended with a decidedly unclose game. Here to talk about those contests and the games coming up today is NPR's Mike Pesca. Hi, Mike.
MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: Hello.
MARTIN: OK. I want to start with the San Francisco 49ers - their amazing victory over the New Orleans Saints. And, Mike, you know me, I do not watch a whole lot of football, but I watched this game last night and I was literally jumping up and down in my living room, for both teams I might add, because it was totally thrilling.
PESCA: Now, did you watch the whole game or the last five minutes or so? Be honest.
MARTIN: OK. It was the last seven minutes. You totally caught me. But they were a gripping seven minutes.
PESCA: And that's how a lot of people watch football. This was a tale of a couple of different games. At first, it seemed like the Saints were going to be the Saints we know with this amazing precision offense driven by Drew Brees. And then when running back Pierre Thomas of the Saints had the ball at the two yard line, Donte Whitner delivered a hit that was so jarring I do think it knocked Pierre Thomas out. He fumbled the ball and San Francisco rolled to a 17-nothing lead. For a while, it was almost a defensive game. It was 23-17 with 17 minutes left. And as soon as it got to about seven minutes and as soon as Rachel Martin began tuning in, the offense...
PESCA: ...obliged with a series of touchdown after touchdown after touchdown after touchdown. When it looked like the Saints had gone ahead with barely any time left, there was just enough time left for the 49ers to come down. They won the game with nine seconds left. Alex Smith connected with his great tight end, record-setting tight end, in fact, Vernon Davis, and that was the game.
MARTIN: It was totally amazing. Somewhat less thrilling, especially for Broncos fans, was the Denver-New England game, with the Patriots and Tom Brady just totally dominating.
PESCA: Right. Not quite as many as twists and turns, unless you're talking about Tim Tebow's body. The Denver quarterback was sacked quite often by the Patriots, although in that case, you have to give the credit to the Patriots' offense. Tom Brady sets this record with five touchdown passes in the first quarter. That probably means you're doing well.
MARTIN: Now, you pretty much called this a week ago when we talked. You said that Tim Tebow had lost his Tebow magic. But we have to say, then he made that unbelievable 80-yard pass at the 11th hour against the Steelers and he won the right to play the Pats. You have to give him credit for that.
PESCA: Right. I called it, but like my predictions are a week off. So, I don't know. I will say this - at the end of the game, Phil Simms, the CBS announcer said, you know, there are still going to be those who say even though Tim Tebow had that 300-yard game against the Steelers two weeks ago, he's not up to snuff as an NFL quarterback. And I was waiting for Phil Simms to say and they're right or they're wrong, but he didn't say anything. I mean, there will be those who say it, even though he's a compelling story. I do think they go into next season really questioning if they have a quarterback who's going to be their quarterback, you know, throughout the year and for the future.
MARTIN: OK. So, looking ahead, what are today's matchups going to deliver?
PESCA: Well, yeah, the matchup that's sort of being overlooked is the Texans versus the Ravens. The Texans were good all year. They lost their quarterback, Matt Schaub. They go into Baltimore with a banged-up team, and the Ravens are a really good team and have a really good defense. Hard to imagine how the Texans win.
MARTIN: And the final game - Green Bay Packers against the New York Giants. Your prediction?
PESCA: The Giants have a great pass rush and that is a great equalizer. I don't know if it'll be enough to equal this Packers offense that's an all-time fantastic offense. The Giants don't have one of the best defenses in the NFL. It will be a long haul for the Giants to win. But who knows? Maybe they can get to Aaron Rodgers and maybe they could do it.
MARTIN: OK. There you have it. NPR's Mike Pesca on all of the NFL drama. Mike, thanks so much.
PESCA: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.