Over the weekend we saw what was perhaps the best Divisional round weekend in NFL Playoff history. We saw four games between eight phenomenal teams looking to make their way into their respective conference championships.
The Cincinnati Bengals went to Tennessee to face the Titans, the 49ers flew to the tundra that is Green Bay to visit the Packers, the Rams headed to Tampa Bay in the "Game of the Week" and finally the Chiefs hosted the Bills in last year's AFC Championship rematch.
For the NFC picture; 49ers @ Packers and Rams @ Buccaneers, the expected victors were the top two seeded Packers and Buccaneers. These two teams led by their hall-of-fame Quarterbacks were both at home and are the top vote earners for this year's MVP-voting. Unbelievably, both teams would struggle scoring in the first half and would lose to their opponents in drastic fashion.
Tom Brady had a chance to comeback after being down 27 - 3 with twenty-two minutes left in the game, (stop me if this sounds familiar). The G.O.A.T. rallied his buccaneers to tie the game with forty-two seconds left behind Leonard Fournette's second TD of the half. Matthew Stafford had one opportunity to reach his first ever NFC Championship and would not take it lightly, setting up Matt Gay to kick a game-winning thirty-yard field goal as time expired, beating the Buccaneers 30 - 27.
If the Bucs-Rams game was a fast-paced, point-accruing fight between two high-flying middleweights, the other showing this conference had to offer was more of a heavyweight slugfest where the shots came in slow, but with great timing and brute strength. The 49ers faced off with the Packers at Lambeau field in a frigid four degree climate. The Packers would get off to a hot start, driving sixty-nine yards to get a touchdown on their very first drive. The next touchdown wouldn't be scored for another forty-seven minutes of game play. With just under five minutes to play and the 49ers trailing by a score of 10 - 3, 49er safety Talanoa Hufanga blocked a Green Bay punt in their own red zone and returned it for a berserk touchdown to tie the game. 'Giving the ball to Aaron Rodgers with four minutes left in tie game? We're not scared' said San Francisco. Another defensive stop led to a chance for captain kicker Robbie Gould to send the red and gold to their second NFC Championship in three years and sent that ball right down the pipe to beat the Packers 13 - 10.
The AFC picture was even more thrilling for the most part. The Bengals had their best game all year against the top-seeded Titans with a returning Derrick Henry. On the other side, Patrick Mahomes versus Josh Allen seems to be becoming the best game of the year in their annual playoff meeting.
The Bengals travelled to Tennessee with Joey Franchise entering his first road playoff game against the Titans with Derrick Henry coming back from his toe injury. Little did Joe know his biggest obstacle was going to be his offensive line, finishing with a total of nine sacks against. The last time a QB was sacked nine times and still own a playoff game was Donovan McNabb in 2003. Luckily for the Bengals, Joe Burrow is Joe Burrow. After a hard fought game back and forth, and immediately after a ten-point comeback by the Titans in the third quarter, kicker Evan McPherson hit a fifty-two yard field goal to send the Bengals to their first AFC Champiobship since 1989, breaking the longest drought in the NFL at the time.
The last game and CERTAINLY not least, was reserved for the Celtics-versus-Lakers-esque rivalry in the making between the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs. The two teams that had a barnburner in the AFC Championship last year would meet again with another semi-final birth being the prize.
This entire game was amazing, but just listing the last two minutes of regulation is enough to give someone high blood pressure so lets go for it. With 1:54 left the Bills would strike Gabriel Davis for his third TD of the game to go up 29 - 26. Following suit, Mahomes and Tyreek Hill would connect for a sixty-four yard catch and run score for Hill's fourth career postseason TD to go up 29 - 33 with 1:02 on the clock. Saying "Match That", Josh Allen would again connect with Gabriel Davis for a nineteen-yard bullet for Davis' FOURTH TD OF THE GAME, leaving the scoreboard at 36 - 33 with only :13 seconds left, definitely finishing the game right?! Nope, Mahomes would crush two twenty-yard passes in eleven seconds to set up the game-tying field goal and send the game into overtime as three-quarters of the viewers had cried, passed out and come back to life twice over. Mahomes would of course score a touchdown in the first drive being lucky enough to win the coin toss for overtime.
This was the craziest game of the craziest weekend of NFL Playoff football in a very long time and possibly ever. Both teams and both quarterbacks deserve all of the praise in the world and will be in this position for the next decade at least. Unfortunately for the Bills, only one team could win, Mahomes happen to be hot and get the first drive of overtime and the Bills defense was overwhelmed by the best passing attack of the last ten years once again. Cheers to the Chiefs but let's be honest, us as fans are truly excited for next year's matchup already.
Make sure you check out our continued coverage of the NFL Playoffs with this week's NFL Conference Championship Preview by Chris Hetu coming this Friday, January 28.
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