By: Brian Helsel
This year’s NFL Divisional Round was football heaven for fans. All of the four games that were played this weekend were decided by a game winning field goal, or touchdown. The games were a perfect mix of defensive battles and offensive shootouts.
The Chiefs showdown with the Bills was the game that brought the NFL community into a total frenzy. It was the most hyped up game of the playoffs, and it still exceeded expectations with legendary performances. Bills’ Josh Allen went for 329 yards and 4 touchdowns, with zero interceptions. Patrick Mahomes had 378 yards and 3 touchdowns with zero turnovers himself. Bills’ Gabriel Davis put up a performance for the ages, becoming the first player in postseason history to catch 4 touchdown passes in one game. One of his touchdown receptions was to put the Bills up 36-33 with 13 seconds of regulation remaining, being one of the three lead changes the final 2 minutes of the fourth quarter saw.
It seemed like the Bills were on the verge of making the AFC Championship, until Patrick Mahomes found TE Travis Kelce wide open to get Harrison Butker into field goal range. The game was sent to OT and the Chiefs won the coin toss, and Mahomes drove down his offense for the game deciding touchdown to Kelce. This brought outrage to the NFL’s overtime rules, as a touchdown being scored in the first drive of the period would end the game, preventing the other team from getting the ball. Allen played virtually a perfect game, and still did not get a chance to save the season. “We just ended up on the wrong side of maybe one of the greatest games in postseason history,” Bills center Mitch Morse said. Such a heartbreaking loss for Buffalo, but a game that will be remembered for a long time.
LA Rams’ QB Matt Stafford continues to be on a mission to earn his first Super Bowl, as he took down QB Tom Brady and his Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The game looked like it was going to be the only blowout of the weekend, as Stafford and the superstar-filled Rams were running all over Tampa Bay, leading 27-3. But Tom Brady showed why he’s one of the best to ever do it, tying the game up at 27-27. Stafford then found his number 1 receiver in Cooper Kupp multiple times to get kicker Matt Gay in position to nail a 30 yard field goal to avoid embarassment.
Jimmy Groppalo and the 49ers are back in the NFC Championship after upsetting the #1 seeded Green Bay Packers in a gritty 13-10 score. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers scored on the first drive of the game with an AJ Dillion rushing TD, but would not see the endzone for the rest of the game. The 49ers did not see much offensive success, in fact their offense did not produce a signal touchdown but instead two field goals. But then, the Niners special teams became special, as they blocked a punt into the endzone, to tie the game at 10-10 in the cold, snowy Lambeau Field. Their special teams also blocked a Packers field goal attempt in the first half as well. After a key stop from the defense, the 49ers were able to get Kicker Robbie Gould in field goal range, who continued his perfect accuracy from field goal range for his career, sending San Francisco back into the NFC championship. Now, the Packers front office has decisions to make, with stars Rodgers and WR Devante Adams being free agents. “I don’t think it’s fair to anybody or myself to really go down those paths at this point,” Rodgers said when asked about his future. “It’s disappointing, sad and fresh. I’ll have conversations in the next week or so and start to contemplate after that.”
The other 1st seeded team in the Tennessee Titans also found themselves on the couch a lot earlier than they wanted to, as the young superstar duo of Joe Burrow and Jammar Chase were able to put the Cincinnati Bengals into their first AFC Championship game in 33 years with a score of 19-16. Chase had 5 big receptions, totaling up for 109 out of Burrow’s 348 passing yards. Superstar Derrick Henry returned off what was seen as a season ending football injury, but only ran for 62 yards on 20 attempts. Titans QB Ryan Tanehelli also had an underwhelming performance, throwing for 3 interceptions. One of them being a costly turnover late in the game, to set up Rookie Kicker Evan McPhearson to hit the game winning field goal. “He’s got ice in his veins,” Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor said about the rookie Kicker. “There’s not much more to be said. He’s just as cool as it gets.”
This weekend of the playoffs was considered one of the best weekends in NFL history. Overtime, controversy, legendary performances, game winning plays and every game being wildly entertaining, this Divisional Round had it all. The 49ers will take on the Rams in the NFC Championship, and the Chiefs will showdown with the Bengals.