Updated: Jan 30, 2022
Photo Credit: John Breech of CBS Sports https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/2022-nfl-playoffs-bracket-schedule-times-dates-tv-live-stream-for-every-postseason-game/
Wow! What a weekend the NFL Divisional round gave us fans in what was the greatest weekend of playoff football in NFL history. From the Green Bay Packers disappointing defeat off a field goal to the San Francisco 49ers, to the all-world shootout of fireworks from two of the NFL’s best in Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen, and the Los Angeles Rams led by Matthew Stafford and their stifling defense defeating the GOAT (Greatest of All Time) in Tom Brady and sending him home it was a joy for us fans to watch. But, if you missed it, I got you covered on what happened as the road to Super Bowl LVI continues!
First starting off with the Cincinnati Bengals defeating the Tennessee Titans 19-16, now heading to the AFC Championship game against the Chiefs for the first time in 33 years. Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow might need some ice packs all over him after that game, as he was sacked nine times in the game, making the Bengals the first team to win a playoff game while allowing nine sacks since the 1966 Kansas City Chiefs according to Jeff Kerr of CBS Sports https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/why-this-has-been-the-wildest-nfl-divisional-round-weekend-ever-every-game-won-on-a-walk-off-play/ .
Burrow still somehow managed to throw for 348 yards to help propel his team to victory and one of the biggest victories in franchise history. After the game Burrow stated, "No, I'm tired of the underdog narrative, we're a really, really good team. We're here to make noise and teams are going to have to pay attention to us. We're, like I said, a really good team with really good players and coaches and we're coming for it all."
Both teams struggled to score, as each team scored one touchdown each with Titans running back Derrick Henry scoring for the Titans and Bengals running back Joe Mixon scoring the only touchdown for the Bengals. Outside of that, both teams only scored on field goals, which would end up being what won the game for the Bengals as rookie kicker Evan McPherson kicked a 52-yd field goal as time expired to help upset the Titans and end the franchise’s playoff championship game drought.
Bengals coach Zac Taylor gave hefty praise to his rookie kicker, stating, “He's got ice in his veins, “There’s not much more to be said. He’s just as cool as it gets.”
The Bengals are now looking to get past the powerhouse that is Mahomes and the Chiefs in the AFC Championship game to try to make their first Super Bowl Appearance since 1988. Meanwhile, the Titans will be sent home for the third straight season in disappointing fashion after finishing atop the AFC as the No.1 seed. Their quarterback Ryan Tannehill also didn’t help much by having a night he sure will want to forget, as he threw for three interceptions which helped set McPherson up in field goal range for two of his four kicks.
The Titans have been haunted in the postseason at home by not having won a playoff game since January of 2003. Titans coach Mike Vravel reverberated his distress by stating, “I don't think Ryan or myself or anybody did enough to win the game, That’s how it goes. It's never going to be about one person, not as long as I'm head coach, which will be a while.”
Henry, the 2020 AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year, was just coming back from missing the last nine games with a broken foot and the Bengals defense did a tremendous job in holding him to just 3.1 yards per carry. The Titans showed little awareness of the clock and the turnovers by Tannehill proved too costly to overcome as they will now be sitting at home.
With Tannehill getting criticized for not “being that guy,” another guy who’s getting scrutinized for coming up short in the postseason once again is Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers as he lost to the 49ers 13-10, losing his fourth NFC Championship game since he won the Super Bowl in 2010.The Packers were the best team in the NFC coming in with a (12-3) record and being undefeated at home (8-0) until a disheartening loss against the 49ers. Rodgers is now 0-4 against the 49ers in the postseason in his career and has lost three times in overtime and five times on the final play of the game in the postseason since 2010 according to Packer Central writer Bill Huber https://www.si.com/nfl/packers/news/heartbreak-meter-ranking-packers-playoff-losses-of-rodgers-era#:~:text=GREEN%20BAY%2C%20Wis.%20%E2%80%93%20Green,final%20play%20of%20the%20game.
The Packers special teams failed them and ultimately cost them the game, with the pinnacle being when the 49ers not only blocked a punt but also returned it to the Packers endzone for a touchdown which tied the game at 10 with just 4:41 left in the fourth. The weather conditions were below freezing which made it hard for both quarterbacks to be accurate on their throws in frigid conditions.
Kerr of CBS Sports mentioned how this is the Packers fewest points they have scored (10) in a game that Rodgers played the full game (regular season and postseason). On the 49ers side, Jimmy Garropolo and the offense never ever scored a touchdown with all of their 13 points coming off field goals. This makes the Packer release even more disappointing as the 49ers also had more penalties (five) to the Packers three that cost the 49ers 40 yards and the Packers 25 as well as the Packers being more efficient on third down (41%) to the 49ers (36%). The 49ers won off kicker Robbie Gould’s field goal to help punch their ticket to the NFC Championship game, which is their second appearance in the last three seasons.
The 49ers will now be playing the ferocious defense of the Los Angeles Rams, headlined by All-Pro Aaron Donald and an upgrade from Jared Goff in Matthew Stafford while the Packers will now have to wait on what Rodger’s decides to do, with his future in Green Bay looking like it has come to its end.
Speaking of legendary quarterbacks who’s futures are in the clouds, Brady and the defending champion Buccaneers lost to the Rams 30-27 and will not get a chance to capture his eighth Super Bowl ring. The Rams proved why they were among the best in the league by going up as much as 27-3 in the third quarter to the defending champions. Stafford played an integral role in the Rams victory by throwing for a massive explosion of 366 yards and two touchdowns on a highly efficient 28-of-38 completions.
Rams All-Pro tight end Cooper Kupp who has been a revelation all season and won the prestigious triple crown by leading the NFL in receiving yards, receptions, and receiving touchdowns while also being an MVP candidate played like one by catching for 183 yards on nine receptions for a touchdown. None of his catches were any bigger than the 44-yard pass from Stafford with just 10 seconds left that helped seal the win and helped set up field goal range for Rams kicker Matt Gay to win the game over Brady and the Bucs. Now they will head to the NFC Championship for the first time since they made the Super Bowl in the 2018-19 season when they had Goff as their quarterback.
The Rams were lucky to avoid a meltdown as they were up by 24 points and almost allowed Brady to do what he’s done his whole career by making huge historic comebacks, but, they were lucky to pull off the win and avoid having to have fate decide the coin toss in overtime by having Gay make the game-winning field goal.
Despite Brady having a solid, but not phenomenal game if you watched it the stats can be deceiving as he threw for 329 yards with a touchdown and an interception on an inefficient 30-of-54 completions. This was due to many of his passing targets being gone from last year's championship team in Antonio Brown (released), Chris Godwin (ACL), and Rob Gronkowski not being the same world beater he once was back in his prime with Brady when they were on the New England Patriots.
Mike Evans was the only player who helped Brady as he had eight receptions for 119 yards and a touchdown. The Buccaneers, led by Brady, who has done it all but too many times in his career, almost made a miraculous comeback by scoring 24 unanswered points in the second half after three Rams fumbles, two punts, and a missed 47-yd field goal by Gay that went short. Brady and his squad almost had it, but unfortunately they’ll have to go home now after a bitter defeat.
Last, but not least is “The Game” of the weekend, and that was the iconic duel between two AFC heavyweights in the Chiefs and Bills led by their dynamic quarterbacks in Mahomes and Allen. This might have been the greatest game in NFL history with the Chiefs coming out on top with a 42-36 win in overtime after two gunslinger type performances by Mahomes and Allen. So how did we get to overtime?
Both quarterbacks were pretty much neck-and-neck, with Mahomes throwing for 378 yards and three touchdowns with Allen throwing for 329 yards and four touchdowns. Both didn’t turn the ball over at all and both were extremely sharp on their throws with Mahomes completing 75% of his passes while Allen completed 73% of his.
They didn’t do it alone though, as they both had wide receiver targets that helped make their jobs easy throughout the game. For the Bills, Allen’s main target was wide receiver Gabriel Davis who was a man amongst boys on Sunday, catching eight passes for 201 yards with four touchdowns on 25 yards per catch. Davis was the main target for the Bills and scored all four of their touchdowns.
Meanwhile, on the Chiefs side Mahomes had a variety of receivers scoring for them with Tyriek Hill, Travis Kelce, and Byron Pringle each scoring for their team. Neither team could pull away from the other with Mahomes and Allen going touchdown for touchdown on what seemed like every offensive possession for their respective teams.
The game came down to the wire though as 25 points were scored in a total of two minutes between the two teams! Absolutely bonkers! Allen threw a 27-yd pass to Davis to give the Bills a 29-26 lead with 1:54 left. But Mahomes and the Chiefs came right back 52 seconds later with a 52 yarder to Hill to put the Chiefs back up 33-29.
This territory looked all too familiar for the Bills until they answered back with a 19 yard pass from Allen to Davis once again to regain the lead 36-33 with 13 seconds remaining. It seemed all over for the Mahomes and the roaring Chiefs, right? There’s no way they could go the length of the field in 13 seconds against one of the best defenses in the league, not even Mahomes.
Welp, Mahomes and the Chiefs did the impossible once again after a bad kick that went into the Chiefs endzone and stopped the clock from ticking seconds off which would’ve all but sealed the victory for the Bills over their conference rivals. But, instead Mahomes led a 44-yd drive to clutch passes to the duo of Kelce and Hill, helping put their kicker Harrison Butker in field goal range where he converted on a 48-yd field goal to send the game into overtime, keeping the Chief's season alive.
The coin flip made a huge difference with the Chiefs coming out winning the toss which ultimately helped them win the game 42-36, with Mahomes finding Kelce in the endzone and putting the icing on the cake for one of the greatest games in NFL history.
The Bills defense looked absolutely gassed after that fourth quarter where the two teams were going back and forth constantly. Mahomes would find Kelce in the endzone and put the icing on the cake for one of the greatest games in NFL history.
On the other hand, it was a gut-wrenching, bitter defeat for the Bills who looked like they had the game in the palm of their hands near the end of the fourth when they were up 36-33 with ESPN’s probability of them winning at 90% with just 13 seconds left and Allen and the players celebrating. But, instead they got disappointed again due to the greatness of Mahomes and the Chiefs and a stupid overtime rule in which once a team scores in OT, the other team doesn’t even get a chance to try to answer back only to wonder “what if?”
The Bills will now have to wait another long offseason to try to get to this point next year and hopefully end up on the other end of the spectrum.
After the game Mahomes stated, “It worked out well for us this time,” leading his team to their fourth consecutive AFC title game and referring back to when his Chiefs were done wrong by the overtime rules to the Patriots back in the 2019 AFC title game in OT. “When you have two teams going back and forth, it stinks when you don't get to see the other guy go. But all you can do is play the rules the way the rules are explained, and that's what we did.”
Meanwhile, Allen expressed his disappointment by stating, “It’s just tough, you know? To be in that moment again, It sucks the way it happened, you know? We wanted to win that game. We had opportunities. Just, yeah, taking it all in, holding onto that feeling, and making sure we don’t feel like this again — back-to-back years in the same spot. It’s tough to take in.”
Bills coach Sean McDermott gave the Chiefs praise despite the humiliating loss when he stated, “The Chiefs are a good football team. We knew it was going to take a heck of an effort coming out here, and I thought the guys gave us that effort, starting with Josh and all the way down the line. But those guys are hurt, we’re disappointed — we’re all disappointed, we’re all sick to our stomach. You move on and you try and get yourself to learn from it, but it stings. It stings. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. It stings.”
It’s going to sting even more this time knowing they were just a mere 13 seconds away from victory over their rival, instead they will be going home as the Chiefs will go on to face Burrow and the Bengals in the AFC Championship with the winner punching their ticket to Super Bowl LVI.
The Divisional round was one for the ages in what was sure to be a ratings bonanza for the NFL. Let's hope the championship games and Super Bowl follow the same path the Divisional round gave us.