NFL Divisional Round Playoffs Recap
The Greatest Football Weekend Ever!
I've just got one thing to say: football! I don't think there is any sport better than football, and what transpired this weekend in the Divisional Rounds further proves my point. After a lackluster Wild Card weekend, I think we were all expecting a week filled with exciting games, but I don't think anyone was expecting this level of excitement in all four games.
Saturday's games were fun to watch, but compare that to Sunday's matchups, and you've got pandemonium. Before I get started with this preview, I just wanted to let you know that if you for some reason missed all the action, you may have missed the most incredible weekend of football ever!
AFC Divisional Playoffs
4) Bengals: 19, 1) Titans: 16
Final Line: TEN -4.0 Jake's Pick: TEN
McPherson Hits FG as times expires, Lifts Bengals Past Titans 19-16
I had my doubts about this Bengal team, but I have to admit, I'm not entirely on board with the Bengals hype as they came into Nashville and shocked the number one seeded Titans to advance to their first AFC title game since 1988. Joe Burrow threw for 348 yards and an INT, Ja'Marr Chase put together another 100-yard performance in the postseason, and rookie kicker Evan McPherson continues to put the team on his back (more on him later).
The game started rough for Tennessee right off the bat as the first play from scrimmage saw Ryan Tannehill find the opposing team. Cincy would turn the interception into an Evan McPherson field goal to make it 3-0.
The main storyline for Tennessee heading into the game was the reigning Offensive Player of the Year, Derrek Henry, returning after he missed nine games with a broken. He only managed 66 rushing yards but scored on this short TD to tie the game at six, only to fail on the two-point conversion.
After McPherson drilled a 54-yard field goal, the Bengals found themselves up 9-6 at halftime. Cincy got the ball first in the second half, and they wasted no time driving the length of the field to set up Joe Mixon's TD run to make 16-6.
The Titans looked like they would answer on the ensuing drive, but Tannehill found Bengals' DB Mike Hilton on an incredible INT in the red zone.
Cincy failed to capitalize any further as the Titans' defense did the best they could, as they tied a playoff record with nine total sacks on Burrow on Saturday.
With Tennessee now trailing 16-9 following a Randy Bullock field goal, Titans DB Amani Hooker stepped up at the right moment and made an eye-popping play to set up the Titans. Tannehill responded by throwing an absolute dime to AJ Brown for a TD.
Brown was terrific in this one, as he hauled in five catches for 142 yards and one TD.
The Titans had multiple chances to win this game, but in the end, you've got to give credit to the way the Bengals' defense stepped up. I mentioned the failed two-point conversion earlier, but they also failed to convert on fourth down with 7:16 left instead of attempting a long field goal.
The Titans then had a chance to drive the field's length at the two-minute mark, but on the third play of the drive, Tannehill threw his third pick of the day, setting up McPherson's GW 52-yard field goal.
After the game, Burrow told reporters that McPherson had claimed they would go to the AFC title game during his warm-ups, showing the kind of guy he is.
Joe Burrow became only the second QB to win a playoff game despite being sacked nine times (Len Dawson, 1966).
Next Sunday, Cincy will travel to Buffalo or Kansas City for the AFC Championship game.
The Titans enter the offseason needing to make the tweaks to get back to the AFC Championship game. That may mean addressing the quarterback position.
NFC Divisional Playoff
6) 49ers: 13, 1) Packers: 10
Final Line: GB -6.0 Jake's Pick: SF
Gould's FG in final seconds shocks Green Bay 13-10
First, the Titans, now the Packers, as Robbie Gould's field goal in the final seconds lift the Niners past Green Bay in a game decided on special teams. I'd be lying to you if I said this game was fun to watch. Until the final five minutes of the game, I had trouble staying awake as both defenses came to play. Not only that, the Niners won this game, and they didn't even score an offensive touchdown.
With the Niners trailing 10-3 with five minutes left, they took advantage of a special teams meltdown by the Packers, and they tied the game after returning a blocked punt for a TD.
Following a three-and-out from Green Bay, the 49ers got the ball back with over three minutes left to go. Thanks to some grittiness by Deebo Samuel, the Niners got into field-goal range for Robbie Gould, and he delivered. After the field goal, Gould remains perfect in his postseason career.
Niners QB Jimmy Garoppolo, who wasn't a hundred percent heading into the game, struggled immensely, as he only managed 131 yards and an INT, while Rodgers threw for 225 yards.
The Niners' offense struggled throughout the game as well as Garoppolo couldn't complete a pass until he connected with TE George Kittle on a 15-yard gain in the second quarter. Kittle finished with 63 yards on four catches.
After scoring on the game's opening drive, Green Bay's offense couldn't manage anything else (AJ Dillion's six-yard run). Aaron Rodgers struggled throughout the game as he heads into the offseason, not knowing his future.
Special teams were the biggest weakness for the Packers all season, and it showed on Saturday. In addition to the blocked punt, Mason Crosby also had a field goal blocked in the final seconds of the first half that would've put Green Bay up 10-3.
Was this the Last Time we saw No. 12 in Green Bay?
After Green Bay's loss on Saturday, many are already beginning to question whether or not Aaron Rodgers has played his last game as a Green Bay Packer. I think it's all but confirmed at this point that Rodgers won't return next season and will look to begin a new chapter in his football career. After the game, Rodgers didn't want to speculate on his future but did say he wasn't willing to be a part of the Packers' rebuild for next year, so it will be interesting to see what happens moving forward.
San Fran now waits on their next opponent. Will it be the Rams again, or will it be Tom Brady and the defending champs?
The Packers will now begin their rebuild for next season. Will Aaron Rodgers stick around?
NFC Divisional Playoffs
4) Rams: 30, 2) Bucs: 27
Final Line: TB -3.0 Jake's Pick: LA
Rams Hold Off Brady's Epic Comeback, Beat Defending Champs 30-27
As a Falcons fan, I kept getting flashbacks of 28-3 while Tom Brady led his team on yet another wild comeback. It looked unlikely that the Bucs would win the game following the first half, as LA got out to an early 20-3 lead with Matthew Stafford throwing two TDs in the first half.
Tom Brady struggled in the first half as Tampa found themselves in a hole heading into the second half. As a Falcons fan, I knew this game wasn't over.
The second half saw the Rams increase their lead with a Matthew Stafford run to make it 27-3.
All Tampa needed was a miracle, which they got as Cooper Kupp started it all by coughing it up deep in their territory, setting up a Leonard Fournette TD to cut the deficit to 13.
Following that turnover, it looked like the Rams would win it outright. Nope!
The Rams accounted for four turnovers in the second half as Tampa slowly clawed their way back in the game.
Following a Cam Akers fumble in the game's final minutes, Brady looked to have completed the comeback as Fournette's second TD of the day tied the game up at 27 apiece with 42 seconds left in the game.
However, 42 seconds was all Stafford needed as he connected with Kupp on two crucial pass plays to set up Matt Gay with the GW field goal. Stafford ended finishing 28 of 38 yards with 366 yards and two TDs.
What does the Future Hold for Tom Brady?
We looked to witness yet another emphatic comeback from Touchdown Tom, but he came up short. He left too much time on the clock for Stafford and the Rams, and now, it's uncertain as to whether or not this was his last game, as he is undecided on retirement. I don't think this is the end for him, but I think he's going to spend time in the offseason thinking about his future. At this point in his career, I think he'd rather spend time with his family than continue to play, but he has made it abundantly clear that he would like to play until he's 45, but now, we will have to wait and see.
The Rams will play the Niners for the third time next Sunday in the NFC Championship game.
The Bucs have salary cap issues to adjust as they begin to wonder whether or not their 44-year old QB will return for one more season.
AFC Divisional Playoffs
Game of the Year
3) Bills: 36, 2) Chiefs: 42 Final/OT
Final Line: KC -2.5 Jake's Pick: BUF
The Chiefs rally past Bills in OT in an instant playoff classic.
If you thought the first three games were exciting, you honestly aren't for what happened in the last Divisional game between the Chiefs and the Bills. In a game that featured the two best teams in the league and the two best young-QBs in the league, you would expect to see nothing but fireworks, and you're right!
Right from the start, you knew what you would get as both teams scored on their opening drives as it was 7-7 at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter saw Patrick Mahomes show off his awareness by throwing a video game-like throw to Byron Pringle to put the Chiefs up 14-7. However, Josh Allen drove the Bills down the field's length and threw an 18-yard strike to Gabriel Davis to tie the game at 14, heading into halftime.
The Chiefs got the ball first in the second half and immediately took the lead with a Harrison Butker field goal. After a Buffalo punt, the Cheifs marched down the field again and Mecole Hardman's 25-yard TD run put the Chiefs up 23-17, but the PAT failed.
Allen responded the only way he knew how on the ensuing drive.
The Fourth Quarter
Ok, now what I'm about to break down all happened within the last two minutes of the game. With the Chiefs up 26-21 with under two minutes left to go, Josh Allen continued to show off his skills as on a 4th and 13 play, he connected with Davis, again, on a 28-yard TD; they would convert on the two-point conversion to put them up 29-26 with 1:54 left.
The Cheifs got the ball back, needing an answer quickly, only for Patrick Mahomes to deliver a dagger to Tyreek Hill, who capped off a 64-yard catch-and-run with a score, and the Chiefs retook the lead 33-29.
Now, the Bills need an answer, looking for a touchdown to regain the lead as one might suggest; Allen connected with Davis, for the fourth time, on a 19-yard strike as the Bills took the lead with 13 seconds left. For Davis, he became the first player in NFL history to score four postseason TDs; he also caught eight passes for 201 yards.
Thirteen seconds. You would think that would be enough for the Bills to win, right? Wrong! Buffalo elected to kick it deep instead of squibbing it to take some time off, as Mahomes and the Chiefs started from their own 25 yard-line. It turns out 13 seconds was all they needed as Mahomes connected with Hill and Travis Kelce to set up Butker's 49-yard field goal to send the game into overtime.
The final two minutes saw a combined 25 points scored by both teams: the most in playoff history.
The overtime period saw the Chiefs take full command of the game, as they started with the ball and marched down the field only for Mahomes to connect with Kelce to seal the deal for the Chiefs.
This game will go down as one of the greatest playoff games of all time as both QBs put on quite the performance. Mahomes finished 33-44 for 378 yards and three TDs, while Allen was near-perfect, completing 27-37 for 329 yards and four TDs.
He threw a combined nine touchdowns in two postseason games for Allen, yet he still found himself on the losing end. My heart goes out to the entire city of Buffalo; it always sucks to lose without even getting a chance in overtime.
The Chiefs will host the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Championship game.
This loss will take a while to sink in for Buffalo, so they will have to figure out what to do differently to prepare for next year.
I'm not sure if we will ever see a more exciting weekend of playoff football than what we witnessed in this year's divisional round. For the first time in NFL history, all four divisional games were decided on the game's final play. If anything, this week proved that there is truly nothing better than sports.
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Jake Klausner covers all things sports for ThePyrrhic.com. Keep your eyes peeled for NFL Analysis, World Series Recaps, and more from Jake.
Follow him on Twitter @jake_klausner