Not Since 1988
Nothing about this game’s outcome surprised me. Why? Because I’ve seen this before from the Tennessee Titans in the playoffs under current head coach Mike Vrabel. Boneheaded decisions to go for it on 4th down in your own territory. Try for a 2-point conversion rather than taking the extra point as he decided to do this year. Or it would be their QB Ryan Tannehill doing something out of character to what he was doing during the regular season. In this case it was the latter as Tannehill threw three costly interceptions in this game. The Cincinnati Bengals didn’t play their best game as QB Joe Burrow was sacked 9 times. Yes, you read that correctly, 9 times. Yet, the Bengals still won thanks to their rookie 5th round pick in kicker Evan McPherson converting a 52-yard game winning field goal. I never thought I would be seeing the Bengals getting to the AFC Championship game in my lifetime, but alas here we are.
I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that the San Francisco 49ers won this game. The offense was about as stagnant as I’ve seen this season. The Green Bay Packers on the opening drive of the game were precise and methodical, resulting in an early 7-0 lead. That’s about as much praise I could give them for this game. It was a slow and pain staking fall for them the rest of the way. The 49ers defense played masterfully after that opening drive. The special teams of the 49ers were about 10 steps ahead of Green Bay’s. The weather was becoming more of a factor in the second half with the arrival of snow flurries, but it didn’t seem to bother the road team one bit. This was a perfect example of ‘What the hell did I just watch?’ and yet watching this game from beginning to end I knew exactly what was happening. One team simply outplayed the other.
It Almost Happened Again
The title of this game recap would have been ’27-3′ if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had won. The reason why that would have been the title is because the Bucs were down 27-3 and managed to tie the game. There was 7 minutes and 11 seconds left in the 3rd quarter when that score was 27-3. The Los Angeles Rams blew that lead and brought back memories of the Atlanta Falcons blowing a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots. That Super Bowl had QB Tom Brady leading the ferocious comeback and he was leading this one for Tampa Bay. The whole time I couldn’t believe the Rams were actively trying to blow this game. They turned the ball over 4 times and were primed to repeat history. That is until the Bucs defense forgot that WR Cooper Kupp should not have been left wide open late in the game. The Rams took advantage and kicked the game winning field goal. Lady Luck favored the Rams today, but they better not let that happen again.
The Next Great Rivalry
You couldn’t’ have asked for a better finale to the weekend’s slate of games. Two of the best quarterbacks in the league in Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes put on a furious display of talent and determination. Both of them were going to do everything, including rushing the football, to win the game. On Buffalo’s opening drive, they went for it on 4th down twice and they scored a touchdown as a result. That showed me they were going to do just about anything to win and prove that they were a match for the Chiefs. When Mahomes started his offense, he took what the defense gave him and that was a 69 yard rushing performance with a touchdown to boot. He also threw 3 touchdown passes and had 378 yards passing. Allen was matching him drive for drive with 68 yards rushing and throwing 4 touchdown passes for 329 yards. Both teams defenses’ were flawed in this game. They had moments to take control, but failed. The Chiefs allowed one receiver to score on those 4 touchdown passes by Allen. Gabriel Davis was wide open for the last two. A defender wasn’t within 10 yards of him for both of them. As for Buffalo they must have forgotten that the Chiefs had all three of their timeouts left with 13 seconds to go. Because I can’t figure out why they would have allowed no one to touch TE Travis Kelce or WR Tyreek Hill over the middle of the field to gain huge amounts of yardage to tie the game. Everyone wants to complain about the overtime rules and sure they do need to be tweaked, but we all can agree on two things. One, that Buffalo’s defensive scheme to end the 4th quarter cost them the game and two, this was probably the best game we’ll see in the playoffs this year.