Can You Believe It?
There’s a lot to unpack from the AFC Championship game, but simply put I’m not surprised at the outcome. Why? Because the Kansas City Chiefs and their flaws came back to haunt them in this game. Cincinnati Bengals QB Joe Burrow was sacked 9 times the previous week by Tennessee, but Kansas City managed to sack him just once. On the flip side the Bengals sacked Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes 4 times. The play-calling by the Bengals never wavered in the second half. For the Chiefs, especially on defense, they forgot what was working for them in the first half. They had a 21-10 lead going into halftime. The beginning of the end came when Mahomes threw a pass to WR Tyreek Hill 3 yards behind the line of scrimmage to which he was promptly stopped from scoring or getting out of bounds to stop the clock. No point were scored with the Chiefs not having anymore timeouts. They certainly could have used 3 more points to be up 24-10 instead. Credit to the Bengals defense for only allowing 3 points the rest of the game. The Chiefs didn’t completely abandon the running game in the second half, but when Mahomes wasn’t on his game it would have been the smart thing to do. Therein lies the problem with the Chiefs going forward. With a QB like Mahomes, the pressure on the coaching staff is to let him throw his way out of it. Seeing him scramble as much as he did late in the game was confusing and frustrating to watch because you knew what he was trying to do. He stopped being calculated and went back to video game mode. Cincinnati didn’t surprise me at all in this game. They saw what was happening and took advantage. Let’s see if this trend continues for the Super Bowl.
He Couldn’t Be Covered
The game was a struggle for a variety of reasons. There were moments when a receiver was overthrown, a defender dropped an easy interception and even the best player on the field dropped an easy reception that could have resulted in a big gain. For all its warts, the NFC Championship game was a close contest between two teams that have a long history of hating one another. The San Francisco 49ers had a 17-7 lead going into the 4th quarter. This was very reminiscent of a 20-10 lead they had in Super Bowl LIV (54) going into the 4th quarter of that game. To their credit, the Los Angeles Rams didn’t waver. Rams QB Matthew Stafford found his favorite target in WR Cooper Kupp for his second TD catch of the game for their first drive of the 4th quarter. The Rams next two drives were long and methodical and resulted in field goals to give them a 3-point lead. The 49ers offense in the 4th quarter couldn’t match what their defense was doing the entire game. They needed to answer the Rams touchdown drive, but they stalled after 6 plays. Their next two possessions were 3-and-outs with the last being a desperation throw by QB Jimmy Garoppolo which was intercepted. The Rams defense did a great job in stuffing the Niners rushing attack which only gained 50 yards. This was with the 49ers leading for a large portion of the game. Cooper Kupp was without a doubt the best player on the field as he finished with 11 catches, 142 yards and 2 touchdowns. For Los Angeles it was Super Bowl or bust this season and they get to host it in their own stadium.