Playoff Drama Filled NFL Weekend
Kevin Sethre, staff writer
NFL fans were treated to a thrilling weekend of football as all four games in the divisional round came down to the final play. Fans said that it could have been one of the best weekends of football ever.
In the first game on Saturday, the Cincinnati Bengals visited the AFC’s top seed, the Tennessee Titans in what was a very low-scoring game. Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow threw for 348 yards despite being sacked nine times, tying a record for the most times that a quarterback has been sacked in a playoff game that he won. With the score tied at 16 and only four seconds on the clock, rookie kicker Evan McPherson drilled a 52-yard field goal in the final seconds to upset Tennessee 19-16.
The Saturday night game between the San Francisco 49ers and the NFC’s top-ranked Green Bay Packers was another defensive struggle as freezing temperatures at Lambeau Field made play difficult for both offensive units. After marching down the field on a 10-play, 69-yard touchdown drive to open the game, the Packers only gained 194 yards for the rest of the game. Miscues on special teams doomed them. They allowed a long kickoff return by Deebo Samuels to set up an easy field goal at the beginning of the second half, had a field goal of their own blocked, had a punt blocked and returned for a touchdown by the 49ers, and only had ten players on the field when 49ers kicker Robbie Gould hit the game-winning field goal from 45 yards out as time expired. The loss for the Packers will put Aaron Rodgers’s future with the team in question as he searches for another championship.
On Sunday afternoon, the Los Angeles Rams jumped out to a 27-3 lead over the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers before the Bucs fought all the way back thanks to two rushing touchdowns by Leonard Fournette, a field goal by Ryan Succop, and a 55-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Mike Evans. The Rams took over from their own 35-yard line with 42 seconds left, and overtime looked inevitable, but on the third play of the drive, Matthew Stafford found a wide-open Cooper Kupp for a 44-yard gain to put the Rams at Tampa Bay’s 12-yard line. After the Rams spiked the ball to stop the clock with six seconds remaining, Matt Gay won the game for Los Angeles with a 30-yard field goal.
The Sunday night game between the Buffalo Bills and the Kansas City Chiefs was an instant classic as both offenses were on fire all night. The Chiefs held a 23-14 lead before Bills quarterback Josh Allen found Gabriel Davis for a 75-yard touchdown to bring Buffalo within two late in the third quarter. Another field goal by Butker put the Chiefs ahead 26-21, and the score would remain that way until the fireworks began in the final two minutes.
The Bills converted on fourth and 13 when Allen found Davis in the endzone for a 27-yard touchdown, and a two-point conversion thrown to Stefon Diggs gave Buffalo a 29-26 lead with 1:54 left. On the following drive, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes found Tyreek Hill, the fastest player in the league on a pass over the middle, and Hill outran everybody on his way to a 64-yard touchdown to put the Chiefs back on top with 1:02 left. Allen responded by leading Buffalo on a rapid drive and found Davis in the endzone for the fourth time in the game to put Buffalo ahead again with only 13 seconds on the clock, but Mahomes quickly got the Chiefs back into field goal range to send it into overtime. Kansas City won the coin toss and immediately drove down and scored a touchdown to advance to the AFC Championship game for the fourth consecutive season.
One again, the NFL has proven that it is one of the best forms of sports entertainment in the country.