This year’s NFL divisional round delivered some polarizing matchups between some of the league’s best players. We saw two teams in both the AFC and NFC face major upsets and ends to their season after they were expected to advance comfortably. A rivalry between two of the game’s youngest stars also gained another chapter in their book. Here is a recap of the NFL divisional round.
The weekend started off with the Cincinnati Bengals taking on the top-seeded Tennessee Titans on Saturday. The Titans were getting their best player Derrick Henry back after he missed the last 10 weeks because of a foot injury. Even with Henry back though, the Titans couldn’t get out of their own way. Ryan Tannehill threw one of three interceptions on the first play of the game. Young Joe Burrow was going up against a hellacious pass rush from the Titans all game, as he was sacked nine times in the game. Despite that, Burrow still managed to complete 28/37 passes for 348 yards. Ja’marr Chase adds another great game to his already historic rookie season with five receptions for 109 yards. Tee Higgins also had a great game as he made seven receptions for 96 yards. For the Titans, A.J. Brown was a man amongst boys, as he caught five passes for 142 yards and a one-handed touchdown. In the game’s final moments, Ryan Tannehill threw a pass that was broken up by Eli Apple and intercepted by Logan Wilson. The turnover set up the final drive for the Bengals and rookie kicker Evan McPherson nailed his fourth field goal to win the game. The final score was 19-16 and they toppled the #1 seed Titans to advance to their first AFC championship game since 1988.
In the second game on Saturday night, the San Francisco 49ers traveled up the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field to face Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, who came into the game as the #1 seed in the NFC. With temperatures in the single digits, the game was very physical and limited offensively. Coming into the game, Jimmy Garoppolo dealt with an injured thumb and shoulder on his throwing arm. For Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers had things going with his main target Devante Adams and even had a huge performance from Aaron Jones. Both players caught 9 passes, with Jones totaling 125 yards and Adams with 90 yards, respectively. As the game progressed and temperatures dropped, snow started to fall. The ground got slick as well as the ball and both offenses struggled to get anything going. In the fourth quarter though, the Packers were pinned deep in their own territory and were attempting to make a routine punt, but the 49ers special teams blocked the punt and recovered it for a touchdown to tie the game at 10. Green Bay failed to score on the ensuing drive and that set up the 49ers game-winning drive that was capped off by a 45-yard field goal from the old veteran Robbie Gould as time expired to help the 49ers win 13-10. The 49ers advance once again to the NFC championship game and beat the Packers for the fourth time in the Playoffs in the Aaron Rodgers Era. Speaking of eras, don’t be surprised if that will be the last time we see Aaron Rodgers suit up for the Packers as well. Rodgers has had a long history of disdain with the Front Office in Green Bay and may look to further his career elsewhere. Even this off-season there were questions of Rodgers’ return to Green Bay before he and Davante Adams, who is a free agent this off-season, both posted a cryptic photo of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen hinting that this would be their “Last Dance”.
As we move on to Sunday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looked to make their repeat to the Super Bowl as they hosted Cooper Kupp and the Los Angeles Rams. The game started off with all the momentum going for the Rams. Blown coverages led to a 70-yard touchdown to none other than Cooper Kupp early on, and the Bucs failed to answer as they went into the half trailing 20-3. On the first drive of the second half, the Rams drove down and Stafford snuck in for a touchdown to push the lead to 27-3. And right after that, the momentum flipped totally in the Bucs favor. The Rams committed multiple turnovers and failed to gain any continuity on offense. The Bucs then went on to score 24 unanswered points to tie the game at 27 with just 42 seconds remaining. Brady willed his team back as he did in Super Bowl LI, but unlike the Falcons, the Rams didn’t fold completely. On the final drive, Stafford completed a 20-yard pass to Kupp, followed by a 44-yard pass down the middle to Kupp again to put them in field goal position. Matt Gay then came in and drilled a 30-yard field goal to save the day for the Rams and dethrone Brady. Matt Stafford finished the game with 366 yards and two touchdowns, with 183 of those yards coming from Kupp. For Brady, the GOAT threw for 329 and one touchdown, including a costly interception. The Rams now advance to play the 49ers in an NFC West rivalry game in the NFC championship.
To close out the weekend, we saw Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen face off in what will be remembered as an all-time classic playoff game. Last season, the Chiefs beat the Bills to go on to the Super Bowl, and this season Buffalo looked to seek revenge. The game was fast-paced as both offenses moved the ball well. Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen were just as effective running the ball as they were passing. Allen finished with 68 yards on 11 attempts and Mahomes with 69 and one touchdown on 7 attempts. Gabriel Davis had a historic night for the Bills. The WR caught eight passes for 201 yards and a playoff single-game record four touchdowns. In the fourth quarter, both teams went back and forth in the final minute of the game. Tyreek Hill caught a slant and took it 64 yards to give the Chiefs the lead. Then Gabriel Davis caught a Post route for a touchdown to give Buffalo a 36-33 lead with just 13 seconds left. But Mahomes completed two big plays to Hilla and Kelce to put the Chiefs in field goal range to help Harrison Butker send the game in OT. In overtime, the Chiefs won the coinflip and drove the ball down the field. Mahomes threw a perfect ball to Kelce in the back of the endzone that was caught for a touchdown and ended the game 42-36. This is the fourth consecutive year that the Chiefs advance to the AFC Championship and they will face the Bengals. For the Bills, Josh Allen finished the game with 329 yards and four touchdowns. Once again, Mahomes stops the Bills from fulfilling their Super Bowl aspirations.