The NFL conference Championship lived up to expectations of two great games between the final four teams. On one side, we had Patrick Mahomes looking to continue their dominance of the AFC over a Bengals squad who have exceeded everybody’s expectations and had no plans to stop. On the other side, there was a 49ers team who looked to defeat the Rams for a third time this season and advance to the Super Bowl against all odds. If you missed out on this week’s action, here is a full recap of the NFL Conference Championship games.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Cincinnati Bengals
In Week 17, the Kansas City Chiefs played the Bengals in Cincinnatti in a thrilling game that the Bengals won. In that game, Ja’marr Chase set a Rookie record with 266 yards and three touchdowns. Joe Burrow threw for 446 yards and four touchdowns in the game to lead the Bengals to a huge 34-31 win. This time around, the stakes were a lot bigger. The Chiefs came into the game the favorites, with the combination of their offensive firepower, home-field advantage, and the playoff pedigree, and the game started with a grand disparity in favor of Kansas City. The Chiefs jumped out to an early 21-3 lead, led by Mahomes and a passing attack that carved the Bengals secondary up. Mahomes threw for three touchdowns in the first half and it could’ve been four if not for a big Bengals stop on the goal line. In the second half though, the Bengals came out poised and unfazed by the 21-10 deficit. Joe Burrow led the charge and drove the Bengals down the field and scored a field goal, and then a two-yard touchdown to none other than Ja’Marr Chase. Cincinnatti then converted the 2-point conversion to tie the game at 21. From then, Cincinnati’s defense kept the Chiefs’ offense at bay. They forced Mahomes into sacks, horrible throws and made him run around the backfield aimlessly as he attempted to scramble to find an open man. On the final drive in regulation, the Chiefs tried to work their magic but were forced to a field goal to send the game into overtime.
In overtime, Kansas City won the coin toss and opted to get the ball first. Just last week, the Chiefs carved up the Buffalo Bills #1 defense and drove to score the game-winning touchdown. This week was different, as the Chiefs found themselves on third down quickly. Mahomes attempted to throw his top target Tyreek Hill a pass on the sideline but the ball was perfectly deflected by Jessie Bates and intercepted by Vonn Bell. That helped the Bengals drive down where they gashed the Chiefs’ defense play after play to put themselves in field goal range. Evan McPherson then jogged onto the field where he nailed a 31-yard field goal to send the Bengals to the Super Bowl. Joe Burrow finished the game with 250 yards two touchdowns and one interception, along with 25 rushing yards. Joe Mixon 115 all-purpose yards (88 rushing, 27 receiving). For the Chiefs, Patrick Mahomes threw for 275 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Travis Kelce caught ten passes for 95 yards and one touchdown. The Bengals won 27-24. And just to add perspective, just two seasons ago the Bengals were 2-14 and had the worst record in the NFL.
Los Angeles Rams vs. San Francisco 49ers
The NFC West was arguably the toughest division in the NFL, with three teams from the division making the playoffs. Two of those teams met up in the NFC Championship game in a hard-fought battle. This season, the 49ers beat the Rams twice in two different styles. Even before this season, the 49ers came in the game riding high as they were winners of the last six against the Rams. McVay and the Rams desperately looked to get the proverbial monkey off of their backs. The game started slow, with no team scoring in the first quarter. In the second quarter though, the Rams scored on a long 9 minute, 18 play drive on a 16-yard score from Stafford to Cooper Kupp. San Francisco wasted no time on the next drive and scored on a 44-yard pass from Jimmy G to Deebo Samuel. They then ended the half with a field goal to put them up 10-7.
In the second half, the momentum started off all for San Francisco, as they scored a touchdown on a brilliant catch made by George Kittle in the endzone to go up 17-7. The Rams looked for answers, and they found them in the second half in the passing game with an attack from Odell Beckham Jr. and Cooper Kupp. Kupp scored his second touchdown on the night with an 11-yard catch. On a couple of failed 49ers drives, the Rams were able to convert a 30-yard field goal to give themselves the 20-17 lead with 1:46 left. The Rams pressure held the 49ers to nothing on first and second down. On third down, Aaron Donald collapsed the pocket and nearly sacked Jimmy G but still forced an arid throw that resulted in an interception by Travin Howard to end the game. The Rams held the 49ers to just 50 rushing yards. Matthew Stafford threw for 337 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. Odell Beckham Jr. had his first 100+ yard game since 2019, as he finished with 113 on nine receptions. Cooper Kupp broke the record previously held by Michael Irvin in the 1995 season with most 100 games in a season. Kupp’s 11 receptions, 142 yards, and two touchdowns made it his 13th as the Rams held on to a 20-17 win. The Rams will essentially host the Super Bowl as it is being played at SoFi stadium, and they are the second team in a row to play in a Super Bowl at home after the Tampa Bay Bucs hosted Super Bowl LV last year and won.