The Divisional Round is upon us. No more bye weeks just full frontal playoff football.
Indianapolis Colts v Kansas City Chiefs (AFC)
The Chiefs dominated in the first half jumping out to a 24-7 halftime lead. They totaled 18 first downs compared to the Colts’ four, 42 offensive plays compared to Indy’s 19 and they out-gained the Colts by 274-91 margin.
Kansas City slowed down in the second half, but they’d already set the tone in the first 30 minutes. When the final second ticked off the clock, the full grasp of their victory could be found on the scoreboard and in all offensive and defensive statistics. The victory snapped a six-game home playoff losing streak for the Chiefs, with their last win coming in the 1993 Wild Card Round against the Pittsburgh Steelers on January 8th, 1994.
K.C.’s defense finished the regular season ranked 31st in the league, but they manhandled the Colts just fine, with three sacks and five QB hits. They limited Indy to 263 net yards of offense. Justin Houston registered all three sacks, two of the quarterback hits, two tackles for a loss and a fumble recovery.
The Colts got on the scoreboard early courtesy of a blocked punt which was recovered for a touchdown, but the Chiefs shut down Andrew Luck and the league’s seventh best offense, despite surrendering a late score. Indy entered the game as the top team in the league on third-down efficiency, converting 104 of 214 for a 49% conversion rate. On the game, however, they converted 0 of 9 third-down attempts, and went three-and-out on their opening four possessions.
The Colt’s running game, which accumulated 200 yards and a touchdown in their Wild Card meeting with the Houston Texans, found no room against the Chiefs, managing just 87 yards. Luck finished the game completing 19 of 36 passes for 203 yards and a touchdown.
His counterpart, Patrick Mahomes, showed why he’s a frontrunner for the NFL’s MVP, as he picked apart Indy’s cover 2 defense by completing 27 of 41 throws for 278 yards and a rushing touchdown. Once again he showed off his golden arm, connecting numerous times from different platforms, with various targets. He did get a lot of help from his offense, with Travis Kelce catching seven passes for 108 yards, whilst Tyreek Hill wrangled in eight catches for 72.
The Chiefs’ four rushing touchdowns set a single-game franchise playoff record.
K.C. will host the New England Patriots on Sunday, with the winner facing either the LA Rams or New Orleans Saints at the Super Bowl next month.
Colts – Eliminated
Patriots v Chiefs – Sunday, January 20th (6:40pm – CBS)
Dallas Cowboys v Los Angeles Rams (NFC)
The Rams decided to take the game right to Dallas early and often, totaling 273 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 48 carries. Todd Gurley rushed for 115 and a touchdown, while C.J. Anderson totaled 123 and two TDs. The two Rams became the fourth set of teammates to each rush for 100+ yards over the last 30 postseasons. The Cowboys simply just didn’t have an answer for their punishing ground game.
The Rams’ passing game took a back seat, but still Jared Goff churned up 15 of 28 passes for 186 yards and sealed the game with an 11-yard run. The quarterback distributed his passes among seven receivers, with Robert Woods paving the way with six catches for 69 yards. The offensive line opened gaping holes for the ground attack and performed admirably in protecting Goff, who wasn’t sacked and was hit just once. As a team L.A. totaled an impeccable 459 yards.
The Rams’ defense may have had an up and down regular season, but they gave a valiant performance against the league’s 10th-best rushing offense. Ezekiel Elliot, who won the 2018 rushing title with 1,434 yards, found it very tough to get going, finishing with just 47 yards on 20 carries.
If the defense combined with a devastating rushing duo of Gurley and Anderson can repeat what they did on Saturday next Sunday in the NFC Championship Game, they could very well be on their way to Atlanta.
Cowboys – Eliminated
Rams v Saints – Sunday, January 20th (3:05pm – FOX)
ALL TIMES U.S. EASTERN