Both Conference Championships went to overtime setting a record. It’s the first time in NFL history that two postseason games have gone to overtime in the same day. It also saw just the second overtime AFC Championship game of all-time.
New England Patriots v Kansas City Chiefs
Tom Brady showed why Tom vs Time is a thing. After directing a six-play, 65-yard drive to take a momentary lead with 39 seconds of regulation left, the veteran used impreccable ball placement and timing to climb out of three third-and-10s on the
Brady is already the most decorated hero in football, but continues to increase his invincible lead over his fellow QB legends. His latest exploits leave him with 28 more touchdowns, 3,758 additional yards, 13 more victories and four more Super Bowl appearances than any other quarterback in postseason history.
Patrick Mahomes overcame a sluggish start to lead a number of trips to the end zone after half time, his offense were shutout for the first half. Just like his counterpart the youngster impressed when the heat was on. He took control with 32 seconds remaining and showcased his ability of getting downfield with strikes of 21 and 27 yards to set up Harrison Butker‘s 39-yard field goal to send the game to overtime. Unfortunately for Mahomes the peculiarities of the NFL’s overtime rules saw him left high and dry on the sidelines as Brady marched his team downfield for the victory.
Bill Belichick steered the credit toward his players for executing with legacies on the line, however, the plans him and his coaching staff have drawn up over the past couple of weeks have fashioned two of the most dominant 30-minute sequences in playoff history.
Josh McDaniels and Brian Flores, the defensive coordinator, who’s expected to be the Dolphins’ choice of head coach), have overseen an operation that has amassed a huge 40 first downs v 39 total plays for the Chargers and Chiefs in their respective first halves. If it wasn’t for their 14-0 cushion at half time the Patriots wouldn’t have withstood Kanas City’s fourth-quarter flurry.
The AFC title showdown, which became an instant-classic, featured a series of game-altering replay reviews. A muffed punt return was overturned on the replay with multiple angles showing just enough evidence that the ball narrowly missed Julian Edelman‘s gloves before the Chiefs recovered it. On the back of that ruling, the review system upheld a key third-down catch by Chris Hogan and rejected another Hogan ‘catch’, leaving the Pats with another third-and-10 predicament.
Brady‘s following pass bounced off Rob Gronkowski‘s hands for an interception, only for that to be nullified by a penalty on Dee Ford for offside. Brady hit him again on third-and 5, setting up the first of Rex Burkhead‘s two late-game touchdowns with a beautiful 25-yard fade to the end zone.
Burkhead wasn’t the only star in the backfield for the Patriots in Missouri. James White was a third-down conversion machine, totaling 72 yards on 10 touches, enabling New England to play keep-away from Mahomes in the early stages of the game. Sony Michel was even better, carrying a career-high 29 times for 113 yards and two trips to the end zone – bringing his two-game postseason total to five scores, a rookie postseason record.
Rookie J.C. Jackson had a mixed evening. Although he’s the lowest in opposing passer rating of any cornerback this season he had a target on his back. With New England double-teaming Tyreek Hill and assigning Stephon Gilmore to trail Sammy Watkins, the rookie was left one-one-one with the 6ft6 tight end, Travis Kelce.
Jackson not only ended up surrendering his first career touchdown but he also allowed Robinson‘s 27-yard gain that led to Butker‘s game-tying kick at the end of regulation. He was guilty of a few penalties along the way, picking up a pair of pass interference infractions as well as a holding penalty. The youngster will be tested by Rams’ trio of Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks and Josh Reynolds in the Super Bowl.
Patriots v Rams – Sunday, February 3rd (6:30pm – CBS)
Chiefs – Eliminated
Los Angeles Rams v New Orleans Saints
After trailing for the majority of the game, the Rams have now made Jared Goff the youngest NFC quarterback in the NFL to reach the Super Bowl.
It felt for a lot of the game that the Saints might pull away, but the Rams defense refused to lay down. They were helped by what will be a talking point for months – with the game tied at 20-20 at the two-minute warning, Drew Brees threw a 43-yarder to Ted Ginn. The crowd were furious moments later when, on third-and-10 Rams corner Nickell Robey-coleman was somehow not flagged for a pass breakup that saw him clearly collide with Tommylee Lewis. He was incredibly fortunate not to be penalized for playing the man instead of the ball, had he actually looked at the ball instead of Lewis he’d have likely intercepted it.
The home fans played a huge part in building atmosphere at the Superdome, making it so loud than Goff had to go to players individually to tell them the plan. L.A. finally quelled the noise early in the second quarter when head coach Sean McVay and special teams coordinator John Fassel came up with a fake punt that saw Johnny Hekker peg Sam Shields on a catch-and-run to keep the game alive.
The series ended with a field goal, though Goff did spin hope a couple of drives later with a beautiful 36-yard throw, over the shoulder to Brandin Cooks, setting up a 6-yard scoring burst by Todd Gurley, cutting NOLA’s lead to 13-10 before the break.
The Rams’ defense deserves credit for holding the Saints to a pair of field goals at the start, especially with Demario Davis‘ interception setting up New Orleans at the LA 16-yard line. The interception was Goff‘s first since Week 15. Ndamukong Suh had another strong outing, registering 1.5 game-changing sacks.
More pain came for the saints when Dan Arnold, who was in for Ben Watson who is battling appendicitis, dropped a would-be touchdown. A fellow reserve stepped up two drives later though, as Garret Griffin hauled in the first score of the game, made possible when Michael Brockers was flagged for encroaching on fourth-and-2.
Michael Thomas set a Saints single-game record with 211 receiving yards in the team’s Week 9 win over the Rams and seemed to carry the hosts in their win over the Eagles in the last round of the playoffs. On Sunday he finished with just 36 yards from four receptions. It was actually Alvin Kamara who paced the Saints with 96 yards off 11 receptions.
Patriots v Rams – Sunday, February 3rd (6:30pm – CBS)
Saints – Eliminated
ALL TIMES U.S. EASTERN