The Chiefs beat the Bills 42-36 in overtime in one of football’s best games to earn their fourth straight berth in the American Conference Finals. The Rams for their part survived a furious attempt to come back from the Buccaneers. The second round of the NFL playoffs definitely lived up to high expectations.
The weekend’s four games, including Saturday’s wins for the Bengals over the Titans and the 49ers over the Packers, kept fans on their toes. For the first time in the history of the second elimination round, the four duels on display ended on the very last game. The four clashes were decided by an average margin of 3.8 points, the narrowest margin of victory in history in the second round.
The spectacle offered by the Bills and the Chiefs, at least on the offensive level, was the most grandiose. It was a constant duel, offering so many spectacular games that it was easy to lose count. It was the perfect conclusion to a completely ridiculous second round of the playoffs. Candy!
In short, that should be all the NFL wants. Still, it’s another dramatic game that ends in overtime after just one possession. The Chiefs won the coin toss, took the ball and ran across the field. Thank you, good evening, end of broadcasts!
The Bills? Couldn’t touch the ball! Because the rules are the rules, some will say, too comfortable in their good old traditions. Others argue that the current format is fine that way, as it forces the defensive unit on the field to play their best football. In that case, why shouldn’t the other defense do the same?
How on earth can we accept as a serious professional league that such an epic, monumental, eye-catching duel is ultimately decided by a vulgar draw? Yes, every year this controversy comes back and we end up getting used to it. Which doesn’t mean we should stop talking about it. It’s not a question of who won or who lost. Settlement was just as bad when it was the Chiefs who similarly lost in the 2018 Conference Finals. And when the Falcons couldn’t touch the ball in overtime at the Super Bowl two years earlier.
The Bills might as well have had their turn with the ball in overtime and done nothing with it. Except that at least everyone would have their hearts clear. An impression of an unfinished game hangs in the air, not because the Chiefs stole it (on the contrary!), but because the NFL still accepts that a coin toss takes on such importance. It’s unfortunate.
13 weird seconds
Obviously, not everything was decided there and it is important to specify that. In the final moments of regulation time, when the Chiefs had just 13 seconds left with a three-point deficit to make up for, there are a few questions to be asked. Why did the Bills not attempt a kick, a famous “squib kick”, to kill a few critical seconds?
On defense, they then offered incredibly soft cover. Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier did not live his heyday. Throughout the meeting, moreover, the Bills never found a solution to counter the speed of Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman, who ran down the boulevards without being hit. The Chiefs did just the right thing to pick up the win and now have a date with the Bengals.
They never took their foot off the gas and the offense had a sublime game with 30 first plays and 552 yards. When Hill and Travis Kelce are both running at full throttle, Mahomes can only have fun. He now has 25 touchdown passes in 10 playoff games, unheard of.
It was a memorable duel, with four lead changes and 25 points each in the final two minutes. Mahomes and Allen have delivered a show that is already dreaming of the next one. To give an idea, according to ESPN Stats & Info, it was a first playoff duel between two quarterbacks who racked up more than 300 yards and threw three touchdown passes, without interception. It was also the first time that both quarterbacks completed more than 70% of their passes and only the second time that both pivots in a playoff game were their team’s leaders on the ground.
Allen finished with 329 yards and four touchdowns. Mahomes finished with 378 yards and three touchdowns. It was like fireworks which, with each new firecracker that seems to be the final, offers a new, even more striking bouquet. We want more!
No magic for Brady
The other duel of the day, which resulted in a victory for the Rams at the expense of the Buccaneers by 30-27, also proved to be cardiac.
On 38 occasions during his illustrious career, including six times in the playoffs, Tom Brady has overcome deficits of at least 10 points to win. Not this time, although the Rams did everything to make his life easier.
The Rams finally pulled through and advanced to the National Conference Finals against the 49ers. Except that the 27-3 lead they held in the third quarter melted away in an impossible way.
From then on, the narrative became too easy. Tom Brady will still complete a masterful comeback. The truth, however, is that if the Buccaneers got back in the game to keep the suspense going until the end, it had nothing to do with Brady.
Despite all due respect, Brady played an ordinary game, completing only 55% of his 54 passes and his people survived because the Rams multiplied the blunders.
At the end of the first half, the latter had the opportunity to deal a hard blow to the Bucs, but the carrier Cam Akers fumbled the ball at the goal. At the end of the third quarter, it was another fumble, this time by Cooper Kupp, which allowed the Bucs to reduce the deficit to two touchdowns. There was also an offensive streak aborted by a bad delivery from center Brian Allen.
With less than seven minutes to play, it was an undershot kick from Matt Gay, 47 yards, that allowed Brady and his crew to continue to breathe. Then, it was Akers’ second fumble, at the Rams’ 26 line, that led to the tying touchdown on a silver platter.
In short, Brady has had so many heroic moments in over 20 years that it’s easy to lose track. This time around, the Rams would have had only themselves to blame if they fell apart.
Hats off to the defense, however, who had a very strong game before the attack began to distribute the gifts.
And hats off to Matthew Stafford, who was able to pass the biggest passes of his career on the final sequence, with 42 seconds to play, when everything was collapsing around him. In quick succession, he joined Kupp on gains of 20 and 44 yards that led to the game-winning kickoff. On the other hand, on this last bomb, it is difficult to understand why the defensive coordinator Todd Bowles opted for an “all out blitz”. Kupp found himself alone with the marauder Antoine Winfield, whom he quickly lost.
How rare is it for a team that has four turnovers to win the playoffs? According to ESPN, it dated back to the Steelers in 1975! As for Brady, in his career, he had a 95-2 record when the opposing team had committed at least three turnovers. But no, this time, the magic didn’t work, even with all the gifts in the world.
It must be said, in his defense, that the veteran worked behind an offensive line deprived of the services of Tristan Wirfs. It’s no coincidence that he was the victim of seven quarterback sacks in two playoff games.
In the last few days, rumors have started to surface that Brady hasn’t committed to playing next season as planned.
This will be a file to follow, since it is contrary to everything he said so far, namely that he would play at least the next season in Tampa, the year of his 45 years. After the loss, Brady declined to comment.
Maybe like Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, he’ll want to see before deciding what the roster will look like for the season. No less than 24 players will become unrestricted free agents, including several important pieces like Rob Gronkowski, Leonard Fournette, Ryan Jensen, Chris Godwin, Jason Pierre-Paul, Ndamukong Suh, Carlton Davis and Jordan Whitehead. The face of the Buccaneers could change a lot.
The stars of the day
Those looking at the summary see five tackles and a quarterback sack. Those who watch the game saw seven pressures on Tom Brady and several plays completely destroyed by his impromptu visits to the backfield. Donald dominated.
The Rams quarterback wasn’t responsible for any of the offensive blunders and gained 366 yards with two touchdowns and one rushing. Above all, he succeeded in the critical passes on the final sequence, including the fatal bomb to Cooper Kupp.
Although the Bucs receiver found himself isolated against star cornerback Jalen Ramsey, he often had the upper hand in battle with eight receptions for 119 yards and a touchdown. The Bucs were without Chris Godwin and Evans had to work hard.
The Chiefs center not only racked up 378 yards and four touchdowns, but he was nearly untouchable in his protective pouch. The Bills’ defensive front has often approached him, without however putting enough of a hand on the collar. His mobility has decided.
The Bills quarterback was brilliant with four touchdown passes for 329 yards through the air, in addition to 68 yards on the ground. It’s a real shame that his defense sabotaged such an epic performance on the road. The Bills should have used his cannon arm sooner.
What a performance from the Bills receiver with 201 yards and four touchdowns! While Stefon Diggs kept a low profile, he answered the call by becoming the first receiver in history to score four touchdowns in the playoffs. His vis-à-vis the Chiefs, the missile Tyreek Hill, must also be commended with 11 receptions for 150 yards and a touchdown.