We just witnessed the most extraordinary divisional round in NFL playoff history with three games decided on game-winning field goals and the other being a legendary shootout between two absolute stud quarterbacks that ended in overtime! What exactly did we learn?
Thirteen seconds remained, and the Bills led by three points and Frazier decided to play a soft zone and give two of the best yards after catch receivers in the game a free release and the ability to get chunk yardage quickly. Here’s what I think should have been done in those final thirteen seconds: (1) kick the ball into the field of play, either forcing the return man to catch and kneel the ball or attempt a return. Either way, seconds are coming off the clock; (2) manhandle every eligible receiver coming off the line of scrimmage at the ensuing snap—hold, clutch, grab, and even tackle, if necessary, Hill, Kelsey, etc.—whatever it takes to prevent them from getting a free release and giving Mahomes an open target. Worst case scenario, it’s a five-yard penalty and a new first down, neither of which help the Chiefs and, again, taking seconds off the clock. More than likely, after two plays, the Chiefs are taking their final snap inside their own 40 with under:04 left, still needing to get the ball to the Bills 35 in one play AND stop the clock, which would have been impossible. Leslie Frazier screwed this up, and the fact that he is getting interviews to be a head coach is mind-blowing. Frazier is a soft-cover two coach, and that is not going to beat guys like Mahomes or Burrow in the future either. The Bills coaching staff let them down, and it’s a shame as they had the game won.
If you watched this past weekend’s games, you already know this as on Sunday, Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen put on a show against each other and on Saturday, Joe Burrow showed the toughness and guile that we have never seen from a quarterback who has been in the NFL for less than two seasons. It would not surprise me if the next ten AFC Championships will be won by the Bills, Bengals, or Chiefs; these guys are that good!
The Tennessee Titans were the number one seed this season, and they are a complete team with a dominant defensive line, and they run the ball at a very high level, but let’s face it, the difference in the loss to the Bengals was Ryan Tannehill! Tannehill is a good quarterback but will probably not cut it to get to the Super Bowl out of the AFC anytime soon. Tannehill turned the ball over, and he did it at the worst possible time, and it cost the Titans their season.
Joe Burrow got sacked nine times in the Bengals win over the Titans, yes nine times! No quarterback has been sacked that many times and won a playoff game. When you add that Burrow’s rookie season was cut short because of an ACL tear, it becomes even more unreal what Burrow has done. The Bengals offensive line is so bad that it’s hard to think they can win in Kansas City, but with Burrow, at the helm, the Bengals are never out of a game. The Bengals must upgrade the offensive line in free agency and the draft if they want to make an actual run at a Super Bowl championship consistently, plus they cannot afford for Burrow to suffer another injury because of a lack of offensive linemen.
Aaron Rodgers once again has come up short on the biggest stage, and once again, he lost a Lambeau in the playoffs. Aaron Rodgers is a baaaaaddddd mannnnn until the regular season, and then he becomes just a man. The Packers inability to fix bad special teams play during the season ended up costing them in the playoffs as it has ended their season. As the weather worsened in the second half, the 49ers front four put Aaron Rodgers in a vice-grip holding the Packers to just 58 total yards in the second half. Rodgers was sacked five times and pressured 20 times, and he could not come through in the clutch again. You could say that it is expected because of the pressure, but we watched Joe Burrow overcome it in the game before this one.
Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen were as good as any two quarterbacks that have ever played the game in the fourth quarter of this playoff game. The only divisional playoff games I have ever seen on par would have been the 1974 Sea of Hands game between the Raiders and Dolphins and the 1981 double-overtime classic between Miami and San Diego. What we saw on Sunday night was special.
Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase get all the press, but on Saturday, the player that may have had more to do with beating the Titans was defensive tackle D.J.Reader, who played a massive part in shutting down Derrick Henry. The Titans could not account for D.J. Reader, the Bengals’ 6-foot-3, 330-pound defensive tackle, a singular force in the run defense against Derrick Henry, who averaged just 3 yards on his 20 tries. Reader’s six tackles (two for loss) allowed Cincinnati to deploy defensive backs against play-action passes. When Ryan Tannehill got greedy on those throws, he was punished for forcing the ball into tight windows, throwing two of his three interceptions on such plays. Reader was the biggest star on Saturday night, even if he doesn’t get the credit he deserves for it.
Jimmy Garoppolo had a rough game on Saturday night, and the 49ers still won the game. The 49ers are a complete team, and they do not have to rely on any one man, and that includes the quarterback. In Coach Kyle Shanahan’s scheme, which attacks the edges of defenses with the run game, having a center point out what is happening up front and a human steamroller at tackle puts the offense in position to feature the five players who are typically blamed before they are lauded. Those two players are Tren Williams at tackle and Alex mack at center, and both are so good they may someday find themselves in the Pro football hall of fame. The Niners have three exceptional playmakers in Kyle Juszczyk, George Kittle and Deebo Samuel. Please don’t sleep on this Niners team as they are well-coached and tough as hell, and that goes a long way in a football game!
The Rams completely dominated the Buccaneers on Sunday but almost found a way to give the game away with four turnovers. The Rams almost blew a 27-3 lead late in the third quarter with stupid turnovers that will eventually cost them their season if it continues. The Rams defensive line finally seemed to jell all at the same time on Sunday as they dominated an injury-plagued Buccaneers offensive line, harassing Brady all day long. Stafford played excellent on Sunday, and most of the questions about him should be put to bed, at least for this week.
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