Championship Weekend in the NFL
By Cameron Buford, Whatsgoodinsports.com
What a weekend it was in the National Football League playoffs! For the first time in recent memory, both NFC and AFC Championship games went into overtime, as the leagues final four contestants competed feverously for their chance to compete for a Superbowl. It has taken over six months for these teams to get to this point season. Considering the all the individual training, the practices, in addition to the rigors of the regular season, these players and coaches are now 60 minutes from a chance to add to and cement their legacy with a win this weekend and a chance to hoist that Lombardi trophy.
Upon looking deeper into these championship matchups there are some unique similarities. Each of these games has a young quarterback vs a veteran quarterback. Each of these teams was the 1st and 2nd seed of their conference and both games happen to be rematches from earlier in the season, therefore the teams that make the necessary adjustments will likely advance to the Superbowl; the most epic game in all of sports!
CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP Review
Sunday, January 20, 2018
NFC: 12:05 PM Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints
As the Rams were on a roll earlier this season, it was the New Orleans Saints that were the ones to knock them off their 9 games winning streak. That loss also became the reason why the NFC Championship was being played in the Superdome in New Orleans and not at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. It is well known that Saints are tough to beat in their stadium, as they have proven this time and time again.
After some missed opportunity by the Rams early, they found themselves down 0-13 and in need a momentum change. Their fake punt early in the 2nd quarter gave the Rams the boost they needed. Because the Rams defense held the Saints to field goals instead of Touchdowns, that gave the Rams a chance to stay in this game. After the Rams pulled to within 3 points on a Todd Gurley touchdown, each team exchanged touchdowns. The Rams scored on a short touchdown pass to Tyler Higbee, while the Saints scored on a touchdown catch from their versatile, plays everywhere, Taysom Hill. The Rams added a field, where I expected McVay to go for a touchdown.
Remaining patient, McVay chose not to chase the points, late in the 4th quarter, by adding a field to tie the game 20-20 early in the fourth quarter. With slightly more than 2 mins on the clock, the Saints drove the ball into scoring position. After an incomplete pass on 1st down, the Saints receiver was clearly hit before the ball reached him and no flag was thrown for pass interference, unfortunately for the Saints, that non-call would have essentially ended the game and send them to the Super Bowl. However, the Saints settled for a field goal to take the lead in the game, with just more than a minute on the clock.
Jared Goff was then able to lead his team into field goal range to tie the game up and send it into overtime.
On the Saints first, drive in overtime, Donta Fowler, one of the multiple free agents the Rams added in the off-season, applied pressure on Drew Brees which forced an interception by the Rams in great territory. Because of the recent change in overtime rules, all the Rams would need is a field goal to win the NFC Championship. Longtime veteran placekicker Greg Zuerlein would have an opportunity to send the Los Angeles Rams the Superbowl on a 57-yard field goal, and sure enough, he made the field goal to make the Los Angeles Rams the 2019 NFC Champions!
AFC: 3:40 PM New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs
For the 8th consecutive season, the New England Patriots are in the Conference Championship playing for another chance to go going to the Superbowl. In their way, this season is the Kansas City Chiefs led by a QB who is likely to be named the League’s MVP. Having lost to the Patriots earlier this season I anticipate the Chiefs will avenge this loss by a narrow margin and move on their first Superbowl appearance since 1969.
The Patriots often show up as chameleons and tacticians in the playoffs, they often seem to do just enough to beat their opponent. Their challenge in this AFC Championship was the MVP of the League and his porous defense. It wasn’t until the 3rd quarter before we saw the magic of Mahomes as he needed to lead his team back from a 0-14 deficit. The Chiefs scored a touchdown in the 3rd quarter and early in the 4th quarter to bring this to a 3-point football game.
The Chiefs were able to capitalize on a Patriots turnover by taking a 21-17 lead with a just over 7 minutes to go in the game. After each team exchanged short rushing touchdowns… Sony Michel for the Patriots then Damien Williams for the chiefs. The Patriots then take a 3-point lead on a touchdown late in the fourth quarter on a Ryan Burkhead touchdown. Yet the Mahomes leads the Chiefs down for a game-tying Field Goal sending this AFC championship game into overtime.
As the overtime rules are set, the first team to score a TD wins the game, and the first score after each team has had the ball wins the game. The Patriots won the coin flip, elected to receive the ball. Unfortunately for Chiefs fans, the league’s MVP would not get another chance to touch the ball as Tom Brady lead the New England Patriots on a 13 play 75-yard drive, which included three third conversions and five first downs, to win the AFC Championship.
This is the 2nd time the Los Angeles Rams will play in the Super Bowl and they will be led by the youngest coach in the Super Bowl history and. Whereas the Patriots will be led by arguably the best Head Coach Bill Belichick and Quarterback Tom Brady in the league’s history into their 3rd straight Superbowl appearance, their 5th in four years, and their 11th as a franchise overall. The innovative and trend setting Sean McVay brings the Los Angeles Rams into this game with a long roster of uniquely talented free agents.
In less than 2 weeks the Los Angeles Rams will compete for their first SuperBowl since they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers back in 1980. The Patriots, on the other hand, are playing in their 9 Super Bowls appearance and playing for a record-tying 6th NFL Championship. The coaches in this matchup will display their contrasting styles; Sean McVay being the young offensive guru and Bill Belichick being the innovative defensive genius. The buildup and hype for this game will be tremendous and I must admit, I think this game has a chance to supersede said hype. I will need a few moments to gather my thoughts before making my Superbowl predictions… Please let us know your thoughts on the NFL Playoffs and share your Superbowl predictions with me by commenting in the comment section of this article on www.whatsgoodinsports.com or reaching out to us on twitter @whatsgoodinsports.