NFL 2021-2022 Conference Title Games Recap

NFL 2021-2022 Conference Title Games Recap

All 4 Divisional Playoff games came down to the final play. 3 underdog road teams won and the fourth nearly did as home field advantage proved worthless this weekend. 

Both Conference Title Games were played on Sunday, January 30, 2022.

AFC Title Game: Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs at 3:00 p.m. on CBS. The Bengals won a thriller over the chiefs 38-31 in Week 17, but that was in Cincinnati. The Bengals won a slugfest last week at Tennessee in which Joe Burrow was sacked 9 times. The Chiefs won a shootout over Buffalo in which Patrick Mahomes led a comeback after the Bills took the lead with only 13 seconds left. The Chiefs jumped all over the Bengals at the start. The Chiefs took over at their own 16. McKinnon gained 8 and caught a pass from Mahomes for 14. On 3rd and 1 from their own 47, Burton barely got the yard. Mahomes hit Travis Kelce for 10 and ran for 11 himself. Mahomes threw a 10 yard touchdown pass to Tyreek Hill to cap the 11 play, 84 yard, 6 minute drive and make it 7-0 Chiefs. 

After a touchback the Bengals moved 14 play and 61 yards in 6 1/2 minutes. Yet on 1st and 10 from the Kansas City 14, Burrow threw 3 straight incompletions. Evan McPherson hit the 32 yard field goal to get the Bengals within 7-3. After a touchback, Mahomes went deep to Mycole Hardman for a 44 yard gain to end the first quarter. In the second quarter with the Chiefs facing 3rd and 3 at the Cincinnati 24, Mahomes hit McKinnon for 11. On 3rd and 2 from the Cincinnati 5, Mahomes scrambled ll over the place and spun away from 2 defenders, firing to Kelce in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown and a 14-3 Chiefs lead. The Chiefs got it back at their own 28. Clyde Edwards-Helaire gained 3 and 7. Mahomes hit Kelce for 19. Edwards-Helaire ran for 14 and 4. On 3rd and 1 from the Cincinnati 15, Mahomes hit Kelce for 12 and Hardman for a 3 yard touchdown to make it 21-3 

The Bengals soon faced 3rd and 5 at their own 35. Burrow went to Tee Higgins for 8 and again for 18. Burrow then found Perine, who split the seams and raced for a 41 yard touchdown to get the Bengals within 21-10. Yet the Chiefs took over at their own 19 with one minute left, plenty of time for Mahomes. The Chiefs moved down the field easily and defensive pass interference meant 1st and goal at the one with 9 seconds left. The Chiefs had timeouts. Mahomes threw incomplete, leaving 5 seconds. At this point Walrus Andy Reid gambled on trying to get in one more play. Mahomes threw a swing pass that was tackled in the field of play as the clock ran out. There would be no field goal try as the Chiefs missed an opportunity. Momentum shifted in the third quarter. From his own 17, Burrow went deep to Higgins for 44 yards. Yet on 2nd and 8 from the Chiefs 37, a costly delay of game penalty pushed the Bengals out of field goal range. The Bengals defense held again and the Bengals got it back at their own 35. The 11 play, 52 yard, 5 1/2 minute drive had the Bengals facing 1st and goal at the 8. A sack of Burrow killed the drive. McPherson hit again as the Chiefs were within 21-13. 

Two plays after a touchback on 2nd and 3 from their own 32, Mahomes had his pass batted up in the air and intercepted by Hill. The Bengals took over at the Kansas City 27. Burrow hit Chase for 17. On 3rd and goal at the 2, Burrow threw a jump ball and Chase won the battle for the touchdown. Zac Taylor went for the 2 point conversion. Burrow went to a wide open Taylor in the flat successfully. The game was tied 21-21 after three quarters. The Chiefs began the fourth quarter facing 3rd and 3 from their own 32. Mahomes scrambled all over again but this time was finally sacked by the Cincinnati defense. The Bengals took over at their own 34 with all the momentum and a chance to take the lead. Burrow went to Chase at the sideline, but this time Lajarius Sneed jumped the route and intercepted the ball. The Chiefs took over at their own 47. On 3rd and 6, Mahomes was sacked again.     

The Bengals soon faced 3rd and 6 from their own 24. Burrow nearly had his head taken off but somehow avoided the sack twice and scrambled for 7. On 3rd and 7 from his own 34, Burrow again scrambled for 11. Burrow hit Higgins for 16. A false start led to 3rd and 10 from the Chiefs 34. Burrow completed a swing pass for no gain. McPherson came in for a 52 yard field goal try to give the Bengals the lead. McPherson’s kick just snuck inside the left upright good. With 6 minutes left in regulation, the 11 play, 46 yard, 6 1/2 minute drive had the Bengals up 24-21. 

Yet the Chiefs had Mahomes. After a touchback, Mahomes hit Hardman for 5 and Kelce for 5 and 8. On 3rd and 1 from their own 44, Mahomes went to Kelce for 18. Hardman ran for 9 and McKinnon added 14 as the clock hit the 2 minute warning with the Chiefs facing 1st and 10 at the Cincy 15. On 3rd and 2 from the Cincy 7, Mahomes hit Kelce for just enough. On 1st and goal at the 5, McKinnon gained one yard as the Bengals took their last timeout on defense with 1:26 to play. The Chiefs could win the game in regulation or ensure they used up the entire clock and tie it, but probably not both. Then came the craziness. Mahomes ran all over the place but could not find a receiver. He was eventually sacked for a 5 yard loss. On 3rd and goal from the 9, chose ensued. Mahomes ran all over the place again and again could not find a receiver. He was then hit and fumbled. A Bengals recovery would end the game. The Chiefs entire season was saved when they retained possession after a 17 yard loss. 2 seconds remained. 

A field goal try from Butker to tie the game would still be a very makable 44 yards. Flash back to 1995, when Lion Elliott missed 3 field goals in the fourth quarter as the 13-3 Chiefs suffered a shocking home loss. Announcer Paul Maguire said, “I hate kickers. They should be paid $50 a game.” Joe Theismann tried to offer sympathetic commentary, intoning sorrowfully that “Lin Elliott will be the loneliest player on the Chiefs.” An unsympathetic Maguire replied, “Well it doesn’t matter because Lin Elliott’s not going to b a Chief next year.” Elliott never kicked in the NFL again. In 2022, Butker failed to be the new Lin Elliott. Butker’s kick was good. The 14 play drive went 49 yards but took all 6 minutes off the clock. The game was tied 24-24. The Chiefs were now the first team in postseason history to play 2 consecutive overtime playoff games. Last week the Chiefs won the coin toss and Buffalo never saw the ball. This led to calls for a change to the overtime rule from people who fail to understand what “sudden death” means. This time the Chiefs won the coin toss again and the home crowd erupted in celebration. Mahomes was going to score another touchdown and the coin toss would again be an issue for people not appreciating football.    

After a touchback to start overtime, Mahomes threw incomplete. On 2nd and 10, he threw a pass that should have been intercepted and returned for a defensive touchdown. Instead, the ball was dropped incomplete. The Chiefs were lucky not to lose the fumble at the end of regulation. They were lucky not to suffer an interception on the 2nd play of overtime. On the 3rd play from overtime on 3rd and 10, Mahomes went deep for Hill. At the last moment, defender Bates got a hand on it and deflected it in the air where Bell intercepted it. The Bengals took over at their own 45. Burrow hit Higgins for 9 and 8. Joe Mixon broke off runs of 7 and 13. On 2nd and 8 from the Chiefs 10, Burrow took a knee to center the ball. Now it was up to McPherson to pull off the shocking upset. McPherson made 4 field goals against the Raiders and 4 more last week against Tennessee. Before his final kick to win it on the last play of the game, he turned to a teammate and said, “It looks like we’re going to the AFC Title Game.” There were no cocky boasts before this kick. 

From only 31 yards out, McPherson was good. In an absolute shocker, the Bengals came back from an 18 point deficit on the road and stunned the heavily favored Chiefs. The Chiefs blew this game. They will not be going to the Super Bowl for the 3rd straight season, making Andy Reid a most saddened Walrus Indeed. Two years ago Zac Taylor was a rookie NFL head coach who went 2-14. With the top pick in the Draft last year, he took Burrow. Last year Burrow was a rookie quarterback who suffered a broken leg and missed the 2nd half of the season as the Chiefs went 4-11. Calls for Taylor’s firing were ignored. This year the third year coach and second year quarterback are going to the Super Bowl for the 3rd time. The Bengals lost the Super Bowl in 1981 and 1988. Yet this 2021 Bengals team is a very confident bunch. After winning 3 playoff games including two on the road as underdogs, they have a right to be. 27-24 Bengals 


NFC Title Game: San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams at 6:30 p.m. on FOX. The 49ers barely snuck into the playoffs as a Wildcard on the final week of regulation. The Rams won the NFC West. The 49ers beat the Rams twice in the regular season, including in that final regular season game they had to have. The Rams led that game 17-0 at home and blew it as the 49ers won 27-24. The 49ers tried to lose their first 2 playoff games but survived at Dallas and then on the road stunned Green Bay despite no offense. They won on a blocked punt. The Rams stomped Arizona in their rubber match. Then the Rams won on the road, took a 27-3 lead at Tampa Bay, collapsed as the game was tied 27-27, and won on the final play 30-27. The 49ers were cocky after having beaten the Rams 6 straight times. Plenty of San Francisco fans traveled to Los Angeles to try and eliminate home field advantage. If the Rams won, they would be playing the Super Bowl in their home stadium. 

The Rams moved from their own 33 on a 10 play, 64 yard, 5 1/2 minute drive. On 3rd and goal at the 3, Stafford fired over the middle only to have his pass deflected in the air and intercepted. The Rams got the ball back but were pinned at their own 3 yard line. Sony Michel gained 8. On 3rd and 2 from their own 11, Matthew Stafford threw incomplete but defensive pass interference meant a 9 yard gain. On 3rd and 2 from their own 28, Michel gained 3 as the scoreless first quarter ended. On 3rd and 10 from their own 43 in the second quarter, Stafford scrambled and gained 14 yards. Stafford then hit Blanton for 11. On 3rd and 6 fro the San Francisco 28, Stafford hit Cooper Kupp for 15. On 3rd and 13 from the Frisco 16, Stafford went to the corner of the end zone and Kupp can down with it for the touchdown. This was a statement drive. 18 plays. 97 yards. 9 1/2 minutes off the clock. With 9 minutes left in the half, the Rams had the 7-0 lead.

After a touchback, this time the 49ers moved quickly. Jimmy Garoppolo went deep to Brandon Aiyuk for 31 yards. Garoppolo then threw a quick swing pass to Deebo Samuel, who evaded a tackler and outraced everyone to turn a loss into a touchdown and a 7-7 game. The Rams moved from their own 23 to a 1st and 10 at the Rams 38. Stafford went bombs away and had a wide open Skowronek in the end zone. Skowronek dropped it. It just bounced off his fingertips. Then on 3rd and 8 from the San Francisco 36, Stafford threw incomplete. Then Matt Gay’s 54 yard field goal try was wide no good. After all of that, the Rams wasted another opportunity and the game was still tied 7-7. Just like last week, the 49ers were being dominated statistically but were hanging around. On 3rd and 8 from their own 46, Garoppolo hit George Kittle for 11. Garoppolo went to Hasty for 6 and Aiyuk for 13. From 38 yards out, Robbie Gould’s field goal try to end the half was good as the 49ers took the 10-7 lead to the locker rooms. 

In the third quarter the Rams moved from their own 11 to a 2nd and 1 at the San Francisco 43. Cam Akers got stopped. On 3rd and 1 under heavy pressure, Stafford threw incomplete. Sean McVay went for it. On 4th and inches, Stafford took the quarterback sneak and got stopped stone cold. McVay wasted a timeout on a losing challenge. The 49ers soon faced 3rd and 4 from their own 48. Garoppolo hit Aiyuk for 13 and Samuel for 14. On 3rd and 10 from the Rams 26, Garoppolo fired over the middle to Jennings at the sticks. Jennings appeared stopped short of the marker but willed his way through the defense for 11. Garoppolo then went to Kittle for a 16 yard touchdown. The 10 play, 58 yard, 6 minute drive had the 49ers up 17-7. 

After a touchback, Stafford hit Kupp for 7 and 11.On the first play of the fourth quarter, Sean McVay called a flea flicker. It worked as Stafford hit Blanton for 20 and again for 9. On 2nd and 1 from the Frisco 11, Michel got stopped. This time on 3rd and 1, Stafford worked the play action perfectly and hit a wide open Kupp in the end zone for an 11 yard touchdown. The Rams were within 17-14 only 90 seconds into the fourth quarter. The 49ers moved from their own 14 to a 2nd and 1 from the Rams 44. A run lost a yard. On 3rd and 2, a run went nowhere and the ball came out. Replay showed that the runner was down by contact, but Sean McVay wasted his final challenge and the Rams final timeout unsuccessfully. Nevertheless, the Rams got the ball back at their own 15. 

Stafford immediately went bombs away and should have been intercepted. The defender was all by himself and just dropped it. Unfazed, Stafford went deep again to O’Dell Beckham for 29 with 15 more tacked on for a helmet to helmet hit. On 3rd and 10 from the San Francisco 41, Stafford hit Kupp for 16. Yet on 3rd and 3 from the Frisco 18, a swing pass from Stafford to Michel lost 4 yards. This time Gay hit the 40 yard field goal to tie the game 17-17 midway through the fourth quarter. After a touchback the 49es offense malfunctioned. First came an incompletion and then a killer delay of game penalty. Then a badly thrown pass by Garoppolo should have been intercepted. This time it was the Rams defense that dropped an easy interception. The Rams got the ball back at their own 39 with 6 1/2 minutes left. The goal was to make sure Garoppolo did not see the ball again.

On 3rd and 1 from their own 48, Stafford hit Blanton for 8. On 3rd and 3 from the Frisco 37, Stafford hit Kupp on a perfect crossing route for a 25 yard gain. On 1st and 10 from the Frisco 11, a first down without a touchdown would let the Rams use all the clock. A run lost a yard. Kyle Shanahan surprisingly did not take a timeout, letting the clock go down to the 2 minute warning. On the next play Stafford was sacked, and the 49ers took their 1st timeout with 1:55 left. On 3rd and 18, a short pass gained 8 yards and Shanahan took a 2nd timeout. Gay came in for the 30 yard field goal try to give the Rams the 3 point lead. Gay was good. However, after a touchback, the 49ers still had 1:46 left and one timeout from their own 12. Under heavy pressure, an incompletion was followed by a completion that lost 3 yards. Garoppolo was not sacked all game. Yet on 3rd and 13, from their own 22, Garoppolo was about to be sacked when he shot-putted a desperation heave that bounced off a receiver’s hands and was intercepted by Howard. Stafford took 3 knees to send the 49ers back to San Francisco in the same year the Dodgers beat the Giants and send the Rams to the Super Bowl. 20-17 Rams

Super Bowl LVI (56) is set: AFC Cincinnati Bengals vs NFC Los Angeles Rams

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