NFC & AFC Championship Recaps

           Two terrific fights to the end left NFL fans with the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots as the finalists for Super Bowl 53. The Rams defeated the Saints 26-23 on a Greg Zuerlein field goal and the Patriots defeated the Chiefs 37-31 in overtime where Brady led a drive down the field capped off by a Rex Burkhead touchdown. Both the Rams and the Patriots were the #2 seed in their respective conferences and had difficult roads to get there. Tom Brady will be looking to make even more history with another Super Bowl victory, while Sean McVay and his young star Jared Goff will be looking to etch their names into the record books.

            The Saints jumped out to a 13-0 lead in the first quarter and were looking to run away with it. The Rams were simply unable to generate much offense and were having issues with technology and crowd noise and it clearly showed. The Rams didn’t give up and they owned the second quarter scoring 10 straight and keeping the Saints off the board. After trading touchdowns and field goals in the third and fourth quarters, the Saints were driving with less than two minutes left in a tied game. Arguably the most important missed call in NFL history occurred and greatly dampened the dreams of Saints fans.

            On third down, Drew Brees threw an incompletion to receiver Tommylee Lewis, but the issue was with the missed pass interference call on the Rams’ Nickell Robey-Coleman. Without the pass interference call, the Saints were forced to kick a field goal and give the ball back to the Rams with plenty of time to tie it. With the pass interference call, the Saints could have effectively worked the clock down and then kicked a field goal; thus, Goff would have an extremely low probability of scoring. In overtime, the Saints got the ball; however, they suffered more heartbreak following a Drew Brees interception. The Rams responded with a field goal to win the game.

            Brees finished 26/40 for 249 yards, 2 touchdowns, and an interception. The Saints dynamic rushing attack of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara combined for just 46 rushing yards. Kamara finished the leading receiver with 11 receptions for 96 yards. Michael Thomas, the Saints best weapon receiving, was held to just 4 catches for 36 yards. Jared Goff threw for 297 yards, a touchdown, and an interception on 25/40 passing. Todd Gurley, the league’s best running back, was a non-factor with just 13 all-purpose yards. Brandon Cooks finished with 7 catches for 107 yards. The Rams now look on to Atlanta where they will take on the New England Patriots.

            The Patriots jumped out to a 17-7 lead and held that lead going into the fourth quarter. The Chiefs responded with 24 fourth quarter points to the Patriots 14 to even up the game and force overtime. Patrick Mahomes led the offense down the field in less than a minute to knock through a Harrison Butker field goal. The Patriots won the coin toss and never looked back. Tom Brady marched the offense down the field with little to no resistance and Rex Burkhead finished the game with a rushing touchdown. Brady now has a chance to add another ring to his collection and he proved many fans wrong who simply said the team just didn’t have it in them this season.

            Brady finished 30/46 for 348 yards, a touchdown, and 2 interceptions. Sony Michel had a huge day with 29 carries for 113 yards and 2 touchdowns. The Patriots had more than four times as many passing yards as the Chiefs (176 to 41). Burkhead had 12 carries for 41 yards and 2 touchdowns. Julian Edelman finished with 96 yards on 7 catches and Rob Gronkowski hauled in 6 catches for 79 yards. The Patriots finished strong and greatly mitigated the electric Chiefs offense.

            Mahomes finished with 295 yards and 3 touchdowns on 16/31 passing. Damien Williams rushed for 30 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries and hauled in 5 catches for 2 touchdowns. Tyreke Hill, the Chiefs leading receiver during the regular season, was held to just one catch for 42 yards. Travis Kelce, the explosive tight end, finished with just 3 catches for 23 yards and a touchdown. While Sammy Watkins did finish with 100+ receiving yards, the Patriots did a superb job shutting down all the Chiefs weapons.

            The Rams and Patriots have very different story lines going into this game. The Rams have the youth in McVay, Goff, and Gurley, while the Patriots boast the experience of Brady and Bill Belichick. The opening line shows the Patriots as 2-point favorites, but anything can happen in the playoffs. Super Bowl 53 will be a tremendous game and congratulations to both teams on great success.

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