Thrilling finishes abound in NFL divisional weekend

by Seth Udinski

Seth Udinski, FISM News


Four NFL teams remain in the battle for Super Bowl LVI after a historically thrilling NFL divisional round. All four contests came down to the final play of the game, and in three of them the underdog came out on top.

The weekend began with clash in Nashville between the upstart Cincinnati Bengals and the AFC’s top seeded Tennessee Titans. Quarterback Joe Burrow proved his grit yet again as one of the top young stars in the league, surviving a ferocious Tennessee pass rush that sacked him nine times. The Titans were the favorites in front of their home crowd, but the offense was plagued by three costly interceptions from quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

Burrow marched the Bengals down the field in the last seconds of the game with the score knotted at 16-16 to set up clutch kicker Evan McPherson with a chance to win the game. McPherson drilled a 52-yard file goal as time expired, sending Cincinnati to its first AFC Championship Game since 1988:

The Saturday nightcap saw perhaps the most shocking upset of the weekend. The mighty Green Bay Packers and their MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers hosted the San Fransisco 49ers at Lambeau Field, one of the toughest venues to win a game in January as an away team. The 49ers relied on their stingy defense that stiffened in the cold after an early Packers touchdown, coupled with utility-man WR Deebo Samuel driving their offense. The turning point in the game came late in the 4th quarter, when San Francisco blocked a punt and picked up the loose ball to score, tying the game at 10 a piece.

San Fransisco got the ball back with a little over 3 minutes to go, and veteran kicker Robbie Gould continued his perfect playoff streak nailing a 45-yard boot through the snow as time expired to beat the Packers 13-10, sending the 49ers to the NFC Championship Game:

On Sunday afternoon the Los Angeles Rams jumped on the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, taking a 27-3 second-half lead, but no lead is safe when Tom Brady is quarterback. Sure enough, Brady led the Bucs on a furious comeback in the 4th quarter. Tampa scored 24 unanswered points and tied the game with under a minute left.

The Rams, however, refused to settle for overtime, and quarterback Matthew Stafford completed a brilliant long pass to Cooper Kupp to set up a game-winning opportunity for kicker Matt Gay. Gay drilled a 30-yard field goal as time expired, sending the Rams to the NFC Championship Game with a 30-27 win:

With all the thrilling action preceding it, the last contest trumped them all with an epic finish to the game. In a showdown between two star quarterbacks, the Buffalo Bills’ Josh Allen and the Kansas City Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes went back and forth for four quarters. The Bills took a 3-point lead with 13 seconds left on a strike from Allen to Gabriel Davis in what would appear to be the game winning score. Patrick Mahomes only needed those 13 seconds to drive the Chiefs down the field on two passes to set-up a game-tying field goal.

Kansas City won the overtime toss and marched down the field on the opening drive of the period for the win. Mahomes found tight end Travis Kelce in the corner of the end zone for the game winning touchdown, beating the Bills 42-36 and sending the Arrowhead Stadium Crowd into a frenzy:

Next week will see the four remaining teams matchup in the League Championship round for a chance to go to the Super Bowl. Kansas City will host Cincinnati in the AFC Championship game on Sunday at 3 pm EST, and Los Angeles will take on San Francisco at 6:30 in the NFC Championship game.

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