NFL Playoffs - AFC Divisional Round
By David Thatcher, Clarion Staff Reporter
I am definitely in shock at how the 2021-2022 Divisional Round Playoffs turned out.
Starting from the first game on January 22, the Cincinnati Bengals defeated the Tennessee Titans with a 19-16 win. However, I noticed things to point out when they were playing.
For one, the Bengals’ offensive line really has to step up their game since their quarterback Joe Burrow was sacked 10 times that day. This poses a big problem for the Bengals, especially in the AFC Championship having to face the Kansas City Chiefs who have some key pass rushers, including Chris Jones and Melvin Ingram III who have done well putting pressure on quarterbacks all season and postseason.
The Titans performance during the Divisional game was certainly underwhelming and I had higher expectations for the Titans. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill performed poorly with 220 passing yards, 1 passing touchdown, and 3 interceptions along with a passer rating (Determined by the NFL) of 66.7. Derrick Henry performed decently with 62 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown with 20 rushing attempts even though I was expecting him to cause some more damage to the Bengals’ defense than he did. Although it didn’t matter, as the Titans had 3 turnovers. This caused the Bengals to at least come away scoring another 3 points as a result of each of those turnovers. The final turnover was the reason why Joe Burrow was able to get to field goal range in the last seconds of regulation to set up Bengals’ kicker Evan McPherson a 52-yard field goal to advance his team to the AFC Championship which he drilled down the middle of the field goal posts easily.
Now going to the spectacular Buffalo Bills vs Kansas City Chiefs game which was a game for the ages that I surely will never forget. Everybody tuning into the game saw insane offensive performances from both teams, resulting in the Buffalo Bills’ defeat, 42-36. However, Josh Allen and Gabriel Davis were the dynamic duo that night with Allen throwing for 329 passing yards, 4 passing touchdowns, no interceptions, and a Quarterback rating of 136.0. Gabriel Davis, wide receiver for the Bills, put up 8 receptions, 201 receiving yards, and 4 receiving touchdowns making history with the most receiving touchdowns by a receiver in playoff history.
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes also performed extremely well throwing for 375 passing yards, 3 passing touchdowns, no interceptions, and ending the game with a quarterback rating of 123.1.
Clearly both quarterbacks were doing a lot of damage to their opponents’ defense. Surprisingly, the Chiefs’ defensive line had trouble containing Josh Allen who showed a lot of elusiveness in the pocket as well as showing off his exceptional scrambling abilities. Mahomes also could not be contained in the pocket. This gave both quarterbacks a lot of opportunities to gain yardage with their legs or buy enough time to throw the ball downfield. Definitely spectacular playmaking between the two quarterbacks.
However, the real show was the 4th Quarter where we saw the offensive duel begin with Josh Allen making a comeback to take the lead in the final two minutes which Mahomes II answered with a touchdown of his own. Allen, again with only about a minute left on the clock, scored another touchdown giving the Buffalo Bills a 3 point lead over the Kansas City Chiefs and about 13 seconds of regulation left.
Unfortunately for Buffalo, this was too much time left on the clock and the Chiefs still had 3 timeouts. Besides the fact the Bills defense did start to weaken, Mahomes was able to run two plays that gained him enough yardage for the Chiefs’ kicker Harrison Butker to tie the game with a field goal taking the game into overtime.
The Buffalo Bills lost the overtime coin toss, meaning Mahomes was going to receive the ball first. This ended up in an overtime battle that lasted a few minutes with the Bills defense once again performing poorly, leading to a touchdown for the Chiefs. Mahomes was able to lead his team to win the game in overtime with a score of 42-36.
With a disappointing ending to arguably the best football game I’ve ever witnessed brings the mind to the question, should the NFL consider changing the overtime rules? Due to the fact that the Chiefs practically won the game off of a coin toss Josh Allen never had an opportunity to continue fighting for the AFC Championship spot.
I must give props to both teams, especially to both quarterbacks who played their hearts out and put on an impressive show and for showing their professionalism, class, and mutual respect.
Although emotions were flying with the Bills and Chiefs game, we can see that the Mahomes II and Allen rivalry may become the next Tom Brady and Peyton Manning rivalry, which is going to be spectacular to witness over many years to come.