By Ron Johnson
With the opportunity to play for the NFL Conference Championships, we were down to our Elite Eight. By the time that Sunday ended, it was indeed all about who would step up for the task and who would step off the gas. In the end, adjustments were made, but the truth remained.
And that truth is next Sunday will indeed be gut check time!
AFC Divisional Playoffs
Ravens Dominate Texans; Chiefs Survive Road Trip to Buffalo
The Texans knew that defeating Cleveland would mean a trip to Baltimore to face the Ravens. What they didn’t know was that their offense did not make the trip. Lamar Jackson, the clear frontrunner for the MVP Award, finished with 152 yards through the air on 16/22 passing and a pair of touchdowns as well as 100 yards on 11 carries and a pair of touchdowns on the ground as the Baltimore Ravens punched their ticket to the AFC Championship Game with a 34-10 rout of the Houston Texans. Isaiah Likely and Nelson Agholor each contributed a touchdown catch in this game for Baltimore, who looked like a different animal from start to finish.
In one of the biggest rematches of the postseason, the Chiefs remember what happened the last time. In fact, they made it clear that they were not going down without a fight. But in the end, it was a case of déjà vu that led to the downfall of the Bills in this game. Patrick Mahomes finished with 215 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 17/23 passing, while Isiah Pacheco lived up to his name as the angriest little man with 97 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown as the Chiefs watched as Tyler Bass’ 44-yard field goal went wide right (those who remember the Bills heartbreaking first Super Bowl loss will understand the reference) to give them the go-ahead to punch their ticket to Baltimore with a 27-24 win. Josh Allen did his best to keep the Bills in this game as he rushed for a pair of touchdowns and threw for one. Buffalo’s offense relied heavily on Allen’s arm and legs to keep them in this dogfight, but when the smoke cleared, it will only be remembered for the ‘Kick Heard ‘Round the World ’24.
NFC Divisional Playoffs
Niners Cause Controversy; Lions Steamroll to First NFC Championship Appearance in 30 Years
The San Francisco 49ers knew what Green Bay did to Dallas last week, and they were trying not to suffer the same fate. When it was all said and done, they relied on their own X-Factor in the backfield: Christian McCaffrey. McCaffrey finished with 98 yards on 17 carries and a pair of touchdowns, including the game winner, while Brock Purdy shined at the right time (23/39, 252 and a touchdown) to complete a huge comeback for the Niners and defeat the Packers 24-21 to advance to the NFC Championship Game for the third consecutive time and fourth in the past five years. The Niners defense stepped up at the right time as well as an interception by Dre Greenlaw that sealed the win for the Niners who will have ALL the pressure on them after failing to get it done the last three years.
It has been 30 years since the Detroit Lions played in the NFC Championship Game. Back then, Wayne Fontes was the coach of the team, and Barry Sanders was in the prime of his career. These days, it is all about the kneecaps as Dan Campbell and Jared Goff have the Lions one win away from playing in the Super Bowl. After a gritty performance against the Rams, the duo took it up a notch in their showdown with Baker Mayfield and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Jared Goff played like a man that just got a huge monkey taken off his back completing 30 of his 43 passes for 287 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while Jahmyr Gibbs played like Barry with 74 yards on nine carries as the Detroit Lions punched their ticket to the Bay Area with a 31-23 win over the red-hot Bucs. Despite throwing three touchdown passes in the game, Baker Mayfield dished out some apple turnovers of his own as he launched his final pass that was picked off by Derrick Barnes to seal it for Detroit.
3 Kansas City Chiefs vs. 1 Baltimore Ravens
3 Detroit Lions vs. 1 San Francisco 49ers