Over the weekend, the NFL’s elite eight battled it out to see who would advance to the conference championship games. In these four games, there was plenty of that classic NFL playoff drama. Here’s a look at each of the four games that transpired this weekend.
Green Bay Packers def. Los Angeles Rams 32-18
The Packers have been flexing their muscles on offense all year, and it was no different in their divisional-round matchup against the Rams. The biggest storyline heading into this game was the impending showdown between Packers receiver Davantae Adams and Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey. During the season, Adams was virtually uncoverable, with 115 receptions for 1,374 yards and an astounding 18 touchdowns. Jalen Ramsey, on the other hand, shut down almost every top receiver he faced this year.
The Rams had the #1 scoring defense in the league this year, but it was no problem for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ offense, as they put up 484 yards of total offense. Aaron Donald’s lack of production in this game certainly did not help the Rams’ defense either. Aaron Donald suffered torn rib cartilage in the Rams’ Wild Card win over the Seahawks but still managed to play in this game. His injury certainly limited him, however, as Green Bay held him to zero sacks. In the end, the Packers overwhelmed the Rams on both sides of the ball, leading to a 32-18 win.
Game MVP: Aaron Rodgers (23/36, 296 yds, 2 TDs, Rush TD)
Play of the Game: Allen Lazard’s 58-yard touchdown
Buffalo Bills def. Baltimore Ravens 17-3
This game was all about somebody shaking off a narrative. The Buffalo Bills were looking to go to their first AFC Championship game since 1994, when Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, and Bruce Smith were on the team. Lamar Jackson had just won his first playoff game in his third trip to the playoffs, labeling him as a playoff choke artist. A trip to the AFC Championship would surely change that.
This game was a defensive struggle in the first half, as there were six points scored in total in the first half. The lack of points made Justin Tucker’s struggles crucial.
The Bills then found their stride on offense in the second half, as Josh Allen was able to find Stefon Diggs for a touchdown to give the Bills a seven-point lead. Lamar Jackson and the Ravens looked ready to respond as they had a goal-to-go situation. Then Taron Johnson made the play of the game and a play that may go down in Bills franchise history.
On the next drive, Lamar Jackson, unfortunately, suffered a concussion, knocking him out of the game, and the Ravens were not able to get any points on the board without him, leading to a Bills victory.
Game MVP: Stefon Diggs (8 rec, 106 yds, TD)
Play of the Game: Taron Johnson’s 101-yard pick-six
Kansas City Chiefs def. Cleveland Browns 22-17
In what was probably the craziest game of the weekend, the defending Super Bowl champs took on the lovable underdogs, the Cleveland Browns. The first half was all Kansas City, as the Chiefs outscored the Browns 19-3 in the first half. The Browns almost had a touchdown on a great Baker Mayfield pass to Rashard Higgins. Higgins tried to extend the ball over the goal line for a touchdown when he was hit by Daniel Sorenson. That hit would invoke what many people believe is the worst rule in football.
There’s a lot that can be said about this hit. How was there no call for a helmet-to-helmet hit? Why do the Browns lose possession if the fumble goes out of bounds? Regardless, the Browns would lose possession and scored zero points on the drive.
The second half was all Cleveland, as they outscored the Chiefs 14-3. A large part of this is the fact that Patrick Mahomes was injured, forcing him to leave the game. It was a very scary moment, as Mahomes couldn’t stand up on his own afterward.
A few minutes after, the Browns brought the lead down to five with a Kareem Hunt rushing touchdown, set up by a great catch from Austin Hooper.
Chad Henne was forced to enter the game, and nearly let the Browns right back into the game, as he threw an interception right to Karl Joseph.
The Browns were unable to do anything with the possession they got from the interception and were forced to punt. Henne and the Chiefs were forced into a third and long situation when Chad Henne made two plays that will be shown for years to come.
Andy Reid may very well be the only head coach confident enough to put the game in the hands of his backup quarterback on fourth down with the game on the line. It ended up working out, as now the Chiefs are headed to the AFC Championship for the third consecutive year.
Game MVP: Tyreek Hill (8 rec, 110 yds)
Play of the Game: Chad Henne to Tyreek Hill on fourth down to win the game
Tampa Bay Buccaneers def. New Orleans Saints 30-20
The final game of the divisional round was billed as a showdown between two Hall of Fame quarterbacks. Tom Brady and Drew Brees had never faced each other in the playoffs this year, but they did play each other twice in the regular season. In those two games, the Saints not only won both games but did so fairly convincingly. This game was mostly about the defenses, as neither Brady nor Brees could get their offense going in the first half, as it was a 13-13 tie at the half.
In the second half, the Bucs outscored the Saints by a score of 17-7 to ultimately take the win. The win was highlighted by four Saints turnovers, including three Drew Brees interceptions.
The Saints’ loss is likely the end of the line for Saints quarterback Drew Brees, as there were several reports that Drew Brees would retire at the end of the season. If this truly is the end, Brees walks away as a Super Bowl champion, a multiple-time Pro Bowler, holder of multiple records, and a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Game MVP: Devin White (11 tackles, fumble recovery, INT)
Play of the Game: Jameis Winston throws a touchdown against his former team