Takeaways: NFL conference championship games

Steel City Underground offers their top takeaways from the 2022 National Football League’s AFC and NFC conference championship games on January 29, 2023.

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Eagles soar over ‘Niners in NFC match

Things didn’t go as planned for San Francisco on Sunday afternoon. Rookie quarterback Brock Purdy was forced out of the game after the forty-niners’ first offensive series due to an injury. That required Josh Johnson, listed as the fourth quarterback on the roster, to enter. Early in the second half, Johnson would be pulled due to a concussion. When Purdy returned, a shoot-out was next to impossible because he wasn’t able to utilize the pass.

Philadelphia’s defense, and injuries, made San Francisco the very definition of one-dimensional on offense, and the result wasn’t pretty.

Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts started off hot and remained that way. On Philadelphia’s opening drive, Hurts shook off fourth down and put the ball 29-yards downfield where DeVonta Smith grabbed a spectacularly athletic one-handed catch. Whether the ball came out or not was a question that was erased as no challenge was made and the Eagles hurried into the next snap.

Running back Miles Sanders, who is one-of-five Eagles to rush for 12 touchdowns in a single season, including the playoffs, put the ball into the end zone on the following play. Sanders joined LeSean McCoy, Ricky Waters, and Hurts to set that mark during the Super Bowl era.

Defensively, San Francisco dealt with injuries to two key players: Nick Bosa and Fred Warner. The defense, already on their heels and under duress due to a stifling run game by Philly, wasn’t aided when linebacker Dre Greenlaw threw punches at Kenneth Gainwell that were more than just attempts to knock the ball loose for a turnover. Instead of forcing a fourth down, the play resulted in a penalty that was converted into a field goal three plays later that sealed the win at 31-7.

San Francisco was a shell of itself as Philadelphia literally ran the west coast team up and down the field. The ‘Niners fell apart, in more ways than one.

The game was chippy and hostile, but its worst incident involved Trent Williams flinging Eagles safety K’Von Wallace to the turf from behind. Wallace retaliated and a scrum was narrowly avoided. Both players were ejected from the game.

The Eagles were the better team on Sunday, even if fans felt the officiating was sub par. The Niners didn’t have to shoot themselves in the foot by drawing the second-most penalties in a NFL playoff game (behind only the 2004 Oakland Raiders) with 11 for 81 total yards. It was a sign of frustration that boiled over in an already adverse situation.

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Chiefs get 3-point revenge over Bengals in AFC showdown

With all the talk about Patrick Mahomes‘ ankle and the Chiefs stadium being deemed “Burrowhead” by Cincinnati’s mayor after the Bengals bested Kansas City in their past three meetings (winning by three points in each of those wins), a very tight game came down to another field goal victory.

The winning field goal by the Chiefs came as a result of an unnecessary roughness call against the Bengals as Mahomes took off with the ball with seconds left on the game clock in regulation. Mahomes, already out of bounds, was shoved/tackled by Joseph Ossai; Ossai was visibly upset with himself after the game.

Regardless of the result, the AFC championship game was a great, hard-fought battle by both teams.

Joe Burrow shook off four early sacks to get the offense on track for what looked to be another potential Bengals win. Cincinnati was gifted the ball on a fumble when Mahomes lost grip on a ball he intended to throw, but weren’t able to use the turnover to propel them to a victory.

Who cares if everyone is dubbing the Super Bowl the “Kelce bowl” – it was a team effort that got Kansas City their win.

The Chiefs earned their shot at the Eagles by playing through injuries (including those to receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster, Kadarius Toney, and Mecole Hardman) that limited the number of receiving targets available to mainly tight ends and a lot of tenacity.

The matchup was arguably the best game of the day and now the AFC’s number one seed entering the NFL playoffs will go head-to-head with the NFC’s number one seed. History is about to be made.

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