The 2021-22 sports year is hell on earth in terms of healing injured fan bases. The state of Georgia has seen the Major League Baseball franchise and top college football program take the title, Milwaukee clinched its first NBA championship since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar hit sky-highs. , and the Cincinnati Bengals are now in the Super Bowl for the first time in 33 years won overtime 24-21 in Kansas City, Mo.
All season, it feels like the football world is ready to honor a new quarterback as the “face of the league”. a player is ready to enter the starting generation that has defined the NFL so far in this century. Day sports debate shows, podcasts, and social media accounts with display names like “@[Quarterback]IsTheGOAT2022” played a five-month game of its successor. A week later it was the Chargers’ Justin Herbert, then the ‘Kyler Murray’ Cardinals, and then the Bills’ Josh Allen, even as former Aaron Rodgers defenders Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger battled their way to the rear. Season.
But as has been the case for the past four seasons, Patrick Mahomes has once again fallen into disrepair and led Kansas City to the AFC Championship match, once again held at Arrowhead Stadium. By the halfway point of Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals, the third consecutive Super Bowl for Kansas City felt like a no-brainer: Mahomes had three touchdowns, the Bengals couldn’t get Ja’Marr Chase opened the scoring down the field and Kansas City was better the team up front.
Then Joe Burrow happened.
The Bengals’ success is not magic.
Casting the same precious-not-really-quite magic he’s been using since his 2019 national championship campaign at Louisiana State, Burrow excels at moving around pockets and spotting sums. average and blit blit before starting. In many cases – and it feels like every third time or less – Chris Jones and his dash over Kansas City have cost Burrow a right to die, only for him to crouch or slip away and move the leash with his arms or legs.
When Burrow realized that Kansas City would have safety on top of Chase for most of the day, he decided to pick Tee Higgins in the midfield, working against the defenders and safety that tried to stop him. block offense throughout the season. .
Burrow took on a heavy load on Sunday, especially since Cincinnati was unable to operate successfully under regulation. However, he doesn’t do it alone: the Bengals’ defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo deserves at least half the credit for the win. Cincinnati started the game by playing the same two deep mids that slowed Patrick Mahomes and his explosive receptive corps in the regular season, but to no avail. Mahomes patiently worked below through the window until Callahan lost his patience and played man-to-man – and was punished by Tyreek Hill at the top.
Even with all of Kansas City’s receivers perfectly covered, Mahomes extends the plays with scrambles until a breakout or a lane is revealed. And, after his game plan was thrashed for 30 minutes, Callahan made an important correction that was virtually unheard of at the professional level: He conceded the hasty pass outright. to curb the speed of Kansas City.
Dropping eight men into coverage, Cincinnati stood firmly in the back while Mahomes swept the field, betting that the former MVP would lose patience and be forced to throw or be easily covered. In Mahomes’ first interception, in the third quarter, wide ranger Trey Hendrickson dashed into a throw window, forcing a low throw that was deflected and blocked by the BJ Hill defense.
Down by 3 points in the fourth quarter, Kansas City squeezed its clocks in the final six minutes of its regulation on what counts as a driving force touching down a game win. But the Bengals’ defense fell back once again, forcing deep into the second, third and goal-scoring, and forcing Kansas City to settle for an on-field goal and extra time.
Then, in the final offensive game of the season in Kansas City, the same kind of coverage led to a forced pass to Tyreek Hill and picked out by Vonn Bell.
Like Mahomes, Kansas City Coach Andy Reid will face multiple second guesses about what he could have done differently. And, as in any NFL loss, there are options. To end the first half, Kansas City put in an extra shot from the bottom of the field – a pass to Hill, who handled very close to the goal line – instead of taking a long shot that would have lasted about approx. 14 points away. the point. Once it became clear that the game was out of rhythm and the Bengals were playing tight, they missed opportunities to score easy dashes.
But the truth is, Cincinnati beat what looked like it was against Tennessee in the group stage, thanks to Burrow’s toughness and the adjustments Callahan made defensively. This is not about fate or magic; The Bengals earned their spot in Super Bowl LVI by edging out Kansas City.
Fool me six times…
Let’s be clear: It’s very difficult to beat an NFL team three times in the same year. In Week 10, Los Angeles was bullied first and struggled to contain and cover for Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk. In Week 18, the Rams took a 17-3 first-half lead leading to a desperate 49ers – allowing Aiyuk and Samuel to prevail in the second half and extra time.
In two regular games that season, Samuel and Aiyuk combined for 31 touchdowns and 416 yards, of which Samuel scored three touchdowns.
It was impossible to stop talented players like the stars of the 49ers, but heading into Sunday’s NFC championship game, the Rams’ defense struggled to find a way to stop 49ers Coach Kyle Shanahan from turning the shots. big play for Samuel and Aiyuk to avoid a seventh straight loss to San Francisco. It was just enough to prevent Jimmy Garoppolo from finding the duo late to escape with a 20-17 win in this season’s rubber game and secure a spot in the Super Bowl that will be held at the Rams’ home ground.
Nowhere is the Rams’ dedication to toughness more than its previous seven fronts, which have held San Francisco just 2.5 yards for each performance in 20 attempts. Samuel and Aiyuk still went up to 167 yards after 15 touchdowns, but Los Angeles regrouped the ball and handled… hard. Breaking the NFL’s knockout standards, the Rams held back-up sessions over the weekend to emphasize the need to win before individual games.
Shanahan, renowned for his ability to hold an effective match against anyone, was left without an answer into the fourth inning, and put the outcome of the game in the hands of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
Garoppolo has flirted with throwing this playoff away every round: a bad fourth-round interception against Dallas; an incorrect, inaccurate throw by Adrian Amos in Green Bay; finally, a Carson Wentz-like flick while grabbing Aaron Donald, bounced off JaMycal Hasty’s helmet and into Travin Howard’s arms to mark Sunday’s results.
San Francisco’s elite passing rush continues to push the 49ers through Garoppolo’s struggles on Sunday. Nick Bosa and his group of defensive midfielders had two sacks and performed well as Stafford dropped nearly 50 times, but it wasn’t enough to stop Los Angeles stars Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham Jr., burn the second star over. 100 yards each.
With the 49ers trailing 17-14 with less than 10 minutes to play, San Francisco has pinned Los Angeles deep in its own territory. In search of explosive play, Stafford hit a low shot, but missed his pass to Van Jefferson. Jaquiski Tartt, deep in midfield, has time to circle under the ball but intercepts easily – causing a change in energy so the TV team can notice effects that linger long after it happen. Los Angeles came down with an on-field goal to tie the game.
In his subsequent possession of the Rams, Stafford punished a foul from third to down with a connection with Cooper Kupp at 12 yards to put the Rams in range and Matt Gay converted his kick. him to give Los Angeles the lead and set up Garoppolo’s disastrous turnaround. .
McVay ultimately beat Shanahan because the 49ers couldn’t do more to put pressure on the attack.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/30/sports/football/nfl-takeaways-kansas-city-bengals.html What We Learned From the NFL’s Conference Championship