THE SHIELD NEVER LOSES by Scott Lewis
THE SHIELD NEVER LOSES:
It’s funny how quickly things change on a week-to-week basis in the NFL and that is one of the many reasons why it is America’s new favorite pastime. Just last week the question on social media as if the addition of new wild card teams was bad for the sport coming off a weekend of terrible games. This past weekend the NFL had quite possibly the greatest weekend of football ever played in league history. All four games went down to the very last play with three of the games being decided on a last-second field goal & the other was decided in overtime on a game-winning touchdown. This weekend also featured the #1 seeds in both conferences getting eliminated on the same day, something that hasn’t been seen since 1980. I’m going to break down all four of these games and preview this weekend’s championship Sunday.
The first of four classics this weekend was in Nashville, TN where the top-seeded Titans welcomed back the best running back in the game Derrick Henry & had a defense that was poised to dominate. Dominate is exactly what that defense did as they sacked Bengals QB Joe Burrow nine yes NINE times and also intercepted him once. None of that mattered though as Burrow proved why he’s one of the new school’s best and threw for 348 yards and led the Bengals to an upset win. The Titans saw first hand why having a franchise QB is the only thing that matters come playoff time as Ryan Tannehill threw 3 interceptions and a bone-breaking one that lead to Evan McPherson hitting a field goal that would send the Bengals to their first AFC title game in 33 years.
The Saturday nightcap was in the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field where Aaron Rodgers & the top-seeded Green Bay Packers hosted the hottest team in the NFL, Jimmy G & the San Francisco 49ers. The Packers came out on the first drive looking unstoppable as AJ Dillion capped off a 69-yard drive with a touchdown. That would be the most offense we would see the rest of the day as the teams traded turnovers & field goals for the majority of the game. A blocked field goal at the end of the 2nd quarter saved the Niners after Rodgers & crew were driving and looked to score a touchdown after Adrian Amos’ end-zone interception of Jimmy G. Special teams saved the day for the Niners with a blocked punt in the 4th quarter which led to a touchdown and former Chicago Bears great Robbie Gould hitting a field goal that would send Aaron Rodgers into an early vacation.
Coming into Sunday I was thinking there was no way after that slate of Saturday games that the Sunday slate could realistically be as good but thankfully I was wrong. The defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers would host the Los Angeles Rams with a chance to now host the NFC championship game now that the Packers were eliminated. The Rams came out & punched the champs in the mouth taking a 20-3 lead at halftime and had full control of this game. Death, taxes, Tom Brady is something we have been saying for over two decades now and the old man rose out of the casket once more as he tied the game at 27 each with just under a minute and a half to go and it looked like he was about to complete another comeback for the ages. Matthew Stafford responded with a 70-yard bomb to the league receiving leader Cooper Kupp which won the game on a last-second field goal & shut the door on another Brady legacy moment.
The weekend’s finale was the most anticipated game and a rematch of last season's AFC Championship game, Bills/Chiefs aka Josh Allen vs Patrick Mahomes. This game lived up to the hype as we got a high-scoring thriller that went into overtime. Mahomes and Allen would throw for a combined 707 yards, 7 touchdowns, and zero interceptions. The last 2 minutes of the game were the best 2 minutes in history as both QB’s traded touchdowns and ended with Mahomes leading the Chiefs into field-goal territory with only 13 seconds left and this one was headed into extras. The Bills should’ve gone for the head and not played that soft defense in the final seconds of the 4th because OT started with Mahomes getting the ball and Allen never got it back. Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce have become one of the best duos in NFL history and they delivered once again with a touchdown that would send the Chiefs to their fourth consecutive AFC title game.
As we get ready for the NFL’s version of the final four, Championship Sunday it's going to be hard to deliver something as great as what we’ve seen this past weekend. We’re going to be getting our first Championship Sunday without Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers involved since 2009 and the young blood will be on full display. Three of the four starting quarterbacks this weekend are all under 30 years old with the other one Matthew Stafford still in his prime in his first-ever NFC title game. Chiefs/Bengals & Rams/Niners are both rematches from the regular season the latter being one of the best division rivalries in football. It’s going to be difficult to see Mahomes lose a title game at home and on the NFC side, it's hard to predict a game between teams that will face each other for the 3rd time. I think when the dust settles the Niners will be spending back-to-back weeks in Los Angeles as they will get their Super Bowl 54 rematch against the Kansas City Chiefs. Mahomes is Mahomes but the Niners are starting to feel like a team of destiny, only time will tell.