While the New England Patriots are already in offseason mode, the NFL’s playoffs continued on Sunday with the two championship games in the AFC and NFC. Just like last week’s round, this one also featured some close games: the first was decided in overtime, the last on a field goal inside the two-minute warning.
Let’s take a look at the two contests to find out who will participate in Super Bowl LVI — and who has come just short of reaching the NFL’s title game.
AFC Championship Game
Championship Sunday started with the Bengals taking on the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium — the fourth straight year the AFC title game took place in Kansas City’s home arena. As opposed to the last two years, however, Patrick Mahomes and company did not come away as the victors. Instead, they lost 27-24 in overtime.
The game started with the favored Chiefs dominating on both sides of the ball. Kansas City jumped to a 21-3 lead late in the second quarter, but unraveled from that point on. The Bengals added a touchdown before the half, with the Chiefs driving the length of the field only to be stopped short of the goal line on a questionable pass from Mahomes to Tyreek Hill as time expired.
The second half was all Cincinnati. Second-year quarterback Joe Burrow found his rhythm to put his team up 24-21 late in the fourth quarter, while the defense forced Mahomes to see ghosts and make some rough mistakes: he threw an interception and despite bringing his team in a goal-to-go situation to potentially score the game-winning touchdown took two sacks to force the Chiefs to settle for overtime.
Once there, Mahomes’ meltdown continued. The former Super Bowl and NFL MVP threw an interception on a deep pass intended for Hill, setting up the field goal that sent Cincinnati to its third ever Super Bowl.
NFC Championship Game
The AFC title game was not the only one seeing a lead evaporate quickly. In the NFC Championship Game played at Los Angeles’ SoFi Stadium, the 49ers were able to enter the fourth quarter up 17-7 — despite the Rams playing a more competitive game than the score would have indicated at the time.
However, the team of head coach Sean McVay tied the contest with under seven minutes left to go in the game. San Francisco was unable to go on a decisive rally, instead giving the ball back to the Rams who in turn went on to score a field goal to take a 20-17 lead inside the two-minute warning.
In what will possibly turn out to be his final game in a 49ers uniform, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo had one last chance to drive for the lead or at least a tying field goal. However, he turned the football over while trying to evade pressure — allowing the Rams to kneel out the game and secure their spot in the Super Bowl for the second time in the last four seasons.
The Super Bowl will also be the second in a row that will feature a team playing on its home turf.
Super Bowl LVI
- Los Angeles Rams vs. Cincinnati Bengals: Sunday, Feb. 13, 6:30 p.m. ET (NBC/Peacock)
Despite being listed as the road team, the Rams will play at home in Super Bowl LVI. They will try to win the second ever Super Bowl in franchise history, and the first in Los Angeles (the previous one was earned during the St. Louis chapter of the organization). The trip will be the Rams’ fifth to the title game and first since losing 13-3 to the Patriots in Super Bowl LIII.
The Bengals, meanwhile, will try to win their first ever Vince Lombardi Trophy. Their previous trips following the 1981 and 1988 seasons both ended with a loss to the 49ers. With San Francisco eliminated in the NFC Championship Game, history repeating itself will not be on the menu for Cincinnati.