The best NFL divisional round… ever?

Connor Van Hulzen – Staff Writer

Contributed photo

            This past weekend’s slate of NFL games produced enough drama and tension to make fans ask if they were watching a scripted Hollywood blockbuster.

            Out of the four games played in the divisional round of the playoffs, three were decided by game winning field goals as time expired. The fourth was decided by a walk-off touchdown in overtime.

            Overall, the NFL proved once again why it is the king of television ratings and how crazy sports can be.

            The first game of the weekend featured the Cincinnati Bengals and the Tennessee Titans. A back-and-forth affair that featured four turnovers in total, the game ultimately culminated in rookie kicker Evan McPherson drilling a 52-yard field goal, granting the Bengals their first road playoff win in franchise history since they entered the league in 1968 and first AFC Championship Game appearance since 1988.

            The second took place on the frozen tundra of Green Bay, Wisconsin. There, the home team Packers faced off against the San Francisco 49ers. This game saw a low scoring affair turned on its head after multiple Packers special team’s miscues. A blocked field goal and a blocked punt returned for a touchdown dramatically altered the outcome of the game, which ended as San Francisco’s veteran kicker Robbie Gould kicked a 45-yard field goal to propel the 49ers over the favored Packers and into the NFC Championship Game.

            The third game saw two heavyweights duke it out in sunny Tampa Bay, Florida, where the Buccaneers faced off against the Los Angeles Rams. The Rams dominated the first half of the game, going into halftime with a 20-3 lead. Coming out of halftime, they continued to build, eventually sporting a 27-3 lead over Tom Brady’s Bucs.

However, there is a reason why Tom Brady is widely considered the greatest quarterback to ever play the game of football. Over the course of the second half, Brady and the Buccaneers stormed back, scoring 24 unanswered points and tying the game with only 42 seconds left in regulation. Those few seconds provided Los Angeles with just enough time. The Rams catapulted down the field on a 44-yard catch by wide receiver Cooper Kupp and positioned themselves to, once again, have the kicker save the day. Veteran Matt Gay drove home the 30-yard field goal and finished the trifecta of game-winning kicks over the weekend.

            The final game of the weekend between the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs featured more hysterics than these three games combined, believe it or not. A back-and-forth between two high-flying offenses led by Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes and Buffalo’s Josh Allen culminated in one of the most dramatic ends to a playoff game in recent memory.

In the final two minutes of regulation, the two teams combined scored 25 points, a playoff record. With thirteen seconds left in regulation, the Bills’ Gabriel Davis caught his fourth touchdown of the evening and gave the Bills a 36-33 lead. However, Patrick Mahomes worked magic as only he is able and moved down the field with just enough time left on the clock for his kicker Harrison Butker to make a 49-yard field goal and send the game to overtime. The Chiefs then made quick work of the Bills’ defense, driving down the field and scoring a touchdown, ensuring that the Bills had no chance to receive the ball on offense.

            As a fan whose own team is not participating in the playoffs, this weekend’s slate of games was the most fun I have ever had watching games that I had no explicit rooting interest in. The magic presented on the football field was truly too outlandish to script. Every game featured heroics and non-stop action that kept blood pressures raised across the nation.

            Hopefully these teams have some exciting moments left in them for the rest of playoffs, assuredly bringing further entertainment to the table.

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