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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Now on to the NFL Conference Championships

What happened last weekend?

Another weekend of NFL playoffs has come and gone. Those of you who watched from home witnessed some gut-wrenchingly close games that had us gripping our seats until the very end, while others revealed some remarkably lifeless performances from teams who lacked in showmanship and play-calling.

But going into the playoffs, we as fans must remind ourselves that, regardless of what we witnessed during the regular season, this is the playoffs. Here, we get to experience the true essence of what it takes to be a complete team — one that outperforms its opponent through teamwork and the ability to outmaneuver the other’s play-calling in one make-or-break game of physical chess.

The first game on Saturday featured the New England Patriots and the Houston Texans. Going into Saturday’s matchup, Houston boasted the league’s best defensive unit but was still seen as the underdogs, due in part to its record of 9-7, the worst among remaining playoff contenders.

The Wild Card win against the 12-4 Raiders gave the Texans some much-needed swagger for their matchup against the Patriots, who won seven straight games before the postseason. Houston’s quarterback woes during the regular season did not disappear for the playoffs, and it showed on Saturday, as Brock Osweiler threw a dismal 198 yards on 40 attempts and three interceptions.

On the bright side, the Houston defense was able to intercept Tom Brady twice, matching the amount of turnovers he gave up all season. For many fans and experts, the Texan’s “Cinderella Story” was doomed in the winter chill of New England before it had a chance to begin. The final score was 34-16, with the Patriots advancing.

Saturday’s late game between the scrappy Seattle Seahawks and the offensive powerhouse of the Atlanta Falcons was another outmatched contest. Lead by quarterback and MVP hopeful Matt Ryan, the Falcons put on a stellar performance for their home crowd as they trampled over a Seahawk team that struggled to keep their momentum in an ecstatic Atlanta stadium. Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson turned the ball over twice with two interceptions and tripped in his own end-zone for a safety while his counterpart threw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns with no turnovers. Atlanta ran away with the lead in the second quarter and never looked back, winning 36-20 to reach its first NFC championship game since the team lost to the 49ers in 2013.      

Sunday’s matchups proved to be more thrilling. The Green Bay Packers went into Dallas to face a young and stout Cowboys team. The Cowboys’ miracle season under the leadership of rookie quarterback Dak Prescott and the NFL’s leading rusher, rookie Ezekiel Elliott, were seen by many analysts to be the favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. But Green Bay and its wily quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, had different plans as the Packers dominated the first three quarters, leading 28-13 going into the fourth. Dak and the boys rallied to come up with 18 unanswered points. But, unfortunately for America’s team, that wasn’t enough to topple the Packers, losing 34-31.

Sunday’s final matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Kansas City Chiefs played out the way many had anticipated, with both teams duking it out in four hard-fought quarters. The Chiefs’ defense has been one of the top units all year but have struggled against the run, ranking 26th according to NFL.com. It showed as they gave up 160 yards to the Steelers’ tailback Le’Veon Bell. The Chiefs held the Steelers without a single touchdown, but fell short of keeping them out of field goal range, where second-year kicker Chris Boswell helped his team become the sixth in NFL history to win a playoff game without scoring a touchdown. For those of you who devalue kickers, Chris Boswell has six reasons and 18 points why he doesn’t care.

This past weekend’s playoff games separated the contenders from the pretenders. This Sunday, Jan. 22, will lead off with the Green Bay Packers taking on the Falcons in Atlanta at 12:05 p.m. PST followed by the Pittsburgh Steelers heading to Foxborough to take on the Patriots at 3:40 p.m. PST.

Who will represent their divisions in the most anticipated game of the year? Watch and find out.  

Written by: David Flores — sports@theaggie.org


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