2020 NFL Conference Championship Recap

After a close game and a blowout, the Buccaneers and the Chiefs get ready to face each other in Super Bowl 55.

Tom Brady facing pressure vs. the Chiefs. Photo by Mike Erhmann, Getty Images.

Two games down, and only one to go. The board is set to the final moves. The first game of the day ended with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeating the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship on Lambeau Fields 31–26 on their way to advancing to the second Super Bowl in franchise history. This would mark the 10th time Bucs QB Tom Brady has reached the big game, an unprecedented feat that continues to baffle practically the entire football world. On the other side of the field Aaron Rodgers has lost his second straight NFC Championship and his 4th conference title game since 2014, tying an NFL record.

There is plenty of blame to go around the Packers for losing this game, starting with head coach Matt LaFleur. Prior to this week he was the subject of a swarm of praise pointed at his direction for leading the Packers to a 26–6 record his first two seasons and two straight championship appearances. The praise is now gone, erased to ashes, a testament to how hard and fast everything can come crashing down in the smallest of instances.

LaFleur’s decision to kick a field goal instead of going for it down by 8 with barely two minutes to play remains the talk of town. The consensus is almost unanimous that it was a horrible decision from any point of view. If the Packers failed to pick it up, they could still stop the clock and get another chance if they force the Bucs to punt the ball. If they succeed and fail on the two point conversion, they still have time to stop the Buccs again regardless. LaFleur was playing to win in regulation when he was in no position to dictate or properly control such outcome. The whole fiasco looked like an experiment, and you have to wonder why someone would do such a thing with a Super Bowl berth on the line.

The move has been considered cowardly and devoid of logic, the type of act players and fans never enjoy but keep the coaches guessing at night for some odd reason. It was so egregious there have been some speculation of the possibility that Mike McCarthy took a serum that physically transformed him into the shape of LaFleur and that it was in fact him who coached the game. These irrationalities in the end can be chalked up to over-thinking, a bug that ruins us all at some point of our lives. He has my sympathies.

Rodgers deserves some partial blame, but only to its fair proportion. He was constantly under pressure but didn’t release the ball faster to counter this problem, and he didn’t capitalize enough on Brady’s three interceptions, going three and out on two of those three opportunities. There was also an instance where he didn’t even see a wide open Davante Adams in what would’ve been a walk-in touchdown on a drive they only scored three points. The game was close at some point, but for a while it looked like Rodgers was heading the route of garbage points before the barrage of Brady turnovers occurred.

Despite winning, the Bucs left too many plays on the field offensively. As mentioned, Brady threw three picks, and while they ultimately only resulted in six points, they still hurt the team. There were also dropped passes by Godwin and Evans that ruined momentum of their respective drives.

Not their best day offensively to say the least, but their defense rose to the occasion unquestionably and without hesitation. They made sure every hit counted. There was rarely anybody open and when they were a linebacker of safety was in close range to deliver a punishing hit. The referees let both teams play and left plenty of fouls uncalled, including holdings and false starts. This of course wasn’t the case when they called the pass interference penalty on the final Bucs drive that basically sealed the game. There’s no doubt it was controversial, especially after leaving so many of them uncalled, but I have made peace with the pseudo-robbery, mainly by reminding myself football is not the most important thing in the world (even though it’s very close). You could also make the case that focusing too much on the call absolves or distracts to Green Bay’s horrible mistakes throughout the game.

Mahomes on his way to routing the Bills. Photo by Jaime Squire, Getty Images.

The second and final game played was a rout from start to finish. It wasn’t even close to what the final score says. The Kansas City Chiefs beat the Buffalo Bills 38–24 in the AFC Championship game, advancing to their second straight Super Bowl and the fourth in franchise history. There’s really not much to say about this matchup. The Bills was outcoached and outperformed by a pretty great margin. They managed to get a 9–0 lead thanks in large part to a muff punt that gave them the ball at the five-yard line, but it was soon a thing of the past following three straight scoring drives by Kansas City. It felt like Mahomes was only going to Kelce and Hill and everyone else was forgotten, and I don’t blame him. They were both virtually open in every play they were thrown to; the Bills defense looked completely impotent in their attempts to stop them. They were committing striaght up murder and getting away with it. It was tough to watch.

This was not a good performance by Bills QB Josh Allen. He made terrible mistakes that completely stalled or killed drives. The sacks he took were brutal and completely unnecessary, the kind of thing he was doing a year before and was doing a great job limiting this year. Their entire offense looked off during the postseason, failing to score more than 30 points in all their games. The defense wasn’t as much help either but that was to be expected. Bills coach Sean McDermott is getting some flak for not being aggresive enough and settling for field goals. Normally I would agree that this was the right call, but to beat a team like the Chiefs you need to show no fear and score as many touchdowns as it’s humanly possible, and field goals were never going to cut it in a game like this. The only way Buffalo had an honest shot to win this game was in a shootout, but they couldn’t do enough to stay on par with the Chiefs.

The Chiefs looked like a complete team this time around. Their offense is running at a high-speed-mescaline pace and the defense does a phenomenal job complimenting them by making stops and never breaking despite occasionally bending. They are looking very well poised to possibly be the first team since the 2004 Patriots to repeat as champions. Standing in their way is a team led by a man who was a part of that Patriots team and has been playing in Super Bowls when most of the players today were going to kindergarten, and it’s honestly absurd he is their best shot at winning.

The Chiefs were victorious in their regular season matchup against the Buccaneers this november in a close 27–24 game. Both offenses had a chance to showcase their skills during different points of the game, with the Chiefs winning on a 4th down conversation that warded off any chance of a Bucs comeback. Brady didn’t play well at first but got it going in the second half, while Mahomes played lights out in the first half and faltered in the second. Now that their paths have intertwined again it would be interesting to see how this matchup plays out. It’s hard to go one way or another right now, mainly because I don’t want to and it doesn’t really matter. All we should want and expect is a better shootout than last time, where both teams do everything in their abilities to win the game and keep it competitive. Such is the simple reason everyone watches.

Mahomes and Brady shake hands at the end of their matchup this November. Photo by Jason Behnken, AP.

Absurd journalist and essayist from the outskirts of Shambhala.

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