AFC Divisional Round. Chiefs v Browns. Third quarter. Patrick Mahomes gets hit and the NFL world holds their breath, writes Matthew Carolan.
When any player gets hit hard, we gasp in despair and hope that it is nothing serious. As Mahomes’ eyes glazed and his legs buckled trying to walk, it was hard not to be reminded of just how violent a sport it can be.
One man’s misfortune is another man’s gain because Mahomes exiting the game allowed for the Cleveland Browns to rally back, before ultimately falling short.
Mahomes got shook up - NFL wrap
The Chiefs’ quarterback is the most valuable asset in the NFL today. Both in terms of actual ability and marketing appeal. He is the face of the league. He is the last player they want being evaluated for a concussion.
| We are left with the four best QBs right now. Two older future hall of famers on one side and the best of the new school on the other side |
Michael Carlson joined #OTBAM to look back at a dramatic weekend of #NFL playoff action 🏈 pic.twitter.com/ysbGmlopRE
— Off The Ball (@offtheball) January 18, 2021
With Mahomes out, the Chiefs handed the keys over to perennial back-up Chad Henne. Henne had a mixed evening. He started the game by launching a deep ball with such conviction that, as you watched it, it felt like it was destined for a Chiefs player. Alas, it was not. He was intercepted and the momentum swung back in Cleveland’s favour.
The Browns were good on Sunday night. At one point, they were down 19-3, and that felt like a complete misrepresentation of what we were watching. They were on the wrong end of a fumble-and-touchback rule, which would have brought them within six points at halftime. Not only that, but the receiver was hit in a helmet-to-helmet collision which was overlooked by the officials.
The Browns were a good matchup for the Chiefs, but in truth, had Mahomes not gone out, the Chiefs probably would have amassed more points in the third and fourth quarter. Instead, Henne had to manage the clock to keep the Browns at bay and close out the game with some wild Andy Reid play calling, such as a rollout pass on fourth and inches.
A timely reminder that, even without Mahomes, Reid’s teams are always fun to watch. Tony Romo losing his mind on live TV demonstrates this more than anything.
Baltimore get shut down
Mahomes was not the only quarterback who exited a game early on concussion protocol, as Baltimore quarterback, Lamar Jackson, did too. One key difference between the two is that Jackson was not having a fun night before finishing up early.
The Ravens and Bills game on Saturday night had the potential to be the game of the weekend. In Jackson and Josh Allen, two of the most exciting quarterbacks in the league were on show. In the end, neither quarterback had a remarkable game. The game was 3-3 going into the second half, with Baltimore missing multiple field goal attempts. A drab affair.
Buffalo’s defence has been the subject of scrutiny this season. They have regressed since 2019. All season long, it was Josh Allen who was leading this team and making things happen, not their defence. Against Baltimore, their defence reminded everyone that they can play well, and they did so when it really mattered.
Before exiting the game late in the third quarter, Jackson threw an interception to Taron Johson, who returned it for a touchdown. 17-3 Bills. It really was a dagger in the heart of Baltimore, with their chances of victory dwindling on the back of that play.
On paper, Baltimore were a really good matchup for Buffalo. Their defence was playing well and unfortunately for them, holding Buffalo to 17 points was not enough. The Ravens’ offence is in dire need otf receiving talent for next season, because too many teams know the blueprint to limiting their run-first offence now.
As for the Bills, they reach their first AFC Championship since 1993. For those who do not know, Buffalo reached the Super Bowl four seasons in a row (1990-1993) and lost each one. This is a fanbase that has suffered, and it has been a long wait to be this good again. They face Kansas City on Sunday night.
Packers capitalise on a key injury
As far as tricky matchups go, the Rams’ defence is the best in the NFL. On Saturday evening, they came up against the best offence in the NFL in Green Bay.
All across the field, there should have been huge challenges for Green Bay, but that starts with Aaron Donald at the line of scrimmage. Donald played 40 of 75 potential plays. He is the best defensive player in the NFL and he only played 53% of the snaps in their most important game of the season. This delighted Green Bay, because it had a domino effect.
Donald not playing meant the Packers’ offensive line had more time, which meant Aaron Rodgers had all day to find players. Rodgers finished the day with 23 of 36 passes completed for 296 yards and two touchdowns. Beyond the stat lines, Rodgers never looked uncomfortable and that eased his teammates.
The Packers offence looked strong. They will need to continue that on Sunday when they take on Tampa Bay for the NFC Championship. The last time these two faced off? Tampa Bay won with ease.
Brees retires from NFL on a low
The final game of the weekend saw New Orleans take on Tampa Bay for the third time this season. In the previous two encounters, it was the Saints who came out on top, but since then, Brady has gotten more comfortable and his influence can be felt throughout the team.
As Tom Brady and Drew Brees hug and say goodbye after a long talk on the field, Brady throws a touchdown pass to Brees’ son. One walks off to play in the NFC championship, the other stays to play with his kids. pic.twitter.com/wdWDro9YD4
— James Palmer (@JamesPalmerTV) January 18, 2021
Where the Buccaneers have improved since the last time they played the Saints, the same can not be said of Drew Brees. Brees, in his defence, missed time due to broken ribs. Combine that with the fact that he is in his forties and his performances lately start to make a lot of sense.
While they saw some success running the ball on Sunday night, their passing game left a lot to be desired. Brees completed 19 of 34 passes for 134 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. He struggled to throw the ball downfield and the Saints’ offence became quite predictable as a result.
For the Saints, they still have a lot of talent and their Super Bowl window is still open. They could return to the NFL playoffs in 2021 again. For Brees, it is a sad end to an illustrious career. He has meant a lot for the Saints as a franchise. One cannot be mentioned without the other, and he will retire a Saints legend as a result of that.