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Here is a recap of Divisional Round Weekend of the 2019 NFL Playoffs with a Monday Afternoon QB & thanks again to AP Sports/ Pro 32 for photos & articles.
AFC Divisional Round
6 Colts 13, 1 Chiefs 31
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs’ defense had heard the chorus of critics all season long, the ones that claimed their sieve-like line and shaky backfield would spoil young superstar Patrick Mahomes and cost them a chance to chase their first Super Bowl appearance in decades.
Well, that defense is a big reason why the Chiefs are one step away.
With persistent snow turning Arrowhead Stadium into a winter wonderland, the Chiefs successfully shut down Andrew Luck and the potent Indianapolis Colts on Saturday.
Mahomes and the rest of their own high-powered offense took care of the rest, rolling to a 31-13 victory in the divisional round to end 25 years of playoff frustration.
“We’re such a different team,” said Mahomes, who threw for 278 yards while running for a score. “We have such young players. We have such confidence we’re going to win every single game.”
Damien Williams ran through snow and muck for 129 yards and another score, and Tyreek Hill had 72 yards receiving and a touchdown run, as the Chiefs beat Indianapolis for the first time in five playoff meetings to earn their first AFC title game appearance since January 1994.
The AFC West champions will play the winner of Sunday’s game between the division-rival Los Angeles Chargers and the New England Patriots next weekend for a spot in the Super Bowl in Atlanta.
“We wanted to light up the city,” Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones said. “We didn’t want to take the road down memory lane.”
Andrew Luck was held to 203 yards passing for the Colts, while Marlon Mack was a non-factor on the ground. He had 46 yards rushing before leaving late in the fourth quarter with a hip injury.
“Was not expecting it to end today,” Colts coach Frank Reich said. “We knew we were going up against a very good team, a very well-coached team. It’s hard to lose. It’s hard to lose when you’ve come this far with the team that we have and the guys that we have, so credit to the Chiefs.
“They outcoached us, they outplayed us,” Reich said. “We just gave them too many opportunities.”
The Chiefs set out to change history from the opening minutes, when they forced a three-and-out and then waltzed right over a Colts defense that nearly shut out the Texans a week ago. Mahomes and Co. scored on their first three possessions , then again just before halftime, to take a 24-7 lead.
If there was any question whether this would be Kansas City’s day, it was answered when Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri missed a 23-yard field-goal try off the upright just before halftime. It was the first time in 22 postseason attempts that he’d missed from that close.
Not that the Chiefs thought they had it wrapped up.
They’ve had bigger playoff meltdowns against the Colts.
There was the 10-7 loss in which Lin Elliott missed three field goals when the Chiefs were the No. 1 seed, and the loss at Arrowhead Stadium in 2003 in which nobody punted. Five years ago, they blew a 38-10 second-half lead against Luck and the Colts to spoil Andy Reid’s first season.
Not this time.
Not with this Kansas City quarterback.
After shattering nearly every franchise passing record, Mahomes picked up right where he left off in his regular-season finale. He led the Chiefs on touchdown drives of 90 and 70 yards to open the game, quickly identified a favorite target in Travis Kelce, and shook off a banged-up knee to scramble for a touchdown late in the first half to give his team a big cushion.
Of course, the Chiefs (13-4) didn’t need it the way their defense was playing.
The Colts (11-7) went three-and-out on their first four possessions, were outgained 185-12 in the first quarter, and Luck didn’t complete a pass until he found T.Y Hilton early in the second.
Their lone bright spot came when Zach Paschal recovered a blocked punt for a touchdown .
Even when the Colts caught a break and Sammy Watkins fumbled the ball to them late in the third quarter, they were quick to give it back. Dee Ford stripped Luck and fellow linebacker Justin Houston plopped on the ball, ruining another red-zone opportunity.
“It seemed like the rushers were getting there all night,” Chiefs cornerback Kendall Fuller said. “Guys sticking coverage, playing good technique, good eyes and things like that.”
The Colts finally scored an offensive touchdown with 5:31 left in the game. But in the perfect summation of their lousy afternoon, their erstwhile star kicker missed the extra point.
By that point, the party in the stands already had begun.
The Chiefs had lost six straight home playoff games, including heartbreakers to Pittsburgh and Tennessee the past two years. But a proud franchise that won its only Super Bowl title with Len Dawson in 1970, and last played for a spot behind Joe Montana, is once more one step away.
“I’m just happy for these guys in this locker room,” Kelce said. “Playoff wins are hard to come by, let alone wins in the NFL. So, I mean, it’s just exciting for us to be able to play next week.”
Reid was summoned to the corner of the stadium during the two-minute warning in the first half to implore fans to stop throwing snowballs on the field. Earlier in the half, one almost hit Colts punter Rigoberto Sanchez while he was kicking.
Colts: Center Ryan Kelly (knee) left late in the fourth quarter. … FS Malik Hooker (foot) and DE Tyquan Lewis (knee) were inactive, while SS Mike Mitchell (calf) was placed on injured reserve earlier this week. That left the Colts defense without some key pieces.
Chiefs: Safety Eric Berry (heel) and running back Spencer Ware (hamstring) were inactive, though Berry — the team’s emotional leader — broke down the pregame huddle in the north end zone.
Chiefs: Await the Chargers-Patriots winner in the AFC title game.
Colts: Begin preparing for April’s draft.
5 Chargers 28, 2 Patriots 41
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Tom Brady recognizes that there are some who believe the Patriots are nearing the end of their run of unprecedented playoff success.
New England took its first step toward possibly silencing those voices for a little longer.
Sony Michel ran for 129 yards and had three touchdowns and the Patriots beat the Los Angeles Chargers 41-28 in the divisional playoffs on Sunday to earn their eighth straight trip to the AFC championship game.
New England (12-5) will play at Kansas City in next week’s AFC title game. The Patriots beat the Chiefs 43-40 in Foxborough in Week 6. The Patriots finished 9-0 at home this season.
It is the 13th conference championship game appearance by the Patriots during the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era.
“It’s going to be a good game,” Brady said of the rematch with the Chiefs. “They’re a good team. We played them earlier this year. I know everybody thinks we suck and, you know, we can’t win any games, so we’ll see. It’ll be fun.”
The Chargers (13-5) haven’t reached the AFC title game since the 2007 season.
Philip Rivers finished 25 of 51 for 331 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. He is 0-5 in games played in Foxborough, including 0-3 in the postseason.
Brady finished 34 of 44 for 343 yards and a touchdown. He improves to 8-0 as a starter against Rivers, who drops to 1-8 against New England all-time.
For Rivers, seeing Brady again pick apart the Chargers defense was another reminder that he was competing against one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history.
“He’s up there if not the all-time great, then one of,” Rivers said. “That argument can go on forever. … Was he rolling at the highest level today? I think we can all agree on that.”
James White tied Darren Sproles’ NFL postseason record with 15 catches, totaling 97 yards.
New England scored on its first four possessions of the game to build a 35-7 halftime lead.
Julian Edelman had nine catches for 151 yards. He said the run game opened up the field for the rest of the offense.
“It was awesome to get Sony out there trucking,” said Edelman. “Rex (Burkhead) was out there, he scored. And ‘Sweet Feet’ (James White) being ‘Sweet Feet’. Sony’s over there being a little horse. It was awesome.”
The Chargers added three touchdowns in the second half , but it was much too late.
Los Angeles lost for just the second time on the road (8-2) and first time outside Los Angeles this season. In their past four trips to the playoffs, the Chargers have lost in the divisional round.
“We got our butts kicked,” Los Angeles coach Anthony Lynn said.
Rivers seemed poised to keep Los Angeles in the game, connecting with Keenan Allen for a 43-yard score on Los Angeles’ first offensive possession. It was the longest touchdown of Allen’s career, including the postseason.
It turned out to be just a blip. The Chargers punted the four other times they had the ball in the first half.
The Patriots were efficient throughout the opening 30 minutes, going 5 for 5 in the red zone, 5 of 6 on third down and committing only one penalty.
New England didn’t go three-and-out for the first time until its fifth offensive touch of the day when it punted with 3:32 left in the second quarter.
But Ryan Allen’s 48-yard punt was fumbled by Desmond King , sending the ball rolling toward the sideline. The referees ruled the ball went out of bounds before New England’s Albert McClellan appeared to recover it. But the play was reversed after a challenge by Bill Belichick.
The turnover proved costly, with the Patriots scoring just four plays later when Michel crossed the goal line from 5 yards for his third touchdown of the half.
Asked if this victory proved at least some of the Patriots’ doubters wrong, Brady paused and smiled.
“I just like winning,” he said. “I just like winning.”
RUN PATRIOTS, RUN
New England established the run early, creating big holes in a Chargers defense that ended the regular season ranked ninth in the NFL, allowing just 106 rushing yards per game.
Michel carried 16 times for 105 yards in the first half.
He scored from 1 yard on the opening possession of the game. It capped a 14-play, 83-yard drive in which he rushed five times for 15 yards and had a 9-yard reception.
The Patriots added scoring drives of 67, 58, 87 and 35 yards.
Michel became just the second Patriots rookie in franchise history to have a rushing touchdown in the postseason. He joined fellow Georgia alum, Robert Edwards, who ran for a touchdown as a rookie in New England’s 1998 wild-card loss to Jacksonville.
Michel also became the first New England player with two rushing TDs in the first quarter of a playoff game since LeGarrette Blount did it in the 2013 divisional-round win against Indianapolis.
Brady extended his postseason record with his 15th career 300-yard passing game. Next is Peyton Manning with nine.
Brady has a touchdown pass in 13 straight postseason games, tied for the third-longest streak since 1950. Only Brett Favre (20) and Brady himself (18 from 2001-11) have longer streaks.
Chargers: Safety Adrian Phillips was helped off the field early in the first quarter with an arm injury, but returned. Receiver Mike Williams jogged off the field after a collision in the first quarter.
Patriots: Guard Shaq Mason left the game in the fourth quarter.
NFC Divisional Round
4 Cowboys 22, 2 Rams 30
LOS ANGELES (AP) — With 1 yard between the Los Angeles Rams and the Dallas end zone on fourth down midway through in the fourth quarter, Sean McVay decided to go straight ahead.
No clever plays for this high-flying offense. No elaborate schemes from their inventive coach.
C.J. Anderson ran directly into the left side while his line cleared a path. He tumbled into the end zone with 7:16 left for the Rams’ final points in their first playoff victory in 14 years, 30-22 over the Cowboys on Saturday night in the divisional round.
“We always talk about attacking success, never fearing failure,” McVay said of his reasoning behind the simple call. “We wanted to come out here and try to play fearless tonight.”
Los Angeles’ ground game is something to be feared after racking up a franchise playoff-record 273 yards rushing from the opening drive to Anderson’s final first-down run.
Anderson rushed for 123 yards and two touchdowns, and Todd Gurley ran for 115 more yards and another TD to send the second-seeded Rams (14-3) to the NFC championship game for the first time in 17 years.
That’s also the most ever allowed in the postseason by the five-time Super Bowl champion Cowboys, who were playing in their NFL-record 63rd postseason game.
“Feels great, just running the ball the way we did,” quarterback Jared Goff said after his first career playoff victory. “Two 100-yard rushers, that’s rare, and it starts with those five guys up front.”
Next weekend, the Rams will face the winner of the other divisional playoff game in New Orleans between the top-seeded Saints and the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles.
The long-struggling Rams had won only one postseason game since their last trip to the Super Bowl in February 2002, but the 32-year-old McVay has added his first playoff victory to his spectacular two-season franchise turnaround . Los Angeles is one win away from another Super Bowl trip after McVay largely stuck to old-time football basics with his unlikely running back tandem and an offensive line determined to assert its superiority.
With the Rams’ veteran offensive line cutting holes in the Cowboys’ defense, Gurley and Anderson became the fourth set of teammates in NFL history to rush for 100 yards apiece in a postseason game, an improbable development just a few weeks ago. Gurley is the Rams’ offensive centerpiece and one of the NFL’s elite running backs , but Anderson is a well-traveled veteran playing only his third game with the Rams after signing last month when Gurley was struggling with a knee injury.
“It’s scary,” Anderson said of his new partnership with Gurley. “We’ve got two different styles, and we can keep teams off balance. … Playing on the field with Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott, I’m just trying to make my statement and make my stamp in this game, too.”
The Cowboys (11-7), who largely shut down Seattle’s league-best rushing attack last week, hadn’t allowed two 100-yard rushers in a playoff game since the NFL-AFL merger. Los Angeles racked up more yards than the Cowboys had allowed on the ground all season.
“We got beaten,” Cowboys defensive end Tyrone Crawford said. “Like I said in (the locker room), it’s a scar that you’re going to wear for the rest of your life. You can either look at your scar and run from it, or you can look at your scar and remember it, and punch somebody in the face because of it. So hopefully our guys use this as ammunition for next year.”
Elliott rushed for a TD and Amari Cooper caught an early TD passfor the Cowboys, who still haven’t won a playoff game on the road in 26 years. After winning the NFC East and beating Seattle last week, Dallas lost in the divisional playoff round for the sixth consecutive time and fell short of its first trip to the NFC championship game since January 1996.
Dak Prescott passed for 266 yards and rushed for a TD with 2:11 to play , but the Cowboys couldn’t climb out after falling into a 23-7 hole midway through the third quarter. Elliott managed only 47 yards on 20 carries as Dallas lost for just the second time in its last 10 games.
“They’re a physical football team,” Dallas coach Jason Garrett said of the Rams. “There is a little bit of a misperception of how the Rams play offensive football with the run. They do an outstanding job.”
Goff passed for 186 yards and spent much of the night handing off, but the gangly quarterback improbably scrambled 11 yards for a first down with 1:51 to play, essentially wrapping up his breakthrough win. It was also the first postseason victory for the anchor of that line, 37-year-old left tackle Andrew Whitworth, and veteran defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh.
Anderson and Gurley ran with equal verve while Dallas gave up 200 yards rushing in a playoff game for the first time since Eric Dickerson did it for the Rams in 1986. Anderson became the third Rams player with more than 100 yards and two rushing TDs in a game, joining Dickerson and Marshall Faulk.
The Rams chewed up the ground and the clock on four lengthy scoring drives in the first half. Anderson reached the end zone seven minutes before halftime on a 1-yard plunge — and just 3 1/2 minutes later, Gurley broke through the middle and went 35 yards for his first career playoff touchdown , putting the Rams up 20-7 at halftime.
Elliott scored on a 1-yard plunge and the Cowboys got a 2-point conversion to trim the Rams’ lead to 23-15 in the third quarter, but the Rams made a decisive 12-play, 65-yard drive in the fourth capped by Anderson’s bold 1-yard TD plunge on fourth down.
JANUARY 12 IS A BIG DAY
Three years to the day after the NFL approved the Rams’ return to Los Angeles, and two years to the day after McVay was hired, the franchise earned its first playoff victory since coming home from 21 years in St. Louis.
THE MAIN EVENT
A sellout crowd of 77,187 assembled in the cavernous Coliseum, and a significant portion of those fans cheered on America’s Team. The sideline was dotted with celebrities, and LeBron James hosted several Lakers teammates in a field suite behind the east end zone.
Cowboys: WR Cole Beasley had one catch for 15 yards, and tight end Blake Jarwin had two catches for 17 yards. They both missed practice all week with ankle injuries.
Rams: Gurley appeared a bit hesitant early in his first action in four weeks, but his knee seemed to hold up well. … CB Aqib Talib went to the locker room in the third quarter to be evaluated for a concussion. He returned for the fourth quarter.
Cowboys: Season over.
Rams: Either a trip to New Orleans or a visit from Philadelphia for the NFC championship game.
6 Eagles 14, 1 Saints 20
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — When the New Orleans Saints finally found their rhythm, they marched one step closer to the Super Bowl.
Using a dominant ball-control offense and a few gambles that paid off, the Saints got two touchdown passes from Drew Brees and two interceptions from Marcus Lattimore in a 20-14 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.
Brees took the Saints on scoring drives of 92, 79 and 67 yards after falling behind 14-0. Lattimore clinched it when Nick Foles’ pass from the Saints 27 deflected off usually sure-handed receiver Alshon Jeffery with about two minutes remaining. A couple dozen Saints players surged off the sideline toward the end zone in celebration, while Jeffery fell face-first to the turf in agony.
“We were real calm and poised and we knew we were going to get things done,” Brees said.
New Orleans (14-3) will host the NFC title game next week against the Rams (13-4). Los Angeles, which fell 45-35 at the Superdome in November, will try again next week, with the winner going to the Super Bowl. The Saints’ win finished off a sweep of the divisional round by teams coming off byes.
Wil Lutz added two field goals for the Saints, who last got this far in 2009, when they won the Super Bowl.
Philadelphia (10-8) will not repeat as NFL champion; no team has done so since the 2004 Patriots.
“We were going down to win, but I just felt like we beat ourselves, honestly,” Jeffery said. “Hats off to those guys.”
Eagles coach Doug Pederson thought his team was on its way on that final drive to pulling off another stunning comeback win
“It just felt like the momentum at that point was in our favor,” he said. “It’s been that way all season, and we felt like that sort of magic was going to continue.”
This was really two games in one. Philly scored on its first two drives as the Saints could do virtually nothing right.
“Listen, they got off to a fast start, they’re a great team,” Brees said. “Nick Foles has done a phenomenal job for them. We knew it was going to be different than last time.”
After that opening period, it was all New Orleans, yet the resilient Eagles kept it close enough that when Lutz missed a 52-yard field goal with 2:58 remaining, they were only one-score behind.
Foles, the hero of last year’s Super Bowl run, got them in position for yet another late winning score — just like last week at Chicago and last February against New England for the championship.
Then, Jeffery couldn’t handle a second-down pass, and it was over.
“That’s a great championship team,” Saints coach Sean Payton said of the Eagles. “We remained confident.”
Brees had 2-yard touchdown passes to rookie Keith Kirkwood and All-Pro wideout Michael Thomas, who had 12 receptions for a franchise playoff-record 171 yards.
Thomas’ touchdown capped an 18-play, 92-yard drive in which the Saints actually covered more than 100 yards because of penalties. It lasted 11½ minutes.
“What you saw from him today is what I see every day in practice,” Brees said of Thomas. “He’s a big-time player who wants to be the guy to make plays.”
Philadelphia had the ball for more than nine minutes in the first quarter, after which the Eagles had the ball about 13 minutes and never scored.
New Orleans, which routed Philadelphia 48-7 in November, gambled on its first play — and lost. Brees was a bit short on a deep pass to Ted Ginn Jr., and it was picked off by Cre’Von LeBlanc, one of several Eagles backups being used in the secondary due to injuries during the regular season.
“I just think we had to find our rhythm,” Brees said. “I tried to take a shot on the first play. Unfortunately, that didn’t work.”
After the first quarter, though, a lot worked for New Orleans.
Foles completed all five throws on a 76-yard drive capped by Jordan Matthews’ 37-yard TD catch . The Eagles, who quickly fell behind 17-0 in that previous Superdome loss, suddenly led 7-0.
Not long after, a 75-yard drive highlighted by a 30-yard pass to Jeffery ended with Foles’ short leap over the goal line for a 14-0 edge.
Indeed, the visitors were in control until Lattimore picked off Foles’ deep throw to Zach Ertz. The Saints showed plenty of moxie on their 79-yard march to a touchdown, faking a punt at their 30, with Taysom Hill running 4 yards for a first down. They also went on fourth-and-goal from the 2, and Philadelphia’s rapidly depleting defense surrendered Kirkwood’s 2-yard touchdown.
“When you just get that in guys’ minds that we’re going to be aggressive, that we’re going to play to win, it allows guys to relax and to cut loose,” Brees said.
With Brees finding the range and his receivers finding loads of room to roam, New Orleans crept to 14-10 at halftime on Lutz’s 45-yard field goal.
Maybe the Saints were rusty after their wild-card bye, but they got two first downs, including one by penalty, gained 17 yards, and Brees threw an interception and had a fumble that was recovered by teammate Ryan Ramczyk in the opening period. Meanwhile, Philly gained 153 yards and scored two TDs, and Foles went 8 of 9 for 113.
But Foles was intercepted by Lattimore early in the second quarter, and the Saints finally got going.
Brees, who turns 40 Tuesday, finished 28 for 38 despite the awful start, throwing for 301 yards. Aside from Thomas, who was targeted 16 times — he led the NFL with 125 catches — no one caught more than four passes for New Orleans. Alvin Kamara had four for 35 yards and also rushed for 71 yards. Mark Ingram added 53 yards on the ground as the Saints outrushed the Eagles 137-49. New Orleans is 6-0 at home in the playoffs with Payton and Brees.
Foles was 18 for 31 for 201 yards. Jeffery had five catches for a team-leading 63 yards before the game-sealing drop.
In a span of three plays, two starters were hurt and needed to be carted off.
First, Saints defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins went down midway in the first quarter, unable to put any weight on his left foot. Two plays later, Eagles right guard Brandon Brooks hurt his right leg and departed.
Several Saints players said they would be playing for Rankins the rest of the way because his season was done.
Philly also lost DB Rasul Douglas in the second quarter to an ankle injury, but he was back in the second half. DLs Fletcher Cox, an All-Pro, and Michael Bennett also were sidelined at times before returning. In the fourth quarter, left tackle Jason Peters left.
The Saints host the Rams in the early game next Sunday, with the winner going to the Super Bowl.