Divisional Round: And Then There Were Four

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Lauren Carpenter
·8 min read
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The 2020 divisional matchups are in the books and it was quite a weekend for football. Super Bowl LV is looming in the not-so-distant future during a season where we weren’t even sure we would have football. Hats off to the men and women who have made this year possible, as awkward and strange as it’s been.

Saturday Slate

8,500 Fans Chant “M.V.P” as Aaron Rodgers Leads Packers to 32-18 Victory Over Rams

As the final minutes ticked away at frozen Lambeau Field, the fans hit the nail on the head chanting “M.V.P” for Rodgers. His season has been impressive, to say the least, which just adds icing to his storied career so far. Rodgers threw two touchdowns amid his 296 passing yards, one to Davante Adams and one to Allen Lazard, and also rushed in his fourth touchdown of the season. It’s common knowledge that Rodgers can make magic, especially at home, but let’s give some love to that offensive line. They kept the Rams’ defensive line in check all day allowing Rodgers time in the pocket without throwing an interception or even getting touched the entire game. That’s saying something facing heavy-hitters like Aaron Donald.

The game started with both teams exchanging field goals in the first quarter, which was a slower start for the Packers than I anticipated. They both picked up the pace in the second quarter when the Packers scored two touchdowns and a field goal with a failed two-point conversion. The Rams weren’t silent and answered Rodgers’ second score with a four-yard touchdown pass to rookie Van Jefferson. The Rams looked like they still had a pulse at halftime trailing 10-19.

That flickering pulse was quickly snuffed to start the second half of play when Rodgers led the Packers 75 yards on six plays for a touchdown. The Rams answered with a score by rookie RB Cam Akers and a successful two-point conversion, also to Cam Akers, but it wasn’t enough. Green Bay tacked on another score in the fourth quarter to seal their fate.

This will be the first time a Rodgers’ led Packers team will host the NFC title game since 2007.

One Touchdown and a Pick-Six Propels Bills to a Win Against the Ravens

I will be the first to admit that I was completely wrong about how this game was going pan out. I expected a fast-paced, high-scoring matchup between Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen and I couldn’t have been more wrong. The Ravens didn’t find the end zone once and the Bills didn’t score a TD until six minutes into the third quarter.

Even the Ravens' steadfast kicker, Justin Tucker, had an underwhelming performance with only one successful kick out of three attempts. That’s unheard of from the operatic kicker who has made 25 out of 26 attempts this season prior to this game. The Bills kicker, Tyler Bass, also missed a field goal in the first half. The score, courtesy of two missed and two successful field goals was an anticlimactic 3-3 at halftime.

The Bills managed to turn things around in the second half, opening up the action with a touchdown to WR Stefon Diggs. Just when it looked like the Ravens might answer with a score of their own, Taron Johnson intercepted Jackson for a 101-yard pick-six. The bad news got worse after that when Jackson was concussed and left the game for good in the third quarter. Bass had a chance to add another three points for the Bills to make it an even 20-3, but that attempt was also missed.

Despite the victory, this game was troubling for the Bills’ chances to make it through to the Super Bowl. Baltimore’s defense is certainly first-rate, but Allen and the Bills will need to figure out a way to create more scoring opportunities other than field goals against teams like the Packers. I think a big part of this win was the Ravens’ inability to put points on the board. I do not want to discount the Bills’ defense, which showed up in a big way in this matchup. However, will that be enough to stop someone like Tom Brady or Rodgers?

Allen threw 23 completions on 37 attempts for just over 200 yards and a touchdown. This was Allen’s third-worst passing performance this season. The most worrisome issue is their run game or lack thereof. Rookie Zach Moss is sidelined for the rest of the post-season with an ankle injury and Devin Singletary logged only 25 yards on seven carries. T.J. Yeldon and Allen combined for seven additional yards to bring the not-so-grand rushing total to 32 yards on 16 carries.

As a side note, the Bills Mafia represented their fan base with a classy move. After Jackson was knocked out of the game, fans started donating to the Louisville chapter of Blessings in a Backpack which Jackson had previously donated to. The chapter shared their thanks to the Bills fans on Twitter. Pretty great stuff, right there.

Sunday Slate

Patrick Mahomes Concussed, Chiefs Hang On to Win #HenneThingIsPossible

No offense to Saturday’s games, but Sunday took the trophy for excitement in the divisional round. Yesterday kicked off with the Cleveland Browns visiting the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium where the KC starters had not played a game in 21 days.

There was certainly a narrative at play in this matchup. If the Browns got too far behind, there would be little hope for victory. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened in the first half. There was a glimmer of hope that the Browns could have added a touchdown to their field goal in the first half. WR Rashard Higgins extended his large frame and dove for the end zone only to have S Daniel Sorensen (nicknamed “Dirty Dan”) dive at the same time to fingertip the ball out of his hands. This led to a Browns fumble into the end zone and a dreaded touchback.

Sorensen was guilty of illegal use of his helmet, making contact with Higgins’ head with his own as he dove for the football. The penalty was not called on the field nor was it reviewable, even though the touchback was, and the Chiefs escaped a touchdown or a fresh set of downs for the Browns.

Mahomes injured his toe early but stuck it out, hobbling around but still making plays. However, a big hit took him down. He looked woozy, unfocused, and confused when he tried to get up after the play. That resulted in Mahomes missing the remainder of the game due to a concussion. The Browns were in a prime position to make a comeback with a touchdown by RB Kareem Hunt. The Browns then picked off backup QB Chad Henne in the end zone, down only 17-22 and no Mahomes on the other side to contend with.

All of that momentum went straight down the toilet when the Browns were forced to punt after the interception. All the Chiefs needed was a first down and Henne delivered in dramatic style with a scramble play to get them within inches of a first down. Said first down was achieved on a passing play (gutsy) to WR Tyreek Hill and the game was over. This prompted Mahomes to tweet #HenneThingIsPossible.

Side note: Chiefs Harrison Butker missed an extra point and also missed a short field goal. It’s just another example of the kicker woes that have plagued this season.

Drew Brees Throws Three Costly Interceptions to Lose to the Buccaneers

I’m not sure there could have been a more epic game to cap off the divisional weekend than Tom Brady facing off against Drew Brees. You don’t get much more iconic than two first-round ballot Hall-of-Famers facing each other for the third time in one season.

What makes this game so bittersweet is that it could potentially be Brees’ last game as rumors are thickly circulating that he may retire. Leaving on a loss after throwing three interceptions during COVID-19 is hardly the kind of send-off one would hope for a player of his caliber.

Of course, it’s speculation at this point, so we will need to wait and see if the rumors prove true.

The game was exciting, ending in a 30-20 victory for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who are firing on all cylinders at just the right time. They capitalized with a touchdown on three of the Saints’ four turnovers, which is exactly what needs to happen at this point in the post-season. Two of the touchdowns were from interceptions by Brees and the other was a rare fumble by TE Jared Cook.

Despite the 30 points on the board, QB Tom Brady was far from prolific in the passing game. He completed only 18 of his 33 attempts for under 200 yards and threw two touchdowns. He did rush one in to add to his overall stat line.

As far as divisional matchups go, this game was written in the stars when Brady signed the dotted line for the Bucs. As far as history goes, this game was one for the ages.

Conference Schedule

As sad as it is to see the Rams, Raven, Browns, and Saints fall, we still have another round of elite football to watch next weekend. We will take one step closer to Super Bowl LV with Brady and the Bucs facing the Packers at Lambeau Field and Josh Allen and Bills traveling to Arrowhead Stadium to take on the Chiefs.