Super Bowl LVIII will feature a new dynasty facing off with an old one as the Kansas City Chiefs meet the San Francisco 49ers in Las Vegas on February 11 after each was victorious in Sunday’s NFL conference championship games.
The Chiefs, the defending Super Bowl champions, are headed to the big game for the fourth time in five years after downing the Baltimore Ravens 17-10 in the AFC championship game on Sunday in Baltimore.
The five-time champion 49ers rallied from a 17-point halftime deficit in the NFC championship game, scoring every time they had the ball in the second half – except at the end when they were trying to kill the clock. They came away with a 34-31 win.
Here’s how the conference championships unfolded.
Chiefs hold off Ravens for another Super Bowl trip
The Chiefs on Sunday were in familiar territory, making their sixth straight AFC title game appearance with quarterback Patrick Mahomes at the helm. Across that stretch, he’s racked up two Super Bowls titles, two Super Bowl MVP awards, and two league MVP awards. Needless to say, the Mahomes era has been defined by winning when it matters most.
Mahomes faced intense questions coming into the playoffs on whether he would be able to duplicate his past postseason performances now that he’d have to travel away from Arrowhead Stadium for games. Mahomes has taken his team to the AFC championship game or further in each of his six seasons as a starter and – as wild as it sounds – he had never played a road playoff game until the Chiefs beat the Bills in Buffalo last week.
Compounding the situation was the Chiefs struggled at times this year.
“It truly is special. Just to do it with these guys after what we’ve been through all season long, the guys coming together, it really is special,” Mahomes said at a postgame news conference. “I told them, the job’s not done. Our job now is to prepare ourselves to play a good football team in the Super Bowl and try to get that ring.”
Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce caught 11 passes – nine in the first half – and had one touchdown as Kansas City dominated the time of possession battle, using three long scoring drives and a tough defense.
The Chiefs opened the scoring with Mahomes hitting Kelce for 13 yards on fourth-and-2, keeping their first drive of the game alive, then two plays later combining with him for a 19-yard back-shoulder touchdown pass to make the score 7-0 with 7:41 left in the first quarter.
Kansas City answered with a touchdown to take a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter. Isiah Pacheco’s 2-yard push into the end zone gave the Chiefs two touchdowns in two long drives.
The Chiefs closed the half with another long drive, with kicker Harrison Butker sending a 52-yard field goal through the uprights with eight seconds left in the second period.
The Chiefs led at halftime 17-7, the first double-digit deficit of the season for the Ravens. Both defenses clamped down in the second half.
Kansas City’s offense remained lifeless for most of the remaining minutes, being forced to punt for five consecutive possessions and keeping the Ravens error-prone offense within striking distance.
The only points of the second half came with 2:34 left in the game when the Ravens kicker Justin Tucker kicked a 43-yard field goal.
Mahomes was 30 of 39 for 241 yards with one touchdown. His late fourth-quarter pass to Marquez Valdes-Scantling for a 32-yard completion all but sealed the victory for the Chiefs, who were also aided by two big Ravens turnovers in the final period.
Jackson, the NFL MVP frontrunner, struggled for the Ravens until late in the third quarter. He finished the game 20 of 37 for 241 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He also rushed eight times for 54 yards and saved another interception by catching his own batted pass and turning it into a 13-yard gain.
In the fourth quarter, the Ravens were stung by a crippling fumble and an interception in the Kansas CIty end zone.
Just when it appeared the Ravens would cut the 10-point deficit, Flowers, who caught a 54-yard pass to get to the Chiefs 25-yard line earlier in the drive, had the ball knocked from his hand as he dove toward the goal line, leading to a turnover and a touchback.
The Ravens marched down the field on their next offensive possession, poised to cut into the Chiefs’ lead after reaching the Kansas City 25-yard line, but Jackson’s throw into triple coverage was intercepted in the end zone by Deon Bush.
“We had some opportunities out there,” Jackson told reporters. “Just got to take advantage of them. Can’t turn the ball over. Fumble, interception, stuff like that, gave them opportunities to put points on the board and win the game.
The high-stakes matchup marked the first time two NFL MVP quarterbacks under the age of 30 faced off in the playoffs, as well as the first time Mahomes and Jackson met on the postseason stage.
49ers dominate second half to rally past Lions
The NFC title game was a story of two halves, the first owned by the visitors seeking their first trip to the Super Bowl.
The Lions rushed the ball for 148 yards in the first half and quarterback Jared Goff was 13 of 20 for 145 yards before intermission.
They took a 17-point lead into the locker room after Michael Badgley kicked a 21-yard field goal with just seconds left in the first half. It looked like the team that last won a NFL title in the 1950s was going to its first-ever Super Bowl.
San Francisco running back Christian McCaffrey, the NFL’s leading rusher during the regular season, scored the 49ers only points before halftime, powering in from 2 yards only a few minutes into the second quarter.
The 49ers owned the second half, first erasing the deficit in 8 minutes in the third quarter, then in the fourth quarter taking a 27-24 lead on a 33-yard field goal by Jake Moody. Elijah Mitchell tacked on a 3-yard touchdown run to seemingly ice the game with about three minutes to go.
The Lions were able to go 75 yards in 13 plays to draw within a field goal with less than a minute to go.
But the 49ers recovered the onside kick and time ran out for the Lions.
This season will not be soon forgotten by the Ford Field faithful. After years of missing the postseason entirely, the Lions found themselves in the conference championship for the first time since 1991.
The 49ers are seven-time participants in the Super Bowl, winning five – four in the 1980s when quarterback Joe Montana, defensive back Ronnie Lott, wide receiver Jerry Rice and defensive lineman Charles Haley were building Hall of Fame careers.
CNN’s Kyle Feldscher contributed to this report
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