OPINION: What Just Happened? NFL Conference Championship

What a time to be alive. Drake sucks, nobody remembers Mario Judah, the Sacramento Kings are above .500 and Josh Johnson just played QB in the NFC Conference Championship game. 

Who the hell is Josh Johnson? The Nate Robinson of the NFL has played for 14 different NFL teams in his career and has only thrown 13 touchdowns. Yeah, The San Francisco 49ers finally fizzled out. 

In a season where their Week 1 starter was Trey Lance, the 49ers have had quite the season. They looked lost in Week 1, losing to the Bears of all teams. In Week 2, Lance’s season was cut short, suffering an ankle injury in their win. In relief of Lance, in stepped Jimmy Garoppolo, who went 6-3 as a starter until suffering a season-ending foot injury. Down to their third-string quarterback, Brock Purdy stepped in, and Mr. Irrelevant did nothing but win, going 8-0 in games he finished as a starter (Including two playoff games).

In the biggest game of his career, Purdy and the 49ers traveled to Lincoln Financial Field to take on the overpowered and annoying Philadelphia Eagles. 

The Eagles have had a great year but I am still mad about 38-7 and 24-7. Putting my bias aside, Jalen Hurts is awesome and the Eagles are really good, but the way they won this game had little to do with how they played. 

On the seventh play of the game, Purdy suffered a complete UCL tear in his throwing elbow and was forced out of the game. So in stepped Josh Johnson, and the groans of 49ers fans were heard ‘round the country. 

Listen, the game was bad enough to watch, so I will spare the details, but Johnson went 7/13 for 74 yards, and fumbled on a play where he just didn’t catch the snap. Watching Johnson was bad because he just wasn’t fit to play in a game of this caliber, but he was not in for long. Just under three minutes into the third quarter, Johnson took a big hit, and had to be taken out of the game to be evaluated for a concussion. He had one. Brock Purdy returns. 

At this point, the Eagles were up 21-7 and hope for the 49ers was already lost. It was clear from the start that Purdy was unable to throw a football even 10 yards downfield. The man was playing with a UCL TEAR. Credit to Purdy’s toughness, but the 49ers never had a chance. It was hard to watch the 49ers fall apart, but they needed a healthy Purdy to get past the Eagles.

The highlight of this game was probably when, with 4:19 remaining in the game and his season, Trent Williams had had enough, whipping K’Von Wallace to the ground. FOX was kind enough to time the amount of time it took Williams to get busy, and it only took him 22 seconds to go from NFL offensive lineman to WWE Raw superstar on the Eagles’ safety. Williams and Wallace both were ejected.

Jalen Hurts was less than impressive in the Eagles’ win, but he didn’t have to be perfect. Or great. Or good. He just had to be average and let the 49ers keep trying to get the offense going, which they couldn’t, continuously shooting themselves in the foot with penalties. In an ugly game, the Eagles advanced to the Super Bowl, defeating the 49ers 31-7.

Leading up to the highly anticipated rematch of Patrick Mahomes’ Chiefs and Joe Burrow’s Bengals, the Bengals’ Mike Hilton dubbed the Chiefs’ Arrowhead Stadium, ‘Burrowhead’ Stadium. The Bengals, led by all time trash talker and “cornerback” Eli Apple, were obsessed with the fact that Mahomes had never beaten Joe Burrow head-to-head. Well, that’s why they play the games. 

In a first quarter that was pretty boring, the Bengals looked unstoppable on offense, accumulating 0 total yards of offense on two drives. The Chiefs did manage to score a field goal on their first drive of the game, so they led 3-0 after one.

On the first play of the second quarter, Harrison Butker nailed his second field goal of the game, an impressive feat for him this season. Then, the Bengals started to pick things up. Led by Burrow and Boyd, the Bengals were able to put some points on the board with an Evan McPherson field goal, making the game 6-3.

In his next drive, Mahomes went 4/4 for 64 yards and a touchdown to who else but Travis Kelce, who I should really start betting on. Someone I have never — and will never — bet on, though, is Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Valdes-Scantling made his presence felt on this drive, catching a pair of passes for 40 yards and setting the Chiefs up at the Bengals’ 23 where, four plays later on fourth and one, Mahomes threw a touchdown because he is inevitable. 

However, the Bengals had narratives to create, and Joe Burrow rushed for a 90 yard touchdown on the first play of the Bengals’ next drive, showing why the stadium is called Burrowhe- wait he didn’t? I am now being told that that didn’t happen and he ‘threw an interception’ on third and two. Well, I guess that happened, so the Chiefs scored on their next drive right? No. They punted in 19 seconds. 

Whatever, Burrow did lead his team to a field goal in the final 2:03 of the first half, so the halftime score from Burrowhead was 13-6.

Coming out of the half, the Chiefs had the chance to grab the momentum, but they failed to do so, going three-and-out. THIS is where Burrow leads the Bengals on a touchdown drive, right? RIGHT! To cap off an eight-play, 62-yard drive, Burrow found Higgins for a 27-yard touchdown to tie the game at 13.

Since Mahomes is so selfish and can’t be tied for long, he and the Chiefs answered with an 11-play touchdown drive that ended with Valdes-Scantling making me wonder what his receiving yards line would be in the Super Bowl, and if I should be betting on him since Mecole Hardman and Kadarius Toney both went down with injuries in this game. 20-13.

On the final two drives of the third quarter, the Bengals punted, and Mahomes lost control of the ball in the middle of the play and fumbled the ball back to the Bengals. The Bengals were still in this game.

The Bengals began the fourth quarter from the KC 45, and needed a touchdown. It looked bleak, but on fourth and six, the Bengals looked like they were stalling out until Joe Shiesty threw up a prayer to the second best LSU receiver in the league, Ja’Marr Chase, who made an incredible catch at the KC 6. Two plays later, Semaje Perine punched it in from two yards out to tie the game at 20.

Shaking in fear, the Chiefs were too scared to play offense on their next drive, punting the ball back to the Bengals. After a few runs and short passes, Burrow had enough and threw a deep ball to Tee Higgins that was tipped by Bryan Cook and intercepted by Joshua Williams. But it’s okay because he is perfect. 

Kansas City got the ball back with 6:53 left in the game, but were unable to come up with points, punting again. This gave the Bengals the ball with 2:30 remaining and if the Bengals wanted to call the stadium ‘Burrowhead’ this is where they needed to come up big. 

The drive looked promising after the tight end with the greatest first name of all time, Hayden Hurst, hauled in a 23-yard pass from Burrow, but an untimely sack forced a Bengals punt, and on the return, Skyy Moore made the biggest play of his young career, returning the punt 29 yards to the KC 47, giving the Chiefs a chance.

On third and four with 17 seconds left, Mahomes scrambled down the right sideline and picked up a first down, but Bengals’ defensive end Joseph Ossai, who was chasing Mahomes with everything he had, arrived one second too late and pushed him on his way out of bounds, giving the Chiefs 15 extra yards that set them up to kick the game-winning field goal from 45 yards out. Which they hit. No more Burrowhead. This was a great game, and Mahomes came out on top in the end, but he is still 1-3 against the greatest quarterback of all time.

If it seemed like I wanted the 49ers and Bengals to win these games and face off in the Super Bowl, it’s because that is exactly what I wanted. So with Super Bowl LVII being Chiefs vs. Eagles, I am not exactly thrilled. Skol.

Write to Hayden Lee at Hayden.Lee@mysmsu.edu

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