The first half of the NFL Playoffs divisional round is over, with the New England Patriots beating the Kansas City Chiefs to put themselves in another AFC championship game, while the Arizona Cardinals needed overtime to beat the Green Bay Packers, who forced the extra few minutes with another Aaron Rodger hail mary pass, something we’ve already seen happen in the regular season.
Kansas City Chiefs 20 New England Patriots 27: A close game? Only by result? The Patriots drifted away in the fourth quarter, opening a 14-point lead after two field goals by Stephen Gostkowski, leaving the Chiefs with 10:20 to go and try and save their season. Drives that were longer than the English Patient and other analogies might be fitting. In short? By the time the limited offensively Chiefs scored and made it a one possession game again, they didn’t have any time left. Smith ran well with 44 yards, exposing some holes in the Patriots defense, but the passing game was stuck, averaging just 4.9 yards per attempt. Meanwhile, Tom Brady ran for a touchdown himself, found Rob Gronkowski for a couple and threw for 302 yards without a running game. Once players like Julian Edelman stop dropping passes, the Patriots will be even more efficient. The big question? Will it be at home or on the road.
Green Bay Packers 20 Arizona Cardinals 26 (Overtime): A game that had a little bit of everything. Aaron Rodgers throwing a hail mary touchdown pass to send the game into overtime, followed by a weird coin flip sequence that ended up showing how bad the NFL overtime rules are. The Packers offense just watched their defense give up a huge play to Larry Fitzgerald, and then the future hall of fame wide receiver making another small play, breaking and escaping tackles, to win the game with a touchdown. Rodgers finished the game with two touchdown passes while the ground game worked for 135 yards, but the Cardinals didn’t bend defensively. Carson Palmer threw two interceptions but also three touchdown passes, and it came down, truly, to better tackling and making one more play than the Packers, who keep on piling playoff disappointments in the last five years.
Anything special we learned? The Patriots offense is really good, even with a rusty Edelman and Danny Amendola. Brady doesn’t hit all of his throws, but after one mistake he always comes up with a huge play to make up for that. At Foxboro the Patriots can lose, but it’s extremely difficult beating them there. As for the Cardinals? Palmer making mistakes is an issue and could cost them against a better, more complete team than the Packers. But other than that? It’s very difficult finding a weakness.
Up next: The two other divisional playoff games to see who plays for the conference championships. The Seattle Seahawks have themselves a rematch with the Carolina Panthers on 1:05 PM ET, and after that comes the AFC’s turn, with another regular season rematch, as the Pittsburgh Steelers come to play against the Denver Broncos, beginning at 4:40 PM ET.