Fans of the New England Patriots, let down by the team’s dismal finish to the season and ghastly playoff performance against the Buffalo Bills, had to have taken a measure of joy if not possibly relief in the weekend of football that followed. Not because there’s no way their team could have kept up with those teams (not entirely true, but not likely either). But because this Divisional Round was arguably the best weekend of playoff football ever.
Don’t take it from me, a lifelong football fan who was looking for a pleasant distraction and something to wash away the taste of the post-bye Pats. Just listen to everyone else with eyes, ears and a love of the NFL.
Four games, all with last-second field goals that mattered. Three of those games were decided at the final whistle by a field goal. Two on Saturday both saw the conference number one seeds at home get upset (first time since 2010). The last game on Sunday went into OT thanks to a game-tying 49-yard field goal. After 17 points were scored, with three lead changes, in the final two minutes of regulation. Just unreal.
Oh, and did we mention Tom Brady erased a 27-3 lead in the earlier Sunday game?
Saturday with the top seeds losing at home was pretty wild. Sunday had a lot to live up to. And did it ever, telling Saturday to old its beer as football fans were treated to comeback after comeback after comeback after score. And as epic as Brady’s thwarted comeback in the earlier was (NB to the 49ers: put a body on Cooper Kupp in crunch time), the late Sunday game could go down as one of the best playoff if not NFL games ever. Neither team deserved to lose, yet they both did for the defense they played in the end of the 4th Q and OT.
And some of the stats that came from Bills @ Chiefs, a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship, are mind-blowing.
Matching wits and throws with Patrick Mahomes was Buffalo’s Josh Allen, who played a nearly perfect game at home against the Patriots in the Wild Card round. He was as good if not better vs. Kansas City, becoming the only QB to throw 9 TDs with zero turnovers over a two-game playoff span...and his reward? A trip home.
Throw after touchdown after first down after score. Doesn’t seem right. But these are the breaks of the wildest and most exciting weekend of playoff football ever.
The infusion of talent at the QB position in the AFC over the last couple of years has set the stage for more games like Bills/Chiefs and possibly weekends like this to come. Mac Jones has his work cut out for him in many many ways.
The 2021 season saw much tighter division races and more parity than in recent years, which the league had been angling to achieve for some time. No clear-cut frontrunner or runaway favorite in either conference entered this weekend. Once the postseason arrived, and the herd thinned out a bit, the real show began. And now, after four wild games, just four teams remain.
Championship Sunday and the Super Bowl have an awful lot to live up to now. Someone’s gotta win and someone’s gotta lose.
Except us. Even with our team, and the team of 23 other fanbases at home this weekend, we all won. Thanks to all the teams from Divisional Weekend. For so many reasons we needed that.