NFL conference championship weekend recap

Blaise Noble-Schueller, Contributor

This past Sunday, the crème de la crème of the football world went head-to-head in NFL conference championship weekend as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Green Bay Packers battled it out for the right to play in Super Bowl LV against the winner of the Buffalo Bills-Kansas City Chiefs matchup. 

When football fans saw quarterback Tom Brady leave the AFC and head to the NFC after last season, there were mixed emotions. Some wanted to see Brady succeed without legendary head coach Bill Belichick, while others were hoping that the most successful postseason player in the league’s history would struggle in Tampa Bay. Maybe it was because we needed a little light after 2020, or maybe it is because Tom Brady may not be human, but somehow, some way, every football fan was left entertained after the NFC championship game.

Throughout the season, Brady struggled at times, and there was definitely a fair bit of drama. After Tampa Bay finished second in the NFC South and won their wild card game against the Washington Football Team, fans were treated to a Brady vs. Drew Brees matchup in the divisional round. Behind a stout defensive performance, the Buccaneers handily swept away the Saints, setting Brady up to clash helmets with likely MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. 

Though enough cannot be said about Brady, Aaron Rodgers has quite a resume of his own. Rodgers is a Super Bowl champion,  two-time MVP and an easy first-ballot Hall of Fame selection. Rodgers, who threw 48 touchdowns to just five interceptions in the regular season, led his team to the No. 1 seed and an opportunity to play at home at legendary Lambeau Field against the Buccaneers in the NFC Championship. 

The game itself, however, did not live up to the epic quarterback showdown we were all hoping for. Brady looked sharp right out of the gate with some early third down conversions and a deep pass to Mike Evans to take an early 7-0 lead, but he did not look as spectacular the rest of the game. The Packers responded early in the second quarter with a deep ball from Rodgers to Marquez Valdes-Scantling. The Buccaneers looked to have a good grip on the rest of the game with a decent lead, but the Packers remained in striking distance until the very end. 

The game culminated with the Packers marching down the field, down eight points with a chance to send the game into overtime. The Packers got within the 10-yard line before coming up short three straight times to force a fourth down from the eight-yard line. With just over two minutes left, Packers head coach Matt LaFleur, much to the confusion of football pundits, trusted his defense to get one last stop and opted to go for the field goal to reduce the Buccaneer lead to five points instead of going for the tie.

As the story almost always goes, Brady did not get stopped, the Packers did not get the ball back and Brady won his mind-boggling 10th conference championship in his already historic career. Rodgers finished the game with slightly better numbers, going 33-48 for 346 yards, three touchdowns and one interception, while Brady finished the game 20-36 for 280 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions. Brady, however, ended up with the only stat that matters: the win.

In the AFC, the 15-win Kansas City Chiefs took on the scorching hot Buffalo Bills to see who would be crowned AFC champion. Patrick Mahomes was looking to punch his ticket to his second straight Super Bowl while the Bills were looking to prove that its young duo of quarterback Josh Allen and wide receiver Stefon Diggs could hang with a tough Chiefs defense.

Though Mahomes most likely will not win the MVP this year, he is widely considered the best player in the league right now. With a slew of dynamic weapons on offense and head coach Andy Reid calling the plays, the young Mahomes could be poised for a Brady-like legacy; on Sunday, he was looking to prove just that.

The Bills, on the other hand, had different ideas for Mahomes’ immediate future. They went into the playoffs as arguably the league’s hottest team, blowing out their final three opponents by at least 29 points. Allen established himself as a surefire top 10 quarterback in the league this season, while Diggs has made the team’s trade for him last offseason more than worth their while.

The game started off with an immediate sucker punch from the Bills, going up 9-0 to end the first quarter. Unfortunately, the game was not very interesting from there on out. The Chiefs went on to score three unanswered touchdowns en route to a comfortable 38-24 victory. Allen failed to get things going with two touchdowns and one interception to go along with an underwhelming 26-48 on completions. Mahomes played lights out per usual going 29-38 with 325 yards and three touchdowns.

Though the clash between Brady and Rodgers may have been our last chance to see those two legends face off in the playoffs, it won’t be the last time we see Mahomes and Allen. The Super Bowl next week is sure to be a fun one with so many intriguing story lines. We get to witness a Michael Jordan vs. young Lebron James-esque game that is sure to go down in the history books. The Buccaneers will be the first team ever to host a Super Bowl as Brady looks to collect his seventh ring, while the young Mahomes wants to show who the true greatest of all time will be when it’s all said and done.

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