Decyfr’s Conference Championship Roundup

Decyfr’s Conference Championship Roundup

After months of hard-fought battles, the four remaining teams clashed for a chance to earn a coveted spot in Super Bowl LVIII. A Championship Sunday not short on drama ensued – with a generous helping of costly errors. Decyfr recaps the last stop en route to Vegas.

Kansas City Chiefs @ Baltimore Ravens

Final score: 17 – 10

After reaching their sixth consecutive AFC title game, the Kansas City Chiefs had one goal in mind – Las Vegas and another trip to the Super Bowl. However, travelling to face a dominant Baltimore Ravens team – who were looking for their first Super Bowl appearance since 2012 – presented a substantial challenge.  Even with the resurgence of the Chiefs’ offense in recent weeks, many felt a match-up with one of the league’s best could be a step too far.

That said, it was Kansas City who were the fastest out of the blocks – with a pulsating 10-play, 81-yard drive, capped off with a brilliant back-shoulder catch by Travis Kelce – who went on to break Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice’s all-time record for playoff receptions (151). The Ravens responded instantly, however, as Lamar Jackson miraculously escaped the grip of Leo Chenal to find Zay Flowers in the back of the end zone. On the other side of the ball, Patrick Mahomes was on fire – completing his first 11 passes – as he carved open the Ravens secondary, in turn allowing Isiah Pacheco to power into the end zone for his third touchdown of the postseason. Despite the riveting start offensively, both defenses would soon step up – as Charles Omenihu forced a strip-sack on Lamar – gifting the Chiefs’ offense the ball inside Ravens territory. After failing to capitalise, both teams exchanged punts before Harrison Butker nailed a 52-yard field goal – leaving Kansas City with a 10-point buffer at the half.

The defensive masterclass from the Chiefs continued into the second half, holding Baltimore’s ground game to just 81 yards – subsequently forcing the Ravens to rely solely on the arm of Lamar Jackson. After struggling to move the chains, Lamar eventually found Flowers 52 yards downfield – immediately putting Baltimore in the red zone. However, a highly-controversial flag on Flowers for taunting, instantly wiped 15 yards off the play – one of five 15-yard penalties on the Ravens. Following the flag, Flowers was once again found over the middle and looked certain to score as he dove toward the goal line. Then, at the last second, L’Jarius Sneed punched the ball out of Flowers’ hands – forcing a gut-wrenching turnover to cap off a harrowing few minutes for the rookie. The Ravens did find their way back to the red zone after a 74-yard drive, but with time ticking away, Lamar was picked off by Deon Bush to all but end the Ravens’ season. 

The Mahomes-Kelce duo shone once more, as the reigning MVP finished with 241 yards passing and a touchdown. While Kelce tormented the Ravens D – finishing with 11 catches for 116 yards and a touchdown. As they head to yet another Super Bowl, the Chiefs are aiming to become the first side since 2004 to retain the Super Bowl crown. For Baltimore, they now head home after another disappointing performance in the postseason.

Player of the Game: Travis Kelce, Tight end, Kansas City Chiefs.

Detroit Lions @ San Francisco 49ers

Final score: 31 – 34

The biggest game since 1991 for the Detroit Lions saw them travel to Santa Clara to face the #1 seed San Francisco 49ers in a much-anticipated match-up. In a season where Detroit defied all odds, watched on by rapper and devout Lions fan, Eminem, his lyrics “You only get one shot,” had never rang so true.

Detroit got off to a lightning-fast start as receiver Jameson Williams took an end-around for 42 yards to open the score inside the first two minutes – silencing Levi’s Stadium. It quickly became 14-0 after an 11-play drive was finished off by running back David Montgomery, with the 49ers rueing Jake Moody’s missed field goal just moments before. San Francisco quickly answered back, feeding star playmaker Christian McCaffrey to half the deficit. Just as it looked like the Super Bowl favourites were back in the contest, quarterback Brock Purdy was intercepted by Malcom Rodriguez – handing the Lions promising field position which they duly capitalised upon – as rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs danced his way in and extended the lead to 14 points. Furthermore, after kicker Mike Badgley increased the Lions’ lead to 17 at the break, it looked as though the 49ers were destined to fall one short of the Super Bowl for a third-year-running.

Dan Campbell’s aggressive play-calling has been widely-lauded all season, but attempting a fourth-down conversion, rather than taking three-points early in the second half, proved to be his undoing – as Josh Reynolds failed to haul in a pass from QB Jared Goff. With the turnover on downs giving San Francisco some much-needed momentum, Purdy found Brandon Aiyuk on a tip-drill catch to bring the 49ers to within a score. Uncharacteristically, Gibbs would then cough up the ball on the first play of the next drive – allowing McCaffrey, who finished with 90 yards rushing, to punch in his second touchdown of the evening. After their immense start to the game, the Lions completely collapsed – conceding 17 points in a dramatic eight-minute period, to give the 49ers their first lead of the night with Moody’s second field goal. With the game hanging in the balance, Campbell once again opted not to level the score via a field goal and attempted a risky fourth down conversion. As Jared Goff desperately attempted to buy time in the pocket, he was swarmed by the San Francisco pass rush – forcing his pass into the turf and subsequently handing the ball back to the 49ers for a third time in the half. The red-and-gold put the game to bed as Elijah Mitchell was the benefactor of another stellar drive from Purdy, who finished with 267 yards in the air and 48 on the ground. In the aftermath, a visibly emotional Campbell revealed his post-game sentiments to the press, admitting: “this may have been our only shot,” in a poignant albeit coincidental hark back to the aforementioned lyrics made famous by Detroit’s most iconic fan.

San Francisco will now head to Vegas to face the Chiefs – hoping to avenge their loss at Super Bowl LIV. Meanwhile, the Lions head home bitterly disappointed after coming agonisingly close to their first-ever Super Bowl appearance.

Player of the Game: Christian McCaffrey, Running Back, San Francisco 49ers.

Latest News: