Kansas City Chiefs Marquez Valdes-Scantling scores a touchdown over the Cincinnati Bengals in the 3rd quarter during the AFC Championship at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri Sunday January 29, 2023. Sg10163 Edited
Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles set for Super Bowl 57 as both No. 1 seeds hold serve at home on Conference Championship weekend
NFC Championship: Eagles 31, 49ers 7
The Philadelphia Eagles steamrolled the San Francisco 49ers 31-7 to book their trip to Super Bowl 57 and win their first NFC Championship since 2018. San Francisco was cut off at the knees early in the game when quarterback Brock Purdy left with an elbow injury, and his replacement Josh Johnson would be pulled from the game in the third quarter with a head injury as well. For much of the second half, the 49ers did not have anyone capable of throwing the ball downfield as Philadelphia squeezed the life out of them. San Francisco finished the day with just 164 yards of offense, 106 of which came from running back Christian McCaffrey.
On offense, the Eagles’ run game owned the day. Philadelphia rushed for four scores, and controlled the game when it needed to with explosive run plays despite averaging just 3.4 yards per carry as a team. Jalen Hurts finished the day with just 121 yards passing, and Philadelphia did not turn the ball over once while its defense forced three.
Tensions flared almost immediately in what was a charged environment from the start, with players from each side needing to be separated after Philadelphia received the opening kick. Despite the steady rain, the enthusiasm from the Philadelphia crowd was palpable from the outset – and after DeVonta Smith’s incredible catch at the 49ers 6-yard line converted a fourth down and set up the Eagles on the doorstep of a score, the crowd was ready to explode. Two plays later, running back Miles Sanders sprinted through a gaping hole into the end zone to give the Eagles a 7-0 first quarter lead.
San Francisco’s early struggles continued on their first possession, a drive that looked somewhat promising but was cut short after Brock Purdy’s fumble. Philadelphia took back over near midfield hoping to extend its lead, but the 49ers’ defense forced a punt and took over after a touchback to halt the avalanche of Eagles’ momentum. Unfortunately for San Francisco, Purdy’s elbow was injured on the previous drive’s fumble – and fourth-string quarterback Josh Johnson’s first drive under center resulted in a punt.
Despite a seven-point deficit and plenty of injury-related adversity, San Francisco’s defense continued to keep the 49ers in the game. Eventually, San Francisco found itself deep in Philadelphia territory as running back Christian McCaffrey put the team on his back with multiple bruising runs. McCaffrey bounced off several would-be tackles on a 23-yard run into the end zone to cap off the possession, tying the game 7-7 with 8:29 to go in the first half.
Philadelphia’s run game finally found some room to operate late in the second quarter, and Miles Sanders punched in his second touchdown of the game from 13 yards away to make it 14-7 with 1:36 left in the half. Philadelphia ran 14 plays on the drive to cover 75 yards, using almost seven minutes of clock to retake the lead. Still the Eagles weren’t finished. 49ers quarterback Josh Johnson fumbled on the second play of the ensuing drive, and it only took three plays for the Eagles to punch in another rushing touchdown – this time from 10 yards away with Boston Scott. Up 21-7 at halftime, the Philadelphia faithful were brimming with confidence at Lincoln Financial Field.
The injury adversity continued for the 49ers as the second half began. Josh Johnson was taken off the field to be looked at for a head injury on San Francisco’s first possession of the half, leaving the 49ers without a plan under center. After forcing a punt on the ensuing Eagles drive, Brock Purdy re-entered at quarterback despite nursing an apparently injured elbow. As the 49ers’ hobbled offensive attack continued to struggle, the Eagles eventually extended their lead. Jalen Hurts pushed his way into the end zone with 43 seconds left in the third quarter, making it 28-7 and all but ensuring a Super Bowl berth for Philadelphia.
With the knowledge that Brock Purdy would not be able to throw the ball downfield, the Eagles defense pinned its ears back and completely shut down San Francisco’s running game. The 49ers pulled out all the stops, running end-around handoffs even to George Kittle in an attempt to create an offensive spark – but nothing was there, and the writing was on the wall that San Francisco’s season was coming to an end as the fourth quarter wore on.
After the Eagles kicked a field goal to extend their lead to 31-7, pandemonium began to break out between the two teams on the field. Both benches leaked out onto the field as the two sides began throwing punches, and 49ers offensive tackle Trent Williams and Eagles safety K’Von Wallace were both thrown out of the game after Williams threw Wallace to the ground violently. The dust eventually settled, and San Francisco fumbled the football away again moments later.
With backup quarterback Gardnew Minshew in the game, Philadelphia would run out the remainder of the clock comfortably and clinch their NFC Championship win and Super Bowl 57 berth. The Eagles controlled the entirety of the game after Purdy’s injury, wearing San Francisco down with their running game and shutting down the 49ers’ broken offense. Philadelphia will head to Arizona in two weeks in search of their second Super Bowl title in Franchise history.
AFC Championship: Chiefs 23, Bengals 20
The Kansas City Chiefs outlasted the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20 after Harrison Butker’s last-second field goal, advancing to their third Super Bowl appearance in the last four seasons. Kansas City exacted revenge after last season’s nail-biting AFC Championship loss, and defeated the Bengals with Joe Burrow at quarterback for the first time in four attempts.
Patrick Mahomes played through pain all night, completing an efficient 29-of-43 passes for 326 yards and two touchdowns. All-Pro defensive tackle led a Chiefs’ pass rush that finished with five sacks of quarterback Joe Burrow, who finished the night with 270 yards passing, one touchdown, and two interceptions.
Kansas City’s defense came up big to start the game, forcing a punt on the Bengals’ opening drive and giving Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense a chance to take an early lead. After a narrow miss on a deep pass to Kadarius Toney would have put Kansas City ahead, the Chiefs settled for a 42-yard field goal by Harrison Butker and a 3-0 lead.
Cincinnati’s makeshift offensive line struggled to hold up from the outset. Quarterback Joe Burrow was sacked three times in Cincinnati’s first six offensive plays, including All-Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones’ first postseason sack that forced the Bengals’ second punt. Kansas City quickly took advantage with another drive deep into Cincinnati territory, but once again the Bengals’ defense bowed up late and held the Chiefs to only a field goal. The Bengals finally moved into Kansas City territory in the second quarter despite surrendering a fourth sack of Joe Burrow, and eventually settled for a chip shot field goal of their own to cut the deficit in half.
The Chiefs continued to look dominant offensively, and the dam finally broke for the Bengals’ defense with 3:53 remaining before halftime. Patrick Mahomes connected with Travis Kelce on a 14-yard, fourth-down touchdown, extending Kansas City’s lead to 13-3. The avalanche of momentum from the Arrowhead Stadium crowd only grew stronger on the drive that followed, as a poor decision by Joe Burrow resulted in an interception by rookie Chiefs safety Jaylen Watson. Finally, Cincinnati’s defense held the Chiefs without points and forced a punt for the first time in the game.
The Bengals took the football back with just over two minutes to play at their own 5-yard line and all three timeouts at their disposal, and put together an impressive drive that led them inside Kansas City’s 5-yard line. The Bengals would settle for a field goal as time expired, and entered the locker room at halftime trailing 13-6.
Cincinnati started the second half on a mission. After the Bengals’ defense quickly forced a Chiefs’ punt to start the third quarter, Burrow and the Cincinnati offense went to work. The Bengals covered 62 yards over eight plays, and punched in a tying score when Joe Burrow and Tee Higgins connected on a 27-yard touchdown pass. In what was beginning to have the feel of a heavyweight fight between two of the game’s best quarterbacks, Mahomes and the Chiefs responded with a gutty drive of their own. Marquez Valdes-Scantling made several big catches as Kansas City covered 77 yards over 11 plays, and caught a 19-yard touchdown to put his team ahead 20-13 with 4:15 left in the third.
Up seven and smelling blood after forcing a punt, Kansas City began driving downfield impressively again – but with just a minute left in the third quarter, a fumble by Patrick Mahomes gave the Bengals back the football in Chiefs territory. Facing a fourth-and-six from the Chiefs 40-yard line, Cincinnati boldly decided to go for the conversion, and converted when Ja’Marr Chase came down with Joe Burrow’s deep pass at the 6-yard line. Samaje Perine ran the ball into the end zone from short range a few plays later, and the game was tied 20-20 with 13:35 left.
After each defense came up with a big stop to keep the score tied, Kansas City took over with just over six minutes left at their own 14-yard line. The Chiefs drove the ball into Cincinnati territory, but were halted just outside of field goal range and forced to punt back to the Bengals. Joe Burrow and his offense took the football back at its own 7-yard line, needing a score to take the lead with two timeouts in hand and 2:30 to play.
Joe Burrow found Hayden Hurst for a massive third down conversion that kept the drive alive, but Chris Jones’ second sack of the game on a third down later in the drive ended the threat. The Bengals punted the football away with 41 seconds left, giving way to Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs – but punt returner Skyy Moore made a potentially game-winning run with the football out to near midfield. Patrick Mahomes took off on a hobbling third-down run several plays later to try to put kicker Harrison Butker in range, and converted – but a late hit by Bengals linebacker Joseph Ossai was flagged for unnecessary roughness and ultimately set up a very makeable game-winning field goal. Harrison Butker drilled it, and the Kansas City Chiefs advanced to their third Super Bowl in the last four seasons.
Kansas City will take on the Philadelphia Eagles in two weeks at State Farm Stadium in Arizona for all the marbles in what should be an incredibly entertaining Super Bowl 57.