Home Philly dominates San Fran, KC edges Bengals: The Super Bowl is set

Philly dominates San Fran, KC edges Bengals: The Super Bowl is set

Scott Ratcliffe
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The matchup is set for Super Bowl LVII in two weeks, as NFC Champion Philadelphia will take on AFC Champion Kansas City in the big game on Feb. 12 in Glendale, Ariz.

In Sunday’s first conference championship matchup, the Eagles rolled to a 31-7 win over San Francisco in the NFC title game, while the Chiefs defeated the Bengals on a 45-yard Harrison Butker field goal with three seconds left to capture the Lamar Hunt Trophy, 23-20.

The Super Bowl is scheduled to kick off at 6:30 p.m., and the game will be televised on FOX. The Eagles open as an early 1-point favorite, according to Caesars Sportsbook.

Chiefs 23, Bengals 20

Star quarterback Patrick Mahomes, playing all week with a high-ankle sprain he suffered in last week’s win over Jacksonville, threw for 326 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but made the biggest play of the season with his legs in the closing seconds with the game on the line.

Mahomes gained just enough for a first down to set up the game-winning score, sending Kansas City back to the Super Bowl for the third time in the last four years.

The Chiefs jumped out to an early lead on a Butker 43-yarder at the 8:50 mark of the opening quarter, after a third-down incompletion from Mahomes intended for Kadarius Toney in the end zone was upheld by video review.

Joe Burrow, who threw for 270 yards and a touchdown, was sacked twice on the ensuing Bengals possession, and Butker tacked on a 24-yarder on the first play of the second quarter to double the lead, 6-0. Cincinnati managed to avoid giving up its first first-quarter touchdown for a 13th-straight game, as a would-be KC touchdown was wiped out by an offensive holding penalty.

Cincinnati got on the board with 8:36 left in the first half on an Evan McPherson 30-yard field goal, set up by a pair of crucial receptions by Tyler Boyd — one that went for 16 yards on a third-and-14, the other for 24 more yards to get into scoring range.

Kansas City responded with an 8-play, 76-yard drive that ended with a 14-yard toss-and-catch from Mahomes to Travis Kelce on fourth-and-1, and the Chiefs extended the lead to 10, 13-3, with 3:53 until halftime. It was Kelce’s 15th career playoff TD reception, tied for second-most all time.

Burrow was picked off three plays later by KC cornerback Jaylen Watson, his second interception in as many weeks, but the Chiefs couldn’t do anything with it and punted, leaving the Bengals with 2:02 on the second-quarter clock.

It turned out to be just enough time for Burrow to engineer a 12-play, 90-yard drive that resulted in a 23-yarder by McPherson as time expired, and the home team held a 13-6 lead at the break.

The Bengals tied it up with 9:54 left in the third quarter on a 27-yard strike from Burrow to Tee Higgins on a third-and-6, and all of a sudden it was a brand new ball game.

The Chiefs caught a break on their ensuing drive on a third-and-7 from the Cinci 26-yard line, as Marquez Valdes-Scantling was initially ruled a yard short of the marker, but eventually was awarded a first down after Andy Reid challenged the play.

KC retook the lead a few plays later, as Mahomes delivered a bullet to Valdes-Scantling over the middle from 19 yards out, and it was 20-13 with 4:15 left in the third. On the play, Mahomes passed Hall of Famer Joe Montana for second on the all-time championship-game TD pass list with the 14th of his career.

Kansas City was driving late in the quarter when Mahomes lost control of the ball — the first lost fumble of his postseason career — on a pass attempt that was scooped up by Sam Hubbard at the Chiefs’ 45-yard line, but Cinci’s Samaje Perine was dropped for a third-down loss on the final play of the third and it looked as though the Chiefs would get it back deep in their own territory to start the fourth.

Burrow had other plans, however, tossing one up for former LSU teammate Ja’Marr Chase on fourth-and-6 from the 41, and Chase came down with it at the 6, silencing the Arrowhead Stadium crowd. Two plays later, Perine powered his way into the end zone from two yards out and the score was knotted at 20-apiece with 13:30 to play.

The game remained tied as the clock continued to wind down, and Chiefs rookie running back Isiah Pacheco made a big play, breaking a tackle and hustling 16 yards down the sideline to get KC inside the 40 as the clock approached the four-minute mark.

The Bengals came up with a huge third-down stop, forcing a Chiefs punt, and Cincinnati was pinned at its own 7-yard line with 2:30 remaining. On a critical third-and-16 from the 9, Burrow found a wide-open Hayden Hurst for a 23-yard gain that kept the chains moving as the clock went under one minute in regulation.

However, Burrow was sacked by Chris Jones for the second time in the game — the first two of his playoff career — on the following third-down conversion, and the Chiefs got a 27-yard punt return from Skyy Moore, taking over at their own 47 with 30 seconds to go.

On a third-and-4 from the Bengals’ 47 with 17 ticks remaining, Mahomes scrambled for a first down, and was hit after running out of bounds by defensive end Joseph Ossai, tacking on another 15 yards to set up Butker’s championship-winning kick.

“We were in the locker room and I said, ‘We’ve got to be together,’ and this team stepped up against a great football team,” Mahomes told CBS’ Tracy Wolfson after the win.

Eagles 31, 49ers 7

Philly running back Miles Sanders set the tone with a pair of first-half scores, quarterback Jalen Hurts added a touchdown late in the third quarter, and the Eagles benefited from a nightmare scenario under center for the 49ers to make their first Super Bowl appearance since 2018.

The Eagles took an early 7-0 lead on a 6-yard Sanders touchdown on the game’s opening drive, and then just six plays into the 49ers’ initial possession, rookie sensation Brock Purdy was drilled by Philly’s Hassan Reddick, injuring his right elbow and leaving the game.

To make matters worse, Purdy’s incomplete pass was challenged by the Eagles and the call was reversed to a fumble recovered by the home team.

The top-ranked San Francisco defense was able to force a punt on the next three Philadelphia possessions, however, and fourth-string quarterback Josh Johnson was able to lead a scoring drive to knot the score at 7-7 on a 23-yard Christian McCaffrey run with 8:29 until halftime.

Sanders scored his second TD of the game to give Philadelphia a 14-7 lead late in the first half. Two plays later, a Johnson fumble was recovered by Reddick at the SF 30 with 1:11 on the clock.

A Dre Greenlaw facemask call gave Philly a first-and-goal, and Boston Scott got to the pylon on the very next snap to make it 21-7 with 16 seconds left in the half.

Purdy returned for a handoff to McCaffrey on a third-and-14 situation early in the second half, as Johnson was slammed to the turf on the previous play and a call came down from the booth for him to exit the contest to receive medical attention. Johnson would not return, as it was later revealed that he suffered a concussion.

“Yeah it’s not ideal, it sucks,” McCaffrey said of the situation. “You never want to see any of your teammates get hurt, let alone obviously the quarterback position, it’s tough. But you’re never out of the fight though, and we believed it, just didn’t turn out our way.”

After an Eagles three-and-out, their third of the day, Purdy was back in for the remainder of the contest, but it was obvious that he simply wasn’t able to throw the ball downfield and the San Francisco offense became one-dimensional, but mostly ineffective with a run-heavy approach.

“We put our quarterback in there just so we could at least run a normal run game,” said San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan.

It appeared that the San Francisco D had come up with another big stop to remain in striking distance, but a roughing-the-punter penalty on Jordan Mason kept the ensuing Eagles drive alive, and Hurts took full advantage.

The third-year MVP candidate rushed for a first down inside the Niners’ 5-yard line, and an unnecessary roughness penalty on Talanoa Hufanga moved the ball to the 3.

Three plays later, the Lincoln Financial Stadium crowd was partying again, as Hurts took it in himself and the lead grew to 28-7 with 43 seconds left in the third, capping a 15-play, 91-yard march that spanned 7:50. The Eagles sealed it with a Jake Elliott 31-yard field goal with 5:17 remaining.

Philadelphia stopped the Niners on a second fourth-quarter, fourth-down try with 4:05 to play, and the championship celebration began.

“Pretty awesome,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said. “This is something you dream about your whole life… and we get to do it because we did it better than anybody else in the NFC this year. It’s pretty special.”

The 49ers were limited to a season-low 164 total yards (83 passing, 81 rushing), as Purdy actually completed all four of his passing attempts, but for a total of just 23 yards. Johnson was 7-for-13 for 74 yards, and was sacked twice. McCaffrey finished with 106 total yards (84 rushing, 22 receiving).

The Niners turned the ball over three times and committed 11 penalties for a total of 81 yards, while only picking up 11 first downs all day. Hurts threw for 121 yards and rushed for 39 more on 11 carries, as the Eagles totaled 148 yards on the ground en route to the victory.

“The atmosphere tonight was amazing,” Hurts said afterwards, “the fans showed up, the energy, all of it. So we need to bring that to AZ.”

Scott Ratcliffe

Scott Ratcliffe

Scott Ratcliffe has worked as a freelance writer for several publications over the past decade-plus, with a concentration on local and college sports. He is also a writer and editor for his father’s website, JerryRatcliffe.com, dedicated to the coverage of University of Virginia athletics.