NFL Playoffs Recap: This Must Be Football Heaven

Henry Standage
FiredUp Network Sports Writer


Monday, January 24, 2022

If you’re reading this article, I really, really hope you watched the football games today. At the very least I hope you had an iPhone and were the recipient of a million capitalized and incoherent group messages from your friends. 


However, if you didn’t see the games, rest assured, I’m not going to alienate you. But I am going to have to condense what was objectively the greatest day of NFL action in my 23 years on this Earth. 

To start, we had a mid-afternoon fling between the Rams and the Bucs. The Rams were coming off a Monday night smackdown of the Cardinals in which they made Kyler Murray figuratively, and literally, look like a baby. Likewise, the Bucs beat the snot out of the Eagles so badly last week that Philly fans immediately threw what was a promising sophomore season from Jalen Hurts out the window, and now want their team to draft a new quarterback. Sorry Jalen. 


Okay — let’s get to the good stuff. 


The Bucs played their worst game of the season, barely stringing together an adequate drive through three quarters, while their defence allowed commentator Cris Collinsworth to verbally fellate Rams receiver Cooper Kupp as he repeatedly got behind the Bucs secondary (more on that later.)


So, with the Bucs still showing no signs of life down 27–3 in the third quarter, the aforementioned Collinsworth and his broadcasting partner Al Michaels were forced to pass the time by vamping about whether we would see Tom Brady in a football uniform ever again. This conversation prompted every neutral football fan to suddenly shift from being radically amused that the GOAT was getting his butt kicked, to feeling weirdly emotional that this could be the way he went out. 


We should have known better. 


With the help of the Rams (four fumbles, a 47-yard field goal that went short (?), and a startling lack of intensity on defence) the Bucs climbed back into the game. In typical Brady fashion, the game somehow found itself tied with 20 seconds to play after Leonard Fournette rumbled into the endzone. The shots of the Rams sidelined showed a team that was prepared to get its ass kicked in overtime. Seriously, Rams head coach Sean McVay looked like somebody had just explained the ending of Shutter Island to him. 


Yet, as I know all too well, once a Jet always a Jet. Former head coach Todd Bowles, now the Buccaneers defensive coordinator, had different ideas. First, he played man coverage on Kupp, who picked up a quick 20 yards to get the ball to midfield. Then, Bowles inexplicably sent an all-out blitz, allowing Kupp to get behind the Bucs defence and catch the most important throw of Matt Stafford’s career. Rams kicker Matt Gay would win it at the buzzer on the next play. 


As one eloquent friend texted me as this was all unfolding: “I don’t care about either of these teams and I still feel like orgasming and vomiting at the same time.” I thought that was well put. 


If this is Brady’s last game, there is something poetic about him putting together his second greatest comeback ever, but this time, and what felt like for the first time, losing. As for Matt Stafford and the Rams — I’m happy for you, but how many improbable things can we reasonably expect to go Tom Brady’s way before he inevitably develops whatever the vegan version of Kanye West’s god complex is. Learn to put a game away LA... for all our sakes.


Now, in the immediate aftermath of Rams-Bucs I called it the craziest football game I have ever seen. I did not necessarily mean it in a complimentary sense. It was crazy in the same way that my little sister learning how to parallel park was crazy — my stomach hurt, I wasn’t sure if the ride was ultimately worth the destination and generally, I feared for my life. 


When I say, now three hours later, as a more well-rounded, grown, wise individual, that Bills-Chiefs was the craziest football game I’ve ever seen — I mean that it was the most magnificent, superb, remarkable three hours of football I have ever watched. And even one of the greatest television watching experiences of my life. Yes, even better than that time Drake hosted the ESPY’s and sang about how every NBA player has a side chick… in front of every NBA players wife. That’s how good Bills-Chiefs was.


I know that Aaron Rodgers is coming off back-to-back MVP seasons, but this game was a duel for the best-player-in-the-league mantle. Sure, Mahomes and Allen might be more likely to butcher a week 11 home game to the Steelers than Rodgers is, but these two guys, put simply, are just from the future. The game was contested for all four quarters, yet as the second half wore on the Chiefs began to turn the screw, putting more and more pressure on the Bills. The only thing holding the Chiefs back was their usually flawless kicker Harrison Butker missing a 50 yarder and an extra point. 


A genuinely baffling and hilarious play call by the Chiefs on third and one, that featured Patrick Mahomes playing wide receiver allowed the Bills defence to force the Chiefs to settle for a field goal, keeping the lead under a touchdown at 26–21. The Bills drove the ball down and with 1:54 Allen threw a fourth down strike to Gabriel Davis to give the Bills to lead. A ridiculous two-point conversion made the lead 29–26. On the touchdown receiving route, Davis shook poor Bashaud Breeland into the Spider-verse with a devastating double move. 


“That’s too much time for Mahomes”, said every NFL fan who’s smart enough to remember which cliches to say out loud, and dumb enough to lose money gambling every weekend. Well, they were right. A 64-yard touchdown to Tyreek Hill (who was absolutely electric all evening), just 50 seconds later, gave the Chiefs a four-point lead. 


Still, “That’s too much time for Allen”, said every NFL fan who’s smart enough to say “that’s the analytics play” every time a team goes for it on fourth down, and dumb enough to draft Taysom Hill in fantasy. They were right again! Allen threw dime-after-dime before shooting another laser into the hands of Davis with just 17 seconds to play. 


(Speaking of Davis — he had 589 receiving yards and six touchdowns in 18 regular season weeks. He had 200 yards and four touchdowns tonight. Uhhh. Alright.)


This time every smart/dumb NFL fan figured that 17 seconds, even for Mahomes, wasn't enough. What was this, the Disney Channel? WWE? Both (a Jake Paul fight)? Kansas City promptly went 43 yards in two plays, setting up a field goal for the aforementioned Harrison Butker, who made the kick and now fortunately will not have to move his kids to a private school out-of-state. 


So, the game went to overtime and the Chiefs won the coin flip. Because of course they did. And they confidently went down and ended the game with a Travis Kelce tip-toe touchdown. The poor Bills must have wondered what more they could have done. Josh Allen looked like his mom and dad told him they were selling the family farm post-game. 


Let's not skip over the largest development of the night though: Kansas City cemented itself as an all-time team. Yes, they’d made the previous three AFC championships, but this year they have clearly not had the right mix of talent/coaching/whatever intangible thing you want to say. And they still wouldn’t die. It’s really hard to beat a football team on the road. 


It’s bloody impossible to beat a bunch of zombies. 


Niners-Rams. Bengals-Chiefs. 


See you next week.