A Look Back at the Historic 2022 NFL Playoffs

by James Stewart, Sports Beat Manager

The months of January and February marks a very exciting time of year for all sports fans. From the NHL, and NBA regular seasons, to the end of NCAA Football, and the beginning of NCAA basketball, and MLB Winter Meetings, there is truly something for every sports fan to be interested in.

During this time of year, the one that tops all is the chaos, and excitement of the NFL Playoffs. Following an outstanding set of Week 18 games that included a massive upset, as well as a game that could not determine a winner until the dwindling seconds of overtime, the matchups for Wild Card Weekend (the first round of the playoffs) were set, and fans could not wait for games to begin.

Now that we know our Super Bowl 56 champions, let’s take a look back at the roads the Cincinnati Bengals and the Los Angeles Rams took to SoFi Stadium, as well as the other games that had us on the edge of our seats over the past month.

Wild Card Weekend

The first matchup on Saturday, Jan. 15 was in the AFC between the 4th seeded Cincinnati Bengals and the 5th seeded Las Vegas Raiders. The Raiders were coming off a nail biting 35-32 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers which pushed them into the postseason.

Cincinnati was riding high after resting starters in the final week of the year as they had won their first division title since 2005, and at the end of night the excitement would only continue for Bengal fans.

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr led the Raiders down the field in the final minutes of the game trailing by 7 points, but was intercepted by Cincinnati linebacker Germaine Pratt with 17 seconds in the game, sealing the Bengals 26-19 victory.

The Bengals were led by former college teammates, second year quarterback, Joe Burrow, and rookie wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase. Burrow completed 24 of his 34 passing attempts for 244 yards and 2 touchdowns. Chase hauled in 9 receptions for 116 yards.

Carr finished the game passing for 310 yards, 1 touchdown, and the interception to Pratt.

The night matchup on Saturday was between longtime AFC East rivals, the 3 seeded Buffalo Bills, and the 6 seeded New England Patriots.

Right from the kickoff, the Bills dominated every facet of the game. The Bills received the opening kickoff, and quarterback Josh Allen marched the team 70 yards in 9 plays, capping the drive with an 8 yard touchdown pass to tight end Dawson Knox.

The Bills played a perfect offensive game scoring a touchdown on every single one of their drives until they kneeled the ball to run out the final seconds on their last drive. Allen finished the game 21 for 25 passing for 308 yards and 5 touchdowns. Knox hauled in 5 receptions for 89 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Bills running back Devin Singletary ran 16 times for 81 yards and 2 touchdowns, while Patriots rookie quarterback Mac Jones struggled in his playoff debut finishing with 232 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. Patriots wide receiver Kendrick Bourne caught both touchdown passes in the Patriots 47-17 defeat.

Sunday, Jan. 16 kicked off with the defending Super Bowl champion, 2 seeded Tampa Bay Buccaneers and 7 seeded Philadelphia Eagles facing off in an NFC matchup. Arguably the greatest quarterback and player of all time, Tom Brady once again proved why he is still one of the best players in the NFL despite being 44 years old.

Brady and the Buccaneers dominated the Eagles 31-15, with Brady throwing for 271 yards, and 2 touchdowns. Wide receiver Mike Evans finished with 9 catches for 117 yards, and a touchdown.

Eagles quarterback, Jalen Hurts led the struggling offense to 258 passing yards, with a touchdown and 2 interceptions. Hurts also ran the ball 8 times for 39 yards.

The best game of the weekend was in Dallas, Texas where the 3 seed in the NFC, the Dallas Cowboys, met the 6 seeded San Francisco 49ers. The Niners controlled the game early, taking a 23-7 lead into the final quarter of play, but Dallas responded.

Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott brought the Cowboys to within one score with just a few minutes left in the game, and would have the ball with 32 seconds to go, and the opportunity to win the game.

In just 3 plays, Prescott moved the ball to the San Francisco 41 yard line with 14 seconds remaining. Dallas had a time out, but instead decided to run a quarterback draw with Prescott which went for 17 yards to the 49ers’ 24 yard line.

Instead of handing the ball to the official so he could spot the ball, Prescott gave the ball to his center causing vital seconds to run off the clock, and eventually the clock to run out with Dallas losing 23-17.

Prescott finished passing for 254 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. He also ran 4 times for 27 yards, and a touchdown. San Francisco was led by running back Elijah Mitchell who ran 27 times for 96 yards and a touchdown. 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel also ran 10 times for 72 yards, and a touchdown, along with 3 receptions for 38 yards.

The final game Sunday, brought fans to Arrowhead Stadium to watch the AFC’s 2 seeded Kansas City Chiefs face off against the 7 seeded Pittsburgh Steelers.

From start to finish, this game was controlled by Partick Mahomes, and the Chiefs dynamic offense. Mahomes finished his night passing for 404 yards, and 5 touchdowns. Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce had 5 receptions for 108 yards, and a touchdown. He also completed a 2 yard touchdown pass as well. 

Chiefs running back Jerrick McKinnon played the best game of his career totalling 142 yards of offense and a touchdown. 

 For the Steelers, many fans both here at Glen Rock High School and around the country believe that we may have seen the final game of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s historic career. Big Ben finished the night passing for 215 yards, and 2 touchdowns.

The final Wild Card matchup was on Monday, Jan. 17, which was the first time a playoff game was ever being played on a Monday. The game was between the NFC’s 4 seeded Los Angeles Rams, and the 5 seed Arizona Cardinals.

The third meeting between the two teams was the rubber match of the year, and the Rams dominated from the opening kick. The Rams defense held Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray to just 19/34 passing for 137 and 2 interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown.

The Rams won the game 34-11, thanks to the play of their veteran quarterback Matt Stafford who threw 2 touchdown passes, one to both wide receiver, Odell Beckham Jr., and Cooper Kupp. The lone Cardinal touchdown was scored by running back James Conner.

Divisional round matchups were set following Monday’s game, and the following weekend’s games included everything fans could wish for, plus a little bit more.

Divisional Round

The first divisional round matchups were on Saturday, Jan. 22, the first being between the AFC’s 4th seeded Bengals, and the 1 seed Tennessee Titans. The Bengals were coming off their first playoff win since 1991, while the Titans were coming off of a bye, and bringing back their best player, running back Derrick Henry from a lingering foot injury. The game was back and forth, with Henry totaling 62 rushing yards, and bowling into the end zone for a touchdown.

Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown also made 5 catches for a game high 142 yards and a touchdown, but Burrow kept the Bengals in the game with 348 passing yards, and an interception, while Chase had 5 catches for 109 yards. Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw 1 touchdown and finished with 220 yards, but threw 3 interceptions, and none more costly than the third, which he threw with 20 seconds left in the game.

Tannehill’s interception put the Bengals in great field position, and gave rookie kicker, Evan McPherson an opportunity to make a 52 yard field goal to win the game.

McPherson would make the kick with ease, lifting the Bengals to a 19-16 victory, and sending them to their first AFC Championship game since 1989.

Saturday night was capped by the NFC’s first seeded Green Bay Packers, taking on the 6 seed, the 49ers. Weather would play a huge factor in this game due to the frigid temperatures, and snow falling throughout the later portions of the game.

Green Bay quarterback, and MVP (most valuable player) favorite, Aaron Rodgers had some struggles in the snow throwing for just 225 yards with no touchdown passes. Packers running back Aaron Jones, and wide receiver Davante Adams combined for 18 of the 20 Packer receptions, and 219 of the teams 225 receiving yards.

The 49ers offense was also very unimpressive rushing for a team toal 106 yards, while their quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo only threw for 131 yards and an interception. It was the 49ers special teams that came up big, as they blocked a punt in the 4th quarter, and returned it for a touchdown which tied the game at 10.

Both offenses continued to bore viewers, but a late punt by the Packers opened the door for the 49ers, and their kicker Robbie Gould to kick a potential game winning 45 yard field goal, and the kick was ‘good as Go(u)ld’, and the 49ers earned a spot in the NFC Championship game thanks to a 13-10 victory.

Sunday, Jan. 23 was a great day of football for fans across the country, and the Rams and the Buccaneers faced off in Tampa Bay. Stafford and the Rams handled the game from the kickoff taking a commanding 27-3 lead in the 3rd quarter, but everyone remembers Brady’s historic 28-3 comeback in Super Bowl 51 during his time with the Patriots, and many across the country were wishing we did not see a repeat of the 7 time Super Bowl champions’ heroics.

To no true surprise, Brady began to break the hearts of his haters around the world, as he brought the Buccaneers all the way back to tie the game at 27 with 42 seconds left in the game, but Stafford had other plans. Stafford completed a 20 yard pass to Kupp, and then a 44 yarder to Kupp, which gave Rams kicker, Matt Gay a chance to make a 30 yard game winning field goal (the third of the weekend). 

Gay booted the ball through the uprights, and the Rams would advance to the NFC Championship with a 30-27 win, in what could also be the final game of Brady’s historic 22 year career.

Brady finished with 329 passing yards, a touchdown, and an interception, while Stafford finished with 366 yards, and three touchdowns (2 passing, 1 rushing). Kupp had 9 receptions for 183 yards, and a touchdown.

The final game of the weekend was between the Buffalo Bills, and the Kansas City Chiefs. A rematch of last year’s AFC Championship game, was expected to be the game of the weekend, and the game easily met expectations; some consider it the game of the year, while others go as far to say it is the greatest game of all time.

Mahomes, and Allen both played fantastic games, and it looked like Allen would come out victorious as he threw his fourth touchdown of the game to wide receiver Gabriel Davis with 13 seconds remaining to give the Bills a 36-33 lead. Davis finished the game with 8 receptions, for 201 yards, and caught all four of Allen’s touchdown passes.

As things seemed grim for the Chiefs, the ‘grim reaper’ Patrick Mahomes, had more magic in him completing a 19 yard pass to wideout Tyreek Hill, followed by a 25 yard strike to Kelce to set up a game tying 49 yard field goal by Harrison Butker to send the game to overtime.

The Chiefs won the coin toss in overtime, and due to the very controversial overtime rules, all Mahomes needed to do was lead the Chiefs down the field into the endzone, and they would advance to the AFC Championship for the fourth straight season.

Mahomes did just that, leading a 8 play, 75 yard drive capped by an 8 yard touchdown pass to Kelce to win the game 42-36. Mahomes finished with 378 passing yards, 69 rushing yards, and 4 touchdowns (3 passing, 1 rushing).

Hill had 11 catches for 150 yards and a touchdown, while Kelce had 8 catches for 96 yards and a touchdown.

AFC/NFC Championships

Conference Championship Weekend had two great matchups on Sunday, Jan. 30, beginning with the Chiefs and Bengals in the AFC Championship.

The Chiefs controlled the game early and led 21-3 as the game neared halftime. A late score in the first half, and a goal line stand gave the Burrow and the Bengals hope going into the locker room trailing 21-10.

Following the break, the Bengals dominated the second half taking a 24-21 lead, but Butker once again would send the game to overtime as time expired making a 44 yarder to tie the game at 24.

The Chiefs once again would win the overtime coin toss, and fans across the country believed that the Bengals Cinderella run was finally coming to an end, but Mahomes dropped back and was intercepted deep down the field by Bengals safety Vonn Bell.

Burrow came onto the field, and brought the team into easy field goal range and McPherson, who has earned the nickname, Money McPherson, was money indeed drilling a 31 yarder to send the Bengals to their first Super Bowl since 1989 with a 27-24 victory.

Burrow finished his day with 250 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. Chase caught a touchdown, but it was wideout Tee Higgins who had the best receiving performance with 6 catches for 103 yards.

Mahomes finished with 275 passing yards, 3 touchdowns, and two interceptions. Hill and Kelce each caught a touchdown in the Chiefs season finale.

On the NFC side, the championship was between division rivals, the Rams and 49ers, and this game would continue the theme of nail biting finishes.

The 49ers took a 17-7 lead into the fourth quarter of the game, but Stafford and the Rams would not go quietly. Minutes into the fourth, Stafford completed an 11 yard touchdown to Kupp, and the following drive would end in a field goal tying the game at 17 with 6:49 to play.

The 49ers would punt the ball, and the Rams would go down the field, and once again kick a field goal taking a 20-17 lead with 1:46 left to play. Garoppolo and the 49ers had a chance to win or send the game to overtime, but Garoppolo threw an interception with 1:07 to play, and Stafford would be able to kneel the ball out, and send the Rams to the Super Bowl for the second time in four years.

Deebo Samuel gave it his all finishing with 26 rushing yards, 72 receiving yards, and a receiving touchdown. Garoppolo finished with 232 passing yards, and two touchdowns to go with the late interception.

Stafford would send the Rams to the Super Bowl thanks to a 337 yard performance with 2 touchdowns, and an interception. Kupp had 11 catches for 142 yards and both touchdown receptions. Odell Beckham Jr. finished with 113 yards on 9 receptions.

The unlikely Super Bowl matchup between the Bengals, and the Rams was on Sunday, Feb. 13 at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles. The Rams are the second team ever to play the Super Bowl at their home stadium, the other, last years’ Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.