Yet the truth holds that this is how it should be, for these have proved to be the best two teams in the National Football League, based off a body of work that stretches back to Week 1.
The Eagles and Chiefs have had their tribulations, no question about it. They didn’t always look infallible. Other teams went on phenomenal tears, especially the pair that lost in the respective championship games.
It is these two though, the first dual No. 1 seeds to duke out a Super Bowl since Philly reserved a special treat for New England five years back. They were the most consistent, the most proficient and ultimately most deserving of the chance to shine in front of a monumental global audience.
Andy Reid challenges a clear incompletion in the first quarter.
It’s one thing when coaches make a desperate challenge late in game or to try to stave off a big play from the other team as it rushes to the line for a snap. It’s another to make a foolish challenge on a play in which you control the clock and can ask your players what happened. The Kansas City coach made the latter decision, and it hamstrung him for the remainder of the game.
At the very least, you can understand why Reid wanted to try to win a challenge. Facing a third-and-5 from the Cincinnati 25-yard line, Mahomes felt a blitz and tossed up a perfect fade to wideout Kadarius Toney. The midseason acquisition briefly caught the ball before losing it on the way down, seemingly setting up a field goal try on fourth down.
Instead, Reid bizarrely chose to challenge. For one, the Chiefs had the ability to control the clock and see replays, which would have allowed Reid to get a definitive look before using a challenge. Furthermore, he had the ability to ask Toney himself what had happened, and it was by the wideout’s reaction no catch had occurred. If Toney had steered Reid wrong, it would have been one thing, but it was clear this was not a catch and wasn’t worthy of a challenge.
Reid cost himself a timeout, but more distressingly, he limited himself to one challenge over 50 ensuing minutes of football. When Reid successfully reversed a spot later in the game, the Chiefs were then unable to challenge for the remainder of the contest before the two-minute warning. Reid didn’t end up needing to throw his flag onto the field for a third time, but he couldn’t have known as much at the time.
Winner: Chiefs Closer Chris Jones
Austin Gayle: Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones was simply unblockable on Sunday. It was like he took a baseball bat to every important Bengals play, and Cincinnati, down three starting offensive linemen, could do nothing to stop him. No amount of double-teams on the interior or extra attention from running backs and tight ends on the edge could keep him from getting into the backfield.
Jones, announced last week as a finalist for the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year award, literally threw two Bengals offensive linemen en route to the quarterback on a play before the end of the half that forced Cincinnati to kick a field goal. Both of his sacks came on third downs, including one with less than a minute to play in the game that gave Mahomes the ball back with just enough time to help the Chiefs win the game in regulation. All of the superlatives we use for Mahomes weekly should be poured on Jones, as well. He was the best defensive tackle in the NFL this season and still managed to elevate his game in the AFC championship, as he made sure no one will ever call it Burrowhead Stadium again.
Jermaine Pratt visibly upset with the ending of that game- particularly with the roughing the passer on Joseph Ossai that got the Chiefs in comfortable FG range to win the game #bengals #AFCChampionshipGame pic.twitter.com/02JR77QgG7— Katie Kapusta (@KatieKapustaTV) January 30, 2023
Pratt then explained this moment on social media saying, “I have real feelings sometimes they are raw. If you love something as much I do sometimes things will be said in the heated of the moment. But I know what type of teammate I am. And what type of man I am. Trust me no love lost I’m hurt. Remember some ppl with hate you, rate you and shake you and try to break you but I will stand tall like always.”
The Bills game was a fluke performance by the o-line
The Bengals’ dominant performance against the Buffalo Bills o-line got a lot of people thinking we magically found a winning combination and that Jackson Carman and Max Scharping had bright futures. This isn’t to say they don’t, but they were not at all prepared for the onslaught in Kansas City.
Against the Chiefs, the replacement line looked about as good as last year’s o-line in the playoffs: entirely unreliable. Still, the fact they could give quarterback Joe Burrow enough time to complete some big third and fourth down throws says a lot, considering the starting left tackle, Jackson Carman, didn’t even know he’d be playing that position until the middle of this season.
“On the previous play, there was an incomplete pass,” Torbert said of the situation after the game, via the pool report. “We spotted the ball, but the line judge came in and re-spotted the ball because the spot was off. We reset the play clock and the game clock started running. It should not have started running because there was an incomplete pass on the previous play. The field judge noticed that the game clock was running. He was coming in to shut the play down so that we could get the clock fixed but nobody heard him, and the play was run. After the play was over, he came in and we discussed that he was trying to shut the play down before the ball had been snapped. So, we reset the game clock back to where it was before that snap and replayed third down.”
When asked what the normal protocols are for when a play can’t get stopped in time and the play gets off, but the situation doesn’t affect the play, Torbert reiterated: “If we were trying to shut down the play and we couldn’t, we would shut it down and go back and replay the down.”
Around the NFL
The NFL has told its 32 teams that the 2023 salary cap will be a record $224.8 million, a source confirmed to ESPN.
This marks an increase of $16.6 million from the 2022 salary cap, which was $208.2 million.
The league will notify teams of total costs, including player benefits, in March.
The league also set the amounts for 2023 franchise tags on Monday. Sources confirmed to ESPN that quarterbacks who receive a nonexclusive franchise tag before the deadline on March 7 at 4 p.m. ET will be paid a guaranteed salary of $32,416,000 for the 2023 season if they can’t agree to a long-term contract by the deadline in July.
Moore is expected to join the Chargers as their new OC, NFL Network Insiders Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero reported Monday, per sources. Moore succeeds Joe Lombardi, who was fired by the Chargers after two seasons with the club.
The team has since announced the news.
Moore will shift from working with Dak Prescott to Justin Herbert, which shouldn’t result in a drop-off in quarterback ability and may prove to be a rare upgrade for a coordinator changing jobs at the end of January. Moore is certainly deserving of the opportunity, and Los Angeles’ urgency to snap him up should stand as proof of the ascending play-caller’s reputation in league circles.
Purdy suffered a complete tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow and will undergo surgery, NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero reported Monday, per a source.
Pelissero adds that Purdy is seeking a second opinion, but the initial hope is he can undergo a repair — not a reconstruction, commonly known as Tommy John surgery — and will be ready for training camp.
If Purdy can have the UCL repaired and avoid reconstruction, the standard timeline for return is six months, giving him a chance to return near the start of 2023 training camp, per Pelissero.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
Wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling: We’ve seen the downside of the former Green Bay Packers wideout: the deep shot with no real chance of completion. His often-inefficient production gave him an up-and-down season. But with his teammates dropping left and right on Sunday, Valdes-Scantling delivered in a big way. He led the team in targets (eight, along with tight end Travis Kelce) and yards (116), while showing his ability to play every wide receiver position. He caught a spectacular touchdown pass through traffic that took elite concentration. In fact, for this game, the speedy wide receiver appeared to be locked-in in a way we haven’t seen all season.
Cornerback Trent McDuffie: An undersized rookie corner going up against Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd on the biggest stage? Yeah... that’s tough. But McDuffie showed once again that he’s a blue-chip player — and one of the best picks in 2022’s stellar Kansas City draft class. On the Bengals’ first drive, McDuffie undercut Chase for a potential interception that he couldn’t quite bring in. But he was able to hold on to every Cincinnati ball carrier that crossed his path, tackling like a seasoned veteran. McDuffie played tough in coverage all night long, finishing with six solo tackles (one for loss) and two passes defended. This game isn’t too big (or too fast) for this rookie — and on Sunday, he made sure everyone knew it.