NFL Divisional Monday Review: A crazy comeback, two foes lock horns to the end again

Who would’ve thought that these playoffs just keep getting more incredible by the day? If you thought that the initial match-ups had everything and more, the second day of divisional games blew our minds even more. In just two matches there was an astonishing comeback and result, as well as a gruelling close encounter between two experienced quarterbacks and a parochial home crowd.


The action began with Kansas City hosting Houston, with the latter looking to produce their second miracle in as many weeks after their frantic overtime comeback victory against Buffalo on Wildcard Weekend. Led by the agile Deshaun Watson, who oozes X-factor, the Texans were a formidable opponent to be facing after a few weeks off. Luckily, Andy Reid and his Chiefs are Superbowl favourites after Baltimore’s shock loss on Sunday, and their offensive line boasts superstars such as quarterback Patrick Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce.


Despite these weapons in attack, Kansas City were blown away in the first quarter. Hot off their roaring second half in Houston the week before, Watson and his Texans flew out of the blocks. An early third down conversion set their offensive gears into motion, as another conversion ticked the scoreboard over when Watson found a wide-open Kenny Stills. Gifted a remarkable amount of room behind the Chiefs’ defence, Stills waltzed into the opening touchdown of the match to stunned silence from a Kansas City crowd who still had nightmares of the Patriots’ upset win just a year before.


On top of this, Mahomes’ precision passing wasn’t met with the same energy by his receivers, who dropped simple catches on third down to stagnate their offensive drive. When the punt was blocked and swiftly returned for another six-pointer, the Chiefs were a long way behind the eight ball.


Led by a red-hot defence, Houston’s momentum couldn’t be stopped. Mahomes began to introduce Kelce to the game, yet crucial drops ruined their stability. With the ball back in hand, Watson played with utter freedom, picking his way through the Chiefs’ defence with focus and ease. However, Kansas’ defence made some important stops, and had a chance to get possession of their own. In a horror show, the punt receiver dropped a simple chest mark, and Houston players couldn’t believe their eyes as a regulation scoop up of the ball led to yet another touchdown just a few plays later. It had been barely fifteen minutes of game time, and the Chiefs were three scores down already. Wow.


If the first quarter was a shock, words struggle to describe the surprise of the second. For all of their mistakes, for all of their playoff nerves and shakiness, the Chiefs played the exact opposite in the next quarter. The defence, building on their solid finish to the first quarter, continued to halt the rampant Watson and his young offence. When Mahomes actually got the ball, his receivers’ hands began to contain less butter. A critical play came when Mecole Hardman took off past the line of scrimmage, carrying the football for an electrifying carry that gave the Chiefs wonderful field position for the first time in the match. Finally given the chance to set the wheels into motion, Mahomes used Kelce and eventually found Damien Williams in a clever pass play to open their account.


Mahomes looked composed, crisp despite all the madness occurring around him. An MVP fresh off an injury-interrupted season, he looked to be back at his scintillating best. Watson, on the other hand, couldn’t find an open receiver, and a trick play on the punt only reversed all of their scrupulous work in the first quarter. An opportunity arose, Mahomes got the ball and he inevitably threw it to Kelce for another touchdown. Game on.


If the Chiefs were done there, the crowd was in for an exciting surprise. The defence, perennially known as their weakness, picked up a turnover via fumble, and Kelce once again hugged a Mahomes bullet to his chest to bring the match to within three points. Whatever Mahomes did turned to gold, and by half time he had produced some vital rushing plays and thrown another touchdown pass – his fourth in just one quarter.


From there, the Chiefs ran away with it. Mahomes just couldn’t be stopped, and Watson was shut down by a Kansas City defensive line that had a point to prove. In a mind blowing three quarters, they put up 51 points to romp away to a 20-point win over the hapless Texans. On any other day, a 21-0 advantage would never be reeled in. But what Mahomes and his Chiefs proved was that their top gear is unrivaled.


Following this unbelievable chop-and-changing match, perennial rivals in Green Bay and Seattle met for yet another pivotal playoff encounter. With past matches involving hysterical comebacks and overtime wins, the mood was brewing for another classic clash.


Superbowl winner and previous-MVP Aaron Rodgers started off hot with his vaunted offense, producing a stunning over-the-top pass on third down to open the proceedings. Another Superbowl champion and MVP-candidate in Russel Wilson got his shot, looking to implement the notorious rushing game of the returning Marshawn Lynch. Working past a near-turnover, they were eventually halted.


All day Jadeveon Clowney was eye-catching for the Seattle defence. Playing his trademark rough game style against the composed Rodgers, he was the one player to consistently make plays in the massive moments. With the experienced Pete Carroll at the helm, the Seahawks took a field goal chance to get points on the board.


This was always going to be a brutal and tough affair, and it definitely didn’t disappoint. One key theme kept repeating itself, as Rodgers managed to always wriggle his way out of tricky positions on third down. The amount of outstanding plays he made to convert third downs would eventually prove telling, as a gritty drive resulted in Aaron Jones pushing his way over and into the end zone.


Just as Seattle were clearly struggling to rack up first downs against the Packers, Wilson sprinkled some magic onto Lambeau Fields, finding his trusty receiver in Tyler Lockett for a huge gain. The intimidating figure of Metcalf began to influence its way on the game, but the Packers’ defence managed to make the right calls at the right time.


A missed field goal chance only played into the home team’s hands, giving the crowd just reason to produce ear-splitting roars and cheers. Seattle battled valiantly, yet the Packers were swaying the pendulum when Jones rushed in for another TD to stretch the lead to 18 points.


Coming out of the main break, Wilson trusted Metcalf as the primary receiver. Using his bulky frame to work up the field, Lynch had his playoff moment once again when he sashayed over for a much-needed touchdown.


The match began to fall into a score-for-score affair – Adams found himself wide open and shimmied his way around defenders to rack up an entertaining touchdown. Wilson, discovering his touch that has led to his dominant season, began to manipulate the defence all the way to the end zone. Finding Lockett for another touchdown, the Seahawks finally made a stop on third down to give Wilson the chance to pile on the pressure.


Metcalf continued to shine – he and Lockett were everywhere in the third quarter comeback. In the opening forays of the last quarter, Lynch weaselled his way into the end zone once more, cutting the lead to five points. Going for a two-point conversion that would mean a field goal could send the match to overtime, the Packers held firm and then played some mature football. Knowing the momentum was well and truly with the visiting team, they somehow kept their head above water – even when the Seahawks made a thrilling sack on Rodgers.


What ultimately won Green Bay the match was their ability to convert third down chances in the final moments. Seattle had one more shot at victory, only for Wilson to be brought down and Rodgers able to stand up. His over-the-top pass to Adams sealed the game, and the crowd celebrated with gusto. On their way to San Fran in a week’s time, Rodgers showed he has the chance to carry his Packers to yet another Superbowl appearance.


The conference match-ups are now set, with Kansas City hosting the fairy tale story of the Tennessee Titans, and San Francisco hosting the Packers. Full of varying stories, differing star players and all different kinds of experience, the games are only going to get better as we build towards one of the most unpredictable finishes seen in NFL history.



Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.


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