And then, there were two. Both 1 seeds advance to the Super Bowl after some unorthodox scenarios occurred in both games. The Eagles rolled over the 49ers after Brock Purdy injured his elbow, and the Chiefs outlasted the Bengals despite some controversy throughout the game. With the Chiefs and Eagles set to face off, let's recap how both teams faired during last week's performances.
Photo: Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports
Super Bowl Power Rankings
*With not much movement outside of the top 10, I'll only be showing the top 8 this week, with full season-end Power Rankings after the Super Bowl*
Championship Round Awards
Offensive MVP: Marquez Valdes-Scantling - Kansas City Chiefs
MVS had a career performance by stepping up when Juju, Kadarius Toney, and Mecole Hardman all went down throughout the game. He had the highest overall grade out of all offensive skill position players at an 89.6, as he tallied 6 receptions for 116 yards and 1 TD on 8 targets. He produced 2.97 yards per route run, and he also hauled in his lone contested target.
Defensive MVP: Chris Jones - Kansas City Chiefs
The DPOY candidate put on a huge performance when he needed to. He posted the highest defensive grade last week with a 92.3 overall, as he generated 10 pressures for his 2 postseason sacks and 3 QB hits on 43 pass rush snaps. He also totaled 3 TFLs on just 11 run defense snaps, giving him an incredibly efficient performance in both the run and pass game.
Trench Tyrant: Jordan Mailata - Philadelphia Eagles
On an Eagles line featuring future Hall of Famers Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson, some of the other guys don't get nearly as much recognition as they deserve. Jordan had a great game against a tough pass rushing unit, as he allowed no pressures or sacks on 30 pass blocking snaps, and he posted an 83.4 run blocking grade on 44 run snaps. He helped the Eagles rush for 148 yards against one of the best defenses in the league, with 81 of those yards and 1 TD coming to his side of the line.
Special Teams MVP: Harrison Butker - Kansas City Chiefs
Butker has struggled this season, but he was on point in a wild AFC title game. He hit all 5 kicks, with 2 of them being extra points, and the other 3 being field goals, including a 45 yard game winner. It was a big rebound game for him, especially in a game to send his team to the Super Bowl.
There has been a lot, and I mean - A LOT, of controversy regarding the officiating this past weekend, especially in the Bengals vs Chiefs game. There is a record amount of speculation that the NFL is rigged, as twitter was up in flames for over 24 hours following the conclusion of the game. There are a lot of intricate pieces to the game, especially officiating, and there were some questionable calls and non-calls that were made and missed. Overall, it didn't effect the outcome of the game, but still not a good look for the league. I'll highlight those plays below, and you can be the judge on whether you agree or disagree. (I won't be previewing the Super Bowl just yet, as I'll drop a Super Bowl special blog next week.)
Calls That Were Made
There were some officiating decisions made in the game that didn't come across as perfect, and in fact, it was quite the opposite. Some calls definitely raised eyebrows, and made the game look legitimately rigged:
1. Blowing a 3rd & 9 play dead, then replaying the down after the play had already
gone through, and then flagging the Bengals for a defensive holding
What seemed to be a weird retry actually was legit. With Arrowhead being deafeningly loud, there was no way every player on the field heard a whistle being blown. On the game footage, you can see a ref in the top left corner on the field waving the play dead. Most players kept moving, while a few slowed down and stopped running. The refs could've done a better job shutting the play down, but there is evidence they attempted to do so. On the next play, the Bengals got a sack, however, it was negated due to a obvious holding call on Eli Apple. This could have been a worse look, but it was saved by the Chiefs going three and out on the next set of downs.
2. Andrew Wylie flagged for taunting
Sam Hubbard was arguing a potential holding call during one of his pass rushes, and he flipped his arms up towards the ref. Wylie saw this, and decided to mock Sam by doing the same motion. The ref deemed it as taunting, and flagged him for it. I think this was kind of bush, especially in a high energy playoff game.
3. Joseph Ossai late hit to put the Chiefs in field goal range
This one was clear as day. Ossai, who had been having a stellar game, chased down Mahomes and extended his arms towards him as both of them went out of bounds. It was very clearly a late hit, although it wasn't a big shove or tackle. The call on the field was right, and should be made every time, regardless of when it happens in the game.
Calls That Were Missed
The reality is that there will be missed calls on every play at every level of football. Holding happens every play, there are close false starts here and there, and receivers and DBs grab each other on routes more often than not. There were some calls that were missed, but didn't have a major impact on the game:
1. Late hit out of bounds against Joe Mixon
On a scamper towards the endzone, Mixon was tackled out of bounds by one defender, and then was hit high as his knee landed on the out of bounds line. There was no call made here, and should have been called in my opinion. It didn't matter overall, since the Bengals scored on the very next play, but still a missed call nonetheless.
2. Hold on Frank Clark on a 3rd & 17 pass attempt
On a 3rd & 17 late in the game, Frank Clark was held on his pass rush. The pass ended up falling incomplete, so it was a play that definitely wouldn't have mattered and the Chiefs would have declined it anyways. That being said, if he wasn't held, he may have forced a crucial turnover, and the Chiefs may have even scored on it.
3. Block in the back on the final punt of the game
There were two close block in the back calls that weren't made on the final punt. The first one I'll mention is one that happens early in the sequence. After the ball was kicked,
Stanley Morgan was working through a double team, but Chiefs player Joshua Williams blocked him in the back as Stanley broke through the crease. It was a close call, as two blockers were near him and he may have gotten his feet tangled up, but there is a clear shot of Joshua throwing his shoulder into Stanley's back just before he falls over.
Calls That Looked Close, but Weren't Made
For the next few plays, these are moments that are being highly criticized and have deceiving angles, when in reality they aren't close to penalties. Whether it's a technicality in the rules or just outright wasn't a flag, these calls were made the right way.
1. A second "block in the back" on the final punt
This is the "block" that had Twitter up in arms. Although it looks bad full speed, it's clear from different angles that this was a good non-call. Bengals player Joe Bachie makes his way downfield, and is met by Marcus Kemp near the returner. As Kemp hits Bachie in his chest, Kemp's teammate, Darius Harris, gets close to the hit from behind. He barely nudges Bachie, and he throws his arms up as Bachie falls sideways. When slowed down, it's clear it's not a block in the back, and it was a key block by Kemp to spring Skyy Moore free.
2. Two "holds" on Mahomes's scramble
Per NFL rules, both Orlando Brown's block on Trey Hendrickson, and Trey Smith's block on BJ Hill, were clean plays. Brown had Hendrickson by the inside chest plate, and had full control of him during the entire pass rush. Trey Smith's block was close, but per NFL rules, it was clean. If at any point a pass rusher uses a "rip" move, which results in a blockers arm getting jacked up, it is not a hold as long as the blocker does not pull the defender to the ground, or restricts him from his current path. BJ was moving straight and made no effort to work inside towards Mahomes, therefore making this a good non-call.
3. A "roughing the passer" on Joe Burrow
There's an endzone clip that looks like roughing the passer on Joe Burrow, but this is more Burrow selling the hit rather than there being an actual roughing call. Frank Clark looped inside on a stunt, and a few seconds after Burrow releases the ball, Clark gets close to him. He does put his hands out, but moreso to stop his momentum and makes no push movement towards Burrow. Joe flops backwards and immediately looks for a call. He doesn't get it, because there wasn't a call to be made.
Although the officiating was definitely suspect, this was nowhere near one of the worst officiated games ever, and it wasn't even that bad overall. I won't say the refs did a good job, but to say the game is rigged or the refs decided the game is limited in thinking. The Bengals had plenty of chances to score and win the ball game, and there were plenty of called penalties and non-calls that impacted the Chiefs just as much.
Photo: Reed Hoffmann/Associated Press
Next week, I'll drop my Super Bowl preview that takes an in-depth look at how both teams made it this far, team stat and grade comparisons, and my prediction for who takes home the Lombardi this season. Also be on the lookout for my Fantasy Season recap that takes a look at the best players and best value picks from this past Fantasy Football season!