This Was the Best Weekend of Playoff Football Ever
As a general rule, I try not to talk in superlatives. Not every smart kid is Valedictorian. Not every funny kid is Class Clown. Some are merely promising and they can't all be Most Likely to Succeed. And while a lot of attractive people were in my graduating class, only one could truly be Best Looking, and you're talking to him. To conflate the very good, even the great, with the Best Ever is the kind of thing you see followed by a question mark on the bottom scroll of a Sports Shouting program, and it's asinine. Lebron doesn't have to be better than Jordan. Mike Trout doesn't have to be better than Willie Mays. Andy Reid doesn't have to be better than Belichick. There is plenty of room on the shelf to categorize things in between Sucks and the GOAT.
But moments come along where you're left with no choice but to admit you are watching the best there ever was. Tiger Woods in his prime, for example. And these last two days, as another. I've squandered more of my existence watching playoff football - becoming more sofa than man - than I care to count. And I've never seen a slate of games come close to what we just witnessed.
They started with a good one, got better as they went, and then finished with back-to-back all timers on Sunday.
We saw three of the four road teams win, and came within a millimeter of a road sweep. Both teams that had the bye week and homefield advantage througout were one & done. The first games three ended on last second field goals, the fourth was sent to overtime on a last second field goal. The early game Sunday had 17 points scored in the 4th quarter. The late game had 28. With another six in OT. And three lead changes and a tie just in the last two minutes. Incomprehensible.
Cincinnati at Tennessee:
This one was a masterpiece only if you prefer your art abstract. Ryan Tannehill by himself threw half the interceptions on the weekend, including this gamewinner in the final minute. The Bengals allowed Joe Burrow to get sacked nine times. So that while he still managed to throw for 348 yards, the team's net passing yards total was just 280. Derrick Henry, the best power running back of his generation, got stuffed on a 4th & 1 with 4:30 to go. And with that stop, plus holding the Titans to 1-for-7 on 3rd downs and forcing three turnovers, Cincy's defense gave the franchise its first ever road playoff win.
San Francisco at Green Bay
This one was the football equivalent of "The Thing," with Jimmy Garoppolo as Kurt Russell and the Packers special teams as the hideous, shape-shifting alien infecting everybody. And of course, Lambeau as Antarctica. In fact, on the game winning field goal, Green Bay couldn't even get 11 guys interested in taking the field:
But if you're a purist, or a fan of shitty conditions and defense (raise my hand), this was the throwback-style game for you. Besides the blocked punt for a score, the difference in this one was San Francisco finally putting some drives together in the 4th. The first was good for 10 plays before they turned it over on downs (another 4th & 1 stopped) in the red zone. And the one that won the game was nine plays, featured three 1st downs, went 44 yards and kept Aaron Rodgers off the field for the final 3:20. It should be noted too that final possession followed a Green Bay drive that went four yards. In a tie game. With the season on the line. Four yards. Remember that if you ever find yourself talking to someone who still tries to argue Rodgers is the GOAT.
LA Rams at Tampa Bay
I can't possibly do this one justice. The Rams surprising everyone, including their dozens of fans, by being up 27-3. How every, single American made the connection to 28-3 and assumed Tom Brady could get Tampa back into it. Only to see him do just that. But along the way, there was Cam Akers fumble on the goal line. Brady getting the first Unsportsmanlike of his 75 year career. The 4th quarter begins with a one play possession on a Brady strip sack. And LA answered with a one play possession on a bad snap. Tampa can't convert a 4th & 14, but a penalty flag makes it look like a DPI is keeping the drive alive, until it wasn't. Another fumble by Akers that sets up a Bucs score that ties it up. And then Sean McVay, reading the room and knowing there's no way his team is winning in overtime, gets aggressive and takes the necessary shots downfield for the win. On any other given weekend, this one would be the classic everyone talks about. But it wasn't even the better of the Sunday games. Instead it's like a brilliant, critically-acclaimed film that opens on the same day as "Avengers: Endgame."
Buffalo at Kansas City
I can't do it the justice that Clem did in the immediate aftermath. But just because my analogy game is feeling strong this morning, I'll compare that 4th quarter to the Hagler-Hearns bout. Just two combatants at the peak of their powers, throwing non-stop haymakers and landing every one. Only this one was decided on the judges card that is an overtime coin flip. The Patriots fan in me can't help but appreciate the delicious irony of the Chiefs winning a playoff game this way, since they were the ones screaming the loudest when the Patriots did it to them in the 2018 postseason:
Which only served to make the game even more enjoyable for this neutral party.
So all this just confirms a couple of things.
One, is my premise that this was the best four-game weekend of playoff football these eyes have ever seen.
And two is that, no matter how hard the NFL tries, with a feckless, evil despot as commissioner, with dipshit lucky spermers and corrupt oligarchs owning teams, and expanded season, ridiculous rules that get arbitrarily enforced, and officiating that seems to get worse by the season, the sport itself is so great even they can't ruin it. It's America's greatest product. Perhaps the best thing we've ever produced. Better than any other sport for sure. And maybe better than blue jeans, Hollywood movies and Rock 'n Roll. Even on a weekend like the last one, were every game was a dog, it's still the best part of our culture. So good that not even Patrick Mahomes brother can ruin it. Damn, I can't wait for next Sunday.