NFL | Jan 30, 2023

2023 NFL: Conference Championship Round Recap

By Harry Bazley

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The Super Bowl is officially set, after an eventful Conference Championship round has come to a close. The San Francisco 49ers faced the Philadelphia Eagles while Cincinnati Bengals took on the Kansas City Chiefs, but only two teams came out on top...

These games were filled with everything you could imagine, from the brilliant to the bizarre - while injuries plagued some teams, questionable calls turned the tide for others. There's plenty of highlights and lowlights to get into, so without further ado...

49ers 7 - 31 Eagles

Kyle Shanahan is well within Coach of the Year consideration after taking the last pick in the draft on a 7-game win streak all the way to the Conference Championship. First the 49ers lost Trey Lance, then they lost Jimmy Garoppolo, then Brock Purdy did the unthinkable and it all came down to last night's game against Philly.

Now, for all the QB troubles San Francisco have overcome this year, this was the last thing they deserved.

One game before the Super Bowl, the 49ers lost their starting 3rd string quarterback, only to be replaced by Josh Johnson, who was also injured and for a second it looked like Christian McCaffrey was going to do it all himself. Trust me, he tried...

But with Johnson out and Purdy unable to throw, San Fran had lost this game before they even got a chance... Brock threw just 4 attempts before Shanahan was forced to turn to the run game.

Meanwhile, Jalen Hurts and Co. proved that they can take on the best defense in the league with very little trouble. Honestly, it looks like Philly would have taken the win even if Purdy was 100%. Admittedly, things got a lot easier for Nick Siriani after taking an early lead and watching the '9ers two quarterbacks get hurt. But, in any case, San Francisco just couldn't stop the ground game.

Hurts threw for just 121 yards on the night, while the Eagles ran a staggering 44 times and logged all 4 of their touchdowns on the ground. Talk about the best run defense in football...

A tough way to go for the 49ers, and especially Brock Purdy, who was set to become the first rookie to start a Super Bowl. But it's been Eagles all the way this year and my guess is, that's not going to change...

Bengals 20 - 23 Chiefs

Talk about controversy...

This game was riddled with so many questionable calls on both sides of the ball, it's tough to say whether the refs favoured any team with their poor decisions. (Despite the Bengals' fans best efforts)

Let's be honest, we knew that either way this game went, the losing side was going to blame it on any factor other than their own mistakes. And guess what? That's exactly what's happening.

Nobody is mentioning Joe Burrow's 2 interceptions (which should have been 3), or the Mahomes fumble that gave Cincy the ball on KC's 40 yard line, or the fact Cincy had possession with under 2 minutes left and blew their chance to win the game...

But everyone is screaming about a late hit out of bounds that set up the Chiefs game-winning field goal, and more importantly, the two glaringly obvious holding penalties that weren't called on that same play... This pretty much sums up all of football Twitter right now.

Now, I'm not going to say that Cincy fans don't have a leg to stand on here - because they do - but this loss comes down to more than just bad refereeing.

Both sides had their opportunities to run away with this game and neither could make it happen.

Kansas City had a 13-3 lead with 2 minutes left in the first half. The Bengals had 2 chances to take a lead late in the fourth, and then they even had a chance to take the game to overtime if they simply hadn't shoved Mahomes out of bounds with 17 seconds left...

Either way, the Chiefs got it done and it was all thanks to Mahomes being better than 99% of quarterbacks, despite having one working ankle.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling was the stand-out receiver of the day, with 6 receptions for 116 yards and a touchdown. But of course, there was the classic case of 15+87=6.

As far as the injury reports go, Andy Reid got this done while his best players were miles away from 100% and with two weeks rest before the big game, I fear for that Philly defense.

So, that wraps up the Conference Championships. The Chiefs have now won 3 AFC Championships in the last 4 years as the Mahomes era continues to soar on. Meanwhile, Philadelphia are making their way to their first Super Bowl since 2017, where Nick Foles stepped in to take the Birds all the way.

I thought there could have been an upset or two thrown into these games, but it was Philly and KC from the start, and it'll be Philly and KC in the end. Buckle up!