Jan 24, 2022 - Sports

The greatest NFL playoff weekend ever

Picture of Patrick Mahomes high fiving a member of the public

Patrick Mahomes. Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The 2021 NFL season featured unprecedented parity and a record number of walk-offs. This weekend was more of the same — and then some.

Why it matters: For the first time in NFL history, all four Divisional Round games ended in walk-off fashion. It was, quite simply, the greatest playoff weekend ever.

  • Chiefs 42, Bills 36 (OT): An instant classic. We may never see a better game. Patrick Mahomes (33/44, 378 yds, 3 TD; rush TD) and Josh Allen (27/37, 329 yds, 4 TD) were phenomenal, combining for 25 points in the last two minutes of regulation. Relive the game-winner.
  • Rams 30, Buccaneers 27: Tom Brady and the Bucs somehow rallied from a 27-3 third-quarter deficit to tie the game with 42 seconds left. But that was just enough time for Matthew Stafford to show why the Rams made him the centerpiece of a team with a Super Bowl mandate.
  • Bengals 19, Titans 16: The Bengals hadn't won a playoff game in 31 years. They've now won two in a week thanks to rookie Evan McPherson's game-winning FG. The Titans had a playoff-record nine sacks but couldn't overcome Ryan Tannehill's brutal day.
  • 49ers 13, Packers 10: Robbie Gould's walk-off in the snow clinched San Francisco's 17th trip to a conference title game, the most of any team since the 1970 merger. Aaron Rodgers fell to 0-4 against the 49ers in the playoffs, and may have just played his last game as a Packer.
Picture of football players celebrating while it's snowing
Robbie Gould is mobbed by teammates after kicking the game-winner. Photo: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Notes:

  • Night and day: The average margin of victory in the largely forgettable wild-card round was 17.2 points. The average margin of victory this weekend? 3.8 points.
  • Top seeds tumble: Both No. 1 seeds lost in the Divisional Round for the first time since 2010, when the top-seeded Patriots lost to the Jets and the top-seeded Falcons lost to the Packers. Jets fans click here.
  • Head up, Josh: Allen put together one of the finest two-game stretches in playoff history (771 total yards, 9 TD, 14 incompletions), but it wasn't enough. I have a feeling he'll be back — many times.
  • Golden legs: McPherson remains perfect on the road in his rookie season (18/18 FG), and Gould has still never missed a kick in the playoffs (20/20 FG, 32/32 PAT). Two absolute studs.
  • Hollywood ending? Last season marked the first time a team played the Super Bowl in its own stadium (Buccaneers). The Rams are one win away from making it happen two years in a row.
Picture of Tom Brady hugging another player
Did we just watch Tom Brady for the last time? No way ... right? Photo: Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The big picture: Mahomes and Allen are undeniably the future of the NFL (the new Brady-Manning?). What isn't as clear is what Brady and Rodgers now represent: The present or the past?

  • Brady, 44, has long talked about playing until age 45, but some teammates are reportedly bracing for his retirement. Personally, I don't see it — but stranger things have happened.
  • Rodgers has hinted at retirement. And if he returns, it could be in a different uniform due to the Packers' financial mess. They're $44.8 million over the salary cap and Davante Adams needs a new deal.

The bottom line: No matter what the future holds for Brady and Rodgers, this weekend already ushered in a new era of sorts: For the first time since 2010, neither of them will be playing in the Championship Round.

Looking ahead: The Chiefs opened as touchdown favorites over the Bengals, while the Rams opened as 3.5-point favorites over the 49ers.

Go deeper