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The hype was real, but injuries prevented the 49ers from competing, while the Bengals (not the refs) beat themselves.
What a glorious couple of matchups we were meant to have for the NFL’s Conference Championship weekend. The air show of KC against Cincy; the smash mouth defense of the 49ers and the Eagles — it was supposed to be epic. It was not.
A slew of injuries stymied the 49ers before they ever got started and Philly rolled from there. Joe Burrow and the Bengals (and let’s not forget Head Coach Zac Taylor), failed to show up on offense outside a couple of series, while the narrative was – wrongly – taken over by allegations of poor refereeing and even game-rigging.
Unless you are a die-hard Eagles or Chiefs fan, these weren’t the games we were looking for. But they’re the ones we got. Here’s a quick recap.
The game was over seven plays into the 49ers’ first possession when Brock Purdy was hit on a harmless enough-looking play that did serious damage to the young QBs elbow and UCL. From there, the job for SFO QB Trey Lance (and then Josh Johnson, and then Purdy again) was to hand the ball off to SFO RB Christian McAffrey.
Unfortunately, that’s not a good enough adjustment to compete with the high-powered Philadelphia Eagles’ defense. At no point from the middle of the first quarter on was San Francisco in this thing. The Eagles didn’t need to get cute on O or D to win, they just needed to finish the game the way they were capable of playing.
If you’re like me, watching Purdy and the 49ers slide out of contention so early in this one was a bit heartbreaking. I wanted to believe the hype around Purday and I truly felt going into this one that the 49ers D was capable of standing up to Philly’s offense. Turns out, I was wrong.
This one will go down as one of the more potentially interesting NFC Championships of the last several years, and unfortunately one we never really got a chance to see.
What’s next for Brock Purdy?
At this point, no one knows. Purdy’s injury is serious and he is likely staring down the barrel of Tommy John surgery or an equally invasive procedure to fix the problem. Even if that happens and the man heals fully, it’s a six-month recovery window at least, meaning Purdy is out until training camp for sure.
The 49ers can not – must not – rely on the belief that Purdy will recover and be able to play at the same level as he did in his phenomenal rookie season. They also can’t afford to put Trey Lance out there to start the 2023 season. That means a veteran QB or a draft pick will be making their way to the Bay Area this off-season.
Will Purdy get a chance to play for the 49ers again, end up riding the pine for a while to heal up, or possibly get traded mid-season to a QB-needy team? One way or another, let’s hope the kid gets on the field again — he flashed brilliance in 2022, but it remains to be seen when and where he’ll have a chance to shine again in the NFL.
Patrick Mahomes is a straight warrior. He and the Chiefs went into that game with a home-dog mentality and it paid off.
Playing on a seriously injured ankle against an active defensive front, Mahomes looked 100% in control of his offense all game. All the chestnuts were there — underhand shovel passes as improv, dime drops, and lasers to receivers in the end zone. Frankly, this game could have been about 21-3 by halftime. Why?
The Bengals’ first half on O was terrible. 2 punts, an INT, and 2 FGs for zero, none, nada percent red zone efficiency. Take away the last-minute drive to end the first half and Cincinnati’s vaunted passing game was basically shut down by the Chiefs’ three rookie defensive backs and a superior defensive game plan.
The Chiefs are going to SB LVII because they were the better team last Sunday, period, despite what Twitter has to say.
The Referee Thing
The refs did not lose the game for Cincinnati.
Neither of the two ‘controversial’ play calls noted in the second half was controversial at all. The replay clearly shows a zebra whistling the play dead before that 3rd down repeat (doesn’t matter if the coach, the fans, or anyone else heard it; it happened).
The hit on Mahomes with eight seconds left in the game was late and out of bounds — boneheaded play by the Bengals. All you have to do in that situation is not touch the QB and the kicker is attempting a 55-yarder instead of a 40-yarder. Do a better job on punt coverage a few players earlier, and the Chiefs may never get in range to begin with.
If you are a Bengals fan and have a problem with any of these inconvenient truths, enjoy some cheese with your whine this off-season. Going after the officials on Twitter when your offensive line plays that way and your coaches fail to adjust the game plan is fanboy stuff.
Kansas City won that game fair and square.