Unlike the last week when all four visiting teams grabbed victories, the hosts were much better this time.
In the first of the four Divisional Round games, New England Patriots welcomed Kansas City Chiefs at Gillette Stadium. The Chiefs were on 11 games winning streak and literally crushed Houston in the previous round, without allowing them to score a single point. The contest started very well for the Patriots and the well-known connection between Brady and Gronkowski worked great once again. Gronk scored a touchdown five minutes into the game, and Cairo Santos cut the lead after a successive field goal try. The first quarter finished 7:3. The quarterback Tom Brady found the end zone and scored a rushing TD, something he is not used to doing very often lately. Santos made another FG, and the halftime result was 14:6, a one possession game.
The second half started well for the Chiefs and QB Alex Smith moved the ball with ease, running backs Knile Davis and Charcandrick West rushed with force. Kansas City gets into a New England territory, and when everybody expected points for the visitors, Knile Davis fumbled the football, and the Pats recovered it. It was costly turnover for the Chiefs, and they will know it later.
New England capitalized off this mistake, and the powerful tight end Gronkowski recorded another TD to add to the miseries of Chiefs. Alex Smith found wide receiver Wilson for a score and Kansas City managed to answer and one more time cut the lead to eight points. Stephen Gostkowski’s couple of field goals gave a 14 point commanding lead to the Patriots and with 10 minutes to go, it was a very tough task for the Chiefs to score twice without conceding to stay in the game.
Alex Smith took a lot of time, more than four minutes on his last drive and they finally managed to score a TD; it was running back West. With only a little more than one minute, the visitors tried an onside kick, but MVP of the game Gronkowski caught the ball, and Brady’s victory formation finishes the game. New England will play either with Denver or Pittsburgh in conference finals next week.
There was another drama set in the desert, where the Arizona Cardinals hosted Green Bay Packers. Only a few weeks ago, the Cards dismantled the Packs 38:8, but this was a playoff game. The first quarter was completely under Arizona control; Michael Floyd scored a lone touchdown for a 7:0 lead. Mason Crosby’s kicks were successful twice in the second quarter, and that was the only scoring plays. The first half finished 7:6 for the hosts.
A leading Green Bay’s receiver Randall Cobb suffered a game-ending injury and Aaron Rodgers had to look for some other options in the passing game. A second-year receiver Jeff Janis caught the ball from Rodgers for a touchdown, and the Packers took the lead for the first time in the game. Arizona’s kicker Catanzaro scored an FG and the third quarter ended 10:14.
The both defenses played well in the first 10 minutes of the last period, but the drama started four minutes before the end. First, Michael Floyd caught another great pass for a touchdown, before Catanzaro’s field goal gave a seven points lead with only two minutes left. Rodgers managed to get to the midfield and decided to throw a Hail Mary pass in the dying seconds of the game.
Somehow, Jeff Janis caught a ball even though he was surrounded by three defensive players and forced the overtime. That was the second successful Hail Mary pass for Aaron Rodgers this season. Arizona got the ball to start the overtime, and when everybody though the late TD they allowed will destroy them mentally, Carson Palmer scrambled and found Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzy ran for 75 yards and later scored a 5-yard TD after a shove pass from Palmer for the instant overtime win. Arizona will play at Carolina in the NFC Finals.