The Dallas Cowboys season came to an end on Saturday night with a 30-22 loss to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Divisional Round. The Rams, along with three other teams, will have a chance to advance to Super Bowl 53 with one more win on Championship Sunday.
The highlight of the night for the Cowboys came early in LA. Trailing 3-0, Dak Prescott connected with Amari Cooper for a 29-yard catch and run to the end zone. But it was short lived. The Rams used a powerful rushing attack to dominate the second quarter and take a 20-7 lead into the half.
Overall, Prescott performed admirably in his first career playoff game away from AT&T Stadium. But Dallas got down in the first half and were never able to establish a credible run game with Ezekiel Elliot. The motor that drives the offense registered just 47 yards on the ground, averaging 2.3 per carry.
The defense, meanwhile, had no answers for Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson. The Rams roasted the Cowboys on the ground for 273 yards and three scores. LA Quarterback Jared Goff did not have to do too much to pick up his first playoff win.
The Rams will travel to New Orleans to meet the Saints in the NFC title game on Sunday. The Saints got down early in their divisional matchup with Nick Foles and the surging Eagles. Philadelphia built a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and appeared to have Drew Brees and his high-powered offense on the ropes.
But the New Orleans defense stiffened and Brees came to life down the stretch. Trailing 14-10 to start the second half, Brees conducted a back-breaking 11 minute drive that culminated in a touchdown pass to Michael Thomas. The Saints never looked back and Thomas finished with 12 receptions for 171 yards.
Still, Foles had one more chance to keep the magic alive on his final drive of the game. Trailing 20-14, the Eagles were in the red zone with plenty of time remaining on the clock. But a Foles pass went right through the hands of receiver Alshon Jeffery and was intercepted by Marshon Lattimore to secure the game.
The Rams and Saints will meet in the NFC Championship in a rematch of a week eight game. The first time around, the Saints defeated the Rams in a shootout by a score of 45-35. It is an even matchup of two high-powered offenses, but the Saints are nearly impossible to beat at home.
On the AFC side, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots advanced to their eighth straight championship game with a blowout win over the Chargers. New England may not have looked as sharp as we are used to this season, but they did not miss a beat when it counted on Sunday.
Philip Rivers struggled after a touchdown pass to Keenan Allen on his first drive of the game and the defense gave him fits, but it would not have mattered. Brady and the New England offense exploded early and established the game’s outcome theirselves. They posted 35 points in the first half and cruised to a 41-28 victory.
Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs broke their curse of heartbreaking defeats early in the playoffs with a 31-13 win over the Indianapolis Colts. The difference was Pat Mahomes, who has taken the NFL by storm this season and led four scoring drives in the first half to establish a big lead.
The biggest surprise was how dominant the Kansas City defense was. The unit was one of the worst in the league this season but tormented Andrew Luck throughout and never allowed the high-powered Colts offense to establish any momentum.
The AFC Championship will be a rematch of week six in New England when the Patriots held off a comeback by the Chiefs to win 43-40 on a last-second field goal. But this time around, it will be played at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. It will be the old vs. the new while Brady looks to reach his ninth Super Bowl and Mahomes tries to put an exclamation point on his historic first season in the NFL.