FMIA Conference Championships: Eagles rout Niners, Chiefs outlast Bengals to set Super Bowl LVII stage

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — How is he doing this? High-ankle sprains are six-week injuries, or something like that. And Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes looked fairly fine through 36 minutes Sunday in the AFC Championship Game—not running with abandon, but when he had to, Mahomes could get out of harm’s way and do Mahomes things.

Nine minutes left, third quarter, 13-13. Why can’t these teams ever play a rout? Three times in 13 months they’d played, and the Bengals won by 3, 3 and 3. Now, with the wind chill around 4 and the Arrowhead crowd in a nervous tizzy, Cincinnati linebacker Germaine Pratt got a free run at Mahomes, who tried to sprint left and just couldn’t with the bum wheel. Pratt gained on him. Mahomes knew he had a couple of milliseconds to do something on this play, third-and-four, to extend this drive. So Mahomes turned his body and took the ball and somehow fired a pinpoint throw into the gut of Mecole Hardman just as Pratt lunged and caused Mahomes to pull up.

Limping badly.

Could this be it? I wondered if the crowd was thinking what I was thinking: Henne, warm up! (Chad Henne, the backup QB.)

Then something fortunate but unfortunate happened: Hardman caught the ball—first down, gain of 11—but he laid on the field, hurt. Timeout on the field. Bad for Hardman. Good for Mahomes, who needed a minute or two, right here, right now. He gimped over to the Kansas City sideline.

Kansas City’s Vice President of Sports Medicine and Performance Rick Burkholder, who’d been with Mahomes during his all-week rehab, said to Mahomes: “You okay?”

“Leave me alone,” Mahomes hissed.

There was not going to be any relief pitcher for Mahomes on this day.

Later, in the quiet of an anteroom next to the team’s post-game family room, Mahomes pondered the pain he felt with nine minutes left in the third quarter, knowing he was going to somehow make it through the last 24 minutes of the game. And overtime, if need be.

“On that play,” he said, “I knew once I was getting chased it was gonna hurt regardless. I knew running wasn’t gonna be something good for me. I think you saw a couple times in the game where I tried to run and I didn’t really go anywhere. So I rolled out to the left, they brought pressure off the right, and I saw Mecole open. I stepped on that leg, kinda twisted through it and I immediately felt that little shock. It’s just one of those things that you, you know, you feel it.

“But at the end of the day, man, I’m not coming out of that game unless they carry me out.”

First down. And miles to go before Mahomes can sleep.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present The Andy Reid Super Bowl.

“You know this city. You know that city,” Reid said in his Arrowhead office Sunday night. He shook his head, like he still couldn’t believe it: 14 years as Philadelphia coach, 10 years as KC coach. Now they’ll meet in the Super Bowl.

“It’s gonna be a great clash. Great. I love it. It’s crazy. It’s pretty crazy. It’s real crazy, in fact. I left there on good terms. I still got a good relationship with those people. I appreciate every bit of those 14 years.”

The nuts, the bolts:

Super Bowl LVII

Sunday, Feb. 12, State Farm Stadium, Glendale, Ariz., 6:30 p.m. ET

Kansas City (AFC 1 seed, 16-3) versus Philadelphia (NFC 1 seed, 16-3)

FOX TV (Kevin Burkhardt, Greg Olsen)

Early line: Eagles by 2.

Historic game: It’s the first of the 57 Super Bowls with two starting Black quarterbacks facing off. Mahomes plays in his third for Kansas City, Jalen Hurts in his first for Philadelphia Each QB enters the game with an injury—Mahomes with the lingering right ankle issue, Hurts with a sprained right shoulder suffered Dec. 18 at Chicago. Neither is likely to be adversely affected by it Andy Reid coached the Eagles from 1999-2012, getting fired after a 4-12 season. Five years later, the Eagles won their first Super Bowl. Five years later, the Eagles will play Reid in a weirdly sentimental Super Bowl To get to this game, Philadelphia beat the Giants and Niners by a combined 69-14; Kansas City beat Jacksonville and Cincinnati, 50-40 The matchup could come down to whether Kansas City defensive linemen Frank Clark and Chris Jones—who pulverized the Bengals front Sunday—can make a dent in the best offensive line in football. Joe Burrow said of Jones, a finalist for Defensive Player of the Year: “He’s so good. He makes it so hard on you.”


Chiefs 23, Bengals 20

Some weird officiating from Ronald Torbert’s crew marred the second half of this game. In Cincinnati, a few calls will live in infamy. But this was the fourth time these two teams have met in the past 13 months, and the fourth time we spent the entire game, play after play, riveted.

Cincinnati-Kansas City. It’s now the best rivalry in the game.

Burrow-Mahomes. It’s now the best quarterback rivalry in the game.

Lou Anarumo-Reid/Eric Bieniemy. It’s not the best coaching rivalry in the game, but it’s close. Holding Kansas City to 25.5 points a game in four big, big games is a great feat. Holding Kansas City to two field goals in four fourth quarters, when Reid and Bieniemy are top-shelf, when Mahomes has often been at his greatest, well, that’s a resume-builder for Anarumo.

Back to the post-game locker room.

Burkholder is in his 29th NFL season as an athletic trainer. Reid brought him with him from Philadelphia in 2013 when he took the coaching job here. In the winning locker room Sunday night, he nodded toward Mahomes’ locker.

“I used to think Jon Runyan was the toughest guy I’ve worked with—and he was tremendous,” Burkholder said. “But now it’s Patrick. He’s incredible. It’s like there was never any question he’d play this week, and his injury was significant. The amazing thing to me: He did not miss one snap of practice all week.”

“Not one,” Reid said. “He had a little tweak here or there and kept pounding through. ‘I’m fine, I’m fine.’ That’s the crazy thing—for him to push through every play in practice, it’s just nuts. And then, he wanted to do the nakeds. He wanted to move to his left and just try it—see how it felt. We called it to the right, which would be easier for him. That’s how we had it on the script. But then he ran it to his left. He did one of those tonight. You saw it.”

Leave me alone.

You shouldn’t get the wrong impression when Mahomes bites off Burkholder’s head a little bit. Mahomes told me this is what he meant by it: “The coaches, everybody kinda coming up, media, everybody asking about it all week. I was just like, ‘Listen—I’m playing, so it doesn’t matter how I’m doing.’”

Patrick Mahomes fought through injury vs. the Bengals. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

When Mecole Hardman finally got up and walked off the field, Mahomes had a minute or so to gather himself. Then he continued the drive, and gave the Bengals their first reason to be fuming. On third-and-seven from the Cincinnati 26-yard line, Mahomes hit Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who got to the 20- and stretched the ball out to pierce the line to gain, the Bengals’ 19-. Valdes-Scantling reached out and pulled the ball back voluntarily. At the goal line, that would be a touchdown. In the field of play, it’s not supposed to be. The officials ruled that because Valdez-Scantling was being pulled back at the time of the reach, his reach was allowed. It’s dubious whether that’s a logical conclusion.

So instead of having fourth-and-one at the 20-yard line, Kansas City was awarded a first down at the 19-. Two plays later Mahomes made his play of the game. Third-and-10 at the 19-, and Mahomes, back to pass, surveyed the landscape.

“We kept the running back in to help protect and I looked at Travis [Kelce] first,” Mahomes said. “He got double-teamed. Then my next read was the deep cross guy [rookie Skyy Moore]. The safety jumped that one and so I got to that third read and I just saw Marquez. So he’s 6-5 with that wingspan and he throws a hand up there. I couldn’t really see in front of him, but I knew he was open if he was throwing his hand up like that.”

Mahomes maneuvered in the pocket two or three steps. Some 576 pounds of defensive-line bulk, Sam Hubbard and B.J. Hill, were a quarter-second from tag-team smashing Mahomes. He had only one choice—and that one choice, Valdes-Scantling, had a window very rapidly closing, with corner Mike Hilton closing in.

The window was inches wide, and 27 yards away as the crow flies.

“I tried to just fire it to Marquez,” Mahomes said. “It’s one of those when you throw it and you hold your breath, honestly.”

Watch the replay 10 times, as I did, and it looks like Hilton, diving to break up the pass, missed it by inches. I bet his fingers felt the wind as the ball whizzed by.

Mahomes: “You’re like, man, just get through there somehow.”

Said Reid: “He took a couple of hits there and I just went ‘Ohhhh.’ He got up. I don’t know what other words to use for you.”

Play of the game. Touchdown.

One point about what Mahomes, Reid and Bieniemy battled through. In the last two years, Anarumo has become one of the rising stars in the profession. Between his first year as coordinator in 2019 and his fourth year this season, he’s cut 58 yards a game from what Cincinnati’s allowed on defense. And, entering Sunday’s game, the Bengals had been 3-0 against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs in the previous 13 months.

“I’m most nervous while they’re singing the national anthem,” Anarumo said Friday, the hay in the barn for his fourth meeting against Mahomes in 13 months. “Once that’s over, I’m ready to go. The fun part of football is during the game because you’re constantly thinking, you’re constantly challenging yourself, you’re constantly reacting to what they do. And against [Mahomes], you see the accuracy, the arm strength, his movement, and you think, ‘How are we ever gonna stop this guy?’”

But—and this is a big but—the Mahomes ankle injury cast a doubt cloud over Anarumo’s prep work. “I gotta be honest,” Anarumo told his players Friday morning. “Feels to me like he’s got a little bit of a leaky tire and at some point, it’s gonna go flat.”

Anarumo has some Belichick in him: No two game plans are the same. He’s made a living dropping eight into coverage and eschewing the blitz against Kansas City. Ben Solak of The Ringer had a fascinating take last week in the runup to the game: Mahomes with too much time isn’t as good as Mahomes when he’s pressured and has to make quick decisions. Per Solak, in Mahomes’ last 57 games dating back to the start of 2020, he’s had eight games when he’s had an average of more than 3.0 seconds to throw. (The NFL average is about 2.7 seconds from snap till QB release.) Mahomes is 3-5 in those eight games, including 0-2 against Cincinnati—and, amazingly, 42-7 when he releases the ball faster.

So Anarumo tested Mahomes some in this game, like the time he blitzed Germaine Pratt and Mahomes tweaked his ankle again. But he also liked playing coverage. In the end, when you hold Mahomes to 23 points, you have to feel like you’ve got a good chance. Anarumo, again, ran a defense that frustrated Kansas City at times, forced a turnover and four punts. It’s amazing Anarumo, with the job he’s done in four games in Kansas City, can’t get a sniff for a head-coaching job. “No idea,” he told me Friday. “Nothing I can do. But like I told my wife last night, if nothing happens, that’s fine. We’ll hang around Joe [Burrow] another year.” Anarumo laughed, then said: “There’s worse places to be.”

Now to the end of the game. It’s 20-all, with 17 seconds left and the ball at the Bengals’ 47-yard line. With a swirling wind on the field, Kansas City needs 15 yards, minimum, to get in range to try a game-winning kick, or the AFC Championship Game would be headed to overtime, Cincinnati-Kansas City, at Arrowhead, for the second straight year.

Mahomes scrambled to his right. He stepped out of bounds at the Bengal 42- with eight seconds left. He got two feet down on the white sideline stripe.

Then Bengals linebacker Joseph Ossai pushed Mahomes, hard, to the ground. Two flags flew. The Bengals were furious. No! You can’t let them win the game on a call like that!

Yes, you can. That’s a textbook late hit by Ossai. The call had to be made. Harrison Butker came on and kicked a 45-yard field goal to win, the boot clearing the bar by five yards, maybe.

Ossai, on the Bengals’ bench, appeared to be weeping.

The emotions in this game. Man.

“Oh,” said Mahomes, “It’s gonna be sore tomorrow for sure. But we’ll go right back to the treatment. You go back to the rehab. Prepare yourself. I’ll have a little bit more time to rest this week so hopefully we can be a little closer to 100 percent for the Super Bowl.”

Three Super Bowls by age 27 for Mahomes. Pretty good. But he knows what the future holds beyond this Super Bowl. Cincinnati at Kansas City, again, in 2023.

“They’re a great football team,” Mahomes said. “I hadn’t had a team like that that had beaten me that many times in a row.”

Mahomes had a four-five-second embrace with Burrow post-game. There’s some respect there. But think back to Brady-Manning. The respect was there in a big way. But each guy wanted to obliterate the other.

“I do love Burrow, man,” Mahomes said. “He’s a competitor. But I can’t have him smoking cigars in the locker room at Arrowhead, at our stadium.”

Is there any way to legislate two Cincinnati-Kansas City games a year?


Hello, NextGen!


What was odd for the Bengals in Sunday’s AFC title game was that it felt more like a playoff game from last season than this season. Joe Burrow got sacked nine times in Tennessee last January, and seven times in the Super Bowl loss to the Rams. But this year, even with a battered offensive line, Burrow had been sacked just five times in the first two postseason games, both wins.

Then Sunday happened.

There’s a reason Chris Jones has but one pass-rush peer among NFL defensive tackles—and that’s the great Aaron Donald. Per NextGen Stats, Jones finished with a game-high six quarterback pressures in the 23-20 win over Cincinnati, his third-best day all season rushing the passer. Sometimes, as I watched, it was man against boy, Jones versus Bengals guard Max Scharping. But Sharping isn’t alone. Since Week 10 of this season, Jones has more pressures than any defensive tackle in football with 44.

Burrow was pressured 12 times overall, the fifth-most pressure he’s felt all season, per NextGen. Afterward, the good feeling from last week’s rout of Buffalo—Cincinnati allowed just one sack and four pressures to the Bills—vanished. Jones, Frank Clark and rookie George Karlaftis, mostly, made some big plays on Burrow, and they buzzed around him much of the day.

It’s a shame for Cincinnati that three starting offensive linemen were lost to injury down the stretch of the season. But that’s football. The Bengals will need to work on offensive line depth in free-agency and the draft.


Eagles 31, Niners 7

What a lead balloon of a football game. The most important player in it, Brock Purdy, got hurt in the first quarter, and it was only a matter of a time before the better team began the rout. (Not saying Purdy is better than Jalen Hurts. He isn’t. But the drop-off from Purdy to backup Josh Johnson is like an Acapulco cliff-dive. The drop-off from Hurts to Gardner Minshew is not nearly as steep—Minshew can play.)

So the Eagles go into the Super Bowl on one of the best runs in recent history: 16-3 overall, with two of the losses coming in games Hurts didn’t start because of a bum shoulder. The Eagles are 16-1 with Hurts playing—including 38-7 and 31-7 playoff steamrolling’s of the Giants and 49ers at Lincoln Financial Field in the last two weekends. Make no mistake: These Eagles are deep and dangerous, and it will take the best game of their season by the Kansas City Chiefs to beat them in Super Bowl LVII in 13 days.

What was most interesting Sunday—echoing the rout of the Giants—was the dominance of Philadelphia on both sides of the ball. Remember last week, after the win over the Giants, when I witnessed this in the post-game scrum inside the Eagles’ inner sanctum:

“My dad’s here tonight,” Sirianni said after the game, nodding in the direction of his father, “and the first thing he told me when I got into coaching was, ‘It’s always about the O-line and the D-line.’”

Just then, the architect of the two lines and the rest of the roster, GM Howie Roseman, walked by to congratulate Sirianni.

“Howie!” Sirianni yelled. “All about the O-line, D-line, baby!”

“All about the O-line, D-line!” Roseman said.

Think of all the big plays in this game, and the big players, for the newly crowned NFC champions. The GM, Roseman, is linked to most of them. Namely:

1. Jalen Hurts. The quarterback who was widely derided when selected 53rd overall in the 2020 NFL Draft proved what a smart pick it was by leading the Eagles’ drive to their second Super Bowl in five years. Hurts didn’t turn it over, bulled for an insurance TD, and extended a first-quarter drive with a deep throw to DeVonta Smith. Seems so long ago that picking Hurts immediately wounded the psyche of shaky incumbent Carson Wentz. But remember the truth. Roseman didn’t pick Hurts to replace Wentz; he picked him because Wentz was hurt a lot and the Eagles didn’t want to pay the backup QB $7 million, and because Hurts was a fascinating prospect. One more point: Roseman did due diligence on Deshaun Watson when he was a free agent a year ago, but wisely, for many reasons, chose to stick with Hurts.

Jalen Hurts runs the ball in the third quarter in the NFC Championship Game. (Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

2. Haason Reddick. Great value signing in free agency for the former Cards and Panthers linebacker (three years, $45 million, cap numbers of $3.9 million and 7.0 million in the first two years), with production far beyond his contract. After finishing second in the NFL with 16 sacks in the regular season and first with five forced fumbles, he was the most important defensive player on the field Sunday. He strip-sacked Purdy and forced him from the game, then sacked Johnson on a drive-crippling play, and then recovered a Johnson fumble late in the half, prompting a late first-half TD. Huge producer when it’s counted for Philadelphia.

3. The corners. Roseman traded third- and fifth-round picks in 2020 to Detroit for Darius Slay, and signed James Bradberry as a salary-cap casualty from the Giants last offseason. Slay and Bradberry have keyed a secondary that—understanding the quality of the passing games the Eagles have faced in the playoffs has been weak—gave up 192 net yards passing and zero TD passes in eight quarters. Slay and Bradberry erased the opposition.

4. DeVonta Smith. Picked 10th overall by Roseman in the ’21 draft, Smith has been the deep threat the Eagles hoped for. He was credited with the most important offensive play for the Eagles Sunday, the 29-yard completion on fourth-and-three that led to the opening Philly touchdown.

5. Nick Sirianni. An offensive coach in Frank Reich’s shadow, and a coach who wasn’t going to call offensive plays because he wanted to be the coach of the whole team still got the nod over the more experienced Josh McDaniels. Remember Sirianni’s disastrous opening press conference? Yikes. But the Eagles do marathon interviews with their coaching candidates, and Roseman and owner Jeffrey Lurie were convinced they saw an underrated leader who wouldn’t be cowed by the local fans or press in tough times, and who would build an excellent offense and coach a complete team. It’s all come true.

“We’re only as good as the staff we have,” Lurie said after the game. “In a way, that’s the secret sauce—the culture and the staff.”

And the personnel staff, led by Roseman. After the last Super Bowl team dissolved into mayhem in less than three years, the fans wanted Roseman out too. But Lurie knew he had a strong GM who deserved a chance to rebuild a team in the dumps. He did—and that’s one of the things that led Roseman to Reddick.

The legacy of Andy Reid in Philadelphia, in part, is what Sirianni and Roseman exulted about last week. Always concentrate on the lines. Philadelphia rotates eight defensive linemen; each plays a dozen snaps or more per game. Keeping them fresh has allowed Reddick the freedom to be a pass-rush marauder, moving inside and outside at will with the offensive line so concerned with the defensive front.

Against the Niners, he was matched against tight end Tyler Kroft on the first series of the game. Later, Reddick was asked what he was thinking when he saw only Kroft between him and Brock Purdy. “Oh man,” Reddick said. “Really bad things.” Reddick beat Kroft easily and steamed toward Purdy, ripping into his right arm—and the ball—just as Purdy tried to throw.

This was the turning point of the game. “I was yelling to coach Nick, ‘Throw the flag!’” Reddick said. The challenge flag, he meant. “I knew that was a sack fumble, cuz I got my hand on the ball.”

Sirianni threw the flag. Meanwhile, Purdy felt a bad sensation. “Shocks all over, from my elbow down to my wrist,” Purdy said. Whatever the replay decided, Purdy was done, at least for a while. And the replay confirmed Reddick’s gut feeling: the fumble, Purdy’s first in the last nine games, gave the Eagles the ball at their own 44. They couldn’t do anything with it, but then Reddick ruined the next drive by sacking Josh Johnson for a loss of 10 on the second play.

As crazy as it sounds, just watching the game, it seemed impossible that the 49ers would be able to stay with Philadelphia. Even though the Niners tied it at 7 on a ridiculously wonderful 23-yard TD run by Christian McCaffrey midway through the second quarter, keeping up with the Eagles would be out of the question with Johnson playing. And it got worse when he had to leave with concussion symptoms early in the third quarter. Purdy re-entered a 21-7 game, but with an apparent elbow injury preventing him from being able to throw, this game became an exercise in just-get-it-over-with, not a true contest of the two best teams in the NFC. “I couldn’t throw more than five, 10 yards,” Purdy said.

As tight end George Kittle said with stark realism after the game: “You’re down to two quarterbacks and neither one of them can throw and neither one of them is really available. It kind of limits what you can do as an offense, kind of limits our playbook to, like, 15 plays.”

So now the Eagles move on. They have many strengths, as winning 16 of 17 with the starting quarterback in the lineup would illustrate. But now, fortunately for them, the Eagles will face one of the game’s best passers—maybe THE best in Arizona with a scary pass-rush. Philadelphia had but 29 sacks last year, and Reddick’s addition blasted that up to 69 this year. Reddick, with 19.5 sacks in 19 games, can win with speed on the outside, and he has enough strength in inside rushes to power through inside gaps.

Amazing to think this, after the Eagles won their first Super Bowl five years ago with an explosive performance against the best team of the era, New England. But this Philadelphia team has fewer weaknesses than the one that beat Brady and Belichick. Thanks to Roseman filling so many holes with high-quality players—and one smart coach—the Eagles won’t be satisfied with anything short of a second Lombardi.


Hall of Fame Coaches


I got an interesting email the other day that spurred some thinking, which is always good. Reader Steve Price wrote: “As you roll into this year’s Hall of Fame selections, I’m curious which of today’s coaches you think have a shot at the HOF if their careers stay on track. We all know that Belichick, Andy Reid, maybe even Pete Carroll are likely candidates, but what about the following: John Harbaugh, Sean McDermott, Sean McVay, Kyle Shanahan, Mike Tomlin.”

A few thoughts.

Steve, it’s far, far too early to consider McVay (67 career wins, including playoffs), McDermott (66) and Shanahan (58), each of whom has coached six seasons. With the way the football world is today, and the fact that McVay has seriously considered leaving for a TV job, we’re going to have let those careers breathe for another six to eight years before forming Hall-related opinions on them. They are off to promising starts, of course.

For purposes of this exercise, let’s assume Belichick and Reid, in the top five for wins all-time, are in because they will be. Let’s consider five more. John Harbaugh, Tomlin and Carroll look to be on their way. Let’s add in a couple of coaches you didn’t mention and consider some good cases. All five have one Super Bowl victory.

  • Pete Carroll, 172 total wins in 17 years (161-112-1, .589 in regular season; 11 playoff wins) just burnished his case, leading a rebuilding team to the playoffs in what was supposed to be a lost year. He’s 71 going on 53. I could see him coaching three more years and sniffing 200 wins. Very strong case.
  • Mike Tomlin, 171 total wins in 16 years (163-93-2, .636 in regular season; eight playoff wins) is all but in, I would think. His teams have never had a losing season in 16 years, and he’s now passed predecessor Bill Cowher (161 total wins) in wins and winning percentage. Still only 50 years old.
  • Mike McCarthy, 166 total wins in 16 years (155-97-2, .614 in regular season; 11 playoff wins) has a complicated case. He got fired in Green Bay for perceived underachieving with Aaron Rodgers. His Dallas chapter is yet to be finished, though his playoff record there has been underwhelming. Building up wins and making one more strong playoff run would help McCarthy, 59.
  • Sean Payton, 161 total wins in 15 years (152-89, .631 in regular season; nine playoff wins) is close too, plus he has turning around a woebegone franchise and being one of the top offensive innovators of his time on his resume. His candidacy is strong, though I feel the Saints’ bounty case will be considered by the voters. Payton is 59.
  • John Harbaugh, 158 total wins (147-95, .607 in regular season; 11 playoff wins) is close. Ten playoff seasons—same as Tomlin, in one year less—and virtually the same win rate. Tomlin has won 10.69 games a year, Harbaugh 10.53. Harbaugh is a young 60.

Remember: There’s a bit of a coaching queue right now. Two coaches with two Lombardis—Tom Coughlin (182 total wins) and Mike Shanahan (178 total wins)—are on the doorstep. Mike Holmgren (174) went to three Super Bowls with two teams and won one. But there’s one complicating factor when considering any coach these days. The standards for Hall entry changed with the elections of Cowher, Jimmy Johnson and Tom Flores. Those coaches have 161, 89 and 105 wins, respectively, with one, two and two Super Bowls. Cowher and Johnson were elected by a special voting committee, the Centennial Committee, in conjunction with the league’s 100th season. It’s unsure whether they’d have gotten in, at least today, over candidates like Shanahan and Holmgren in voting by the regular 49-voter Hall selection committee.


The Award Section

Offensive player of the week

Patrick Mahomes, quarterback, Kansas City. Dealing with a high ankle sprain and missing multiple receivers, Mahomes did what he’s done over and over again in his remarkable NFL career: He excelled, innovated and propelled Kansas City to the win. Mahomes went 29 for 43 for 326 yards and two touchdowns and showed poise and mobility despite the injury, as on his perfectly-placed 19-yard touchdown pass to Marquez Valdes-Scantling in the third and his end-of-game scramble for the first down that positioned the Chiefs for the winning field goal (with the help of some unnecessary roughness). In Mahomes’ career as the starter, Kansas City has never exited the playoffs before the Conference Championships, and now they’re headed to their third Super Bowl appearance in the last four seasons.

Defensive players of the week

Haason Reddick, linebacker, Philadelphia. In the first 11 minutes of the NFC game, Reddick wrecked it. Eight minutes in, Reddick steamed in on Brock Purdy and hit his arm just as he began the act of throwing; it was ruled an incomplete pass and changed to a sack, forced fumble and turnover upon review. That play knocked Purdy from the game with what appeared to be an elbow injury. On the second play of the next series, with backup Josh Johnson in the game, an unblocked Reddick smothered Johnson for a nine-yard loss, and the Niners had to punt two plays later. So, early on, Reddick, the Temple product playing on his home college field, spoiled the first two 49er drives and drove the starting quarterback from the game. That’s one heck of an impact game for the first-year Eagle.

Haason Reddick celebrates after recovering a fumble against the 49ers in the second quarter. (Getty Images/Tim Nwachukwu)

Chris Jones, defensive tackle, Kansas City. In his seven-season career, Chris Jones had never tallied a postseason sack entering Sunday night’s game. In the electric atmosphere at Arrowhead Stadium, he took down Burrow not once but twice, including a sack on third and eight in the final minute of the fourth quarter that ended the Bengals’ shot at a go-ahead scoring drive and got the Chiefs the ball back for the game-winning field goal. Jones was a powerhouse all night, a difference-maker in a close game. Not hard to argue that KC isn’t headed to the Super Bowl without him.


Special teams player of the week

Harrison Butker, kicker, Kansas City. His 45-yard field goal, fighting through the Arrowhead Stadium wind, made it by four or five yards and dropped on the ground with three seconds left, giving Kansas City a 23-20 win over the Bengals. Kick of his career. 


Coach of the week

Nick Sirianni, head coach, Philadelphia. His decision to go for it twice on fourth down in the first half helped the Eagles score touchdowns on each. On fourth-and-three from the Niners’ 35-yard line, with the Eagles in long field-goal range, Sirianni called a pass play and Jalen Hurts hit DeVonta Smith for 29 yards (although a closer look might have found the pass incomplete); the Eagles scored their first TD two plays later. On fourth-and-one from the Philly 34 with the game tied at 7, Sirianni chose to go for it, and Hurts sneaked for two … and five minutes later, the Eagles scored to go up 14-0. A good day at the controls for the coach in his first conference title game.


Goats of the week

Joseph Ossai, defensive end, Cincinnati. His clear late hit on Patrick Mahomes out of bounds with eight seconds left in a 20-20 tie merited a 15-yard flag and advanced the ball from the Bengals’ 42-yard line to the 27-yard line and turned a 60-yard field-goal try for Harrison Butker into a 45-yarder. Just a terrible mistake at the worst time for Cincinnati.

Replay assist, Replay official/New York officiating command center, NFC Championship Game. “Replay assist” is in its second season of use in the NFL. The replay official in the stadium—Jamie Nicholson in this case—or NFL senior VP of officiating Walt Anderson, working from New York, can see an error on the field and call down to the ear of ref John Hussey and tell him the call on the field is wrong. Twice in the first quarter, replay assist likely had enough evidence to fix plays without a coach throwing a challenge flag. The first one was huge—a fourth-and-three pass play from Jalen Hurts to DeVonta Smith for 29 yards that, on further review, appeared clearly to be a trapped or compromised catch by Smith. San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan didn’t challenge it; it very likely would have been overturned, and the NFL’s sophisticated Hawkeye replay system would have caught it quickly. Same with the second call, an Eagles-challenged incomplete pass by Brock Purdy that turned into a strip-sack instead. The system installed is only as good as the people using it, and it’s clear that at least the Smith play could have been seen and fixed in real time by the replay assist system.


Hidden person of the week

Isaac Seumalo, right guard, Philadelphia. On the Eagles’ first series of the NFC title game, Seumalo sealed off 319-pound San Francisco tackle Javon Kinlaw (with help from center Jason Kelce), opening a wide hole for Miles Sanders to sprint six yards in the space formerly occupied by Kinlaw. Just another example of why the Eagles’ offensive line is the NFL’s best: On the first drive of the biggest game of the year, the line helped pave the way for an 11-play, 66-yard TD drive, ending in a display of power that bruising games like this one require.


The Jason Jenkins Award

Jeff Kamis, former director of media relations, Tampa Bay. Kamis was one of my favorite PR people in the time I’ve covered the NFL. Thorough, professional, and helpful, he was the PR chief when the Gruden Bucs won their first Super Bowl. But now, tragedy has entered his life. Kamis’ 16-year-old son Jacob, a star student and aspiring pilot, took his own life seven months ago. He suffered from severe depression. In the midst of their grief, Jeff Kamis and Jacob’s mother Katherine turned their attention to helping other young people suffering from the debilitating disease, as described in this piece done by the Tampa ABC affiliate:

Jeff helped organize a three-day event in Tampa last week called “Lifting the Cloud: A focus on teen mental health.” And in the TV story, he talked about his son nobly: “He didn’t let the illness define who he was as a person. He fought it. He did everything he could to do everything he could to find out why it was happening and to figure out how to get better. I mean, he was sick. I’ll always be so proud of him for being a fighter.”

I spoke to Jeff Kamis Sunday morning, sending along my sympathy for this impossible situation. He said, “Every morning when I wake up, I think, ‘What would Jacob tell me to do?’”


Quotes of the Week



I got some wise words for that Cincinnati mayor—Know your role and shut your mouth, you jabroni.

–Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce responding to the caustic words of the Cincinnati mayor from earlier in the week (see Ten Things I Think).



This pain is going to drive him to be great.

D. J. Reader on Joseph Ossai and a game-crushing roughing the passer call. Not all of Ossai’s teammates were as supportive



What happened to me on ‘Monday Night Football,’ I feel, is a direct example of God using me as a vessel to share my passion and my love directly from my heart with the entire world. And I’m able to give it back to kids and communities all across the world who need it the most, and that’s always been my dream.

–Bills safety Damar Hamlin Saturday night in a six-minute video posted on social media, his first public comments since he collapsed, and his heart stopped on the field in a Jan. 2 game at Cincinnati.



I love him. Hope he doesn’t go anywhere—unless I do.

Aaron Rodgers, talking in November 2020 about then-Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, per Matt Schneidman of The Athletic.

Hmmmm. Prescient, perhaps, as Hackett agreed to be the OC of the Jets on Thursday—the desperate-for-a-QB New York Jets.



He told me a number of times this week that he wants me to coach here as long as Coach Landry did. I said, ‘OK, that’s a long time.’

–Dallas coach Mike McCarthy, on his assurances from owner Jerry Jones about his future with the Cowboys.


Numbers Game

Bills GM Brandan Beane surely didn’t mean to rip the Bengals’ recent history when he said he didn’t want the Bills “to suck bad enough” and have a lousy record to be in a position to draft a talent like Ja’Marr Chase.

I wasn’t thinking, Ooooh, shot across the Bengals’ bow when I saw that. I was thinking the Bengals picked Chase fifth overall in 2021, but you don’t have to be picking in the top 10 to get a very good receiver.

Beane has worked five drafts for the Bills. He has drafted one keeper as a receiver—Gabe Davis (fourth round, 2020, 128th overall pick)—and never picked a receiver earlier than 128th.

Not to micromanage Beane’s drafts, but he’s had plenty of chances to pick good receivers in the past five years. In 2018, he picked Josh Allen seventh overall, and had the 16th pick that year too. I went back to see where the Bills picked in the first round each year, and the receivers that would have been available when they had their first picks. For the purposes of this exercise, I’m using 16 as the 2018 pick, because they chose Allen, obviously a home run, with the team’s first pick that year.

Year by year, with some of the receivers Buffalo passed on:

2018: Bills pick 16th. Top receivers between 16 and the end of the second round: D.J. Moore (24), Calvin Ridley (26), Courtland Sutton (40), Christian Kirk (47).

2019: Bills pick ninth. Top receivers between nine and the end of the second round: Marquise Brown (25), Deebo Samuel (36), A.J. Brown (51), DK Metcalf (64).

2020: Bills trade their top pick, 22nd overall, in a package to Minnesota for Stefon Diggs. Justin Jefferson was that 22nd pick, with Tee Higgins 33rd.

2021: Bills pick 30th. Elijah Moore and Rondale Moore were the only receivers of note available between 30 and the end of the second round. There was one sleeper in this draft, though—Amon-Ra St. Brown, drafted 112th overall by the Lions.

2022: Bills pick 23rd. Top receivers between 23 and the end of the second round: Christian Watson (34), George Pickens (52).

Let’s look at this one other way. In 2019, Buffalo’s second-round pick was tackle Cody Ford, chosen 38th overall. Think Beane wouldn’t want a do-over there—picking A.J. Brown or DK Metcalf instead?





Two football quizzes for you:

  1. Who was the starting Philadelphia quarterback in Andy Reid’s first game as an NFL head coach in 1999, a 25-24 loss to Arizona?
  2. Who made the tackle on the first Philadelphia punt of Andy Reid’s coaching career?

Answers in 6 and 7 of Ten Things I Think.


Tweets of the Week


Darlington on the Mahomes-to-Kelce second-quarter TD connection in Kansas City.


The retired defensive end, speaking truth in the weird third quarter of a weird NFC title game.


Holder covers the NFL for and speaks the truth.


Dana Wright is a radio host in Kansas City, where there was some concern over the weekend about the local quarterback.


Nikki Greenberg is the daughter of a Jets fan who lives in New York City.


Kevin O’Neill is a meteorologist in Buffalo.


The 33rd Team is a football think tank founded by Mike Tannenbaum.




Reach me at, or on Twitter @peter_king.

On Aaron Rodgers. From Charles Irwin: “I heard your interview on the Dan Patrick Radio Show talking about Aaron Rodgers and the Jets pursuing him. You made the point they haven’t had a franchise quarterback in a half-century. Dan Patrick even used the quote the next day as part of his recap. My question: How would Rodgers going to the Jets not be the same as Favre going to the Jets? Both have/had MVP seasons when they left the Packers and both are close to the same age if Rodgers goes. Isn’t this just a retread for the Jets?”

Remember that 2008 Jets’ season, Charles. The Jets were 5-3 and Brett Favre was playing pretty well at the midpoint. Next three games: Jets routed the Rams 47-3, Jets went into Foxboro and beat the Patriots 34-31, Jets went into Nashville and dismantled the 10-0 Titans 34-13. They were 8-3, a virtual playoff lock. Then Favre ruptured the biceps in his throwing arm, kept playing, and the Jets fizzled badly down the stretch, finishing out of the playoffs at 9-7. Of course, Rodgers could get hurt too. But the desperation of the Jets could make them tempted to go the veteran route again. “Could,” I emphasize. I have no idea what they’ll do, even after New York hired ex-Rodgers OC Nathaniel Hackett as the new OC Thursday.

I don’t think the Bills’ window is closing. From Jeff Minshall, of Toronto: “Why would the Bills’ window be closing, and not the Chiefs? Obviously, a much more successful window, but the Chiefs have now hosted the AFC Championship five straight years. How long does this hold up? Josh Allen is actually a year younger than Patrick Mahomes. Why should the Bills’ window be less than the Chiefs going forward?”

Jeff, I didn’t say the window was closing. I said this is the first time I’ve looked at the team and seen time slipping through the hourglass for them. Because it is. The reasons Kansas City is a better franchise today and probably going forward is that every season—every single one—in the Mahomes/Allen era, KC has gone further in the playoffs. This year, Kansas City had to replace virtually its entire wide-receiver corps, and the team responded by going 14-3 and winning home-field again. To me, the disconcerting thing about the Bills is they’ve not taken the next step after being top contenders for three straight years. Also they certainly have more things to fix at the end of this season than they did a year ago.

On my travel sked. From Walter, of Stamford, Conn.: “There’s no nonstop flight from Philadelphia to San Francisco? I don’t know why you made your life more difficult than it had to be when you chose to cover the Eagles Saturday night and the 49ers the next day across the country.”

A few things. One: I prefer Delta, and there was no Delta nonstop to San Francisco or San Jose. Two: I preferred to fly to San Jose, because the airport there has car rental on-site and the stadium is five miles from the airport; at the San Francisco airport, it’s a train ride with seven stops on the way to car rental, then 35 miles to the stadium in Santa Clara. Three: I needed room to write on the plane for five hours on the way West; I knew I would have that on the Delta flights. That’s why I did what I did.

No magic pill for it. From Robin Heid: “How did you overcome your stutter? What DID help you? How did you get past it? Think of the many kids and parents who could benefit from hearing more on this from you, along with the many teachers who could do better than yours did by hearing what you have to say.”

Thanks for the question, Robin. I began stuttering in second or third grade and it just continued to get worse. By fifth grade, I was assigned to a speech therapist in our Connecticut school system and went a few times during school—but I was embarrassed to be taken out of class and all the kids knew I had this affliction and started teasing me about it. So I just stopped going; I figured out the words I could say without stuttering and told my teacher I felt “cured.” That led to a year or so of only ever speaking in class when it was essential, never raising my hand to speak, trying to get in and out of school with minimal exchange of words. I thought about it constantly and tried to figure out ways to avoid speaking. I read about it and in sixth grade began practicing one of the major fixes the therapist had suggested: slow down your speech, breathe, relax. It got better, but I still found the more I obsessed, the worse it got. It didn’t improve significantly until maybe 11th grade. Though some words still made me stutter, I think developing confidence—in sports and school and relationships—helped a lot. I know this isn’t the track of everyone who stutters, but I’ve always thought I just grew out of it.

So nice of you to say. From John A. Gallagher: “The residue of your tremendous effort, globetrotting and skill is manifested in [this week’s] FMIA. I have been an avid reader of sports reporting since Reggie Jackson went light tower in the ’71 All-Star game, and that was the best post-game coverage I’ve ever read. To think that you added such insightful 10 Things, a number of which I will be reading later today, shows an exemplary level of dedication to your craft, for which this dear reader is grateful.”

Wow. That is so kind. Thank you, John. The next time it’s 2:49 a.m. and I say, “What the heck am I doing this for?” I’ll remember your words.


10 Things I Think

1. I think here are a few niblets on the coaching searches:

a. Three people involved in coaching searches told me over the weekend that San Francisco defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans—the former Texans Pro Bowl linebacker—is the leader in the clubhouse for the Houston job.

b. “The sun rose this morning and by the grace of God, so did I,” the spurned Steve Wilks said in a statement after getting passed over for the Carolina job. The Panthers picked Frank Reich. Pretty obvious why: The owner, David Tepper, wants a guy who can develop a long-term quarterback and give the franchise stability. Wilks could have done one of those. Fair or unfair, almost no matter what Wilks did (and he went a surprisingly strong 6-6 with iffy talent, especially on offense), I always thought this owner wanted a quarterback-whisperer as his next head coach. I expect Wilks getting passed over will be part of legal proceedings against the NFL for the continued bypassing of minority candidates in favor of white ones, especially considering the remarks from Wilks’ employment attorney, Douglas Wigdor: “We are shocked and disturbed that after the incredible job coach Wilks did as the interim coach, including bringing the team back into playoff contention and garnering the support of the players and fans, that he was passed over for the head coach position by David Tepper.”

c. If the Colts somehow hire Jeff Saturday (1-7 as interim coach, including blowing a 33-point lead at Minnesota), who I’m told is absolutely in play for the full-time head coaching job, that will ignite a powder keg in the minority-coaching wars. Rightfully so. I do believe Indianapolis will finish this process with the most coaches interviewed in history. Seriously. The Colts are at 14 now, and it’s not over.

d. Per NFL Network, Vic Fangio is due to take the Miami defensive coordinator post. I expect he’ll make a big star out of a very good player—free safety Jevon Holland, one of the top play-making safeties in football.

2. I think the most obvious takeaway from the NFC Championship Game, re an easy offseason rules change, is to reinstate the ability for teams to dress a third quarterback who will only be eligible to play if the first two quarterbacks are injured. That third QB for the Niners likely would have been Jimmy Garoppolo Sunday—and had he been able to at least stand in there and throw passes once backup Josh Johnson went out with concussion symptoms, that would have given him a huge edge over the disabled Brock Purdy. It’s an easy fix. Who’d argue against it?

3. I think if I’m Kyle Shanahan, I tell Brock Purdy and Trey Lance they’re going to training camp as 1a (Purdy) and 1b (Lance), and it’s not impossible for Lance to unseat Purdy, but life goes on, and Purdy’s eight wins down the stretch of this season can’t be discounted.

4. I think I join the football-nerd world in praising Bill O’Brien as the pick to be Mac Jones new offensive coordinator with the Patriots. I was wrong last off-season in pooh-poohing the potential damage to Jones by having Matt Patricia and Joe Judge be his coaches in his second season. It obviously was hugely damaging having two inexperienced QB guys coach an impressionable and needy young quarterback, and Jones regressed. He will not continue the regression under O’Brien, who is demanding and mechanics-specific. Good choice.

5. I think re my statement on 95.7 The Game last week that I’d take Brock Purdy over Dak Prescott if I were starting a team from scratch Here are some facts:

  • Yes, I would. It’s not a Baylessian look-at-me talk-show statement. Consider the comparison between them right now.
  • On opening day 2023, Purdy will be 23 and his cap number will be $889,000, and Prescott will be 30 with a cap number of $49.1 million.
  • I like Dak Prescott as a person and a player, and his play in the win over Tampa in the Wild Card game was terrific. No question his high interception stats this year were affected by several drops and missed catches by his receivers. But he was awful in the Divisional Round loss to San Francisco and threw 17 picks in 14 games, including playoffs, this year. Imagine if the dropped picked right in Dre Greenlaw’s gut was a pick-six instead of an incompletion. Prescott’s not the surest thing entering 2023.
  • Purdy: Entering the game in Philly, after taking the QB job in early December, he’d played eight games, thrown three interceptions with zero fumbles and had a 107.8 passer rating. Kyle Shanahan is the perfect coach for any young quarterback, to be sure. But a 107.8 rating and 16-to-3 TD-to-pick ratio over half a season of work, with the most manageable salary of any starting quarterback and a seven-year edge on Prescott—all of that is good enough for me.

6. I think you might have guessed the answer to my first quiz. Doug Pederson, career backup, made his first career start on Sept. 12, 1999, and threw two touchdown passes in the first quarter as the Eagles sprinted to a 21-0 lead before losing to the Cardinals.

7. I think you probably couldn’t have guessed the answer to my second quiz. My eyes popped out when I saw it. Eric Bieniemy, a backup running back and special-teams player, made the tackle, assisted by Alan Rossum, on Sean Landeta’s first punt of the season for the Eagles. This was the last of Bieniemy’s nine seasons as a backup player in the NFL.

8. I think this analysis by Bill Parcells of the off-season needs of the Buffalo Bills, from The 33rd Team, was really interesting. In fact, lots of things on The 33rd Team site are really interesting. Parcells on the Bills: “They, conceptually, need a different style of running game and maybe even different personnel in their running game if they’re going to improve. They need to improve their offensive line as well. I think Tampa Bay and Buffalo were similar teams. Each was a one-man show. Buffalo has a great receiver in Stefon Diggs. Tampa has a great receiver in Mike Evans. But it was too much on Brady, and it was too much on Josh Allen. You just can’t play solitaire in the NFL and expect to win.” So well said.

9. I think we’ve only just begun an off-season of Aaron Rodgers And before you can say “Lord help us,” let’s start the count of New York Post back pages dedicated to the prospect of the Jets repeating history from 15 years ago, when a very famous Green Bay quarterback played out his age-39 season with the Jets, and now we wonder if Rodgers, 39, just might do the same thing. (Well, except for the two-years-in-Minnesota part.) Here are back pages one and two, from last Wednesday and Thursday:

10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:

a. Football Crime Story of the Week: A truly bizarre tale from Kevin Draper of the New York Times on a Kansas City fan called “Chiefsaholic,” and how he ended up in a Tulsa jail. For bank-robbery.

b. Chiefsaholic may have stopped to pick up some cash while driving to the Dec. 18 KC-Houston game. Those in Chiefaholic’s universe wondered where he got all the money to finance his road trips and life as a super fan dressed in a wolf mask. Wrote Draper:

Chiefsaholic had a simple explanation: hard work.

“After graduating KSU in 2016 I was working a warehouse job making $12 an hour,” he wrote on Twitter. “Today I manage multiple warehouses throughout the Midwest region and make an excellent living, and I’m only 28 years old. Hard work pays off and don’t let ANYONE tell you otherwise!”

Police, court and educational records largely tell a different story, and the source of his money remains a mystery. This much is clear, according to the police: On Dec. 16 in Tulsa, he stopped at a bank.

c. Well, I checked MapQuest. It is an 11-hour drive from Kansas City to Houston. Four hours into the trip, on I-44, you pass through the eastern suburbs of Tulsa. Not sure you’ll be seeing the wolf-masked fellow at many team events and games for a while.

d. Really enjoyed this from Jeff Darlington on Tom Brady:

e. “How does a man decide what to do with his remaining greatness? How do you find a way to extinguish the fire, when you’re the one holding the match?”

f. Now that is some good writing, Darlington.

g. Question about the murder of a Memphis citizen at the hands of police officers: Tell me, how do men who would do that to another human being, apparently without over-the-top provocation, get the job to protect and serve a community?

h. I’m sure I join everyone who reads this, regardless of political, social or civic persuasion, in being outraged that police officers anywhere in the world could do something like that to another human being. There is no word strong enough to describe it. Maybe the best way is to multiply “outrage” by 10.

i. I didn’t even watch it all, and it’s something I’ll never be able to unsee.

j. If I’m a police chief, or I somehow oversee a state or local police department, the first thing I’m asking in the wake of this incident is: Do we have safeguards in place to be sure that we try to identify tendencies of brutality in the process leading to the training of our officers? And do we have the same safeguards in place in the event that we get reports that our officers are being overly aggressive with the public?

k. When a 6-year-old boy shoots his teacher, we—after getting over the initial shock—shouldn’t just assume an elementary-school shooting is a one-off. Same thing with the inhumanity of these Memphis officers. We should say this simply can never happen again and work to be sure that it does not.

l. Expand Your Mind Story of the Week: John Anderson of the Wall Street Journal, on someone we should all know something about—architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

m. The story is a review of a documentary, “Frank Lloyd Wright: The Man Who Built America,” on Acorn TV, through the lens of a distinguished Welsh architect and critic, Jonathan Adams.

n. Writes Anderson:

Wright, perhaps the most famous and prolific designer of buildings that America has ever known, led a life marked by scandal, adultery and even murder, but Mr. Adams’s stated intention is to get beyond the sensational and focus on the work—the whats, the hows and, just as important, the whys.

This he does, explaining just how Wright’s aim of creating “organic architecture” (“Architecture that belongs where you see it standing,” as Wright says in a clip) led to some of the most famous buildings in the Wright catalog.

o. The craziest thing about Wright’s nine-decade life: He left his wife and children in 1909 for a woman named Mamah Borthwick, built a lavish house with servants where they lived. And Borthwick died there. A servant set fire to the house and killed seven people (not Wright), including Borthwick, with an ax.

p. Person Who’s Taken-Leave-of-His-Senses of the Week: The mayor of Cincinnati is a man named Aftab Pureval. He issued a “Twitter proclamation” Friday in advance of the Cincinnati-Kansas City football game. It is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen a mayor do. See for yourself:

q. I’d bet 99.5 percent of America had no idea who the mayor of Cincinnati was before this Tweet. So this is their first exposure to Aftab Pureval. That’s one impression he’ll never get back. It’d be one thing if it were funny. It’s not—it’s cringeworthy. Imagine the staffer who green-lit this. I mean, who taunts Patrick Mahomes, period. And who taunts Patrick Mahomes before playing him in his stadium? The only partially good thing is he walked back the tweet later in the day. But damage done.

r. Front Office Sports, with the 2023 “this is actually news” scoop of the week: The Uber Eats or DoorDash or whatever the guy who sauntered onto the court and interrupted the Duquesne basketball game was a fraud. He did it to create a buzz on the internet.

s. The New York Post, with the headline of the week, about a dogwalker in New York City who somehow makes $120,000 a year: “Fi-Dough!”

t. That Jim Dolan, owner of the Knicks and Rangers, is a real barrel of fun. Using facial-recognition to ban legal and business foes from his arena—what a privacy-invading dope.

u. Gotten back into season five of “The Crown.” Let’s just say Martin Bashir comes off as one of the biggest journalism phonies ever, about how he got that famous 1995 “there were three of us in this marriage” interview with Diana. Bashir had the gall much later to say that getting Diana to agree to the interview had nothing to do with his inventing documents showing fake bank statements to Diana’s brother. Those documents, Earl Spencer said, helped convince Diana that trusted people in her circle were instead taking money to turn on her. What a mess.

v. Congrats to the great Mikaela Shiffrin for breaking the Alpine skiing World Cup wins record for women, and for approaching the record for all skiers. I like this Tim Layden piece comparing Shiffrin and LeBron James as both chase Mount Everest records—LeBron, of course, is aiming to break the NBA scoring record sometime in the next few weeks. The admiration for Shiffrin’s skill comes through in Layden’s prose:

It comes down to this: LeBron’s record is a coronation, and Shiffrin’s, at least in part, is a validation. That’s not fair, it just is. But Shiffrin deserves better.

But this is often the plight of the Olympic sport, where athletes, coaches and publicists spend endless megabytes convincing the public and media that 20 feet is a very good pole vault from Mondo Duplantis or that even though Katie Ledecky appears to win easily, it’s not easy, or hey, you try doing a flip on the balance beam. In these sports, success mandates context, and context subsumes purity. Athletic performance is best on its own merits, absent explanation. Greatness that speaks for itself.

w. Jack Hughes is one exciting player to watch. The Devils are lucky to have him. I don’t follow the NHL closely enough to know, but could it be a three-way MVP race between David Pastrnak, Connor McDavid and the 21-year-old Hughes (33 goals at the All-Star break)?

x. In the category of “Underrated cities in the United States to visit and eat and see,” Kansas City is in the top five, to be sure. I love coming here. The only bad thing on this trip? Hi Hat Coffee, just over the Missouri-Kansas border in Westwood Hills, KS., was closed, as it is on Sunday mornings. The great thing about Hi Hat, besides the excellent espresso: It’s a lovely 20-minute walk from the hotels in the Plaza area of Kansas City.

y. I recommend Hi Hat as much as the barbecue at Q39.


The Adieu Haiku


Kelce v Kelce

Supe rivalry, Cleveland-born.

No Jabronies here.

29 responses to “FMIA Conference Championships: Eagles rout Niners, Chiefs outlast Bengals to set Super Bowl LVII stage

  1. Great read. Thank you. A shame the officials tried hard to be the story yesterday. NFL cannot ignore this bad work any longer.

  2. You call that “weird” officiating- I think that is rather kind. The best one can say is that it was “incompetent” or the worst is “corrupt”. The calls went almost consistently the Chiefs way and had a direct effect on the outcome, yet your commentary on the officiating is very brief. If I was a bettor or a Cinci fan I would be extremely angry. And by the way, I thought Taylor, the Cinci coach was relatively restrained considering, and I complement him for that- but there no excuse for you to treat the officiating lightly even though it seems you are a Chiefs fan.

  3. Peter, you brought up the 6-year old who shot his teacher. Everyone wants to quickly blame guns. The reality is that when I was young, we had the 10 Commandments posted as a huge monument outside the entrance to our high school. Now they have certain school districts offering Satanic Worship after school. This is the real reason. Everyone can make up wishful stories, but it is always the same, century after century, after century.

  4. So sad the superbowl features the annoyance of Greg Olsen as the commentator. Guy can’t shut up.

  5. Why are teams so reluctant to challenge close plays and risk a timeout when the reward is so huge and yet they will burn timeouts on 1st and 10 to avoid a delay of game.

    Case in point-49ers-Eagles game. Kyle Shanahan said after the game he didn’t have enough evidence to challenge Devonta Smith’s catch. Wouldn’t there be enough evidence when Smith was gesturing to his teammates to hurry up to the line of scrimmage to snap the ball?

    Think about it, it’s 4th and 3 from your 35 and if you don’t challenge, they now have first down and goal from your 6.

    If you challenge and lose, they still have a first down at the 6 and you lose a timeout.

    If you challenge and win, which they would have, they would have had the ball first and 10 from your own 35.

    There was very little risk, using a first half timeout which is not nearly as valuable as a second half time out and huge reward.

    Yet, all the time, coaches will instruct quarterback to burn a timeout to prevent a delay of game.

    I’m sure the analytics would have said Shanahan should have challenged.

  6. Not saying the Eagles wouldn’t have won anyway, but it sure helped to go against a QB-less 49er team.

  7. Regarding the “emergency” QB. When that was instituted, teams were allowed to activate 45 players, plus one emergency QB. In 2011, they did away with that and just allowed teams to have 46 players active. It is up to the coach if he wants to keep a 3rd QB active as the 46th player. I know it is hindsight, but I would think that if you are down to your 3rd and 4th QB in a playoff game, it would have made sense to activate Jimmy G. if he was cleared to play. And maybe a team that is using a backup as a starter in the playoffs should consider having a 3rd QB active on game day.

  8. “The 49ers’ defense may have allowed 31 points, but nuance of the game script shows they were much better than that. They held the Eagles to just 4.8 yards per pass, 3.4 yards per carry, and 3.8 yards per play. Had their offense offered any support – Philadelphia ran 70 plays compared to just 45 for the 49ers – the defensive numbers might’ve looked better. There were a ton of problems for San Francisco on Sunday, but their defense was not one of them.”

  9. Kudos for your insight to include a tip of the hat to Mikaela Shiffrin, who will soon be known as the greatest skier of all time, bar none, and to think that she accomplished all that she has with the core of her training taking place right here in the Green Mountains is icing on the cake. She is a great and humble athlete, and in no way should be compared or associated with a dope like Lebron.

  10. “Oh, you want to know the definition of cringe, my friend? Allow me to show you this brief little speech by the Mayor of Cincinnati, Aftab Pureval, right before a big game with his beloved Bengals playing the Chiefs in 2023. This is also how you induce what is known as bad karma.”

  11. Olsen doing the Super Bowl? My mute button will get a workout. This guy is extremely annoying with his high-pitched, non-stop delivery. Plus, he’s the king of the KGOs … that’s keen grasp of the obvious. Sheesh.

  12. Having seen many 49er games live (I’m a season ticket holder), one thing I noticed about Shanahan’s in-game coaching style is that he rarely watches his defense play. He’s always off to the side, just staring down at his offensive play-calling sheet.

    I wonder if he would have been more tempted to throw the challenge flag had he seen the play live.

  13. zandrew says:
    January 30, 2023 at 8:50 am
    You call that “weird” officiating- I think that is rather kind. The best one can say is that it was “incompetent” or the worst is “corrupt”. The calls went almost consistently the Chiefs way and had a direct effect on the outcome, yet your commentary on the officiating is very brief. If I was a bettor or a Cinci fan I would be extremely angry. And by the way, I thought Taylor, the Cinci coach was relatively restrained considering, and I complement him for that- but there no excuse for you to treat the officiating lightly even though it seems you are a Chiefs fan.


    When the league tried to reign in the refs and go fulltime with additional training and accountability in 2012 Peter King posted this regarding the referees :

    ” As I tweeted, I feel the legitimacy of the NFL is at stake. The league has to grit its teeth and pick up the phone this week and make a deal, even if it’s a deal it doesn’t want to make, including better pension benefits to the 107 officials who have not maxed out in the current system.”

    One of the problems with the league’s efforts at that time was that the NFL referees held (and hold) outsized power at the college level as they tended to be supervisors of various college conference officals and were able to prevent the best qualified officals from taking their jobs. A huge conflict of interest that didn’t get near enough attention as the media went full on blast in support of the refs getting whatever they wanted with no accountability.

  14. ‘What a lead balloon of a football game.’ – Peter King


    or ‘What a Led Zeppelin of a football game’ – as Keith Moon (RIP) of The Who would have written it.

  15. Brutal, I watched 3+ hours of commercials and other nonsense and about 15 minutes of actual football.

  16. Sirianni was forced to turn over play calling in a previous season. Get your facts straight.

  17. Cincinnati at one point elected Jerry Springer as mayor. That should say everything we need to know about Cincinnati voters. *shrug*

  18. The missed calls in the Bengals game were horrendous: egregious block in the back on Moore’s punt return, whatever that play clock nonsense was, Chris Jones landing full body weight on top of Burrow several times.

    The eagles game as well. Smith’s catch that wasn’t would have negated Eagles first TD drive. How doesn’t the replay ref not have all available camera angles immediately. This is a multi billion dollar enterprise. Josh Johnson’s fumble: the play should have been blown dead as both offensive tackles were clearly offsides. The Eagles second scoring drive was full of ticky tack defensive penalties called on the 9ers while their D line was literally being tackled to the ground. The bad calls didn’t matter as much in the Eagles game as that game was over the minute Josh Johnson stepped on the field.

    Feels like the NFL got what it wanted: The Andy Reid bowl.

  19. We are constantly told that these are the greatest athletes on the planet, and that they spend hours and hours at the team’s facility, so why can’t a few from each team spend time practicing to be a reasonably competent quarterback, or at least more competent than a badly injured QB?

  20. Love your stuff Peter! Enjoyed this blog a ton, especially being a KC “kid”; your “I think” section especially hit home with items X and Y!! I am the owner of Hi Hat Coffee and appreciate your kind words!!! Let’s enjoy some espresso on your next visit to town! T

  21. I don’t care that the Super Bowl will have two black quarterbacks. I care that the game will feature two very good quarterbacks which should make for a very good game. Race doesn’t matter, we should all recognize them for their achievements.

  22. I love your column, Peter; I read it every week during the season. Thank you for what you do. Still, I have an issue with any story describing yesterday’s Eagles vs. Niners game as a rout. It was more like a drag race in which one of the cars had a flat tire. Sure, the outcome was inevitable but we can hardly say the winning car was better engineered or driven more skillfully. The performance of the rest of the Niners players was profoundly impacted by a badly hobbled offense that could no more give their defense a rest than score points. Philadelphia should be happy. Circumstances allowed them to win easily. And I acknowledge they may have won if Purdy was healthy. But calling it a rout suggests something other than what actually happened.

  23. zandrew says:
    January 30, 2023 at 8:50 am
    You call that “weird” officiating- I think that is rather kind. The best one can say is that it was “incompetent” or the worst is “corrupt”. The calls went almost consistently the Chiefs way and had a direct effect on the outcome, yet your commentary on the officiating is very brief. If I was a bettor or a Cinci fan I would be extremely angry. And by the way, I thought Taylor, the Cinci coach was relatively restrained considering, and I complement him for that- but there no excuse for you to treat the officiating lightly even though it seems you are a Chiefs fan.
    LOL. I’ve seen these types of responses all over the internet and Twitter today, which only confirms the fact that the Bengals fans just don’t know what happens in the playoffs because their team just recently became a great team. Their fans just don’t realize that these bad calls have been happening forever.

    Remember when Charvarius Ward intercepted Tom Brady in the 2018 AFC Championship to close out the game, only to have the refs charge Dee Ford with lining up offsides, in which a warning is usually given once to a player before flagging? Well, no warning was given, the Patriots drive continued, they scored a TD and the Chiefs never touched the ball in OT.

    But sure, cry about a linebacker who clearly committed a penalty to Mahomes or about a play that was redone due to the time clock, which had absolutely zero bearing on the outcome. Bengals fans need to man up if their team is going to continue performing at a high level in the playoffs because crazy calls happen in EVERY game.

  24. “Question about the murder of a Memphis citizen at the hands of police officers: Tell me, how do men who would do that to another human being, apparently without over-the-top provocation, get the job to protect and serve a community?”

    This type of police behavior is found in most towns across America. When it comes to percentage of bad behavior by police, the police, and many American citizens like to say, and to think, it’s a just a few bad apples. The reality is it’s closer to 60/40 good to bad, and that reality is frightening. It’s a tough job and there are a lot of quality police officers, but there are way too many bad officers.

  25. Which calls specifically went the Chiefs way that affected the outcome? The hit on Mahomes out of bounds? Not a bad call. The shutting down of the 3rd down play? Chiefs ended up punting. I agree the officiating is bad, but seeing it as favoring the Chiefs is just wrong.

  26. Peter you discussed briefly about the Officials. Every since NFL openly embraced the gambling industry years ago. Everyone watching the games can spot the fix. For example Your Golden Boy Brady’s Super Bowl wins. He wins with questionable officiating calls. Win 1st 3 Super Bowls by field goals. Win Super Bowl against Seattle management wants ball in Russell hand instead of handing off to Lynch. Against Atlanta, Shanahan throwing the football with a lead instead of milking the clock and running the football. Rams game Patriots defensive front consistently offsides and the secondary allowed to hold. Against the Chiefs no offensive line to protect Mahomes, while Brady offensive line allows to hold. This Super Bowl will be the make up call for the Super Bowl against Brady. Chiefs 27 Eagles 20.

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