And then there were four: Vikings vs. Eagles, Pats vs. Jaguars
Photo courtesy of si.com | Minnesota Vikings wideout Stefon Diggs scored a walk-off touchdown in the closing seconds of the Vikings’ win against the Saints on Sunday.
The NFL Conference Championship games have been set after the Jacksonville Jaguars and New England Patriots both advanced in the AFC. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles will meet in the NFC Championship.
The Divisional Round of the 2018 NFL playoffs did not disappoint. The Eagles squeaked out a 15-10 win against NFC defending champion Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons struck first with a Matt Bryant 33-yard field goal in the first quarter.
The Eagles answered in the second quarter with a LeGarrette Blount touchdown, but Jake Elliott missed the extra point. Last season’s MVP Matt Ryan struck back with a six-yard pass to running back Devonta Freeman to make the score 10-6.
Elliott was able to redeem himself with a 53-yard field goal to end the half. The Falcons were unable to answer for the rest of the game. The Eagles were able to add two more field goals to take the lead, 15-10. The Falcons came close to winning, but Matt Ryan’s fourth-and-2 pass into the end zone sailed over Julio Jones head, clinching the Eagles’ first playoff win since 2008.
The second game on Saturday was not as eventful. As expected, the Patriots defeated the Tennessee Titans by a score of 35-14. This weekend marks an NFL record seventh straight conference championship appearance for the Patriots.
Despite the Titans scoring first with a Mariota touchdown with 1:14 left in the first quarter, the Patriots responded with 35 points of their own. The Titans wouldn’t score again until garbage time late in the fourth quarter.
The Jaguars defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on Sunday by a score of 45-42. The Jaguars came out of the gates roaring, with two Leonard Fournette touchdowns in the first and finished the half 28-14.
Despite some early struggles and an interception, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was able to find his stride in the second half, going blow for blow with the Jaguars by passing for five touchdowns on the day and leading the Steelers to within a touchdown with two minutes to play.
However, a Josh Lambo 45-yard field goal made the score 45-35, and not even a final touchdown pass with a minute to play would save the Steelers from elimination.
The Minnesota Vikings defeated the New Orleans Saints at home in walk off fashion by a score of 29-24 late Sunday night. The Vikings took control in the first half, going up 17-0 by halftime.
Then, Super Bowl XLIV MVP Drew Brees started to mount a comeback, passing for three touchdowns and setting up a Will Lutz 43-yard field goal to put the Saints up 24-23 with 25 seconds left in the game.
The Vikings answer was a third-and-10 Case Keenum 61-yard touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs as time expired. It was only the fourth game-winning touchdown on the final play in NFL history.
The conference championship games have been set, with the Jacksonville Jaguars taking on the New England Patriots in Foxborough on Sunday at 3:05 p.m. in the AFC and the Minnesota Vikings squaring off against the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC at 6:40 p.m.
One interesting storyline to follow will be the fact that with a win this week, the Vikings will have a virtual home game in Super Bowl LII. After the conference championship games, the winning teams will have two weeks to prepare for Super Bowl LII in Minnesota on Feb. 4.
In the week between, the annual Pro Bowl will be held on Jan. 28, where the best the NFC and AFC have to offer will square off in Orlando, Fla.
By: Jack Dunn ~Staff Writer~