Top-seeded Eagles breeze past Giants to advance to NFC title game
Hobbled Mahomes leads Kansas City past Jacksonville, into AFC championship game
All it took was one throw. Jalen Hurts let it fly on his first pass attempt of the game and suddenly the unease that crept into that often worrisome Philly sports psyche — yeah, but how is his banged-up right shoulder, really? — seemed to dissipate.
Hurts' shoulder was fine. No doubt about that.
With Hurts in complete control, the Philadelphia Eagles once again look like the team that was rarely challenged during an NFL-best 13-1 start.
"To have him out there, I know this is high praise, it's like having Michael Jordan out there," coach Nick Sirianni said. "He's your leader. He's your guy. That's the biggest respect I can pay to him."
Top-seeded Philadelphia will host the NFC championship game next Sunday against either Dallas or San Francisco.
.<a href="https://twitter.com/JalenHurts?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@JalenHurts</a> doing what he does 🙌<br><br>📺: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NYGvsPHI?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NYGvsPHI</a> on FOX<br>📱: Stream on NFL+ <a href="https://t.co/W32lU4mm7c">https://t.co/W32lU4mm7c</a> <a href="https://t.co/6OqvEhI0Ax">pic.twitter.com/6OqvEhI0Ax</a>—@NFL
Hurts missed two late-season losses with a sprained right shoulder and then showed the Giants nothing in the season finale when the Eagles ran a vanilla offence designed to protect the Pro Bowl QB.
Under bright postseason lights at the Linc, the Eagles unleashed an offence designed to clobber the Giants. Hurts dazzled early with his arm and Philadelphia's offensive line opened big holes for Miles Sanders and Kenneth Gainwell as the Eagles finished with 268 yards on the ground. Hurts finished 16 of 24 for 154 yards.
"Seemed like the old Jalen to me," Sanders said.
Hurts showed he was fine when he aired out a pass on the second play of the game and hit DeVonta Smith in stride for a 40-yard reception. The fun was just starting in Philly.
One-handed snag by Dallas Goedert and he’s in! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/FlyEaglesFly?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#FlyEaglesFly</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/goedert33?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@goedert33</a><br><br>📺: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NYGvsPHI?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NYGvsPHI</a> on FOX<br>📱: Stream on NFL+ <a href="https://t.co/W32lU4mm7c">https://t.co/W32lU4mm7c</a> <a href="https://t.co/URUlpvXo2f">pic.twitter.com/URUlpvXo2f</a>—@NFL
Hurts was flawless on the drive, completing passes of 9 yards, 5 yards, and then — boom — a 16-yard TD pass on a one-handed grab by tight end Dallas Goedert.
Second drive, more of the same. Hurts had completions of 12 yards and 9 yards en route to a 9-yard TD pass to Smith.
It was 14-0 in the first quarter and the Giants already needed a standing eight count. New York turned the ball over on downs on its first possession, and Daniel Jones was intercepted by James Bradberry on its second.
The Linc was bonkers with full-throated chants of "E-A-G-L-E-S!" filling the air and Sirianni went wild chest-bumping assistants on the sideline.
Hurts' shoulder may not have been 100 per cent.
But his passing was: He went 7 of 7 for 89 yards in the first quarter.
"This guy leads, he brings this calmness to the entire team," Sirianni said. "He's as tough as they come. To me, there's not anybody that's played better football than him this year."
Even when the calls were obvious for the Eagles, the Giants were helpless to stop them. Case in point: The Eagles had the ball on the New York 3. Give the ball to Boston Scott? Yes they did. Scott scored his 11th touchdown against the Giants for a 21-0 lead. He has only 19 TDs in his career. Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale riled up Philly fans this week when he insisted Scott wasn't a "Giant killer."
Hard to argue against that point now.
Hurts wrapped the half with a 5-yard touchdown run — he bobbled the shotgun snap but still coasted untouched into the end zone — for a 28-0 lead. There have been only four more lopsided first-half playoff shutouts in NFL history.
"I'm so proud of this team, how we came out here. I'm so proud of these fans. It's a Philly thing, you know? It's special," Hurts said.
.<a href="https://twitter.com/KENNETHGAINWEL?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@KENNETHGAINWEL</a> goes over the 100-yard mark on this TD 🙌 <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/FlyEaglesFly?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#FlyEaglesFly</a> <br><br>📺: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NYGvsPHI?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NYGvsPHI</a> on FOX<br>📱: Stream on NFL+ <a href="https://t.co/W32lU4mm7c">https://t.co/W32lU4mm7c</a> <a href="https://t.co/o6MA1yDjG0">pic.twitter.com/o6MA1yDjG0</a>—@NFL
Gainwell finished with 112 yards on 12 carries, including a late 35-yard touchdown. Sanders had 17 rushes for 90 yards.
Coach Brian Daboll's Giants were discombobulated from the start and looked nothing like the team that beat the Minnesota Vikings 31-24 last week for their first postseason win since their Super Bowl victory under Tom Coughlin 11 years ago.
Matt Brieda had an 8-yard TD run for the Giants in the third quarter. Daniel Jones was 15 of 27 for 135 yards and a pick.
"Give Philly credit, they did everything better than we did tonight," Daboll said.
Hurts ran, threw and directed the offence with the same authority as he did when he led the Eagles to a 14-1 start and won over a city that still wasn't so sure about him in the preseason. In last year's playoff loss to Tampa Bay, Hurts threw two interceptions and was just 23 of 43 for 258 yards.
A year later, Hurts is a fan favourite and has the Eagles in the hunt for their first Super Bowl since 2018.
"We're close to the top," Sirianni said. "But don't look at the the top yet."
Kansas City tops Jacksonville
Hobbling along on an injured ankle, Patrick Mahomes threw for 195 yards and two touchdowns Saturday night, leading Kansas City to a 27-20 victory over the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars and a spot in its fifth straight AFC title game.
If Cincinnati wins Sunday, the AFC title game will be played at Arrowhead Stadium. If Buffalo wins, it will be in Atlanta.
One foot np<br><br>📺: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/JAXvsKC?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#JAXvsKC</a> on NBC<br>📱: Stream on NFL+ <a href="https://t.co/3PQhoYeSUP">https://t.co/3PQhoYeSUP</a> <a href="https://t.co/Zhqq73n89W">pic.twitter.com/Zhqq73n89W</a>—@NFL
Travis Kelce had a career-high 14 catches for 98 yards and two touchdowns for Kansas City. Isiah Pacheco ran for 95 yards, while Marquez Valdes-Scantling hauled in the eventual clinching touchdown with about seven minutes left in the game.
The Jaguars, who rallied from a 27-0 deficit to beat the Chargers in the wild-card round, squandered two chances to mount another late rally. The first ended when Jamal Agnew had the ball pop loose inside the Kansas City five-yard line with about five 1/2 minutes to go, and the second when Jaylen Watson made a leaping, one-handed interception to take the ball away again.
ONE-HANDED PICK <a href="https://twitter.com/JaylenWatson12?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@JaylenWatson12</a>!<br><br>📺: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/JAXvsKC?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#JAXvsKC</a> on NBC<br>📱: Stream on NFL+ <a href="https://t.co/3PQhoYeSUP">https://t.co/3PQhoYeSUP</a> <a href="https://t.co/PQDr05mz1l">pic.twitter.com/PQDr05mz1l</a>—@NFL
The Jaguars' last-gasp chance ended when Kansas City recovered an onside kick with 24 seconds to go.
Lawrence finished with 217 yards passing with a touchdown toss to Christian Kirk, who was briefly hurt midway through the fourth quarter but returned to finish the game. Travis Etienne added 62 yards rushing and a touchdown.
Long before Mahomes hobbled to the sideline in pain, he was at his creative best, driving Kansas City downfield on its opening possession. There was a shortstop-style sidearm sling to JuJu Smith-Schuster, a key third down pass to Kelce as he was being dragged to the turf, and the flip pass to his tight end that gave Kansas City a 7-0 lead.
The Jaguars came right back, taking advantage of a big kickoff return and a short field. Lawrence, whose four touchdown throws helped to stun the Chargers last week, proceeded to hit Kirk for the matching touchdown.
Then, the complexion of the game changed.
Mahomes was moving up in the pocket when Key brought the full weight of his body down on the star quarterback's right ankle. Mahomes hobbled to the huddle and managed to get through three more plays to end the first quarter, then was on the field two more plays before Harrison Butker kicked a 50-yard field goal.
Henne steps up, leads 98-yard TD drive
During the Jaguars' ensuing possession, Mahomes — who had gotten his ankle taped — got into a heated argument with Kansas City coach Andy Reid and the training staff. He then threw down his coat and headed to the locker room, forcing Chad Henne to take over midway through the second quarter, much as he did two years ago in a playoff win over Cleveland.
The 37-year-old journeyman, who once started for the Jaguars, led Kansas City on a 12-play, 98-yard touchdown drive.
Mahomes cheered them on from the sideline, wearing a puffy winter coat on a cold, sleeting night at Arrowhead Stadium.
Then the fans suddenly were cheering for him again.
Butker added a second 50-yard field goal late in the third quarter to extend their lead to 20-10.
But the Jaguars proved in the wild-card round that they can deal with deficits. And rather than wilt amid the crowd noise, they rose to the occasion, putting together a 75-yard touchdown drive that kept them in the game.
Their comeback ended, though, with two late turnovers and a failed onside kick.
Fumbled inside the 5! <a href="https://twitter.com/Chiefs?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Chiefs</a> ball!<br><br>📺: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/JAXvsKC?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#JAXvsKC</a> on NBC<br>📱: Stream on NFL+ <a href="https://t.co/3PQhoYeSUP">https://t.co/3PQhoYeSUP</a> <a href="https://t.co/PyL7GkMPTi">pic.twitter.com/PyL7GkMPTi</a>—@NFL
Mahomes improved to 5-0 in the divisional round of the playoffs. He's thrown 28 TD passes and three interceptions in 10 home playoff games.
Henne was five of seven for 23 yards and a score.
Jacksonville had eight wins as an underdog this season, tied for the most in the Super Bowl era.
Kansas City waits to hear whether its plays the Bengals at Arrowhead Stadium or the Bills in Atlanta for a spot in their third Super Bowl in four years. The Jaguars turn their attention to the free agency and the NFL draft.