Tagged in: afc

Bills advance to AFC championship with 17-3 win over Ravens

In what was supposed to be a showdown between Buffalo’s Josh Allen and Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson, Taron Johnson literally stole the show.

If not for the wall separating the field from the stands in the back of the east end zone, the Bills cornerback might still be running after returning an interception 101 yards for a touchdown that propelled Buffalo to its first AFC championship game appearance in 27 years.

Johnson’s pick-6 of Jackson’s pass with 41 seconds left in the third quarter helped secure a 17-3 triumph over the Ravens in a divisional-round playoff game Saturday night.

“We’re excited. It’s not done yet, we’re not done yet,” Johnson exclaimed. “It’s just a blessing. Our defense stepped up to the challenge.” Johnson’s return matched the longest in NFL history and punctuated a stellar defensive outing in which Buffalo (15-3) limited the NFL’s top running offense to 150 yards on 32 carries.

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Jackson, last season’s NFL MVP, was sacked three times and did not return after sustaining a concussion following the final play of the third quarter, and two plays after Johnson scored. He finished 14 of 24 for 162 yards passing, while being limited to 42 yards rushing on nine carries.

Allen, an MVP candidate this year, finished 23 of 37 for 206 yards and a touchdown.

In a season in which the Bills relied mostly on their dynamic Allen-led offense to outscore opponents, the third-year quarterback was gratified to see Buffalo’s defense make a difference in a game the pass-happy attack was kept mostly in check.

The Bills advanced to the AFC championship game for the first time since 1994 on their way to making — and losing — their four consecutive Super Bowl appearance. Buffalo also extended a season in which it has broken numerous droughts by claiming its first AFC East division title in 25 years and, with last week’s victory over Indianapolis, winning its first postseason match since the same year.

The Bills, have won eight consecutives to match their best streak since 1990 and will play the winner of the AFC’s other divisional playoff between Cleveland and Kansas City on Sunday.

The fifth-seeded Ravens (12-6) had their season come to an end after leading the NFL in yards rushing for a second consecutive year. Baltimore clinched its third playoff berth in three years by winning its final five regular-season games. The winning streak came after a 1-4 skid capped by a 19-14 loss at Pittsburgh on Dec. 2 in a game rearranged three times due to COVID-19 issues.

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Kansas City Chiefs clinch No. 1 seed in AFC as Travis Kelce sets records

Earning the No. 1 seed in the AFC hasn’t resulted in Super Bowl success for the Kansas City Chiefs in the past, but they hope it puts them on the path to a championship this time around.

The Chiefs clinched the AFC’s top seed Sunday by defeating the Atlanta Falcons 17-14 at Arrowhead Stadium. The 14-1 Chiefs, who have won 10 consecutive games, will receive the AFC’s only first-round playoff bye and will play their divisional-round game at Arrowhead.

“It’s one of your goals when you go into the season,” said quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Demarcus Robinson with 1:55 left to rally the Chiefs to a surprisingly difficult win over the 4-11 Falcons. “If you look at the history of that bye week, usually it’s a good thing for teams trying to make a championship run.”

In the victory, Travis Kelce became the first tight end to have two 100-catch seasons. Kelce caught seven passes, giving him 105. Kelce also set the single-season yardage record for a tight end. He had 98 yards, giving him 1,467. The San Francisco 49ers’ George Kittle held the previous record with 1,377 yards, set in 2018.

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“To get a week of preparation, a week of really locking in and getting the body right that late in the season is so key, and it’s much needed if you want to make that playoff push,” Kelce said. “That’s what you work your tail off for all season. I’m just proud to be a part of this team and be able to do it again this year.”

The AFC’s No. 1 seed hasn’t represented the conference in the Super Bowl in either of the past two campaigns.

The Chiefs have been the AFC’s top playoff seed three times but failed to reach the Super Bowl in any of those seasons. In 1995 and 1997, they lost their divisional-round playoff game at home. In 2018, they lost the AFC Championship Game at home in overtime to the New England Patriots.

The Chiefs were the No. 2 seed last year on their way to a Super Bowl LIV championship. The Chiefs concluded the regular season next Sunday versus the Los Angeles Chargers at Arrowhead. Since the game will be meaningless with regard to the standings and their playoff seed, they are likely to rest some of their top players, including Mahomes and Kelce.

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LeRaven Clark out for season with torn Achilles, leaving Indianapolis Colts thin at LT position

The Colts could be down to their third-string left tackle for Sunday’s game at the Las Vegas Raiders.

Backup left tackle LeRaven Clark is out for the season after an MRI confirmed a torn Achilles, and there’s still no timetable on when starter Anthony Castonzo will return from his knee injury, Colts coach Frank Reich stated Monday.

Castonzo suffered a sprained MCL early in the second quarter of the Week 12 game versus Tennessee. Clark replaced Castonzo in that game and started Sunday at Houston. But Clark had to be carted off the field in the first half due to the torn Achilles.

“Tough break for us and LeRaven,” Reich said. “That’s a tough loss for us. LeRaven has come in and had a really good year. He’ll start the next steps toward recovery.” Fourth-year player Chaz Green becomes responsible for protecting quarterback Philip Rivers’ blindside. But Green, too, has been dealing with his own injury.

He missed some practice time last week due to a back injury. General manager Chris Ballard is in the process of trying to bring in some extra depth on the offensive line.

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The wildcard in this is Castonzo.

The Colts purposely did not put the veteran on the injured reserve list in case he’s able to return before the three matches he would be required to miss by going on the reserve list. The Colts will access where Castonzo is later in the week.

“[Castonzo’s] the type of player that if you’re ever going to take that chance [of not putting on IR] with at that position because of who he is,” Reich said. “Let’s not lock ourselves in case he has a speedy recovery. We haven’t ruled anything out. He’s continuing to rehab it and do everything right.”

The Colts, who are currently the seventh seed in the AFC, will try to stay in the playoff hunt potentially with a third-string left tackle trying to help a quarterback who is also isn’t healthy. Rivers, who has started 236 straight games, has been dealing with turf toe since Week 11 versus Green Bay.

He went 27-of-35 for 285 yards and two touchdowns against the Texans on Sunday. The Colts have a game lead over the Raiders for the final playoff spot in the AFC. “He’s the type of guy that unless he’s walking around in a boot, which he is, you wouldn’t know [he was injured],” Reich said.

“He’s not going to talk about it. He’s just going to go about his business. That’s just the way he’s been brought up. Do I think he’s 100%? No, he’s not 100%, but I think he’s getting better every week.”

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