The Super Bowl is now set, but the NFL did its fans a grand disservice with the NFC title game.
But before we discuss the post-season Bay of Pigs, as Chris Berman used to refer to the Packers-Buccaneers games when both teams were in the NFC Central back in the day, let us look at the final chapter of the Buffalo Bills' Cinderella run.
Just as they did back in October, the Kansas City Chiefs outplayed the Bills in virtually every aspect of the game. Buffalo's only touchdown, admittedly was a gift, courtesy of the Chiefs' Mecole Hardman, who fumbled a kickoff, giving Buffalo 1st & goal, setting up the Bills' only touchdown of the 1st half.
Then, Patrick Mahomes took over. Game over. Buffalo wasted a 9-0 lead. Hardman more than made up for his gaffe. Mahomes had no lingering effects of the concussion he suffered last week vs. Cleveland.
Things, however, got chippy in the 4th quarter, as the Bills' defense showed signs of frustration that weren't evident in the earlier meeting. While the clock read 10:05 pm (ET), for the Bills, it was midnight, and Cinderella's coach reverted back to a pumpkin.
Chiefs 38, Bills 24.
While fans would've been happy either way with the result of the AFC title game, the NFC game was a different story.
Green Bay & Tampa Bay had a Bay of Pigs game in Tampa back in October, on the same day as the first Chiefs-Bills game, and Tom Brady's new playmates had their way with the Packers, 38-10. This time, the game was closer in terms of the final score, but the Packers fell victim this time, on their own field, to the NFL's selective officiating, as well as coach Matt LaFleur suffering a brain cramp.
Down 8 points in the 4th quarter, facing 4th & goal, LaFleur opts to have Mason Crosby kick a field goal to trim the deficit to 5, and give the ball back to Brady and the Tampa offense. Earlier, after a Packers touchdown, LaFleur decided to go for 2, and failed. It was too early for a 2 point conversion.
What clinched the game for Tampa Bay was a pass interference call on Green Bay's Kevin King, giving Tampa a 1st down and the game. A couple of kneel-downs later, and it was over. However, the refs held their flags on a similar play late in the 2nd quarter when Tampa Bay should've been called for pass interference, which would've negated an interception. The Bucs scored on the ensuing drive to take a 21-10 lead at halftime.
At the time, we all assumed the refs would just let the teams play throughout, as is often the case in the post-season. Someone in the league office, whether it was director of officiating Al Riveron, or someone else, decided to make sure Brady & the Bucs would be the first host team to play a Super Bowl. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers were screwed, not only by these anonymous Weasels, but by LaFleur's second half brain farts.
We've said all along that Brady is motivated to prove he can win a Super Bowl without Patriots coach Bill Belichick. Fine. However, his legacy remains tarnished, because the league's shadowy power brokers bent over backwards to ensure he'd represent the NFC after going 6-3 in 9 previous Super Bowls, most of which were tainted. They see more (ad) money and ratings in Brady being rematched with Mahomes (KC beat Tampa Bay in the regular season) on the league's biggest stage. Al Riveron and friends basically told one of the league's biggest sponsors, State Farm, which employs Rodgers & Mahomes in those silly commercials, screw you.
No, Mr. Riveron, SCREW YOU! You let the entire country know that even though he won't be the league's MVP---we think----Tom Brady is more important to the league as the NFC's representative, just because you want to make history in Tampa on February 7. No, you're getting a set of Weasel ears for that.
And as for LaFleur, he's not getting off scot free, either. He gets a Dunce Cap for his blunders in the 2nd half. The Packers are owned by the city of Green Bay, and I am hoping the city fathers get together to send LaFleur back to school.