Tue Jan 25 2:34am ET
By ARNIE STAPLETON
AP Pro Football Writer
Cincinnati Bengals kicker Evan McPherson (2) celebrates his game-winning field goal against the Tennessee Titans with Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) after an NFL divisional round playoff football game, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. The Cincinnati Bengals won 19-16.(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker (7) celebrates with teammate Tommy Townsend (5) after kicking a 49-yard field goal during the fourth quarter of an NFL divisional round playoff football game against the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022, in Kansas City, Mo. The Chiefs won 42-36. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)
Los Angeles Rams' Johnny Hekker (6) celebrates after kicker Matt Gay (8) kicked the game-winning field goal against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half of an NFL divisional round playoff football game Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)
San Francisco 49ers' Robbie Gould celebrates after making the game-winning field goal during the second half of an NFC divisional playoff NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022, in Green Bay, Wis. The 49ers won 13-10 to advance to the NFC Chasmpionship game. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Jay Feely stood on the Arrowhead Stadium sideline witnessing one of the best quarterback duels in the NFL's 102-year history, the capstone to what many are calling the greatest weekend of games the league has ever seen.
Mesmerized by the back-and-forth between Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen, Feely came to a stark realization in the deafening din: he was yelling just like everyone else.
''This was the greatest weekend of NFL football ever,'' Feely said Monday, echoing a popular sentiment in the wake of a quartet of divisional round games that featured last-second field goals and lifelong regrets.
Clutch kickers secured walk-off upsets for the 49ers at Green Bay, the Bengals at Tennessee and the Rams at Tampa Bay before Harrison Butker's 49-yarder sent the Chiefs' nightcap against Buffalo into overtime Sunday night.
Mahomes then put the Chiefs in an unprecedented fourth consecutive conference championship at Arrowhead Stadium with a 42-36 win with an 8-yard TD toss to Travis Kelce, whose playground improvisation helped put the Chiefs into field goal range with 3 seconds left in regulation.
''I had never been at a game on the sideline yelling and screaming as a fan,'' said Feely, who has spent the last seven seasons as an NFL special teams analyst for CBS following his 14-year pro kicking career. ''It was just unbelievable play, jaw-dropping, just spectacular.''
Every game came down to special teams thunders and blunders.
Butker's 49-yarder came just 13 seconds after Buffalo took a seemingly safe 36-33 lead on Gabriel Davis' playoff record fourth touchdown catch.
The second-guessing began immediately after the Bills shunned a squib kick and kicked the ball out of the end zone.
Feely said the real headscratcher, however, was the Bills' No. 1 defense somehow allowing Tyreek Hill to catch a 19-yard pass and Kelce to haul in a 25-yarder to the Buffalo 31 as Mahomes called timeout with three seconds left.
''I've heard all day about how they should have squib kicked it,'' Feely said. ''Say you squib kick it and they jump on it, remember, the clock doesn't start until they touch the ball - it's like a basketball rolling out downcourt. If they jump on it on the 30, maybe one second goes off. But they've gained 5 yards of field position. That's not an advantage.
''Now, if you kick it to the 3 where now they have to return it, now there's an advantage there,'' Feely added. ''But you risk a big return.
''What I couldn't believe was that the Chiefs didn't have Tyreek Hill or Mecole Hardman back deep. They had Byron Pringle. That was surprising to me. They wanted the touchback.''
The Bills happily gave that to them.
Lost in the fantastic finish was Kelce decided not to run the short route that was called, one that would have made for a much longer field goal try.
He told Mahomes during a timeout, '' I'm just going to run to an open area.''
Midway through his cadence, Mahomes hollered, ''Do it, Kelce! Do it! Do it!''
Kelce ran straight upfield, catching Mahomes' quick pass in stride for a 25-yard gain. Mahomes released the pass just as he was about to get plastered by defensive end Jerry Hughes.
That impromptu bit of backyard football put Butker well within his range and he nailed the 49-yarder to send the game into overtime, where Kelce's touchdown won it.
''That was a huge kick,'' Feely said.
The last of so many over the weekend.
Bengals rookie Evan McPherson walked off the top-seeded Titans 19-16 with a 52-yarder set up by Logan Wilson's interception at midfield with 20 seconds left.
''Ice in his veins,'' bragged Bengals coach Zac Taylor of his rookie from Florida who had three walk-offs in the regular season, including one over the Chiefs in Week 17 that clinched Cincinnati's first AFC North title since 2015. And he's kicked four field goals in each of the Bengals' playoff wins.
''This is what I do for a living,'' McPherson said. ''It's my job to stay cool, calm and collected in moments like those.''
Even with kickers getting ever stronger and sharper, rare is the rookie kicker who has instant success in the NFL.
''I give (former Florida special teams staffer and ex-NFL kicker) Shayne Graham a lot of credit,'' Feely said. ''He had him ready to step in and he had him mentally and physically prepared for this moment.''
Gould was good from 45 yards in the swirling snow at Lambeau Field, giving San Francisco a stunning 13-10 win over the top-seeded but deeply flawed Packers in what might have been Aaron Rodgers' Green Bay farewell.
''Robbie's one of the best of all time,'' Feely said. ''The weather and the pressure weren't going to have an impact on him and he went out and drilled it.''
After coming up confoundingly short on a 47-yard attempt earlier in the game, Matt Gay nailed a 30-yarder to give the Rams a 30-27 win over the defending champion Buccaneers, his former team.
''''I'm sure he just chunked it'' from 47, Feely said. ''It's like using a 7-iron trying to hit 160 yards and you hit 140.''
Then, there was the Packers' trio of terrible special teams mistakes beginning with them allowing safety Jimmie Ward to break through to block Mason Crosby's 39-yard field goal attempt at the end of the first half.
That loomed ever larger when the 49ers added a blocked punt on just a five-man rush.
''The 49ers weren't even trying to block it,'' Feely said. ''The Packers had eight guys to block five but they somehow left the long snapper alone with no help against a 6-4, 274-pound Jordan Willis.''
Willis burst through the middle and blocked Corey Bojorquez's punt, rookie safety Talanoa Hufanga scooped it up and returned it 6 yards for the touchdown that tied it at 10 with under 5 minutes remaining. After Green Bay went three-and-out, the 49ers drove for Gould's game-winner - when the Packers had just 10 defenders on the field.
''We miscounted up in the box,'' acknowledged Packers coach Matt LaFleur. ''Would it have made a difference? I don't know. Maybe. But it sure looks bad, and it's embarrassing that that happens under my watch.''
It's LaFleur's fault, Feely suggested, for failing to fix his faulty special teams that were problematic all season long. They struggled in nearly every aspect of special teams a year after LaFleur fired coordinator Shawn Mennenga and promoted Maurice Drayton to replace him.
The Packers' kicking game problems only worsened in the playoffs.
''You cost your team a playoff win because you didn't address that,'' Feely insisted.
LaFleur said Monday he would pay more attention to special teams, starting with putting more starters on those units even though running back A.J. Dillon fractured a rib in a pile-up while he was blocking on a kickoff return Sunday.
Feely figures special teams will play a big part in deciding which teams advance to the Super Bowl, too, saying, ''There's a decided advantage in both games.''
According to efficiency metrics from Football Outsiders, the Rams ranked fourth in the NFL on special teams in 2021; the 49ers ranked 26th. The AFC matchup is closer: the Chiefs ranked third and the Bengals eighth, but Feely said Butker's experience gives him the edge at home.
''McPherson has had a great year,'' Feely said. ''But I still trust Butker.''
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady is strongly considering retirement. "It's not always what I want. It's what we want as a family, said Brady. The 44-year-old has shown no signs of slowing down, throwing for 5,316 yards, 43 touchdowns, 12 interceptions while rushing for 81 yards, and two scores over 17 games in 2021. "I think as I've gotten older, I think the best part is, is football is extremely important in my life," Brady told Jim Gray on the Let's Go! podcast. "And it means a lot to me. And I care a lot about what we're trying to accomplish as a team. And I care a lot about my teammates. And the biggest difference now that I'm older is I have kids now too, you know, and I care about them a lot as well. They've been my biggest supporters. My wife is my biggest supporter. It pains her to see me get hit out there." Brady will take some time to mull things over but indicated in the past he would like to play until he's 45. The seven-time Super Bowl champ is signed with Tampa Bay through 2022 and will decide between retirement or another year with the Buccaneers. Stay tuned.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski would consider returning to the team even if quarterback Tom Brady retires. "I'll never throw anything off the board," said Gronk. The 32-year-old would most likely return if Brady does but didn't rule out any possibility. He was an integral part of Tampa Bay's offense in 2021, catching 55 passes for 802 yards and six touchdowns over 12 games. Gronk becomes a free agent in March and needs to be re-signed by Tampa Bay or retire. Gronkowski would be fantasy-relevant and a top-10 tight end if he ultimately decides to return. Stay tuned.
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel (knee) is expected to practice on Wednesday. According to head coach Kyle Shanahan, Samuel is "sore" but expects the wide receiver back at practice Wednesday. The 26-year-old took a helmet to the knee in last Saturday's Divisional Round win over the Green Bay Packers. Samuel rushed for 39 yards on 10 attempts and caught three of four targets for 44 yards. The 49ers star wideout is not expected to miss any time and should be all systems go for the NFC Championship matchup against the Los Angeles Rams.
The Kansas City Chiefs waived wide receiver Josh Gordon on Monday. He's been inactive the last two postseason games and has been a non-factor since signing with the Chiefs in early October. The 30-year-old has caught five passes for 32 yards and a touchdown over 12 games in 2021. The Baylor product was buried on Kansas City's wide receiver depth chart behind Tyreek Hill, Byron Pringle, Mecole Hardman, and Demarcus Robinson. Gordon could be re-signed to the Chiefs practice squad if he clears waivers but hasn't been fantasy relevant despite being on a loaded Kansas City offense.
Green Bay Packers impending free-agent CB Rasul Douglas said he would like to re-sign with the Packers this offseason but indicated he will be looking for more than the veteran minimum he received this season.
Philadelphia Eagles impending free-agent DE Derek Barnett is not expected to re-sign with the Eagles this offseason.
Kansas City Chiefs S Tyrann Mathieu (concussion) is going through the concussion protocol but is feeling good, according to head coach Andy Reid.
Free-agent WR Josh Gordon (Chiefs) is expected to join the Kansas City Chiefs practice squad if he clears waivers.
Buffalo Bills impending free-agent DT Harrison Phillips said he hopes to re-sign with the Bills this offseason, but the two sides have not had any contract discussions at this time.
Pittsburgh Steelers WR Anthony Miller signed an undisclosed Reserve/Future contract Monday, Jan. 24.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed RB Kenjon Barner, K Jose Borregales, TE Codey McElroy, OG John Molchon, LB Elijah Ponder, DE Benning Potoa'e, DT Willington Previlon, DB Rashard Robinson, DT Kobe Smith and DB Troy Warner to undisclosed Reserve/Future contracts Monday, Jan. 24.
The Tennessee Titans signed LB Jamal Carter, OT Christian DiLauro, TE Austin Fort, OT Derwin Gray, QB Kevin Hogan, WR Cody Hollister, LB Joseph Jones, WR Mason Kinsey, C Daniel Munyer, OG Jordan Roos and LB Tuzar Skipper to undisclosed Reserve/Future contracts Monday, Jan. 24.
Cincinnati Bengals WR Trent Taylor was returned to the practice squad Monday, Jan. 24.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers TE Rob Gronkowski will take a few weeks to see where he's at, he said Monday, Jan. 24, before deciding his playing future.
Fantasy Spin: As previously reported, Gronk said he'll even consider coming back regardless of QB Tom Brady's status. Provided both return, the seasoned veteran is a fringe TE1 in deep leagues and an ideal spot play in more casual confines. Without Brady, all bets are off on Gronk being more than a matchup option.
Kansas City Chiefs WR Josh Gordon was waived Monday, Jan. 24.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers TE Rob Gronkowski said he'd consider returning to the Bucs even if QB Tom Brady retires.
Fantasy Spin: Gronk was still a factor when it counted with two 100-yard games to end the regular season and a 9-116-1 line in two playoff games. However, his usage won't be great enough to be a dependable TE1 in fantasy.
Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes finished 33-for-44 for 378 yards and three touchdowns versus the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Divisional Round. Mahomes also ran for a team-high 69 yards and another score. RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire rushed for 60 yards on seven carries and caught one of two targets for another nine yards. RB Jerick McKinnon ran 10 times for 24 yards and hauled in five of seven targets for 54 yards. WR Tyreek Hill caught 11 of 13 targets for 150 yards and a touchdown. WR Byron Pringle hauled in five of seven targets for 29 yards. WR Mecole Hardman ran for 31 yards on two carries and hauled in his only target for 26 yards. TE Travis Kelce caught eight of his nine targets for 96 yards and the game-winning touchdown in overtime.