As the top four point-producers in the NFL were advancing to the conference championship round for the first time ever, Dak Prescott was getting sacked by his own teammate, Tom Brady was embracing the underdog role a little too tightly and C.J. Anderson was making the most of his second, third … no, fourth chance.
The Patriots (12-5) reached their eighth straight AFC championship and 13th in the Brady-Bill Belichick era. Yet, there was Brady after New England pulverized the Chargers telling CBS’ Tracy Wolfson, “I know everyone thinks we suck, and, you know, can’t win any games. So, we’ll see. It’ll be fun.”
Brady will try to get to his ninth Super Bowl on Sunday when the Patriots visit the Kansas City Chiefs (13-4), who walloped the Colts 31-13 behind Patrick Mahomes for their first playoff win at Arrowhead since 2004.
Maybe Brady was miffed that his team was installed as an underdog (three points) for the first time in 67 games.
Or maybe he’s just not too thrilled about hitting the road, where the Patriots went 3-5, instead of staying home where they went 9-0 and trailed for just seven minutes total — all against the Chiefs, whom they beat 43-40 on Oct. 14.
As Brady shoots for his third consecutive trip to the Super Bowl, Mahomes will try to get the Chiefs into their first one since 1970.
A random act of kindness has netted AFC Championship tickets for a man called Dave who helped dig a Chiefs backup guard Jeff Allen out of the snow Saturday as he was headed to the game.
Allen tweeted that “a nice guy named Dave” got him back on the road and asked his followers to help him find the man so he could give him tickets to the conference championship.
Hundreds of people replied — many claiming to be Dave — and thousands retweeted the plea.
On Sunday, Allen tweeted that he has found the real Dave “despite the recent influx in people changing their name to Dave in the KC area lol.”
Prescott didn’t have to look far for the player who bear-hugged him on his only sack in Dallas’ 30-22 loss to the Rams on Saturday night — it was his own right tackle La’el Collins.
Dante Fowler was credited with the 8-yard sack that pushed Dallas out of field goal range late in the first half. What made the play unusual was that Fowler barely got a hand on Prescott — OK, he slapped him four times — but Prescott somehow ended up with Collins draped all over him.
Prescott spun free and ran to his right. But as Aaron Donald closed in, officials blew the play dead.
“From my view the quarterback’s progress had stopped moving forward,” referee John Parry explained. “There were hands around him and another defender was coming, so we went in the grasp to protect the quarterback.”
The Rams (14-3) won thanks to a 273-yard rushing effort that included 123 yards and two touchdowns from Anderson, who howled afterward, “I’m just old and fat.”
The Broncos jettisoned his fat contract in the spring with Anderson coming off his first 1,000-yard season, even though the running back that helped them win Super Bowl 50 had relatively few miles on his football odometer.
The Panthers picked him up but then decided not to share many of Christian McCaffrey’s snaps with Anderson before cutting him late in the season. Anderson signed with his hometown Oakland Raiders but he was inactive for one game before they, too, waived him.
The Rams needed a fill-in after star Todd Gurley II buckled a knee in December, and Anderson quickly picked up his phone and L.A.’s playbook.
He rumbled for 299 yards and two TDs on 43 carries for a whopping 7-yard average over the final two regular-season games. Then, with Gurley back, Anderson ran all over the Cowboys, giving him 422 yards and four TDs on 66 carries for a 6.3-yard average.
“I think the last two weeks without Todd, he showed what he can do,” Rams quarterback Jared Goff said. “Then, this week, having both of them is special and it gives you a real dual-threat of backs and different backs. … It’s just been a really good combo.”
Anderson allows the Rams to take their own 1-2 backfield punch into the NFC championship against the Saints (14-3), who have running backs Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram to share their rushing load.
“I think C.J.’s done a great job since he’s gotten here and then, obviously, we know what a special player Todd is,” Rams coach Sean McVay said after Gurley ran 16 times for 115 yards and a TD against Dallas. “… I think they are a nice complement to each other.”
Anderson, 27, could have given up after three teams that didn’t even make the playoffs gave up on him in 2018.
Instead, he’s salvaged a career and surely has general managers salivating at the thought of his impending free agency this spring.
“I guess it was a good thing I got hurt,” cracked Gurley.