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Action-packed NFL conference championships set up highly anticipated Super Bowl LVIII

In the 2023 season AFC championship game, the Kansas City Chiefs, the reigning Super Bowl champions, defeated the Baltimore Ravens 17-10.

The 2024 NFL conference championships provided the entertainment fans were craving for after an equally riveting divisional round. Whether it be the continued brilliance of Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who some say has now overtaken legendary quarterback Tom Brady as the greatest quarterback of all time, or the Lions’ questionable gameplan, the NFC and AFC championship games certainly did not disappoint.

The AFC championship saw the reigning Super Bowl champions, the Kansas City Chiefs, face off against their most ruthless and well-rounded opponent yet, the Lamar Jackson-led Baltimore Ravens. With this year’s MVP almost certainly being awarded to the league’s most versatile dual-threat quarterback, many questioned whether the Chiefs’ offense would keep pace with the Ravens. However, Mahomes skillfully exposed the Ravens’ defense with his quick passes and immaculate connection with star tight end Travis Kelce.

In conjunction with Mahomes’ blazing start to his sixth consecutive conference championship game, the Chiefs’ defense rendered the Ravens’ run-and-pass game obsolete. Aside from the first drive capped off by a touchdown from wide receiver Zay Flowers, the Ravens were not themselves. Buoyed by Kelce’s incredible catching and running back Isiah Pacheco’s agile moves, the Chiefs went up 17-7 on the Ravens by halftime.

Surprisingly, the second half was a defensive affair with only 3 total points scored by either team and two takeaways by the Chiefs. With Ravens’ run game being almost nonexistent and Flowers making costly mistakes, the Ravens beat themselves up in this AFC heavyweight bout. In the end, Mahomes managed the game flawlessly and trusted his teammates when he needed them the most. Chiefs wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling finished the Ravens off with a 32-yard reception on third down. Though some may say that the Ravens choked, no one can undermine the poise shown by Mahomes who will now compete for his third Super Bowl ring.

The latter half of the championship weekend saw the San Francisco 49ers host the Detroit Lions. In their first conference championship game since 1991, the Lions were hungry under pivotal head coach Dan Campbell. The Lions came running through the gates in the first half with 148 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns. Wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown supplemented the run game with a couple of catches of his own. The Lions defense also held the 49ers to only 7 points, which were scored by the touchdown machine Christian McCaffrey.

Down 24-7, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan was on the brink of total defeat. Before their game with the Green Bay Packers, Kyle Shanahan was 0-30 when trailing in the fourth quarter. He desperately needed a miracle to avoid a third consecutive loss in the NFC championship.

“Game manager” Brock Purdy was perhaps the reason why the 49ers ended up with the win. In the third quarter alone, the 49ers erased the deficit and tied it at 24 points. A combination of luck, smart decision-making and grit set the Niners up perfectly for the fourth quarter. Wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk erupted in the third quarter with a monster 51-yard grab which first bounced off a Lions-defender facemask. The Lions had no answers for the surging 49ers’ offense. Experience in high pressure situations seemed to prevail over the young and inexperienced Lions squad. A field goal by Jake Moody and a rushing touchdown by running back Elijah Mitchell completed the comeback win by the 49ers.

However, Campbell made some controversial coaching decisions by going for it on fourth down in field goal territory twice. Both drives resulted in a turnover on downs, which many point to as the reason for the Lions’ excruciating loss. The 49ers’ relentless usage of McCaffrey coupled with Purdy’s decision-making in the clutch vaulted them to a rematch with the Chiefs.

Super Bowl LVIII will be held on Sunday, Feb. 11 at 6:30 p.m. on CBS. The reigning champions, the Kansas City Chiefs, will take one of the most dominant NFC teams of recent times, the San Francisco 49ers, in a classic matchup at Allegiant Stadium.

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