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NFL play-offs blown wide open by dramatic wins for 49ers and Bengals

The season is over for the Tennessee Titans and Aaron Rodgers’ Green Bay Packers.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers under pressure from DJ Jones of the San Francisco 49ers.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers under pressure from DJ Jones of the San Francisco 49ers.
Image: Alamy Stock Photo

ROBBIE GOULD KICKED a 45-yard field goal as time expired and the San Francisco 49ers rallied for a stunning 13-10 victory over the top-seeded Green Bay Packers to punch their ticket to the NFC Championship game.

The underdog 49ers avenged a similar loss to the Packers earlier in the season when Green Bay beat them 30-28 on a walk-off 51-yard field goal.

This one took place on a frosty Lambeau Field in Green Bay, with snow falling steadily as temperatures dipped to -12 degrees Celsius.

“Dangerous, man. When a team gets hot it is dangerous. We’ve got to keep this thing going,” said quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo of San Francisco.

In the early NFL game, the Cincinnati Bengals busted another play-off drought as rookie Evan McPherson kicked a 52-yard field goal as time expired for a 19-16 victory over the Tennessee Titans.

The 49ers will play either the Los Angeles Rams or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a spot in the Super Bowl, with the Bengals set to face the Kansas City Chiefs or the Buffalo Bills.

Garoppolo completed 11 of 19 passes for 131 yards and one interception, but it was the 49ers’ defence that made the clutch plays.

With under five minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Talanoa Hufanga recovered a blocked punt for a touchdown as San Francisco tied the game 10-10.

Gould is now a perfect 20-of-20 lifetime on kicks in the play-offs.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who threw 20-of-29 passes for 225 yards, was trying to reach the NFC title game for the sixth time in his tenure with the Packers.

Rodgers has won just one Super Bowl during his famed run in Green Bay and his future with the franchise remains uncertain.

He was unable to take advantage of this chance with the Packers coming off a bye and possessing home-field advantage throughout the NFC play-offs.

“I’m going to take some time and have conversations with the folks around here, and then take some time away and make a decision — obviously before free agency,” Rodgers said.

“Certainly we want him back here. I think we’d be crazy not to want him back here,” said Packers coach Matt LaFleur.

The 49ers continue to be a stumbling block for the Packers when it comes to play-off elimination games. San Francisco crushed Green Bay 37-20 in the 2019 NFC title game when Raheem Mostert rushed for 220 yards.

Elsewhere, a triumph over the top-seeded Titans in Nashville put the Bengals into their first AFC Championship game in 33 years — and gave Cincinnati a first post-season road victory after seven defeats.

“Very intense,” Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow said of the game in which Cincinnati intercepted Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill three times.

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With 20 seconds remaining and the score tied at 16-16, Luke Wilson picked off Tannehill at the Cincinnati 47-yard line. Burrow connected with rookie receiver Ja’Marr Chase with a 19-yard pass and the Bengals ran the ball twice to set the stage for McPherson’s game-winner.

“Ice in his veins,” Burrow said of the rookie kicker, who had two field goals of more than 50 yards.

Although they led most of the way, the Bengals didn’t have it easy. Burrow was sacked a play-off record-equalling nine times.

Cincinnati scored their first touchdown in their opening drive of the third quarter, taking a 16-6 lead on Joe Mixon’s 16-yard run to the end zone.

Tennessee then threatened, moving to the Cincinnati nine-yard line before cornerback Mike Hilton picked off Tannehill.

“We found a way,” said Burrow, who threw for 348 yards. “Man, it was a crazy, crazy game. That’s a really, really good team, unbelievable defensive line.”

Burrow said the Bengals — whose first-round win was their first play-off victory in 31 years — would take a night to savour the victory, then start preparing for the Chiefs or the Bills.

– © AFP 2022

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