Good morning to everyone but especially to...
THE KANSAS CITY CHIEFS...
High-ankle sprain be damned, Patrick Mahomes was going to get the Chiefs back to the Super Bowl. And yes, he got a little bit of help, too.
With 17 seconds left, Mahomes scrambled five yards and drew a personal foul on Bengals linebacker Joseph Ossai -- one of many wild fourth-quarter moments. That led to Harrison Butker's 45-yard game-winning field goal in the Chiefs' 23-20 victory that sends them to their third Super Bowl in four years.
- Mahomes threw for 326 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Travis Kelce had the scores.
- Defensively, Chris Jones was a terror, finishing with two sacks and five quarterback hits.
- Mahomes and Kelce threw shade at the Bengals after the game.
Mahomes and his unbelievably gutsy performance is the story of the game, but it's far from the only story. There's also...
- Valdes-Scantling: season highs in catches (six) and yards (116) -- after one catch for 6 yards last week!
- Jones: first postseason sacks of his career
- Jaylen Watson and Joshua Williams: both rookies with interceptions, with Williams' coming off a deflection by yet another rookie, Bryan Cook
It's this type of team effort that the Chiefs will need again (even with Mahomes healthier) because they have quite the powerhouse awaiting them in the Super Bowl.
... AND ALSO A GOOD MORNING TO THE PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
The Eagles are heading back to the Super BowL in absolutely dominant fashion. Philadelphia handled the injury-depleted 49ers (more on them in a bit) in a 31-7 romp that sends the Birds to their second Super Bowl in the last six seasons.
- The Eagles had four rushing touchdowns -- two by Miles Sanders and one each by Jalen Hurts and Boston Scott -- to bring their season total (including playoffs) to 39, an NFL record.
- The Eagles also forced (and recovered) three fumbles and had three sacks in another excellent performance from the defensive line. They're up to 78 sacks on the year, only behind the 1984 and 1985 Bears for most in a season.
- The Eagles' +55 point differential in the divisional and championship rounds is tied for third-largest ever.
Listen, there's been a lot of chatter about the Eagles' path here. They faced an overmatched Giants team and an essentially quarterback-less 49ers squad. All that talk is pointless. You can only beat who you play, and the Eagles not only beat them, but dominated them. If that's not enough...
- They're 16-1 this season when Hurts starts.
- They have a record-breaking rushing offense, an explosive passing offense and a dominant defense.
There's a reason they're back in the Super Bowl, and it's not the teams they've played. It's the Eagles, and their excellence in every facet.
Here's some early Super Bowl preview stuff -- which we'll have a ton more of over the next 13 days:
- Candace Parker is joining the Aces, who are absolutely loaded.
- Max Homa won the Farmers Insurance Open.
And not such a good morning for...
THE CINCINNATI BENGALS...
For a moment, the Bengals had a spark. Mahomes' unforced, absurd fumble had given the visitors life, and after an incredible 4th-down conversion from Burrow to Ja'Marr Chase, Samaje Perine pushed his way into the end zone. Game tied, 20-20, in the fourth quarter. The Bengals had the momentum.
But that spark never turned into anything other than that -- a moment of hope.
- The Bengals' final two possessions resulted in a Burrow interception and a punt that Skyy Moore returned 29 yards to help set up Butker's game-winner.
- Burrow and his explosive offense -- so good throughout the season but quiet at the worst time -- never got on the field again.
If last year was an incredible ride to the Super Bowl, this year was a disappointing, sudden end. It's part of being an elite NFL team. The margins are so thin. The Bengals will be back, but not before they rue a missed opportunity.
... AND ALSO NOT SUCH A GOOD MORNING FOR THE SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Second-string quarterback? No problem. Third-string quarterback? No big deal. Fourth-string quarterback? Uh... now we have problems. Zero healthy quarterbacks? Welp...
The 49ers finally ran out of answers to their quarterback injury woes, and it came under unprecedented circumstances.
- Brock Purdy hurt his elbow, which led to Josh Johnson -- signed off the Broncos' practice squad last month -- coming in.
- But Johnson suffered a head injury, forcing Purdy back into the game even though he could barely throw.
- Christian McCaffrey -- who attempted a pass -- and Kyle Juszczyk were emergency options.
- The situation makes us wonder if the NFL should revisit the third-quarterback rule.
There's not much else to say about this game. Looking forward, though, the 49ers go into another offseason having come oh-so-close... and having questions at the most important position.
In 2021, the 49ers traded up to draft Trey Lance 3rd overall. He's started just four games since. Jimmy Garoppolo wasn't even expected to be on the 49ers this season, but he returned and went 7-3 as starter before breaking his foot. Then there's Purdy, who went 7-0 in games he was fully healthy. Where the 49ers go from here is TBD. One of the league's best win-now rosters, though, still hasn't won the big one, and coming up short again hurts, literally and figuratively.
Not so honorable mentions
- Trent Williams and K'Von Wallace got ejected.
- The Cowboys parted ways with offensive coordinator Kellen Moore.
Djokovic wins 10th Australian Open, 22nd slam; Sabalenka gets first 🎾
More history and more hardware -- even on a bum hamstring -- for Novak Djokovic. The Serbian superstar beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5) for his 10th Australian Open title on Sunday, extending his own record
- Djokovic's 22 Grand Slams ties Rafael Nadal for the men's all-time record. Djokovic's 28 consecutive Australian Open matches won is also an Open Era record (since 1968).
- With the win, Djokovic will return to No. 1 in the ATP rankings.
- Djokovic has won each of the last four Australian Opens in which he has competed. He was deported ahead of the 2022 tournament due to his COVID-19 vaccination status but said he holds no grudges.
On the women's side Aryna Sabalenka continued her own dominant run with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over Elena Rybakina.
- It's Sabalenka's first career Slam title.
- She has now won 11 straight matches and 22 of 23 sets during that span.
Sabalenka joined Victoria Azarenka as the only Belarusian players to win a Grand Slam singles title and will rise to No. 2 in the WTA rankings.
College basketball recap: Zach Edey cements POY status, Kansas ends skid 🏀
It was another wild weekend across college basketball, but one thing remained the same: Zach Edey is the national player of the year. All he did was somehow cement that even more with a 38-point, 13-rebound performance in No. 1 Purdue's 77-61 win over Michigan State. Our Matt Norlander says no one is catching Edey at this point.
- No. 9 Kansas snapped its three-game losing streak with a 77-68 win at Kentucky. Jalen Wilson, who very well could be player of the year if Edey didn't exist, led the way with 22 points, and the Jayhawks were one of the weekend's big winners.
- As for a big loser, No. 2 Alabama fell, 93-69 to Oklahoma, the largest margin of defeat for a top-two team against an unranked opponent. The Crimson Tide remained No. 2 in Gary Parrish's Top 25 And 1 but earned an ugly mark in our weekly grades.
- Finally, don't look now, but Creighton is back on track after blowing out No. 13 Xavier.
Lakers fall to Celtics after missed call, hilarious technical foul 🏀
The Lakers and Celtics treated us to an instant classic Saturday night, an eventual 125-121 overtime win for Boston. But this one will be remembered most for controversial (and hilarious) reasons.
- Up three late, the Lakers gave up an offensive rebound to Jaylen Brown, who made a putback while Patrick Beverley inexplicably fouled him. Brown made the free throw to tie the game.
- The Lakers drew up a LeBron James drive to the basket. James drove, clearly got smacked on the forearm by Jayson Tatum, and... no call. Referees admitted they missed it (after the game), and the NBA confirmed it should have been called (not that it will make the Lakers feel any better).
- Then came an all-time moment: Beverley brought a camera onto the court to show a ref the missed call, which resulted in a technical foul, and the Celtics never trailed after that.
Did the Lakers get robbed? Sure. But Darvin Ham's late-game coaching is also at fault, writes our Sam Quinn.
What we're watching Monday 📺
🏀 Lakers at Nets, 7:30 p.m. on NBA TV
🏀 No. 17 Baylor at No. 10 Texas, 9 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 Hawks at Trail Blazers, 10 p.m. on NBA TV