Conference championship Sunday both started and ended weirdly. The opener between the Eagles and 49ers was all but decided in the first quarter, once San Francisco quarterback Brock Purdy was injured on a strip sack and rendered unable to throw the ball more than a few yards downfield. The NFC game turned into a blowout, but the matchup between the Bengals and Chiefs was a nail-biter likely heading for overtime before Bengals defender Joseph Ossai hit Patrick Mahomes late running out of bounds, setting up a game-winning field goal.
Let's take a look at all the bizarre things we saw during Sunday's games, what exactly happened and what they meant for each matchup as the Chiefs will now face the Eagles in Super Bowl LVII. Some were inexplicable, but I'll do my best to break down a day that had most of us looking quizzically toward the television once every few minutes.
I'll go chronologically through the timelines, but since the late game was more competitive, let's start with that one:
Jump to a matchup:
Chiefs 23, Bengals 20
Andy Reid challenges a clear incompletion in the first quarter.
It's one thing when coaches make a desperate challenge late in game or to try to stave off a big play from the other team as it rushes to the line for a snap. It's another to make a foolish challenge on a play in which you control the clock and can ask your players what happened. The Kansas City coach made the latter decision, and it hamstrung him for the remainder of the game.
At the very least, you can understand why Reid wanted to try to win a challenge. Facing a third-and-5 from the Cincinnati 25-yard line, Mahomes felt a blitz and tossed up a perfect fade to wideout Kadarius Toney. The midseason acquisition briefly caught the ball before losing it on the way down, seemingly setting up a field goal try on fourth down.
Instead, Reid bizarrely chose to challenge. For one, the Chiefs had the ability to control the clock and see replays, which would have allowed Reid to get a definitive look before using a challenge. Furthermore, he had the ability to ask Toney himself what had happened, and it was by the wideout's reaction no catch had occurred. If Toney had steered Reid wrong, it would have been one thing, but it was clear this was not a catch and wasn't worthy of a challenge.
Reid cost himself a timeout, but more distressingly, he limited himself to one challenge over 50 ensuing minutes of football. When Reid successfully reversed a spot later in the game, the Chiefs were then unable to challenge for the remainder of the contest before the two-minute warning. Reid didn't end up needing to throw his flag onto the field for a third time, but he couldn't have known as much at the time.