The Kansas City Chiefs will face the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl
A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:
Super Bowl LVII is set, as the Philadelphia Eagles will play the Kansas City Chiefs in a couple of weeks. They both got in yesterday in dramatically different ways. The Chiefs beat Cincinnati 23-20 on a last-second field goal, while the Eagles dominated the San Francisco 49ers 31-7. NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman is here now. All right, so let's start with the close game for the AFC championship. That was billed as a showdown between two great young quarterbacks - Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes and Cincinnati's Joe Burrow. Did their game match the hype?
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: For the most part, A, I mean, it did. It wasn't a shootout with tons of passing touchdowns, but both quarterbacks made big plays - some mistakes as well. Mahomes has been in the league since 2017, and he has become, by consensus, the NFL's best quarterback. But coming into yesterday's game, Joe Burrow was the guy generating the buzz. In just three years, he's become a great NFL quarterback, known for his cool demeanor and clutch play. He played in the Super Bowl last season. And he's been inching toward Mahomes' throne. But yesterday, a very good effort by K.C. pass rushers made things tough for Burrow. Mahomes had the better game and made the key play at the end, running for big yardage on a sprained ankle. The run set up the winning field goal. So Mahomes, I would say, still is the king.
MARTÍNEZ: And what happened at the end of that run by Mahomes? That was a backbreaker for the Bengals.
GOLDMAN: That was rough. Cincinnati defensive end Joseph Ossai pushed Mahomes after Mahomes was out of bounds. That's a no-no. He got a 15-yard penalty for it. That moved the ball into much easier field goal range for Kansas City kicker Harrison Butker, who made the game winner. A painful scene afterwards with Ossai sobbing on the bench - he will be remembered for that penalty, even though the Bengals were saying the loss was not about one player, but disappointing to have a riveting game end like that.
MARTÍNEZ: All right, now switching to the NFC title game - Philly really made quick and easy work of the 49ers, but it probably helps when your opponent barely has a functioning quarterback, Tom.
GOLDMAN: (Laughter) It really does. Let me first say to Philly fans, A, so they don't get too annoyed, the Eagles were dominant on offense and defense, and they are an absolutely worthy Super Bowl contestant. In fact, they're the early favorites. But for non-Philly fans, this game was an absolute stinker. In the first quarter, San Francisco quarterback Brock Purdy got hit by an Eagles defender, injured his throwing arm. Now, remember, Purdy has been this major story this season. A rookie drafted dead last in the NFL draft - he got the starting job because of injuries to the top two San Francisco quarterbacks. And then he led the 49ers on a 12-game win streak heading into yesterday's game.
But Purdy's injury forced San Francisco to use its fourth option at quarterback. Josh Johnson comes in. Soon enough, he leaves the game with a concussion. So Purdy comes back in. And he could barely throw the ball, so San Francisco couldn't realistically compete. This game was going to be so good with both teams at full strength. But that game didn't happen - a big letdown.
MARTÍNEZ: They might have tried to call Joe Montana or Steve Young - you know, a warm body there. All right. So a quick look forward to Super Bowl LVII in Arizona. Looks like a good matchup.
GOLDMAN: Potentially great one - Mahomes has two weeks to heal his ankle, Kansas City's great tight end Travis Kelce needs to heal an injured back. With everyone healthy, we should see two great complete football teams. The only prediction I will make at this point, A, is Donna Kelce will be happy whoever wins. According to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, she'll be the first mother to have two sons play against each other in the Super Bowl - Travis against Philadelphia center Jason Kelce.
MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Tom, thanks.
GOLDMAN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.