The first two rounds of the playoffs disappointed a bit, but they did result in the best four teams in the league earning a spot in Championship Weekend, and those four teams put on a show Sunday. Both games featured wild late-game swings, horrific and game-changing officiating errors, and overtime heroics – it was the first time in NFL history both Championship matchups went to overtime. Those who were on the wrong side of either outcome probably feel drained, but it was an amazing day of football.
It was also a day of trend breaking with both the Rams and Patriots winning as road underdogs. Home teams had won 10 times in a row on Championship Sunday dating back to 2012, and they had covered in all but two of those contests. The Patriots were on the losing end of two of those games, and they also lost on the road against the Colts back in the 2006 Championship Game. This was their first road win in the AFC Title Game since 2004.
The totals fell more in line with historical trends with the under hitting in New Orleans and a 38-point fourth quarter sparking the over in Kansas City. The over is now 10-9-1 on Championship Sunday over the last 10 seasons, but that number is skewed by a historically odd run of unders from 2010 to 2013. The over has now hit in 22-of-38 games since 2000 with two pushes in that run. It is now 6-3-1 over the last five seasons.
The AFC game looked locked for the under after three quarters, so people holding that ticket – perhaps this writer – felt the 44 fourth-quarter and overtime points like punches in the gut. Still, there was nothing fluky about those touchdowns, so it is tough to call it a bad beat.
That is not the case in New Orleans, where an already much-discussed no-call likely changed the outcome of the game and perhaps the betting result. If pass interference or any of the other penalties which would have fit had been called when Nickell Robey-Coleman mauled Tommylee Lewis, the Saints would have had a first down inside the 10 with a chance to run out the clock for a game-winning kick, a kick which would have resulted in a push for the bettors who got the Saints at three late in the week. Those who bet New Orleans at 3.5 would likely still have been out of luck, but there would have at least been the possibility of a touchdown.
The Saints would not have been in a position to have the win stolen if they had taken advantage of their opportunities early in the game, and Sean Payton deserves some heat for his decision making on that fateful drive. Still, none of that takes away from how egregious the missed call was and how dramatically it changed the fortunes of the Saints and bettors alike.