Bills savor trip to AFC championship
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — In what was supposed to be a showdown between Buffalo’s Josh Allen and Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson, Taron Johnson literally stole the show.
If not for the wall separating the field from the stands in the back of the east end zone, the Bills cornerback might still be running after returning an interception 101 yards for a touchdown that propelled Buffalo to its first AFC championship game appearance in 27 years.
Johnson’s pick-6 of Jackson’s pass with 41 seconds remaining in the third quarter helped secure a 17-3 win over the Ravens in a divisional-round playoff game Saturday night.
“We’re excited. It’s not done yet, we’re not done yet,” Johnson exclaimed. “It’s just a blessing. Our defense stepped up to the challenge.”
Johnson’s return matched the longest in NFL history and punctuated a stellar defensive outing in which Buffalo (15-3) limited the NFL’s top running offense to 150 yards on 32 carries.
Jackson, last season’s NFL MVP, was sacked three times and did not return after sustaining a concussion following the final play of the third quarter, and two plays after Johnson scored. He finished 14 of 24 for 162 yards passing, while being limited to 42 yards rushing on nine carries.
Allen, an MVP candidate this year, finished 23 of 37 for 206 yards and a touchdown.
In a season in which the Bills relied mostly on their dynamic Allen-led offense to outscore opponents, the third-year quarterback was gratified to see Buffalo’s defense make a difference in a game the pass-happy attack was kept mostly in check.
“I can’t say enough words for what that game was for our defense,” Allen said. “Taron Johnson’s is a play that people are going to remember for a long time here in Buffalo, potentially a franchise-altering play.”
GREEN BAY, Wis. — Don’t tell Aaron Rodgers the lack of capacity crowds in a pandemic will limit the Green Bay Packers’ home-field advantage in the NFC championship game.
He’s been waiting too long for this moment to have any such negative thoughts.
Rodgers threw two touchdown passes and also ran for a score as the top-seeded Green Bay Packers beat the Los Angeles Rams 32-18 in an NFC divisional playoff game Saturday. He will play a conference championship game at home for the first time since taking over as Green Bay’s starting quarterback in 2008.
“I’m definitely a little emotional, just thinking about what we’ve been through,” said Rodgers, who went 23 of 36 for 296 yards. “It got me emotional with the crowd out there today.”
Rodgers threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Davante Adam s and a game-clinching 58-yarder to Allen Lazard with 6:52 left. Rodgers also had a 1-yard touchdown run, the first by a Packers quarterback in a playoff game at Lambeau Field since Bart Starr’s winning sneak in the Ice Bowl against Dallas on Dec. 31, 1967.
Chargers hire Staley
COSTA MESA, Calif. — The Los Angeles Chargers hired Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Brian Staley as the team’s head coach.
The Chargers made the decision Sunday after having a second interview with Staley.