Defenses keep winning season after season.
The San Francisco 49ers and Cincinnati Bengals advanced to Sunday’s championship matchup with outstanding performances from their defenses.
The Philadelphia Eagles also had an outstanding defensive performance on Saturday.
While high-flying offenses led by All-Star quarterbacks get most of the attention, defenses matter.
This became evident in the divisional round.
Chief defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s offensive unit forced two turnovers in the fourth quarter, helping Kansas City beat Jacksonville, 27–20, in the weekend opener.
Chiefs linebacker Nick Bolton said, “We focused during the week, especially the off week, to hit the ball a little bit more, jump or catch the ball that was given to us.”
Jalen Hurts and the Eagles’ offense was unstoppable, especially as they dominated the Giants with 268 rushing yards. But Philadelphia’s defense, which finished as the second best in the regular season, crushed New York in a 38–7 victory.
After an impressive 301-yard passing game to defeat Minnesota by 13 points, Daniel Jones had no chance against Hassan Reddick and Philadelphia’s brutal defense.
Jones was sacked five times, forced into three steals, completed 55.6% of his passes, and looked defeated. The Eagles held the Giants to 227 total yards.
“Jonathan Gannon puts guys in great positions,” Eagles coach Nick Siriani said of his defensive coordinator. “Obviously we have great players, but this guy is an incredible coordinator.”
Looking at their opponent, Cincinnati’s defense put up its most impressive meeting yet across the board. The Bengals rode Josh Allen and Buffalo’s dynamic offense to win 27–10.
The Bengals will now face the Chiefs in a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship game which Cincinnati won. Burrows is 3-0 against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.
In the last game of the weekend, the 49ers with the improved defense stunned Dak Prescott in a 19–12 victory by throwing two interceptions and allowing only 282 total yards from the Cowboys. San Francisco had other chances to get the ball back, but failed to capture the takeaway.
Niners defensive coordinator Demeko Ryan, a candidate for several head coaching positions, improved his prospects with another stellar performance.
The 49ers will now travel to Philadelphia to face one of the most complete offenses in the NFC Championship Game.