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NFL: Sunday's Divisional Playoffs reaction: Bengals impress to oust Bills

The Cincinnati Bengals are heading back to Arrowhead Stadium for the AFC Championship game after downing the Buffalo Bills 27-10 at a snowy Highmark Stadium on Sunday.

And the San Francisco 49ers will travel to Philadelphia to face the Eagles in the NFC Championship game after preying on the mistakes of their old rivals the Dallas Cowboys in the final Divisional Round clash of the weekend.

Joe Cool thrives in freezing Buffalo

Bengals QB Joe Burrow established a reputation for being unflappable during last year's run to the Super Bowl as he led Cincy to road wins against the Tennessee Titans and Kansas City.

But Sunday's road win against the Bills, who were 13-1 at home in the playoffs coming into this clash, might be his and his team's best yet.

The Bengals' banged-up offensive line held up well for him, but Burrow was in full command of the offense as they began the game by scoring touchdowns on their first two possessions.

He fired a 28-yard arrow to Ja'Marr Chase before waiting for Hayden Hurst to get open in the corner of the end zone and completing a 15-yard TD toss.

The Bills were surprisingly off-kilter on offense, failing to get a first down until the second quarter as Cincinnati's defensive line put Josh Allen under pressure, while the secondary limited Buffalo's big-play potential.

The Bengals' win means they are headed back to Arrowhead to reprise their rivalry with the 20/23 Chiefs, with Cincinnati 20/21 on the Money Line.

Burrow is 3-0 in his match-ups against Kansas City QB Patrick Mahomes, so there will be no lack of confidence when he leads his team off the bus next Sunday.

The NFL selling 50,000 tickets to a possible neutral site AFC Championship Game in Atlanta clearly irked the Bengals, providing Zac Taylor with some additional bulletin-board material in the days prior to facing the Bills.

When asked about it by CBS sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson after the game, Burrow responded with the line of the weekend. "You better send those refunds," he quipped.

Bills' fighting spirit finally broken

This was meant to be the year for the Buffalo Bills, who have dealt with all kinds of blows and obstacles since the spring and seemed to have gained an unbreakable spirit from each of them.

But, just like last season, Sean McDermott's men came up short in the Divisional Round and this time it hurts a lot more.

Much of the post-game fallout landed in the vicinity of Allen, who could not kickstart a stalled Bills offense all game. The man they call 'Mr January' received an earful from Stefon Diggs for failing to spot the wideout when he was open in the endzone and later threw an interception that sealed the Bengals' victory.

"We all want some plays back as well," said the Bills coach after the game. "Sometimes we try do just too much overall and we all have to grow from this. Right now, just being in the moment this stings like I said.

"Josh is a heck of competitor as you guys know and I'll take him any day of the week. I love how competitive he is and these are things you've got to learn from."

Even the sight of Damar Hamlin watching the game from a luxury suite in his first public appearance since suffering a cardiac arrest on the field against the Bengals 20 days ago could not inspire a Buffalo fightback.

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Miscues kill McCarthy's Cowboys against Niners

The 49ers overcame the Cowboys 19-12 but the scoreline does not even hint at how much better the hosts played.

Too many miscues, including two Dak Prescott interceptions, a blocked extra-point attempt, and seven penalties for 50 yards, ensured the Cowboys remain without an NFC Championship Game appearance since the 1995 season.

Mike McCarthy's team were called for nine penalties in this year's postseason, tied for second most.

Their litany of mistakes in 2022 also included five missed extra-point attempts while they finished the year with a turnover differential of zero - tied for seventh among playoff teams.

Jon Machota of The Athletic tweeted that Cowboys supremo Jerry Jones said this loss has no impact on McCarthy's job.

The 49ers, who only had one turnover and committed just three penalties, are now gearing up for a huge clash against the 20/29 Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field next Sunday, for which they are 5/4 on the Money Line.

Purdy parlays playoff wins into future starter role

Brock Purdy entered the 2022 season as the 49ers' third-string quarterback, but he is now one more win away from playing in the Super Bowl and seems set to be the face of the franchise for many more years.

The San Francisco Chronicle's Mike Silver reported on Friday, citing two people with knowledge of the 49ers' thinking, that Purdy has won over the front office with his performances and will be the team's starter next season.

Given how much draft capital 49ers general manager John Lynch used to move up and take Trey Lance at No.3 overall a couple of years ago, that is some feat from 'Mr Irrelevant' - selected 262nd and last 12 months later.

Lance went down for the season in Week 2 and Super Bowl veteran Jimmy Garoppolo took over until the QB injury curse struck again in Week 13.

But Purdy remains a perfect 7-0 as the starter since being thrust into the spotlight and shows no signs of relinquishing his role despite Kyle Shanahan suggesting Garoppolo could be ready to return in February.

He went 18 for 28 for 215 yards with no turnovers against the Cowboys, outshining the much more experienced Prescott - who set San Francisco up for field goals on both of his INTs.

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