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OPINION | WALLY HALL: Quarterbacks carry teams to championship games

by Wally Hall | January 24, 2023 at 6:37 a.m.

In a showdown of defenses, the difference was quarterback play.

Seven weeks ago, Brock Purdy was Mr. Irrelevant, the last player taken in the 2022 NFL Draft. A third-string quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers making the league minimum $705,000 per season.

At the same time, Dak Prescott had thrown only seven interceptions and 13 touchdowns.

Fast forward to Sunday's NFL playoffs, and Purdy managed his team like an old pro, instead of a rookie who got his first start, and win, against Tom Brady and Tampa Bay.

Prescott, who makes $40 million a year, threw two interceptions, and it's Purdy and San Francisco advancing to the NFC Championship Game against Philadelphia.

No one can lay all the blame on the interceptions, just most of it, and Prescott suffered 10 in the Cowboys last seven games.

Both teams' defenses played well enough to win.

The 49ers, who scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, earned the win.

Prescott blamed himself for the loss after the game, which warrants him some credit.

Of course, a number of Cowboys fans want head coach Mike McCarthy fired. He definitely should be fined by the NFL for stiff-arming a photographer after the game.

Firing, though, that is up to one man and only one man, Jerry Jones, the owner and general manager of the Cowboys.

Earlier in the day, the Cincinnati Bengals broke the hearts of many football fans who have come to think of Damar Hamlin -- the Buffalo Bills defensive back who went into cardiac arrest on the field the last time the two teams met -- as a blood relative.

Hamlin was rushed from the field by ambulance to the hospital, and within days was recovering at such a rapid pace that his doctors were surprised, especially when the first thing he asked was who won the game that Monday night.

After a week at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center he was transferred to Buffalo General Medical Center and two weeks later he attended Sunday's game.

His appearance was inspirational, but apparently the Bills needed him on the field more than in a suite cheering them on.

Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow completed 23 of 36 passes for 242 yards and a pair of first-quarter touchdowns.

The Bills offense slid around its home field, layered with snow, and mustered just one touchdown and a field goal in the 27-10 loss.

If the Bills would have won, the AFC Championship Game would have been played in Atlanta, a neutral site, because their game with Cincinnati was canceled after Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest.

One of the first things the confident Burrow said afterward was that refunds needed to be sent to the 50,000 who had already bought tickets for Atlanta.

Burrow is becoming even more of a household name than he was when he transferred from Ohio State after three seasons and led LSU to a 10-3 season as a junior.

The Tigers were 15-0 his senior season. They were national champions and he won the Heisman Trophy. The Bengals grabbed him with the first pick of the 2020 draft.

Late in his rookie season he suffered a knee injury, but it has never shown.

In his sophomore season, he led the Bengals to the Super Bowl where they lost to the Los Angeles Rams. Now, he and his team head to Kansas City for the AFC Championship Game against the Chiefs where they have been installed as one-point favorites.

It has long been said that defense wins championships, but in this era of hurry up and throw it again, a smart quarterback with a good arm is worth his weight in gold, and that's probably how much Cincinnati will have to pay Burrow next season when the Bengals pick up the option year of his rookie contract.

Print Headline: QBs carry teams to championship games


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