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Bills, Packers Advance To Conference Title Games

Buffalo Bills middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds (49) celebrates with Jordan Poyer (21) and Taron Johnson (24) during the second half of an NFL divisional round football game Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021, in Orchard Park, N.Y. The Bills won 17-3. (AP Photo/John Munson)

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Taron Johnson could’ve kept running into next week on a 101-yard interception that carried the Buffalo Bills to their first AFC championship game appearance in 26 years.

Johnson’s pick-6 of Lamar Jackson’s pass with 41 seconds remaining in the third quarter secured a 17-3 win over the Baltimore Ravens in a divisional-round playoff game Saturday night.

The interception 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 was sacked four times and did not return after being evaluated for a concussion following the final play of the third quarter, and two plays after Johnson scored.

Facing second-and-10 at Baltimore’s 25, center Patrick Mekari snapped the ball over Jackson’s head. The quarterback turned and chased the bouncing ball down inside the 5, turned and quickly threw it away as Tremaine Edmunds had him by the legs and Trent Murphy fell down on top of him.

Jackson’s injury left Tyler Huntley to finish the game after being promoted off the practice squad.

Buffalo’s defense took the pressure off of a Josh Allen-led offense that was limited to 223 yards offense, and made up for rookie kicker Tyler Bass missing two of three field goal attempts — a 43-yarder that was wide right in the second quarter and a 44-yarder that sailed wide left with 5:30 remaining.

The game was decided in the third quarter, when the Bills went up 10-3 on Allen’s 3-yard touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs to cap an 11-play, 66-yard opening drive.

Jackson responded by marching the Ravens 66 yards on 15 plays before throwing the interception while facing third-and-goal from the 9. Johnson jumped in front of the pass intended for Mark Andrews and took off up the right sideline, following a lead block from Tre’Davious White.

Johnson wasn’t touched until a mob of Bills players jumped on his back and brought him down in the end zone.

PACKERS 32, RAMS 18

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers made sure he’d play an NFC championship game at home for the first time in his Hall of Fame-caliber career.

Rodgers threw two touchdown passes and also ran for a score as the top-seeded Green Bay Packers defeated the Los Angeles Rams 32-18 in an NFC divisional playoff game Saturday.

Green Bay’s potent offense overpowered the Rams’ vaunted defense for much of the day. The Packers didn’t allow any sacks despite playing without injured All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari, while Green Bay sacked Jared Goff four times.

The Packers reached the NFC championship game for the fourth time in the last seven seasons as they chase their first Super Bowl berth in a decade. It will be their first at Lambeau Field since hosting for the 2007 season, when they fell to the New York Giants 23-20 in overtime.

Green Bay won the Super Bowl for the 2010 season as the NFC’s No. 6 seed, and has lost at Seattle, Atlanta and San Francisco in its last three conference championship game appearances.

Saturday’s game showed what a home-field advantage can mean, even with far less than capacity on hand due to the pandemic. The Packers played in front of 8,456 fans – a crowd that included paying spectators for the first time all season – but that small crowd made plenty of noise as the Packers built an early lead with snow flurries falling for much of the first half.

That crowd changed “M! V! P!” during the closing minutes to salute All-Pro quarterback Rodgers.

Buoyed by that crowd, the Packers (14-3) often seemed on the verge of putting the game away. But the Rams (11-7) continued to hang around. Green Bay finally sealed the victory with a 58-yard completion from Rodgers to Allen Lazard with 6:52 left.

Rodgers went 23 of 36 for 296 yards, while Aaron Jones ran for 99 yards and a touchdown on just 14 carries. Goff was 21 of 27 for 174 yards and a touchdown less than three weeks after undergoing thumb surgery, and Cam Akers rushed for 90 yards and a touchdown.

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