Top Five Unsung Heroes From NFL Conference Championships

Marques Valdes-Scantling of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Super LVII is now set as the Kansas City Chiefs will take on the Philadelphia Eagles in Glendale, Arizona. The Chiefs defeated the Bengals in a 23-20 nail-biter to win the AFC, while the Eagles barely broke a sweat in their 31-7 victory over the 49ers. Patrick Mahomes’s herculean performance and the Eagles’ dominant defensive line will garner all the headlines. However, both Conference Championships provided a group of unsung heroes that made the difference.

5. Skyy Moore – Kansas City Chiefs

Skyy Moore turned the ball over multiple times this season, including a costly fumble in a loss to the Colts. However, due to injuries to Kadarius Toney, Justin Watson, and Mecole Hardman, Moore stepped in to return punts in the second half. With just over 40 seconds left in a tie game, Moore flipped the field for Kansas City with a 29-yard punt return, setting up the Chiefs’ offense at their 47-yard line. Travis Kelce said Moore’s return was “arguably the biggest play in the game.”

4. Kenneth Gainwell – Philadelphia Eagles

While Jalen Hurts had a pedestrian outing through the air (125 yards passing), the Eagles relied on their running game to move the ball. Kenneth Gainwell, the Eagles third-leading rusher in 2022, led the Philly offense with 48 yards on 14 carries. Gainwell also caught two passes for 26 yards.

3. Isiah Pacheco – Kansas City Chiefs

Drafted in the seventh round of the 2022 NFL Draft, Isiah Pacheco started the year fighting for touches with Kerick McKinnon and Clyde Edwards-Helaire. In the AFC Championship, Pacheco was the best running back for either team. Pacheco rushed for 26 yards on 10 carries and caught five passes for 59 yards.

2. Tommy Townsend – Kansas City Chiefs

When the game mattered most, Tommy Townsend delivered the punt of the day. With 2:10 remaining in the fourth quarter, Townsend punted the ball 31 yards, pinning the Bengals’ offense at the 6-yard line. The Chiefs’ defense forced Cincinnati to punt, which gave the Kansas City offense one last chance to win the game. Townsend also served as the holder on Harrison Butker’s 45-yard game-winning field goal.

1. Marquez Valdes-Scantling – Kansas City Chiefs

With a Chiefs receiving core decimated by injuries throughout the game, Marquez Valdes-Scantling turned in his best performance as a Chief. The former Packers receiver caught six passes for 116 yards and a touchdown. Valdes-Scantling’s 19-yard touchdown in the third quarter capped off an 11-play, 77-yard drive to put the Chiefs ahead 20-13.

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