While the Rams' Sean McVay and the 49ers' Kyle Shanahan schemed to go to the Super Bowl Sunday night, coaching colleague Zac Taylor beat them there with help from their playbooks.
Trent Taylor, a weekly practice squad elevation to catch punts since Dec. 19, hadn't scored a point since catching a touchdown for the 49ers on Oct. 7, 2018. His only snaps he's taken from scrimmage as a Bengal came when he took 32 in the regular-season finale, where he caught two balls for 41 yards.
But Taylor deployed Taylor on one of the biggest snaps of the year on a two-point conversion and sent him to the outside of wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase in the slot. The Chiefs had two guys on Chase and safety Daniel Sorenson got over to Taylor way too late on Taylor's only scrimmage snap of the postseason.
Not only that, Zac Taylor had never called that play here and it's doubtful if he'll pull it out again for McVay and the Rams in the Super Bowl.
It has to be quite a thrill for a guy that was on injured reserve in 2018 when Shanahan took the 49ers to the Super Bowl before losing to these Chiefs.
But it wasn't like Taylor took Taylor out of mothballs.
"That play is in the Shanahan, McVay family. We have repped that for a number of years. We have never called it here. We have repped it in and out for a couple of years," Zac Taylor said. "Trent has that lateral quickness that is really good. (Tyler Boyd) can do it too, but Trent has had a lot of reps on that play over the last five years I would imagine.
"We had started working on that play with him probably three weeks ago, whenever he was elevated. We started putting that one in. That is the only play that has his name on the game plan."
PLAY OF THE GAME: Cornerback Eli Apple, the former first-round pick from Ohio State who has found a home in his first season back in the state, keeps coming up big. Last week he tipped the ball that linebacker Logan Wilson intercepted to set up the winning field goal. On Sunday he blew up Chiefs head coach Andy Reid on the Bengals 1.
Well, actually a Patrick Mahomes screen pass to wide receiver Tyreek Hill on the last play of the first half. Up 21-10, Reid opted to try that play instead of take a field goal.
And here's the thing. The ball was on the 1 because two snaps before when Mahomes was on the 15, Apple was called for grabbing Hill on his route. But he was all over the wide screen Mahomes flipped to the sidelines. But Apple wrapped him up and hardly had he flung Hill to the turf when there was a bad feeling in the Kingdom that they would need those points.
"They were going for the kill," said strong safety Vonn Bell. "Huge. Huge play."
Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow went into the locker room thinking the same thing.
"That's a big play that our defense made," Burrow said. "I think that stretch right there where we scored a touchdown then they drive down the field, in a two-minute situation and our defense prevented any points from being put on the board. I think that was really the turning point in the game."
MAC AGAIN: Rookie kicker Evan McPherson continues to make history. He's the first kicker to go 4-for-4 in the first three playoff games. He set the record and is still working on 12 straight. He tied future Hall-of-Famer Adam Vinatieri's career record with three 4-for-4 postseason games. On Sunday he passed Jim Breech (nine) on the Bengals all-time postseason list for field goals.
All as if he's kicking in the park with his buddies. Ho hum. He corrected a reporter who thought the record for field goals in a postseason is 13. But it is Vinatieri's 14 in 2006 and McPherson knew it.
"We just need three more in the Super Bowl to break the record (and) two more to tie," McPherson said. "That's definitely something we're going to shoot for. We'll see how it goes. I'd like to score a lot of touchdowns in the Super Bowl. However we can get points in the Super Bowl, we'll do it."
McPherson also had a big kickoff. Special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons had clearly been watching last week when the Bills kicked through the end zone and gave the ball to Mahomes with 13 seconds left without running off any time. Not the Bengals. McPherson hit it on the ground to the back line and wide receiver Brian Pringle picked it up at the 19, ran 16 yards and burned four seconds.
When Apple tackled Hill at the 1, there was no time left.
"It obviously would have given them one more play. Our guys did a great job covering down and tackling them inside the 20," McPherson said. "I would say we executed that perfectly and obviously took some time off the clock for them. It just speaks to how our defense plays, that goal-line stand going into half. I think I said, coming into the locker room after that stop, that that probably won us the game right there. And it definitely did. Our defense definitely won us the game right there."