Sunday’s AFC Championship brought joy to New England Patriots fans everywhere — and giant Nielsen numbers to CBS as the most-watched AFC Conference Championship Game in the last eight years, according to Nielsen.
Running from 6:45-10:15 p.m. ET, the showdown between the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs to decide who would face off against the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII scored an average viewership of 53.9 million, the best numbers for CBS’ semi-final game since the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the New York Jets in Jan. 2011 (54.9 million).
It was also the most-watched conference title game — AFC or NFL — since 2014, when Fox drew 55.9 million for its NFC Championship showdown between the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks. That figure still stands as the record for any conference title game. The game was also the second-most watched AFC title game in the last 42 years (CBS records go back to the 1977-78 NFL season), behind only that Steelers-Jets matchup.
The Pats’ win also rose 27 percent from last year’s comparable late-window game, which was the Minnesota Vikings vs. Philadelphia Eagles matchup to see who would win the NFC seat in the Super Bowl — it was the Eagles — and posted 42.3 million.
For the third straight year and the ninth time in Tom Brady and Bill Belichick’s career, the Patriots are going back to the Super Bowl.
The Patriots, who lost to the Philadelphia Eagles last year, will get another chance for Brady to add an unprecedented sixth championship ring. But they’ll have to take down the surging Rams, who beat the New Orleans Saints in the NFC championship game, played earlier in the day yesterday.
Earlier in the day, the Rams-Saints game drew 44.08 million on Fox, which also surpassed the Vikings-Eagles game from last year by 13 percent. It was even with last year’s early window between the Patriots and Jacksonville Jaguars, which also averaged 44.08 million.
Sunday marked the first time in NFL history that both conference championship games went to overtime, as the Chiefs kicked a field goal in the final seconds of the fourth quarter to tie the game 31-31. But after the Patriots won the overtime coin toss, Brady led the Pats offense down the field to the game-winning touchdown, while a potential interception by the Chiefs was called back by an offsides penalty.
The Rams-Saints game featured controversy as well, when an obvious pass interference on the Rams was not flagged, which would’ve essentially handed the Saints the victory. Saints quarterback Drew Brees ended up throwing an interception in overtime, and Rams’ kicker Greg Zuerlein kicked a 57-yard field goal to send Los Angeles to its first Super Bowl in 17 years when the franchise was still in St. Louis.