Reacting and overreacting to everything that happened during the AFC and NFC title games...
Things That Made Me Giddy
The 49ers Rushing Attack Is Something Out of a Mad Man’s Fever Dream: It’s masterfully crafted and the play-calling is impeccable, but Kyle Shanahan’s run game is so imaginative with its use of not just interaction, but positionless players toggling between ball-carriers and blockers on the outside. The Packers have a creative, flexible defense, and they just got steamrolled for 286 yards and 7.5 per-carry on designed runs.
Patrick Mahomes Is Invincible: Every quarterback has his flaws, every offense has its weaknesses—except for Mahomes and the Chiefs. Even if you come up with a way to stymie their original plan on any given play, he’s the best second-reaction quarterback to ever play the game. When the Chiefs have had Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and the offensive line in tact this season, they’re 9-0 and have an average margin of victory of 15.8 points. How do you slow this down, aside from praying they make a series of mistakes in the form of drops or, if you’re lucky, fumbles?
Raheem Mostert Obliterates Pursuit Angles: Darnell Savage deserves a little bit of the blame for this, but this is what happens when a 4.3 guy gets a runway.
The Physicality of Tyrann Mathieu: Even when the Chiefs defense was struggling early, Mathieu made a couple of tone-setting big hits, reminding everyone that although his greatest value is his flexibility in coverage, he packs some pop as well. After all, they didn’t nickname him “The Syrup Squirrel” in college for nothing.
I Love How Every Promo For That Show FBI . . . : includes someone yelling “freeze, FBI!” There’s a real sense of fulfillment when you hear that.
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No Big Plays for Derrick Henry: He’d had at least one run of 20-plus yards in the previous eight games; his long run on Sunday was 13 yards. He’s been averaging 10 yards per screen pass, on Sunday his two receptions went for -2 and -6 yards.
Matt LaFleur Went Quick Game Rather Than Misdirection: The latter worked beautifully for the Rams in their rematch with the 49ers. The former? Well, you saw it on Sunday.
Defenses Must Breath Such a Sigh of Relief . . . : every time Jamaal Williams is on the field instead of Aaron Jones. Williams is the much better pass protector, but on a team so devoid of playmakers aside from Davante Adams, it’d be awfully nice to have Jones on the field in passing situations.
What’s Up With Dave Toub’s Guys?: The vaunted special teams coach saw his unit have a very bad day against Houston last week. On Sunday, they allowed a fake-punt conversion in what was the most telegraphed fake punt ever run in the NFL. In theory, special teams gaffes might be the only thing that can derail this team, and that unit seems willing to find out.
Amani Hooker Consents to Be in This Highlight: The rookie safety (No. 37) laid a “hit” on Mahomes like he has the QB in a dynasty fantasy league. That will not go over well in the film room.
Chiefs Jumping Offsides: Three times in the first half, in an apparent tribute to Dee Ford.
Packers on Third Down in Santa Clara: It wrapped up at 4-for-24 on the season.
Bashaud Breeland’s Four-Point Penalty: In the second quarter, he inexplicably grabbed Corey Davis’s jersey at the top of a route being run 10 yards short of the sticks on a third down. The (obvious) penalty kept a Tennessee drive alive, one that ended with a touchdown instead of a field-goal attempt.
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Moments We’ll Tell Our Grandkids About
Mahomes Has Got Legs: And, as ZZ Top would tell you, he knows how to use them.
This Aaron Rodgers Throw: All for naught when you’ve spotted your opponent a 21-point lead, but nonetheless . . .
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What We’ll Be Talking About This Week
The Chiefs and the 49ers to Compete in Upcoming Organized Football Game: The winner will be whomever scores more points. We’ll have lots of coverage of that game here, time-permitting.
The Remainder of the Aaron Rodgers Era: There has been no significant physical drop-off for Rodgers, but the fears surrounding the implementation of Matt LaFleur’s offense—that Rodgers preferred the static offense they ran under Mike McCarthy because of the ease of use at the line of scrimmage—seemed to be validated. Of course, the problem with the old approach is that there is no Jordy Nelson or James Jones or . . . really, aside from Davante Adams, any talented pass-catcher who has also been around long enough to earn Rodgers’ trust when he improvises. They need another weapon to complement Adams (and a Jace Sternberger breakout would be nice so they can move on from Jimmy Graham). But how long will it take a young receiver to get up to speed? Specifically, will it happen before Rodgers does drop off physically? And does the aging offensive line continue to hold up? Other than that, they can hope the defense—who had “one of those days” on Sunday but was great all year—can make an unlikely move into the “historically great” class.
Titans Have Some Decisions to Make: They’ve been the classic “better than you think” team since Mike Vrabel got there. The offense has found a nice rhythm, and it will work for the long-term as long as Derrick Henry stays healthy. They’ll have to retain Ryan Tannehill and Henry (my guess: franchise tag for the former to avoid a long-term commitment for a guy they can’t be 100% sure on, what amounts to a rich two-year deal with a third-year option for the latter). The interesting ones are CB Logan Ryan (a rock since arriving in Nashville, but 29 in February) and OT Jack Conklin (solid in 2019, not so much in 2018). Those are second-tier players but at premium positions, and guys like that tend to get paid in free agency.
The Rest of the AFC Must Feel Sick: Goodness, behind Mahomes, Kansas City is poised to rule this conference for—conservatively—a decade.
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