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Saturday, January 25, 2020

Football

Biggest disappointments of NFL Championship weekend

Derrick Henry hair

The Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers will meet at Super Bowl LIV in two weeks, an intriguing clash between an elite offense and a phenomenal defense. That outcome means the Tennessee Titans and Green Bay Packers are both going home one game shy of their ultimate destination, which will leave some of their players with serious regrets.

Here are some of the weekend’s biggest disappointments as the Super Bowl matchup was decided.

Derrick Henry, RB, Titans

The Chiefs beat the Titans essentially because they kept Derrick Henry in check. Yes, the running back still had a decent day, running for 69 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. That, however, is a down week for Henry, and his modest 3.6 yards per carry meant that Ryan Tannehill had to throw the ball 31 times. That suited Kansas City just fine, and it meant that their high-powered offense could score while limiting the Tennessee offense’s time on the field. The Titans needed much more from Henry to win this game. Not getting the stellar performance they needed sealed their fate.

Packers’ run defense

Running backs shouldn’t be able to run for 36-yard touchdowns untouched. That was how Raheem Mostert got the scoring started, and it never really stopped after that. Green Bay’s defense was pushed around by the San Francisco offensive line, giving Mostert giant holes to run through all day on the way to a 220-yard performance. The Packer defense didn’t even really give the offense a chance to get going, and the game was functionally over by halftime. The Packers felt they had improved their defense this year, but it failed them at the worst possible time.

Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers

On the surface, Rodgers’ stats look fine — 31-of-39 for 326 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Much of that, however, came when he was desperately throwing long with the Packers trying to come back from 27 points down. In the first half, he was held to 65 yards while throwing an interception and losing a fumble as the Packers were shut out. Yes, he was up against the league’s best defenses, but elite quarterbacks are expected to overcome those defenses, or at least take better care of the ball. By the time Rodgers started racking up yards, it was far too late.

The pass interference rule

Once again, pass interference raised its ugly head at the worst time. The Titans were hit with a controversial defensive pass interference call that cost them 41 yards at a key point in the game, while the Packers also took a late third down pass interference call in the fourth. Neither call likely cost either team the game, but pass interference being a spot foul is still needlessly harsh, and the decisions did little to clarify what pass interference is or whether either should have been flagged. Plus, the fact that neither was challenged suggests the review system is still broken going into 2020.

Darrelle Revis throws shade at Richard Sherman

Darrelle Revis

The beef between Darrelle Revis and Richard Sherman is not over.

During Sunday’s NFC Championship Game, Revis threw some shade at Sherman with an unsolicited tweet. Revis said it was “lame” that Sherman doesn’t shadow receivers and instead plays just one side of the field. Revis accused Sherman of “hiding” in a cover 3 zone scheme.

After some (including us) categorized Revis’ comments as “throwing shade,” the former All-Pro cornerback disputed that.

Once his comments started attracting attention, Revis blamed others for taking his words too seriously.

Revis may say he wasn’t throwing shade, but that’s exactly what he was doing. Why else would he criticize and challenge the cornerback mid-game?

The two have a long history. As far back as 2013, Sherman was saying he was a better cornerback than Revis, who was widely regarded at the time as the top corner in the game. The two proceeded to trade shots back and forth over the next few months before ultimately quashing things.

Revis seems to still have some lingering dislike of Sherman. Why else would he point out such criticism when he hadn’t provided any other Twitter comments on any of the previous playoff games this postseason?

George Kittle wears T-shirt featuring shirtless Jimmy Garoppolo

George Kittle

George Kittle wore a T-shirt featuring a shirtless Jimmy Garoppolo after the San Francisco 49ers beat the Green Bay Packers 37-20 on Sunday in the NFC Championship Game to reach the Super Bowl.

Kittle, regarded as the top all-around tight end in football, was asked about his shirt after the game. He explained that both he and Garoppolo received similar shirts earlier in the season. The difference is Kittle says he was waiting for a special occasion to wear his.

We’d say a Super Bowl berth definitely qualifies as a special occasion.

The 49ers’ passing game took a backseat as the running game led by Raheem Mostert carried the team to victory. Garoppolo only attempted eight passes, while Kittle caught just one ball. If that’s the formula for victory, they’ll take it every time.

Super Bowl point spread released: Chiefs favored over 49ers

Patrick Mahomes

Super Bowl LIV is set and will feature the San Francisco 49ers against the Kansas City Chiefs in Miami. The teams are fairly evenly matched, as San Francisco went 13-3 and was the top seed in the NFC, while KC went 12-4 and was the No. 2 seed. The Chiefs came from behind in both of their playoff wins and won in convincing fashion, while the Niners dominated their games for most of the way.

Sportsbook.ag has listed the Chiefs as a 1.5-point favorite in the game. What’s interesting is that the spread changed based on how strong San Francisco looked early against Green Bay.

The point spread originally was Chiefs by three, but that changed after the Niners got out to a 27-0 lead.

The point spread could change as the game nears depending on what bettors like. If they feel the 49ers will continue their strong play, the game could become a pick ’em with no spread, or it could even flip to SF becoming a small favorite if enough money comes in on them.

The close spread suggests we should get a good game between the teams on February 2.

Video: Richard Sherman crying after 49ers reach Super Bowl

Richard Sherman 49ers

Richard Sherman is back at the NFL’s summit after his San Francisco 49ers clinched a trip to the Super Bowl.

Sherman made two Super Bowls and won one with the Seattle Seahawks. In 2017, he ruptured his Achilles, leading to his release and calling into question whether he’d ever be the same player.

That’s likely what led to Sherman growing emotional and crying on the field after the 49er victory, which included the cornerback catching an interception that clinched the victory.

Sherman definitely felt he had something to prove after his release by Seattle, including to his former team. He has done so. He was a second-team AP All-Pro this season, and now he’ll be playing for another Super Bowl as one of the anchors of the NFL’s best defense.

Interesting facts about the 49ers’ Super Bowl berth

Kyle Shanahan 49ers

The San Francisco 49ers hammered the Green Bay Packers 37-20 in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday to earn their first Super Bowl berth since the 2012 season.

The Niners dominated in the run game, putting up 285 rushing yards on 42 carries, while only needing eight pass attempts for Jimmy Garoppolo. Raheem Mostert was the star on the ground, rushing for 220 yards and four touchdowns. The 220 rushing yards were the most ever in a game for a 49ers running back.

The 49ers’ 37 points are also the most by a team with fewer than 10 pass attempts since the Bills in 1973.

The 49ers’ turnaround from last season to this one represented one of the biggest turnarounds we’ve seen. They joined the 1988 Bengals and 1999 Rams as the teams to go from a 4-12 season to a Super Bowl appearance in consecutive years.

Another cool note about their berth is that Kyle Shanahan and his father Mike have become the first father-son combination to lead teams to the Super Bowl as head coaches.

The Niners will meet the Chiefs in the Super Bowl in Miami in two weeks.

Video: Kyle Shanahan receives NFC Championship trophy from father Mike

FOX and the San Francisco 49ers staged a neat moment after the 49ers beat the Green Bay Packers to advance to Super Bowl LIV.

Former head coach Mike Shanahan was brought down to present the 49ers with the trophy after their 37-20 victory. The honor was supposed to go to 49ers CEO Jed York, but York stepped aside and had Shanahan hand the trophy to his son Kyle, the head coach of the Niners.

This is a really neat moment, especially when Kyle goes in for a hug and Mike wastes no time getting out of his son’s way to let him have his moment.

Mike Shanahan has been around the 49ers this season and even has a game ball from a win that will have felt particularly sweet to him. Now he gets to hand a championship trophy to his son. That’s just plain cool.