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Thursday, February 27, 2020

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.


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