Mahomes’s scrambling broke Tennessee’s defense. The last time these teams played in Week 10, Mahomes was playing his first game back from a dislocated kneecap. He didn’t rush once in that game. On Sunday, the first play Reid called was a run play designed for Mahomes, a signal of how differently this game would go. The Titans’ bend-don’t-break defense was already being stretched by the speed of receiver Tyreek Hill and route-running of tight end Travis Kelce, and Mahomes’s running added pressure that made the team snap.
The power of Mahomes is so influential that once he became the Chiefs’ starter, punter Dustin Colquitt, who is also the holder for extra points, started storing the gloves he wears for PATs in his jersey at all times. He’d never done that in his 15-year career, but a Reid offense run by Mahomes can score in a split-second, and Colquitt couldn’t risk being caught without his equipment. Last week, Mahomes rallied Kansas City out of a 24-0 deficit in a single quarter. This week, when the Chiefs fell into a 10-0 hole against the Titans, they didn’t even need a fiery sideline speech by their young QB.
“I’m not going to say we couldn’t have done it without Patrick but Patrick has certainly made a huge difference,” said Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt.
“Best quarterback in the National Football League right here, baby, and he shows it every time!” said Kelce, interrupting Mahomes’ postgame interview with Tracy Wolfson.
“They just had a great game plan, man,” Henry said after the loss. “They were coming off the ball, those guys were being physical. They played a great game today on defense and you know their offense, we know the type of offense that is: explosive, can score at any moment. Like I said, we just came up short. All the credit to them and good luck to them.”
5. Swapping out safeties
The Cardinals’ then-safety-record contract for Tyrann Mathieu in 2016 did not work out, and it drove up Eric Berry’s price. Berry’s six-year, $78 million 2017 deal eclipsed Mathieu’s but burned the Chiefs when injuries soon ended Berry’s prime. Last year’s AFC title game illuminated the Chiefs’ secondary need. They attacked the problem by cutting Berry (and eating nearly $15M in dead money) and signing Mathieu. Released by the Cardinals in 2018 – leading to a one-year, $7M Texans deal – Mathieu landed another safety-record accord ($14M per year). The Honey Badger’s versatility has keyed the Chiefs’ defensive emergence. Kansas City’s No. 6 DVOA pass defense limited opposition following the team’s Week 12 bye and has complemented Mahomes’ machine-gun attack much better than last season’s unit.
Caesars Sportsbook opened the Chiefs at -1.5 on Sunday and took early bets on the 49ers.
”We had the Chiefs a little higher than the 49ers in our power ratings,” Alan Berg, senior oddsmakers for Caesars Sportsbook, told ESPN on Sunday night. “You can make a case for either team, and I expect decent, balanced action from the public.”
3. Can Raheem Mostert do what Derrick Henry couldn’t?
The star of that show was Mostert, who set an NFL record by being the first player in league history to have 150+ rushing yards and three touchdowns in the first half of any playoff game. He may have to be ready for another big turn in Miami, as Tevin Coleman had to be carted off the field in the first quarter after suffering an arm injury. An extended absence from Coleman could hand the reins of the rushing offense to Mostert and Matt Breida, two complementary backs who’ve shined in stretches.
They’ll have to take on a Chiefs defense that held NFL rushing leader Derrick Henry to his least efficient outing (3.7 yards per carry) since Week 7. Kansas City limited the Titans’ star tailback by stacking its defense up at the line of scrimmage and trusting its defensive backs in man coverage with a lone deep safety behind them. Doing so again could keep Mostert from sustaining this breakout — but it could also leave massive gaps for Jimmy Garoppolo to exploit.
When asked if he is looking forward to the matchup with the team that drafted him Ford answered, “Definitely, there is a lot of love in that building. I have a lot of love for the guys in that building. They gave me my opportunity of course. I am here with a new team. It is going to be a great opportunity, it is going to be like playing my brothers back to training camp days. It is going to be fun.”
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“The window’s open, and I think we’re going to be on the right side of one of these real soon,” Rodgers said after his third NFC title game loss in four tries as a starter.
”That’s the exciting thing. It doesn’t make this feeling any easier, but that is very exciting moving forward.”
Garoppolo went 24 minutes of game action between passes, not attempting a throw the entire third quarter. He completed a toss at the 2:10 mark of the second quarter. His next attempt didn’t come until there was 8:10 left in the fourth. He completed his only two attempts of the second half.
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4. Andy Reid has done something historic
With the victory, he became only the second coach since the 1970 merger to win championships in both conferences. Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells won the NFC with the New York Giants in 1986 and 1990 — and then won the AFC with the New England Patriots in 1996.
Damien Williams saw the majority of the running back snaps, converting some short- yardage runs to sustain drives. Williams was also a significant part of the passing game, catching back-to-back passes of 17 and eight yards late in the first half.
In the second half, Andy Reid started running the ball more. Williams converted some tough third downs — including one from a two-back set with Darwin Thompson where Williams was aligned as the up-back. Williams was rewarded with a goal-to-go carry that he punched in to make it an 11-point lead. Thompson got his first carry of the game on a bounce in the third quarter that he converted a first down.
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