Tuesday, January 31, 2023
TUESDAY TIDBITS: "You Play to Win the Game"
Sunday, January 29, 2023
Playoff Judgments III
Credit: NFL Game Pass
It tells us to beware.
First, let’s deal with the common sense. The Eagles are loaded -- offense, defense, special teams, coaching, you name it. Everywhere you look, they’re stacked with talent … and the results speak for themselves. They won a franchise-record 14 games this season, were the NFC’s top playoff seed and just shredded two playoff opponents by a combined score of 69-14.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, that last item is significant. Only four other teams in NFL playoff history won division and conference championship games in the same season by at least 21 points each … and all four won Super Bowls. Moreover, the last time the Eagles allowed seven or fewer points in consecutive postseason games was 1948 and 1949.
They won league titles both years.
But wait a minute. Kansas City has Mahomes, Kelce and a quick-strike offense, right? Correct. In fact, they’re the fourth team in the past 10 years to lead the league in total offense and reach the Super Bowl. The others were Denver in 2013, New England in 2017 and the Chiefs in 2020 … and quick now, tell me what those three have in common?
Uh-huh, all of them lost.
That covers the history portion of today’s lesson. Now for the common sense. I’ve said this before and it’s apparent now more than ever: Philadelphia is the most complete football team anywhere. Entering this season, the one question mark about the Eagles involved their quarterback, but all Jalen Hurts has done is win 16 of his 17 starts, including the playoffs, and evolve into an MVP candidate.
That award almost certainly will go to Mahomes, and it should. But one individual won’t determine the outcome of Super Bowl LVII. One team will, and the Eagles have the defense, the offense, an MVP-worthy quarterback and a head coach who’s taken them to the playoffs twice in two years.
In short, they’re covered everywhere.
Defense wins championships, we’re constantly reminded, and Philadelphia this season led the league in pass defense and led it in sacks -- setting a franchise record with 78, including the playoffs. That’s why I didn’t think it mattered who won Sunday’s AFC championship game. The Eagles would beat either team.
Then why did oddsmakers make Kansas City an early one-point favorite? Good question. My guess: It’s all about Mahomes and Reid and their Big Game experience. It’s their third Super Bowl in four years. But I don’t trust the odds. I trust history. And history tells us that defense will prevail … just as it did the last time Mahomes and Kansas City reached the Super Bowl vs. Tampa Bay.
Super Bowl LVII may be the Andy Reid Bowl, but my guess is that when it’s over, it will read more like that T-shirt that former Eagles’ star Brian Dawkins wore Sunday.
It said: “It’s a Philly Thing.”
SUNDAY SCHOOL: FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED
1. Arrowhead is not “Burrowhead.” Prior to Sunday, Joe Burrow was so successful in Kansas City (3-0) that his teammates called the Chiefs’ stadium “Burrowhead.” Big mistake. That didn’t go down well with the Chiefs, who last week vowed to set the record straight when the two teams met Sunday. They did with a 23-20 victory.
2. Burrow- Mahomes is this decade’s Brady-Manning. They’ve gone mano-a-mano four times, with each game decided by three points. Mahomes is 27, Burrow is 26. Do the math. You have at least another decade of head-on collisions with these two.
3. Kyle Shanahan is not a genius. If he were, the 49ers’ head coach never would have left a backup tight end to pass block Haason Reddick. “That injury (to Brock Purdy) is on Kyle,” said former Bay Area columnist Lowell Cohn. Bingo.
4. The NFL should dress three quarterbacks for games. It did until 2011. It should again. The 49ers-Eagles game demonstrated why. “Not having three bona fide quarterbacks available for each team is a terrible look for the sport,” said former Jets’ GM Mike Tannenbaum.
5. Andy Reid is Hall of Fame worthy. He has more playoff victories (21) than everyone not named Bill Belichick (31) and just advanced to his third Super Bowl in four years. That puts him in rarified air. Throw in 10 conference championship game appearances (five in each conference), and he’s a slam dunk for Canton. But now it’s all about the legacy. With another Super Bowl victory, he takes a giant step forward and starts to be compared with some of the all-time greats.
THIRD AND 20
1. So much for Mahomes being impaired by playing on one leg. He accounted for 323 of the Chiefs’ 357 yards.
2. Not sure who had a worse day in Philadelphia: Brock Purdy or the refs.
3. I guess Joe Cool is not Joe Cold. Until Sunday, Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow was 8-0 in games where the temperature at kickoff was below 40 degrees. It was 22 in Kansas City when the game started, and 23-20, Chiefs, when it was over.
4. Good to see Reid call out a “phenomenal” job by Steve Spagnuolo’s defense. Mahomes will get the headlines for his courageous performance, but it was the Kansas City defense that kept Burrow and the Bengals at bay. It produced five sacks (including four in the first half), two turnovers and forced a punt on Cincinnati’s last meaningful possession.
5. And while we’re on the subject … welcome back, Chris Jones. Hard to believe, but he’d gone 13 playoff games without a sack. Then he terrorized Burrow, with two sacks, five quarterback hits and three tackles for losses. In fact, it was Jones who dropped Burrow with 41 seconds left to force that Cincinnati’s punt.
6. Love this take from Darin Gantt: “Let this be a lesson for NFL teams looking to replicate the Eagles’ formula: If you want to make a Super Bowl, what you really need to do is make sure your opponents run out of quarterbacks.”
7. Now we know there’s one thing that Jalen Hurts can’t do. Sing.
8. Miami just hired Vic Fangio as its defensive coordinator. Smart move.
9. It’s one thing to lose. It’s another to lose discipline and poise. The 49ers did both.
10. Get ready to hear plenty from Donna and Ed Kelce the next two weeks. Their sons, Travis and Jason, are the first two brothers to oppose each other in a Super Bowl.
11. Memo to Andy Reid: Reserve two game balls for Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor and defensive lineman Joseph Ossai. Taylor took an unnecessary timeout with 48 seconds left that wound up costing him, while Ossai outdid his head coach with an out-of-bounds hit on Mahomes that drew a flag and set up the game-winning field goal. “Stupid is as stupid does,” that esteemed philosopher, Forrest Gump, once reminded us. Someone pass the word to the Bengals.
12. Great note per Rick Gosselin: Since the Cowboys’ last appearance in a conference championship game (January, 1996), 26 of the other 31 teams have been there. Carolina and Jacksonville are expansion franchises that date back to 1995, yet they’ve been to seven combined.
13. Tell me again how Carolina let Haason Reddick and Christian McCaffrey go.
14. Coming soon to Pay Per View: Trent Williams vs. K’Von Wallace.
15. San Francisco’s DeMeco Ryans was on a lot of short lists of teams seeking new head coaches, and he should have been. But what about Jonathan Gannon? He’s the Eagles’ defensive coordinator, and that’s the unit that knocked two quarterbacks out of Sunday’s game … forced three turnovers … and put the 49ers in a fetal position the entire second half. In two playoff games, Gannon’s defense surrendered just 14 points, and, yeah, I think that merits a call.
16. Memo to Kyle Shanahan: When a receiver bounces up from a “catch” and calls for a quick snap, you might want to think about calling for a review. Just sayin.’
17. The Super Bowl will be a challenge for referee Carl Cheffers. His crew was the only one this season to call more than 200 penalties, the ninth straight season it topped 200. The NFL likes to cut back on flags in the playoffs. Cheffers doesn’t like to cut down on flags, period.
18. Miami GM Chris Grier believes Tua Tagovailoa is no more prone to concussions than anyone else, but how would he know? Miami is the team that kept pushing Tua on to the field after he was first hurt.
19. Mahomes called Tom Brady last week for advice, and whatever he said must have worked. But what can Brady tell him about the Eagles? When he faced them in Super Bowl LII, he threw for 505 yards and three TDs. He also lost, 41-33.
20. Is it me, or did Philadelphia’s Lane Johnson commit numerous false starts Sunday that weren’t flagged? Nope, it wasn’t me. Not a good weekend for officials.
SUNDAY’S GOLD JACKET STATS
n Jalen Hurts now has 15 rushing touchdowns this season, including the playoffs. That’s an NFL record for quarterbacks.
n Kansas City is 12-0 when scoring first.
n With 13 playoff TDs, Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce rank second all-time in quarterback-receiver duos. Only the Tom Brady-Rob Gronkowski combination has more with 15.
n At 27 years, 134 days, Mahomes is the youngest quarterback to reach 10 playoff victories.
n Philadelphia’s 39 rushing touchdowns are the most ever in one season, including the playoffs. The previous record of 37 was set by the 1962 Green Bay Packers. They won the NFL championship.
n The Eagles’ 78 sacks are the third most in league history. Only the 1984-85 Bears had more, with 82 in 1984 and 80 the following season.
SUNDAY’S GOLD JACKET QUOTES
n “Losing feels awful. But, yeah, this one was worse.” – San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan.
n “My arm just feels like it stretched out. It felt like a lot of shocks all over from my elbow down to my wrist.” – San Francisco quarterback Brock Purdy.
n “My joy comes in winning. I know the job isn’t done.” – Philadelphia quarterback Jalen Hurts.
n “This is the most physical defense in this league.” – Philadelphia coach Nick Sirianni.
n “He has nothing to be sad about. He’s the reason we got to this game.” – San Francisco linebacker Fred Warner on Brock Purdy.
n “I got some words for that Cincinnati mayor. Know your role and shut your mouth.” – Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce.
n “We expect to be back there, and I think they do, too.” - Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow on losing to the Chiefs.
n There were plenty of plays that we left on the field that could’ve put us in better position.” – Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor.
Saturday, January 28, 2023
Darren Woodson—Taking His Place in the Hall of Fame Queue
That skill set matched with his rings and his post-season honors vaulted him in front of some other safeties that have been on the semifinalist list with him the past few years but have not advanced.
Friday, January 27, 2023
Ken Riley's Imminent Hall of Fame Induction May Bode Well for Jim Marshall's Chances
Riley's induction will change that a good deal. Dick LeBeau's career was similar to Riley's but his candidacy was considered to be a combination of his playing career and his coaching career. Riley's induction will be solely as a player.
Those two things are the bulk of Marshall's case for the Hall of Fame. Recently, sack totals have been published by Pro Football Reference and they show that marshall had 130.5 in his 20-year career.
We shall see if Riley's induction changes the dynamics of what a Hall of Fame player is. It just might.
Wednesday, January 25, 2023
G.O.A.T. Return Specialist Devin Hester Gaining or Losing Momentum?
Tuesday, January 24, 2023
TUESDAY TIDBITS: "On the One Side, Truth Towers Like a Cliff"
|Steve Van Buren|
Monday, January 23, 2023
Jared Allen—The Next Edge Rusher in Line?
He played from 2004-15 and during that span no one in the NFL had more sacks or QB hits and that includes DeMarcus Ware. During his peak years from 2005-13 (which eliminates his rookie year and his wind-down years) he also had the most sacks and QB hits.
Sunday, January 22, 2023
Playoff Judgments II
Credit: NFC/NFC Game Pass
Cincinnati and Joe Burrow are coming to town.
The Bengals beat the odds Sunday by also beating … no, by burying … Buffalo to reach the AFC championship game for the second straight season vs. top-seeded Kansas City. That’s good for Cincinnati; not so good for Mahomes or the Chiefs.
The reason: Simple. Burrow and the Bengals are 3-0 vs. Mahomes.
Plus, they won all three in the same calendar year when the Chiefs’ quarterback wasn’t playing on one leg … and that’s more than unusual. It’s downright extraordinary. It makes Burrow the only quarterback to face Mahomes multiple times and not lose. It also makes him one of only two quarterbacks to win three games vs. the presumptive league MVP.
The other is Tom Brady (3-3).
I think you get the idea. This is no ordinary Joe we’re talking about. It’s Mahomes’ kryptonite, and more on that later.
First, the central question in front of everyone is: How damaged is Mahomes? Answer: No one really knows how much of St. Patrick we get now. High-ankle sprains are serious, normally sidelining injured players several weeks. Nevertheless, Mahomes insists he’ll play next Sunday.
That should come as no surprise. But how comprised will he be? Stay tuned.
In the meantime, there are no mysteries about Burrow and the Bengals. They just dominated a Bills’ team that also beat Mahomes & Co. this season, and they did it from start to finish – outscoring, outplaying and outcoaching their overwhelmed opponent.
That wasn’t supposed to happen, not only because Buffalo hadn’t lost a home playoff game with Josh Allen at quarterback (4-0), but because the Bills seemed driven by the Jamar Hamlin story. But it did, and it did because the Bengals had the better quarterback, the better offensive line, the better defensive line and the better game plan.
In short, the better team.
“If this was a boxing match,” former quarterback and CBS analyst Phil Simms said, “we’re not going to the scorecard. This was a knockout.
Oddsmakers make the Chiefs a 1-point favorite next Sunday, and that doesn’t make sense. Mahomes is hurt. Burrow is not. History isn’t with the Chiefs. It’s with the Bengals. Plus, Kansas City’s not the hottest team in the AFC. Cincinnati is. The Bengals won their last 10 and are 14-2 over their last 16 starts.
Oh, and one more thing: Cincinnati also won its last three road playoff games. One was at Arrowhead.
“Anyone who doubts this team needs to have his head examined,” said Bengals’ offensive line coach Frank Pollard.
I’d pay attention. This marks the fourth time in franchise history the Bengals advanced to the AFC championship game. They won the previous three.
SUNDAY SCHOOL: FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED THIS WEEKEND
1. Jalen Hurts is more than OK. He went into last weekend saying he was “less than 100 percent” with an injured right shoulder. OK, well … tell that to the New York Giants. Hurts sliced, diced and spliced what was supposed to be a decent defense, throwing for two TDs and running for a third in a game that was over by the half. Bottom lin: He looked like the MVP candidate that he is. “To have him out there,” said coach Nick Sirianni, “it’s like having … I know I shouldn’t even go there … but is like having Michael Jordan out there.” He’s right. He shouldn’t go there. Jordan won six league titles. Hurts hasn’t been to one … yet.
2. Playoff seeds held. Three of the top four seeded teams (Kansas City, San Francisco and Philadephia) advanced to conference championship games, with Cincinnati the only outlier. But full disclosure: The Bengals were the AFC’s third seed and were last year’s champion. Now, good luck to top-ranked Kansas City and Philadelphia … because history tells us they’re going to need it. Only two of the last eight No. 1 seeds advanced to the Super Bowl (Kansas City in 2020 and San Francisco in 2019).
3. Don’t sleep on Chad Henne. Jacksonville did, and you saw what happened. He led the Chiefs on a 98-yard TD drive, the longest in franchise playoff history. With Mahomes hurt, there’s a chance … maybe even a likelihood … we see his backup again. All I know is the last two times Henne made playoff appearances, he saved a victory two years ago vs. Cleveland and helped win Saturday’s game vs. the Jags.
4. In a passing game, running still matters. The NFL is supposed to be all about the quarterbacks, and it usually is. But not so much in the playoffs. An effective running game still makes a difference … and this weekend’s winners were the proof. Philadelphia shredded the Giants for 268 yards. Cincinnati had 172. Kansas City dissected Jacksonville for 144, while San Francisco put up 113 on Dallas -- including 86 in the second half. The four averaged 4.97 yards per carry, with only one more TD passing (6) than rushing (5).
5. Cincinnati’s offensive line is deeper than advertised. The Bengals were supposed to be crippled up front by the loss of three starters. They weren’t. In fact, they dominated both sides of the line of scrimmage from beginning to end. But the surprise was how well Burrow was protected by his subs. A year ago, the Bengals’ offensive line was a major headache, with Burrow sacked 70 times (including the playoffs). On Sunday, he was sacked only once and hit three times. Time for Frank Pollack, Cincinnati’s offensive line coach, to take a bow.
THIRD AND 20
1. According to reports, the NFL is considering neutral sites for future conference championship games. Please tell me they’re wrong. As former Packers’ exec Andrew Brandt pointed out on Twitter, “it sounds preposterous and a money grab by owners.” Check. Not only is it a poke at hometown fans; it’s a competitive disadvantage for higher seeds. There should be a reward for finishing with the best regular-season records, and home-field advantage is that reward. That makes sense. This idea does not. However …this is the same league that ships games overseas each year, another blow to competitive advantage and hometown support. So don’t say you weren’t warned.
2. Key number for San Francisco rookie quarterback Brock Purdy: Zero. He’s had no turnovers in the playoffs and none in his past three starts. But now comes the hard part. “There’s no tougher place to play than playing in Philadelphia,” said Hall-of-Fame quarterback and FOX analyst Terry Bradshaw. He’s right.
3. As shaky as Brett Maher was, the kicker wasn’t the story for Dallas. The quarterback was. For the sixth time this season, including the fourth time in the last seven games, Dak Prescott threw multiple interceptions. He had two, including one at the San Francisco 12 that not only short-circuited a sure Dallas scoring drive but led to a Robbie Gould field goal.
4. Tell me again why Joe Burrow couldn’t start for Urban Meyer at Ohio State.
5. Don’t let people tell you there’s no place for defense in today’s NFL. The NFC’s top two defenses this season were San Francisco and Philadelphia.
6. When the NFL went to replay as an officiating tool it was never meant to overrule something like that Ja’Marr Chase “touchdown” catch. In most universes where they play football, that’s a score. Replay was supposed to correct egregious calls, not dissect minutiae. So do it.
7. George Kittle or Travis Kelce?
8. Now you know why coaches emphasize ball security. The weekend’s four winners committed one turnover (San Francisco). Their opponents had six.
9. Look at it this way, Cowboys’ fans: You now have time to join owner Jerry Jones on Terry Bradshaw’s Getaway Vacation.
10. I’m beginning to get the feeling that Lamar Jackson will push Aaron Rodgers for Best Actor in an Offseason Drama.
11. Coming soon to FOX’s “Alert: Missing Persons Unit:” The entire Buffalo Bills defense.
12. Quote of the day goes to Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow. Asked what he thought of last week’s sale of tickets for a Buffalo-Kansas City neutral site, he said: “Better send those refunds.”
13. How come we don’t hear more about Lou Anarumo? He’s Cincinnati’s defensive coordinator, and he just put the kibosh on Josh Allen. Of course, that begs the question: If the Bengals can hit Allen eight times, what happens when they attack Patrick Mahomes on one leg?
14. You gotta feel for Tony Pollard. That might be the last time we see him in a Cowboys’ uniform.
15. What’s the deal with Kansas City’s Chris Jones? One of the game’s fiercest pass rushers, he still doesn’t have a sack in 13 playoff games. You can look it up.
16. Stefon Diggs left the locker room in a huff, and I don’t blame him. He had one second-half catch for 8 yards Sunday and only four receptions and no scores for the afternoon. That makes it no TDs in Diggs’ last five playoff games. Stefon. Diggs. Hard to believe.
17. Just wondering: Is “Knock at the Cabin” a movie about the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s incoming Class of 2023?
18. Now more than ever, Minnesota’s playoff loss to the Giants looks worse.
19. The NFL’s definition of delay of game should be canned. This isn’t exactly rocket science, fellas. If the clock strikes zero, it’s a penalty. Pretty simple.
20. Saquon Barkley says he can’t “envision” Saturday’s game as his last with the Giants. Maybe that’s because the Giants can’t either.
SUNDAY’S GOLD JACKET STATS
n Robbie Gould hasn’t missed a field-goal attempt in the playoffs. Ever. He’s 29 for 29.
n Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor is 5-1 in the playoffs.
n The 49ers haven’t lost a game since Christian McCaffrey took over as a starter. They’re 12-0. According to ESPN, three of the previous four teams to enter conference championship games on winning streaks of 12 or more won the game.
n This is the fifth straight year that Kansas City hosts a conference playoff game, the longest streak in NFL history.
n Mike McCarthy is 0-4 vs. the 49ers in his playoff history.
SUNDAY’S GOLD JACKET QUOTES
n “No excuses. They beat us. They ‘out-physicaled’ us.” – Buffalo coach Sean McDermott.
n “Our goal is to win a Super Bowl or world championship, and we didn’t accomplish that. So everything that happened in the season is kind of null and void in our minds, and it sucks.” – Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen.
n “Joe started 9-for-9 in his sleep. What more could you ask for?” – Cincinnati’s Ted Karras on Joe Burrow.
n “Go win it.” – Buffalo cornerback Tre’Davious White to Burrow after the game.
n “We’re sick. Just sick.” – Dallas owner Jerry Jones.
n “Playoff football is never easy, but we’re moving on.” – San Francisco quarterback Brock Purdy.