NFL Championship Games Recap


AFC: Tennessee Titans @ Kansas City Chiefs

In 2019, the Tennessee Titans had two vastly different images. Before Ryan Tannehill became the starting quarterback, the team was 2-4 with wins against the lowly Browns and Falcons. With Tannehill, the Titans went on a 7-3 run to secure the last spot in the AFC playoff bracket. A 7-3 record translates to about an 11-5 or 12-4 record over a full season, so the Titans were definitely better than a 9-7 record would show. Running back Derrick Henry was instrumental in every game and as he exploded, Tennessee took off with him. From Week 10 through the end of the regular season, Henry had 938 yards and ten touchdowns in just six games. He led the team to a 5-1 record in games he played. In Tennessee’s first game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Henry went for a ridiculous 188 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns en route to a close 35-32 victory.

But in that game Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was not at full strength coming off of his injury nor was the game played in Kansas City. When Mahomes is healthy, the Chiefs have a high-octane offense with a defense that can get after the passer and make big plays with dynamic safety Tyrann Mathieu. The rematch in Kansas City would ultimately come down to how well Derrick Henry could perform.

To beat the Chiefs, Tennessee would have to dominate the time of possession with long drives that ended in scores. Beating New England and Baltimore looked easy when Derrick Henry put up 406 yards and one touchdown combined. He finished against Kansas City with 61 total yards and one touchdown. The Chiefs did a great job of limiting Derrick Henry which forced Tannehill to throw the ball. Tennessee’s preferred game script involved using Ryan Tannehill as little as possible seeing that passing left more time for Kansas City’s playmakers to put up points.

Once the Chiefs figured out Tennessee’s offense, the game took a sharp turn. After the Titans got off to a great start leading 17-7, they were outscored 28-7 the rest of the way. Notably, Kansas City was even leading at halftime 21-17 off of two quick scoring drives from Patrick Mahomes. Two more touchdowns after halftime made the game over for the Titans who were down 35-17. Tennessee could not keep their defense off of the field as their offense could not stay on. Without sustained drives, Kansas City had plenty of opportunities to utilize their mismatch against Tennessee’s relatively poor secondary.

A meaningless touchdown for the Titans left the final score 35-24 Chiefs. It was an impressive display on both sides of the ball for the Chiefs who were underestimated in the shadow of San Francisco, Baltimore, and New Orleans. At the Super Bowl, the Chiefs will face their greatest test of the season against San Francisco’s elite defense and powerful rushing attack.

NFC: Green Bay Packers @ San Francisco 49ers

On their way to the number two seed in the NFC, the Packers proved their doubters wrong. There were questions about how well quarterback Aaron Rodgers would mesh with new head coach Matt LaFleur. Also, there was pressure on big-name free agents Za’darius Smith, Preston Smith, and Adrian Amos to perform seeing as Green Bay is known for being stingy in free agency.

The Packers squeaked their way to a 13-3 record with an abnormally low point differential of 63. For reference, the next closest team in point differential (Buffalo Bills, 55) only had a 10-6 record. Going into this game, there was valid concern over whether Green Bay could go into a hostile environment and perform against a great team that had already destroyed them in the regular season. 

For the 49ers, they are the epitome of a worst-to-first franchise. San Francisco had gone from the second-worst team last season to a dominant 2019, also racking up a 13-3 record but with a healthy point differential of 169. The return of Jimmy Garoppolo along with new additions Nick Bosa and Deebo Samuel infused talent and competition into the club after a listless 2018 season. 

After an easy playoff win against the Minnesota Vikings, the formula for the 49ers to advance to the Super Bowl was clear. Their recipe for success is efficient football on offense and a stifling defense; it is an extremely hard combo to beat on such a big stage. Even with a lopsided final score of 37-20 San Francisco, the game was not as close as it appears.

By the time Green Bay had scored its first points, the score was 27-7 with 8:44 left in the third quarter. San Francisco shut down any thought of a miraculous comeback by scoring a field goal to make the score 37-20 with 3:31 left in the game. The key to victory for the 49ers was running back Raheem Mostert and the defense. With 220 rushing yards, 7.6 yards per carry, and four touchdowns, Mostert put his team on his back. The Packers simply could not stop him. Mostert’s performance was so monstrous that Jimmy Garoppolo only threw for 77 yards but the 49ers scored 37 points. In today’s NFL, this is a remarkable feat. Not that Garoppolo had a bad game, but Mostert was simply the only person San Francisco needed on offense.

Green Bay’s offense was absolutely shut down from top to bottom until the game was out of reach. Next for the 49ers is a tough match against the explosive, dangerous Kansas City Chiefs.

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