Winners, losers from Chiefs’ domination of Texans in season opener

Originally posted on Sportsnaut | By Matt Johnson | Last updated 9/11/20

The 2020 NFL season has arrived and it all kicked off on Thursday night with Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs delivering a 34-20 win in the NFL Kickoff Game.

We saw the scoring start early with Texans running back David Johnson breaking free for the first touchdown of the NFL season. Houston clung to some early momentum, but the problems manifested into Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense walking through the Texans on nearly every drive. By halftime, Kansas City rolled out to a 17-7 lead.

It didn’t get much better for the Texans in the second half. When rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire was off to the races for a 27-yard touchdown, it was the proverbial nail in the coffin. By the time Tyreek Hill added another highlight touchdown, the Chiefs’ offense was rolling with 31 unanswered points to victory.

With the first game of the NFL Kickoff Game in the books and Week 1 officially underway, let’s look at some of the highlights, winners and losers from the Chiefs dominating win in the NFL Kickoff Game.

Winner: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs surprised many when they selected Edwards-Helaire with their first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. What might have seemed like a reach to some, was Andy Reid finding the one missing piece in his offense. Edwards-Helaire didn’t need the preseason and that was evident immediately on Sunday.

In the first half alone, he racked up 64 rushing yards on only 10 carries. The stats were impressive, but his elusiveness and vision made you believe he was a 10-year veteran. Of course, he then kept it rolling in the second half with more jaw-dropping runs. It’s simply unfair that the Chiefs have him, as we saw in his 138-yard debut. The rookie might just be the next All-Pro in this offense.

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Patrick Mahomes sets his sights on catching Tom Brady in Super Bowl victories

Quarterback Patrick Mahomes knows where he’ll be for quite a while after signing a 10-year contract extension with the Kansas City Chiefs. He also has a rough idea of how many Super Bowl rings he wants to win.

In a “SportsCenter” interview on Friday, Mahomes told ESPN’s Nicole Briscoe that Tom Brady’s six Super Bowl victories makes for a nice target to pursue.

“I don’t know if there’s a number,” Mahomes said. “I mean obviously you try to chase greatness, and Tom’s got six, so I’m going to try to do whatever I can to at least get to that number.

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Originally posted on Larry Brown Sports | By Grey Papke | Last updated 7/11/20

Patrick Mahomes open to taking hometown discount with Chiefs?

Patrick Mahomes is eligible for a contract extension with the Kansas City Chiefs this offseason, and the assumption is that he will become the highest-paid player in NFL history. While that will likely happen, it does not sound like he wants to put the Chiefs in salary cap prison.

Matt Verderame of Fansided spoke with Mahomes’ agent, Leigh Steinberg, about the Super Bowl MVP’s contract situation. Steinberg mentioned that he wants to get Mahomes the contract he deserves while allowing the Chiefs to field a competitive roster around the quarterback. As Steinberg put it, “Quarterback greatness is judged by Super Bowls.”

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Originally posted on Larry Brown Sports By Steve DelVecchio | Last updated 2/27/20

Every Throw Graded: An Ultimate Scouting Report Of Patrick Mahomes

If you simply watched Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes play without paying attention to where the ball ended up, you would wonder how he made it to the NFL playing so recklessly. The way he dances around the pocket with gusto, the sidearm angles at which he passes, the across-his-body throws, the no-look bullets –- these are not  things most NFL quarterbacks are supposed to even think about trying.

Yet Mahomes, who faces the 49ers’ No. 2-ranked defense in the Super Bowl on Sunday, has produced at a historically dominant level playing with this street-ball mentality. Week after week, the top-10 highlight packages are peppered with moments of Mahomes magic — bombs thrown to Tyreek Hill while scrambling, precisely placed corner routes to Travis Kelce, pinpoint strikes under pressure to Mecole Hardman. 

The gunslinger from Texas Tech is an elite quarterback. There is absolutely zero way to craft a solid argument suggesting otherwise. However, the real question is, How great is Mahomes? With an excellent play-caller at head coach, a star-studded receiving corps, and a standout offensive line, has he benefited from a terrific supporting cast more than most realize? Or is Mahomes, who threw for 4,031 yards and 26 TDs this season, truly the best quarterback in the world?

Those are questions I set out to answer in analyzing the All-22 angles of every play from Mahomes’ 2019 season. I graded each play (excluding handoffs, of course) to get a gauge on his true overall performance level. By taking into account drops, pressure, throw difficulty, ball placement, down/distance, game situation and decision-making (did the quarterback choose the best option available?), we can get a more accurate evaluation of a quarterback’s performance. A box score does not account for these important factors.

I scored each Mahomes play on a 0-to-10 scale. An average play (screen passes, throwaways) received a 5, an inexcusably brutal play (awful turnovers or should-be turnovers) earned a 0, and the perfect play (flawlessly placed throws into tight windows under heavy pressure) warranted a 10. Most plays fall somewhere in the middle, with “plus” efforts scoring above 5 and “minus” efforts below. Each game’s final score was scaled from 0-100, with 50 being average.

Let’s dig into Mahomes’ 2019 season.

In Week 2, Mahomes strafed the Raiders’ defense for 443 yards passing.  Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

BEST GAME: Week 2 at Raiders (93.2 grade)
Mahomes put up stellar numbers, completing 30 of 44 passes for 443 yards (10.1 per attempt), three touchdowns and no interception and generating a 131.2 passer rating (90.4 is league average). Stat lines often tell the wrong story about how well the quarterback actually played, which we will get into plenty later on. In this case, Mahomes’ performance matched up with his outstanding numbers.

The Raiders were awful defensively in 2019, ranking 31st iDVOA. Mahomes beat them down as brutally as you would expect. In the second quarter, he had a seven-play stretch that might stand against any in the history of the league. He completed each of his final seven passes in the quarter for 210 yards and three touchdowns, with six of those completions being elite-level plays. 

Mahomes was as Mahomes-ian as ever during this stretch, anticipating pressure and sliding away before it arrived to buy himself space. He completed tight-window deep throws on the move with wonderful precision. When the pocket was clean, he set himself and patiently dropped vertical throws down the sideline right into the bucket.

On this 3rd-and-20 play late in the second quarter, Mahomes begins sliding to the outside the instant it is clear pressure will come up the middle. This is an innate feel that Mahomes has at a level few quarterbacks ever have -– it’s Aaron Rodgers-esque. By doing this, Mahomes buys himself room to throw in a situation where most other quarterbacks would have been sacked or hit while throwing. It is still a highly pressured, off-balance throw, but Mahomes has the gift of an arm that can deliver accurate throws off a non-traditional base with ease. Mahomes effortlessly drops the ball over two defenders into the waiting arms of Mecole Hardman, who does not break stride.

Mahomes’ performance in the divisional round against Houston was a close second, grading 91.7.  The Chiefs’ offense made life tough on Mahomes early, dropping passes and allowing heavy pressure, but he remained poised and made play after play outside the pocket to help erase Houston’s 24-0 lead. He was particularly good in the red zone, producing classic Mahomes moments with a laser-beam touchdown up the seam to Damien Williams and a leaping flick to Travis Kelce for another score.

WORST GAME: Week 6 vs. Texans (36.9 grade)

Mahomes is highly consistent, as I only graded two of his 16 games below an average grade of 50. His worst game was in a 31-24 loss at home to the Texans in Week 6.

Mahomes put up solid numbers, completing 19 of 35 passes for 273 yards (7.8 per attempt), three touchdowns and one interception and generating a 96.5 passer rating. But those numbers don’t reflect how poorly he played. Houston did an excellent job keeping Mahomes from escaping the pocket. 

Thanks to his sublime accuracy and football IQ, Mahomes rarely makes costly mistakes, but the Houston game was one of the few instances in which his aggressive mentality produced negative results. In addition to an interception and a lost fumble, Mahomes threw two other passes that should have been intercepted, one of those seen below. Mahomes foolishly tries to squeeze this ball to Hill into an air-tight window between the corner and safety, and it is caught by Texans safety Justin Reid. Fortunately for Mahomes’ fantasy owners, Reid does not get two feet in bounds.

Mahomes’ only other sub-50 game was a 47.5 performance in New England, a game the Chiefs won, 23-16. The Patriots were so dominant defensively that Mahomes’ mediocre outing was one of the few decent quarterback performances they allowed all season. 

Against New England, Mahomes played conservatively, a rare event, doing a nice job avoiding costly mistakes and keeping the chains moving. Those may seem like two simple tasks, but most quarterbacks could not come close to fulfilling them against the Patriots in 2019.

On the downside, Mahomes’ conservative approach led to him passing up open targets in the 20-plus yard range. A lack of big plays outside of the pocket was a common thread in Mahomes’ worst games. 

To continue reading this article, click HERE.

Originally posted on Yardbarker | By Michael Nania  |  Last updated 1/28/20

AFC, NFC Title Game Intriguing Matchups, QB Intel Reports, Winners

No. 6 Tennessee (11-7) at No. 2 Kansas City (13-4), Sun., 3:05 p.m. ET (CBS) 

Most intriguing matchup: In a John Riggins– or John Wick-level zone going into the Titans’ first AFC championship game in 17 years, Derrick Henry encounters a Chiefs team yet to stop him. For all their improvements, the Chiefs’ defense is not on the level of the Titans’ playoff opponents, the Patriots or Ravens. After finishing last in run-defense DVOA in 2017 and ’18, the Chiefs ranked 29th this season. Henry has delivered ruthless consistency against the Chiefs, gaining 191 scrimmage yards on 25 touches in each of his past two opportunities –- in November 2019 and in the Titans’ 2017 wild-card-round upset win. Henry scored twice in a 2016 upset win in Kansas City and has five touchdowns against the Chiefs. Tennessee’s Taylor Lewan- and Rodger Saffold-led offensive line has helped Henry to four of the NFL’s top six rushing performances this season. The Titans’ only victory path is not a secret.

QB intelligence report: Becoming the ninth player to throw five touchdown passes in a playoff game, Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes now has eight TD tosses, 894 yards and no interceptions in three postseason contests. Only Mahomes and the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger have quarterbacked teams to AFC championship games in their first two seasons as starters. Mahomes piloted an NFL-playoff-record seven straight touchdown drives Sunday, with the Texans becoming the first team since 1940 to lose a playoff game in which it held a 17-plus-point first-quarter lead. Kansas City’s comeback-turned-blowout showed the margin for error Mahomes creates. This is the optimal modern quarterback. Tennessee QB Ryan Tannehill, whose yards per passing attempt (9.6) total was the fourth most since 1960, faces the NFL’s eighth-ranked pass defense. It slammed the door on a Houston rally. Tannehill, however, did orchestrate a four-play, 61-yard, game-winning drive to beat the Chiefs in November and just navigated two superior defenses to reach this round.

New blueprints coming soon: These franchises’ respective roster constructions raise the stakes. The Chiefs are 2-for-2 in AFC championship game appearances behind Mahomes, but he’s now extension-eligible and will command a market-reshaping contract this offseason. The Chiefs also will have Pro Bowl defensive tackle Chris Jones on either a franchise tag or near-Aaron Donald-level extension next season. The forthcoming calculus change will require new Chiefs road maps to championship-caliber rosters. The Titans are ready to pay up to see if Tannehill’s late bloom is legitimate. They also have one of the more unusual extensions to negotiate with Henry -– an old-school back whose skill set differs from the position’s top wage earners –- and also have right tackle Jack Conklin as an impending free agent. These costs amplify the importance of maximizing opportunity when the math is easier.

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (left) and tight end Travis Kelce  Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

And the winner is… Kansas City

The Chiefs are 0-3 against the Titans during Henry’s career, and this is the most consistent version of the bludgeoning back. Kansas City is 2-7 in home playoff games since 1995, and  Andy Reid teams are not known for big-stage reliability. But the Mahomes advantage will be too much. The Chiefs’ Legion of Zoom receiving corps, coupled with potential Hall of Fame tight end Travis Kelcerepresents a significantly more difficult matchup for the Titans’ No. 20-ranked DVOA pass defense than the Patriots or Ravens did. More victory avenues exist for the favorite, Henry’s brutal brilliance notwithstanding. The Chiefs will survive another Henry onslaught and book their first Super Bowl berth in 50 years.

In Week 12, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers fumbles as he is sacked by 49ers middle linebacker Fred Warner (54). Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

No. 2 Green Bay (14-3) at No. 1 San Francisco (14-3), Sun., 6:40 p.m. ET (FOX) 

Most intriguing matchup: San Francisco’s defensive line hounded Aaron Rodgers in Week 12, sacking him five times and holding him to a career-worst 3.15 yards per attempt. Rookie Nick Bosa (1 sack) and the once-underwhelming Arik Armstead  (2 sacks) ignited the 49ers’ 37-8 rout. Dee Ford (7.5 sacks in an injury-prone season) did not play that night; he will Sunday. Green Bay’s offensive line rated 10th in pass protection, per Football Outsiders, and has veteran tackles in David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga. The latter missed most of the Packers’ loss to the 49ers, and Armstead and Bosa dominated backup Alex Light. Even with Bulaga, who will presumably be back from an illness that sidelined him against the Seahawks, the Packers are up against a special defense -– one that will have high-priced linebacker Kwon Alexander back as well.

To continue reading this article, click HERE.

By Sam Robinson  |  Last updated 1/12/20

Winners and losers from 2019 Pro Bowl

Meaningless football is still football, so of course we still watched the 2019 Pro Bowl even though defense was optional, along with any semblance of urgency.

And you know what? There were some pretty fun moments out there in the pouring rain in Orlando, Fla. as the AFC All-Stars ran away with the game, 26-7.

There were, of course, some stinkers on display, too.

These were the biggest winners and losers from the 2019 Pro Bowl.

Winner: Patrick Mahomes got the AFC off to a hot start

It should surprise absolutely nobody that the future MVP of the league came out firing and got his team up early on Sunday.
Following up his legendary 2018 season, Mahomes helped the AFC All-Stars go up 14-0 before exiting the game for good. Along the way, he threw for 156 yards and a way-too-easy touchdown to Eric Ebron.

No other quarterback came close to matching what Mahomes did in the Pro Bowl, and the AFC never looked back after Mahomes left the field.

Loser: NFC offense was awful

Sure, it was wet. Sure, these players don’t really have any chemistry. But, my goodness, what the NFC’s offense did (or more aptly, what it didn’t do) was staggering.

No matter how you look at it, the NFC offense failed miserably. Giving up six sacks. Going for a grand total of 159 yards. Gaining just 10 first downs. It all stunk. And then, as if to highlight the entire pathetic outing, Amari Cooper let a sure touchdown bounce right off his facemask in the fourth quarter.

But hey, at least Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott and Alvin Kamara got to rush the passer, right?

Winner: Keenan Allen rose to the occasion

Out of all the big-time playmakers in Sunday’s Pro Bowl, Los Angeles Chargers receiver Keenan Allen stood out as the biggest winner. In the first half, he had four catches and went for 95 yards, including a 50-yarder from the hand of Patrick Mahomes.

That 50-yard catch set up the second touchdown of the game for the AFC All-Stars, and he also hauled in a key 22-yard reception on 3rd-and-10 in the second quarter to keep a drive alive that led to a field goal.

Loser: Trubisky really struggled

Chicago Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky has a bright future ahead of him. But his performance on Sunday was about as cloudy as the sky in Orlando.

Sure, he completed 5-of-9 total passes, but he managed just 34 yards. Even worse, he should have thrown two interceptions.

The first awful throw ended up being an incompletion thanks to Jamal Adams (more on that soon), and then his second — on the first play of the third quarter, was picked off.

Just an awful, terrible decision that he’d love to have back.

Winner: Sherman shows fullbacks can ball, too

One of the most underrated, yet key players for Kansas City all year, fullback Anthony Sherman made his presence felt during the 2019 Pro Bowl.

For starters, the powerful runner plowed his way into the end zone to help the AFC go up 14-0 early in the second quarter.

Sherman also added three catches for 92 yards!

Not bad for a guy who touched the ball a grand total of nine times all year.

Loser: Jamal Adams blew it (up)

Earlier in the week, Jamal Adams made national headlines when he blew up the New England Patriots mascot during practice.

Well, he had another huge hit in the Pro Bowl, too. Only this one was against his own teammate, and his big hit caused cornerback Xavien Howard to drop an interception.

Even worse, Adams himself dropped an easy pick earlier in the first half. So, he was responsible for two missed opportunities on what should have been easy turnovers.

Though, he did have some fun in the second half when he illegally lined up on the line of scrimmage and blew up Mitch Trubisky on a would-be flea-flicker. Then, just a couple plays later, he came up with a very easy pick on a trick play gone terribly wrong.

So, we can’t necessarily say Adams was a huge loser, but we can’t say he was a winner, either.

Winner: Kyle Fuller wasn’t messing around

On a wet, rainy day that saw stellar ball hawks like Jamal Adams and Malcolm Jenkins drop easy interceptions, Chicago Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller was locked in.

In the second quarter as Andrew Luck took over for the AFC offense, Fuller read the route JuJu Smith-Schuster was running and actually beat him to the spot. Then, as Luck tried to fire the ball to his receiver, Fuller made a tremendous play to pick the ball off.

By: Jesse Reed

All the Winners and Losers


Top takeaways from NFL Championship Sunday

The drama and intrigue we were missing from the divisional round showed up in a big way during NFL Championship Sunday.

It started with the Los Angeles Rams winning in controversial fashion against the Saints in New Orleans. Jared Goff and the Rams might have come back from a two-score deficit, but it’s the officials who became the story in the Bayou.

Once the Rams punched their ticket to Atlanta, the New England Patriots did battle with the Chiefs in Kansas City. In a game that saw Tom Brady’s squad dominate early, the Chiefs came out like gangbusters in the second half. In the end, New England won by the score of 37-31 in another overtime affair and will now match wits with the Rams in next month’s Super Bowl.

Here are the top takeaways from NFL Championship Sunday.

Jared Goff proves skeptics wrong at every turn

Jan 20, 2019; New Orleans, LA, USA; Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (16) drops back to pass against the New Orleans Saints during the first quarter in the NFC Championship game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Taking on a future Hall of Famer in Drew Brees, he had to go tit-for-tat with one of the game’s best on the road in the biggest moment of his life.

Goff came up absolutely huge at the end — leading the Rams on three consecutive scoring drives to help the team to an overtime win. That span saw him complete 8-of-13 passes for 135 yards. New Orleans gained a total of 63 yards during this stretch of action.

It wasn’t just that Goff put up the numbers. He made crucial throw after crucial throw, including a bomb to tight end Gerald Everett with pretty much everything on the line.

Sunday represented a coming-out party for this former No. 1 pick, and many were left eating crow

Josh McDaniels’ game plan was perfection defined

Jan 13, 2019; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels watches warmups before a game against the Los Angeles Chargers
in an AFC Divisional playoff football game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

McDaniels and the Patriots knew that going into Arrowhead in January would be a tough task for their offense. This unit is limited by a lack of elite play makers on the outside. Whether it’s statistically or on tape, Tom Brady has regressed to an extent this season. New England needed to change things up on offense after showing tremendous balance last week against the Chargers.

That’s exactly what we saw early and often Sunday against the Chiefs. We saw New England run multiple times on 3rd-and-3-plus — picking up a first down with James White on a consistent basis. New England also utilized the passing game as an extension of the run throughout this game. That is to say, relatively easy throws from Brady out on the flat.

The end result was a workmanlike performance from an offense that converted on 13-of-19 third-down opportunities in New England’s narrow overtime win over the Chiefs. Despite the perception some might have of of McDaniels, there’s a reason he continues to be a hot head-coaching commodity.

Officials created a mess in New Orleans

It was pretty apparent throughout the NFC Championship Game that officials were going to let the defenses body their counterparts. We saw this come to fruition multiple times in the first half alone, but it was this non-call on Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman that left everyone in New Orleans stunned.

It was third down with New Orleans driving for a potential go-ahead field goal late in the fourth quarter. If this had been called, the Saints would’ve been able to run down the clock and kick said field goal with no time left. Instead, this gave the ball back to Los Angeles for an opportunity to tie the game. Once that happened, the Rams came out on top in overtime.

We’re not going to sit back here and say that officiating cost the home-standing Saints a shot at the Super Bowl, but they certainly did not help. That was about the most blatant pass interference we’ve seen go uncalled in a long time.

Patrick Mahomes is now a steady veteran?

Jan 20, 2019; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) throws the ball during the first quarter of the AFC Championship game against the New England Patriots at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

One of the major stories heading into the AFC Championship Game was Mahomes taking on the GOAT Tom Brady. Would experience win out in this one or was it time for this second-year signal caller to announce his presence on the larger NFL stage?

It didn’t go too swimmingly for the Chiefs early on. They put up less than 50 total yards of offense in the first half alone. This is when Mahomes proved he’s not a wide-eyed young quarterback that crumbles under the pressure.

Instead, Mahomes went tit-for-tat with Brady in the second half — tallying 250-plus passing yards in leading Kansas City into a close game after falling down 14-0 at the half. Unfortunately, he didn’t get an opportunity to touch the ball in overtime. That doesn’t take away from what he did as a sophomore this season.

Saints run game nonexistent

Jan 20, 2019; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram (22) runs the ball against the Los Angeles Rams during the third quarter in the NFC Championship game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

By: Vincent Frank

Full Article


Winners and losers from the Divisional Round of the 2019 NFL playoffs

The Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs got underway Saturday night with the AFC’s top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs in action against the Indianapolis Colts. A week off did nothing to slow the Chiefs’ offensive momentum.

Led by Patrick Mahomes, who did not find his first career playoff start nearly as intimidating as the pundits thought he would, the Chiefs jumped out to a 24-7 lead in the first half, and never looked back. The Colts hardly looked ready to play, nothing like the team that rode a 10-1 streak into the weekend. The Chiefs went on to win by a final score of 31-13.

The Cowboys and Rams met in LA for the late game on Saturday night to decide the first of the NFC Championship entrants. The Rams’ running game had no troubles against a usually stout Cowboys defense, and the home team rolled on for a 30-22 win.

On Sunday, the Patriots had no problems running around and through the Chargers, winning 41-28 to lock down their eighth consecutive appearance in the AFC Championship game.

The Saints turned aside the Eagles, sinking their hope of a Super Bowl repeat with a 20-14 win in New Orleans. The Saints will host the Rams there next weekend.

Winner: Michael Thomas

The postseason hasn’t been filled with inspiring performances from offensive skill players. But the Saints wide receiver changed that. He and Drew Brees single-handedly got the Saints offense rolling again after a slow start. His best catch of the day — and there were A LOT of them — was on the Saints’ go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter. Just watch it.

He finished the game with 171 yards and a touchdown on 12 catches.

Loser: Nick Foles’ magic

You can’t impugn what the guy did prior to this game. The Eagles wouldn’t have been playing this weekend, or last, if Foles hadn’t stepped up as the team’s “closer” again this season with Carson Wentz hurt. But he turned into a pumpkin again, underthrowing his receivers and just unable to get the ball to his receivers when the Eagles needed it the most.

With free agency looming this spring, Foles may have cost himself some money with his performance this week, maybe not much, but enough to notice.

Winner: Time of possession

It feels like we haven’t had a good conversation about time of possession since the early days of the Chip Kelly experience in Philly. This time it was the Saints putting on the clock clinic.

It happened in the third quarter. Trailing 10-14, the Saints got the ball at their own 8-yard line. From there they put together a grinding 92-yard touchdown drive over 18 plays and 11:29 minutes, essentially monopolizing the entire third quarter.

Winner: The Patriots defense

Absent most of the season, the Patriots defense looked like one of the NFL’s most fearsome in the first half of the game. Philip Rivers never had a chance against a pass rush that was previously dormant.

Loser: Philip Rivers’ legacy

He’s got more yards, more touchdowns and fewer interceptions over the course of his career than either Eli Manning or Ben Roethlisberger, but unlike those other two first-round picks from the 2004 draft, he does not have a Super Bowl ring. Instead, he and J.P. Losman have something in common.

Winner: Patriots running backs

The Chargers defense put on a clinic for how to stop a creative running game in last week’s win against the Ravens. Apparently, Patriots OC Josh McDaniels was able to find some holes in their game plan.

Sony Michel rolled up nearly 100 yards and scored three touchdowns … in the first half. He’s the first rookie running back in franchise history to rush for more than 100 yards in a playoff game. He finished the day with 129 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries.

James White, who led the team in receptions during the regular season with 87, was Tom Brady’s favorite receiver on the day, catching 15 of 17 passes for 97 yards.

The Patriots chewed up the clock with their running backs, leaving little time for Rivers and Co. to put points on the board. It also helped keep the workload light for their defense, and teased out what their game plan might be next week against Kansas City.

Winner: C.J. Anderson

The Rams signed C.J. Anderson in mid-December, when Todd Gurley was dealing with a knee injury. Anderson had been released by both the Panthers and Raiders earlier in the season and was really just supposed to be a warm body while Gurley could heal up.

Instead, Anderson has bulldozed every defense he faced. In two games to end the season, he carried the ball 43 times for 299 yards and two touchdowns — that averaged out to 7 yards per carry. But that was against two of the worst teams in the NFL, the Cardinals and 49ers. Next up was the playoffs — and a Cowboys defense that ranked fifth in the league against the run during the regular season. Last week, they held the Seahawks’ top-ranked rushing offense to just 73 yards on the ground.

Anderson had more than that in the first half alone: 12 carries for 78 yards. Even with a healthy Gurley back in the lineup, Anderson was a force in the Rams’ first playoff win in 14 years. He used his, uh, rotund frame to help the Rams dominate the time of possession and scored what proved to be the game-winning touchdown.

Anderson was the leading rusher with 123 yards and two touchdowns. Plus, he did this:

All the Winners and Losers here



32 things we learned heading into divisional round of 2018 NFL playoffs

The 32 things we learned heading into the 2018 NFL playoff divisional round:

1. If it seemed the wild-card round was chock full of fresh faces and teams, well, it was. None of the eight clubs competing in the opening round was in action for last season’s wild-card games, and only the Eagles (a No. 1 seed with a bye in 2017) even reached the playoff field a year ago.

1a. But you’ll see largely familiar characters in the divisional round with Philadelphia returning along with the four teams on bye — the Chiefs, Patriots, Rams and Saints, all postseason entries last year, too.

1b. The last team to advance to the Super Bowl after playing on wild-card weekend was the 2012 Ravens, who won Super Bowl XLVII. The next 10 conference champs have all had first-round byes.

2. Gen X-er Philip Rivers, 37, has to be the sentimental favorite to win it all, right? No quarterback in league history has thrown for more yards (54,656) or more touchdowns (374) yet never played on Super Sunday.

2a. And how great (and entertaining) would it be to see Rivers’ Chargers take on the Saints … and former Bolts QB Drew Brees, who kept Philly Riv on the bench for two years?

3. But if you’re into unminted Millennial passers, Patrick Mahomes (23), Jared Goff (24), Dak Prescott (25) and, most certainly, Andrew Luck (29) could ride great story lines all the way to Atlanta, site of Super Bowl LIII.

4. Three quarterbacks made their playoff debuts during wild-card weekend. Deshaun Watson, Lamar Jackson and Mitchell Trubisky all lost.

5. Welp, Matt Nagy, guess you shoulda laid down for the Vikings in Week 17 rather than invite a matchup with the Iggles and your old buddy Doug Pederson.

6. Did anyone else want Eagles-Bears go into overtime (maybe double OT) just to see how NBC would handle its Golden Globes coverage, which began minutes after Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth wrapped?

7. Rough night for Chicago’s Cody Parkey, whose would-be, game-winning field goal attempt from 43 yards hit the upright then the crossbar before caroming into the end zone. No good. Parkey drilled the Soldier Field uprights four times Nov. 1. Uncanny.

8. But if I’ve learned anything this season, it’s that Parkey is about to get a flood of support from kickers throughout the league as he copes with this unfortunate bounce. Bounces.

9. Nick Foles was picked off twice in Sunday’s win over the Bears. The last time he threw multiple INTs in an Eagles uniform, Oct. 26, 2014, Chip Kelly was their coach and Foles had yet to play for the Rams or Chiefs.

9a. The last time Philadelphia played the Saints in postseason, the 2013 wild-card round, Foles was also the quarterback (in a losing effort) — Kelly’s only NFL playoff appearance.

10. Congrats to Eagles WR Golden Tate, who scored the game-winning TD at Chicago, instantly justifying the scrutinized trade deadline deal for him — which cost Philly a third-round pick that appeared awfully expensive given the struggles to integrate Tate into the offense.

10a. Congrats to Eagles LT Jason Peters, RB/KR Darren Sproles and LB Jordan Hicks, who all missed the 2017 Super Bowl run with injuries but tasted a playoff victory Sunday.

10b. Feel for you, Wentz.

11. Was wild-card weekend’s MVP Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley? His unit was on the short end of a 22-10 loss to Baltimore two weeks ago. Sunday, it showed the rest of the league how to contain Jackson — essentially deploying a defense comprised of linemen and defensive backs to shadow, flummox and confuse the rookie.

12. Jackson, who turns 22 on Monday, became the youngest quarterback to start a playoff game in NFL history. He looked like it. Make no mistake, the Ravens don’t win the AFC North without Jackson’s heroics in the second half of the season, when he went 6-1 as the starter. But Bradley and the Bolts provided a blueprint to stopping him and a fresh reminder that, though Jackson remains an elite athlete and highly effective with the ball in open space, he’s got a long, long way to go to be a fully-formed pro quarterback. He was sacked seven times, picked off once and fumbled thrice, losing the ball on his team’s final possession.

13. Who figured on Chargers rookie K Mike Badgley outperforming Ravens all-pro Justin Tucker? Badgley set a Bolts’ postseason record with five made field goals, while Tucker was 1-for-2 on three-point tries. Tucker missed five FGs this season, three against L.A.

14. Who figured on Chargers FB Derek Watt making a longer playoff run this season than brothers J.J. and T.J.?

15. The Chargers haven’t beaten Tom Brady since 2005. Rivers is 0-7 head-to-head against TB12, including two losses in postseason.

15a. But Sunday, the Chargers became the only team in the league to win eight times on the road this season. A visit to Foxborough, daunting as it is, won’t phase them.

16. The last time Rivers appeared in a playoff game at Gillette Stadium, the 2007 AFC Championship Game, he played on a torn ACL.

17. Baltimore’s second-ranked run game, which had averaged nearly 230 yards in Jackson’s seven regular-season starts, was limited to 90.

Full List Here

By: Nate Davis


Winners and losers from NFL Week 8

Before Sunday’s slate of games got going, there was some serious drama in London as the Jacksonville Jaguars made headlines for all the wrong reasons.

That should have clued us in to the fact that NFL Week 8 was going to get weird.

The league’s most dominant defense was smashed to bits. Adrian Peterson outplayed Saquon Barkley. And a former No. 1 overall pick hit a new low.

These were the biggest winners and losers from NFL Week 8.