Student writers Brett Tyndall and A. C. Boyle outline the long trail to the Super Bowl for the NFC and AFC, respectively.
The NFC with Brett Tyndall
The 49ers won the NFC title last week against Green Bay in one of the most dominant rushing performances in NFL playoff history. Raheem Mostert rushed for 220 yards and four touchdowns on 29 carries. San Francisco ran a total of 50 plays and 42 of them were running plays. That means quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo only attempted eight passes the entire game. While San Francisco was impressive for most of the season, some of their success can be attributed to overall team health, as they had very few impactful injuries up to this point. Philadelphia and Seattle, on the other hand, had no such luck. The rest of the NFC was no match for the 49ers, but there are reasons why each team failed in the NFC playoffs.
Philadelphia: The Eagles might as well have had local tryouts again with all the injuries they had. Carson Wentz got concussed during Philly’s Wild Card game against Seattle. This left them with 40-year-old Josh McCown at quarterback. The dude played his heart out, as he was playing with a torn hamstring near the end of the game. McCown, however, didn’t have enough in the tank.
The Eagles were also down running backs Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders. Philly also lost Darren Sproles early in the season, leaving 2018 sixth-round draft pick Boston Scott in the backfield. But wait, they also had receivers Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson on injured reserve, leaving pass-catchers I had never heard of. Their secondary was also beaten to hell. The 2019 Eagles were one of the most banged-up teams I’ve ever seen in football.
New Orleans: The Saints choked. Drew Brees finally looked his age (40), Alvin Kamara did virtually nothing and the Saints defense looked terrible in their home Wild Card loss to the Vikings. They lost to a Minnesota team that simply played harder and better than they did. It’s a shame since receiver Michael Thomas had one of the best receiving seasons in NFL history (149 catches for 1,725 yards and nine touchdowns). The 149 receptions are a new NFL record and the yards broke his own Saints record for most receiving yards in a single season (1,405 yards last season). Drew Brees made some awful mistakes against the Vikings, making uncharacteristically bad decisions and turning the ball over twice. This loss was on him.
Minnesota: The Vikings never had a chance against San Francisco. Once the Niners’ front seven shut down running back Dalvin Cook, that was pretty much it. Not to knock quarterback Kirk Cousins; he had a great season, but he was never going to beat San Francisco single-handedly. The Vikings just don’t have the offensive and defensive depth the 49ers have. Minnesota was simply beaten by a better team. Full stop.
Seattle: The Seahawks were carried on the back of elite QB Russell Wilson all year. The Seahawks were also incredibly injured, particularly at running back. They lost Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny in the same game. C. J. Prosise was also injured, which meant Beast Mode needed to leave the old folks home and eat Skittles one last time. Rookie Travis Homer was also there, who honestly played better than Marshawn Lynch. Their defense was decent, I guess. Ultimately, Russell Wilson can’t do everything, which is why they lost to Green Bay in the Divisional round.
Green Bay: This team was only good on paper. While 13-3 is a great record, if you look closer, you would’ve seen their loss to San Francisco in the NFC Championship coming from a mile away. Of those 13 wins, seven of them were won by 8 points or less. The other team in those games were a Mahomes-less Chiefs team, Detroit twice, Minnesota, the Redskins and Chicago.
Four of those six games were against awful teams. Green Bay was really good … at winning ugly games. They were also proficient at losing badly; they got shellacked by the Chargers and Niners in the regular season.They also lost a close to the Eagles early in the season. Green Bay’s run defense looked horrendous against the Niners, as Raheem Mostert marched across the field time and time again. This team had flaws that even Aaron Rodgers couldn’t reconcile.
San Francisco is easily the most complete team in the NFC, which is why they will now face the Chiefs in a battle of opposites in Super Bowl 54. The last time these two teams faced off was Week 3 last season, when Jimmy G tore his ACL in a 38-27 San Francisco loss.
The AFC with A. C. Boyle
The Kansas City Chiefs are headed to their first Superbowl in 50 years, where they will play the San Francisco 49ers. Good lord, it feels great to say that out loud.
No fans have been more loyal and embittered than Chiefs Kingdom, who have been waiting for a literal half century. The Chiefs last made the Superbowl in 1970, where they upset the heavily favored Minnesota Vikings by a score of 23-7, their first and only Superbowl win. After coming close but not close enough many times over the next half century, the Hunt family turned to former Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid to revitalize an otherwise irrelevant small market NFL team to its former glory.
In the past seven years, Andy Reid has done just that, by drafting perhaps the greatest generational talent of his time in Quarterback Patrick Mahomes, seemingly right under everyone’s nose like some kind of magician.
Now the Chiefs have an offense so elite that they can score from anywhere, and many of their drives end in touchdowns after less than six plays down the field.
Last Sunday, the Chiefs won the AFC Championship game against the Tennessee Titans by a score of 35-24.
At the start of the game, it looked like things wouldn’t go the Chiefs’ way, as they let the Titans run offense milk the clock on long scoring drives that put them up 17-7 in the second quarter. But then, just as they did against Houston in their previous playoff game, the Chiefs turned on the gas and let their high-powered offence take flight.
At the end of the first half, Mahomes scrambled for what might be the most beautiful scrambling touchdown a quarterback has ever scored, eluding seven defenders while barely avoiding stepping out of bounds, and this put them up 21-17.
Once the Chiefs had taken the lead into the halftime locker room, the game seemed over to anyone paying close enough attention. With the lead, the Titans couldn’t run the ball like they wanted to, and trying to take off chunks of possession wasn’t disrupting KC’s offense on their subsequent drive, it was giving them time to rest and adjust. Plus, after the heartbreak of coming so close last year, the Chiefs simply weren’t going to allow themselves to fall short again. This team is just too mentally resilient for that.
The next challenge is on Sunday, Feb. 2, at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami. It’s there that the Chiefs will face off against the 49ers, another team with a high powered offense.
The 49ers are lead by head coach Kyle Shanahan, who was the offensive coordinator at the Atlanta Falcons the year they lost that infamous Superbowl against the Patriots.
After that game, Shanahan left his OC position for the head coaching job on the dismal 49ers, and within two years he had completely transformed the team from the inside out. Now they’re headed to their first Superbowl since 2012, and seeking their first Superbowl win since 1995. I expect both teams to come out firing on all cylinders, in what will prove to be a high scoring game, blowout or not.