Before I get into the recap, I have to express my disappointment in FOX. The network had three years to prepare for this game, yet they crossed signals with the Spanish broadcast for most of the evening. It was incredibly embarrassing. I enjoyed the enthusiasm of the Spanish broadcasters, but I didn't quite understand most of what they were saying. Thus, I didn't catch all of the details in this game.
Some people were also disappointed with Patrick Mahomes. During the third quarter, some on Twitter were questioning his ability to perform in the clutch. Their premature, hot-garbage takes turned out to be quite embarrassing for them. Down 20-10 with about eight minutes remaining, Mahomes began a drive with a nice scramble. He was lucky he didn't throw an interception after that when Kwon Alexander dropped a potential pick. That would be the final mistake Mahomes would make in the evening, as he took advantage of a second chance by converting a throw to Tyreek Hill for a first down. Damien Williams then made a nice move to pick up another first down, and then Mahomes found Hill for a 44-yard bomb. Hill was somehow wide open deep downfield, and Mahomes capitalized with the conversion. Mahomes then found Travis Kelce for a touchdown to draw to within 20-17.
The Chiefs' defense needed to step up after that, and they did so, forcing a three-and-out. Mahomes had around five minutes to get the winning score, and it didn't take much time. He got out of a sack to convert the first down, then connected with Sammy Watkins to reach the red zone. Mahomes then hit Williams for what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown. The Chiefs scored once again on a Williams touchdown run after the 49ers turned the ball over on downs to make this game an 11-point margin, rather than the natural score, 24-20.
The MVP award could've been given to Mahomes or Williams. Either made sense, and honestly, Williams probably deserved it a bit more. He was playing well when Mahomes was struggling in the middle portion of this game, and he ended up with 104 rushing yards, four catches for 29 receiving yards and two touchdowns. He picked up several first downs, especially in the opening half when this was a slugfest.
That said, there are no complaints about Mahomes winning the MVP. He was very clutch in the fourth quarter once the 49ers failed to take advantage of his poor throw that Alexander dropped. He once again led the Chiefs back from a double-digit deficit, and he was able to overcome San Francisco's devastating pass rush. Most quarterbacks would've folded, and Mahomes had his struggles. Nick Bosa was a terror on the edge, and left tackle Eric Fisher was beaten like a mule. The pressure forced Mahomes into several poor passes throughout the first three quarters, two of which were intercepted. Mahomes didn't have enough time to see linebacker Fred Warner in coverage on one of his picks. The other interception was thrown behind Tyreek Hill, as Mahomes was rattled in the pocket and couldn't throw a precise pass. San Francisco had him bottled up for three quarters.
Mahomes, however, is way too good to contain for 60 minutes. He came through in the clutch, so he became the youngest player to ever win Super Bowl MVP in league history.
On the other end of the spectrum, there will be a discussion that Kyle Shanahan choked away another double-digit lead in the second half of the Super Bowl. I think it's foolish to say that this collapse was completely Shanahan's fault, but he is to blame. I thought he was too conservative at points in the second half, and it was puzzling how bad his clock management was at the end of each half. The 49ers inexplicably ran out the clock prior to halftime, and then huddled with 2:20 remaining with the time ticking down. This was just awful.
Yet, San Francisco could've overcame that with good quarterbacking. Jimmy Garoppolo made some terrific throws in the third quarter, but he was putrid in the final frame. One interception came on a desperation heave, but he just didn't look like he had what it takes to lead his team to a Super Bowl victory. Garoppolo didn't have to do anything in the first two playoff games, but when it came down to it in the Super Bowl, Garoppolo just couldn't get it done. He posted an underwhelming stat line, going 20-of-31 for 219 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He should've been picked a third time, but Kendall Fuller dropped a potential interception. Garoppolo also had a horrendous overthrow toward Emmanuel Sanders for a potential score in the fourth quarter.
Speaking of stats, Mahomes went 26-of-42 for 286 yards, two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. He found the end zone on another occasion early in the game when he scrambled for a score. He ended up with 29 rushing yards on nine scrambles. His ability to move was an X-factor against Kansas City's elite pass rush.
It's truly amazing what Mahomes has done in such a short period of time. It's easy to forget this fact, but this was only Mahomes' 36th career start. He's not even 25 yet. Mahomes is still getting better, so imagine how good he'll be when he's making his 72nd start. I can't even fathom how much money he'll receive on his contract extension. It might be so huge that the Chiefs should just offer to make him a part owner of the franchise.
Hill led the Chiefs in receiving with nine catches on 16 targets for 105 yards. Sammy Watkins (5-98) was next on the stat sheet, followed by Kelce (6-43). Kelce drew an interference flag in the end zone right before he scored a touchdown.
Deebo Samuel had fewer receiving yards than all three of those players - he caught five passes for 39 yards - but he was an early candidate to win MVP when the 49ers had the lead. Samuel was doing a lot for the 49ers, as he also had three rushes for 53 ground yards.
Elsewhere in the receiving corps, Kendrick Bourne led the team in aerial yardage despite catching just two passes. Those receptions went for 42 yards. Kyle Juszczyk was next with three grabs for 39 yards. He scored a touchdown and nearly found the end zone again. Sanders (3-38) and George Kittle (4-36) disappointed those who rostered them in DFS. Kittle made a huge catch right before halftime, but was whistled for offensive pass interference on what seemed to be a sketchy call. Shanahan couldn't challenge because the play occurred in the final two minutes. I hate automatic reviews, so I hope the NFL changes this rule this offseason.
Raheem Mostert rushed for 58 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. It was surprising to see Tevin Coleman get the start. Coleman saw half the work, however, as his five attempts went for 28 yards. Matt Breida didn't see a single touch, which was a curious decision.
49ers 37, Packers 20
If you were to tell anyone that Aaron Rodgers wouldn't have an incompletion until 1:08 remaining in the second quarter, and that Jimmy Garoppolo would convert on just four pass attempts prior to halftime, there would've been a consensus mindset that the Packers would've had a lead at intermission. That was far from the case, however, as San Francisco held a 27-0 advantage at halftime.
The 49ers simply didn't need to pass. They trampled the Packers all evening. Raheem Mostert may as well been an actual freight train, as Green Bay would've had just as much difficulty bringing him down if that were the case.
It'll all started innocently on a third-and-8 on the second drive of the evening. It appeared as though the Packers would hold the 49ers to a field goal, but Mostert was able to burst through a trap for a touchdown. This was the first of four scores for the former special-teams specialist. Mostert has made quite the leap from being a scrub player who was released by teams in the past. All he did in this game was rumble for 220 yards and the quartet of touchdowns on 29 carries.
Mostert was pressed into a heavier workload because Tevin Coleman injured his arm during a second-quarter run. The FOX announcers said this was a significant injury at the time, but that couldn't be further from the truth because it just gave Mostert more opportunities. Coleman (6-21) actually would've made the 49ers' offense less explosive than it would've been with Mostert.
It's hardly worth talking about anything else regarding the 49er offense. That's because Garoppolo attempted eight passes. I thought there was a chance Garoppolo would choke in a big moment, but he was never given the opportunity to do so. He was 6-of-8 for 77 yards. Not included in that was a drawn pass interference that Garoppolo drew by throwing to George Kittle.
Speaking of Kittle, the dynamic tight end was victimized by the run-heavy game plan. He caught just one pass for 19 yards. He was second on the team in receiving, and just one of two 49ers with more than six receiving yards. Deebo Samuel was the other; he hauled in two balls for 46 yards.
The Packers, meanwhile, sabotaged their own chances of prevailing in this game beyond their defense's ineptitude. They made some crushing mistakes in the opening half, which would explain why they were down nearly four touchdowns despite Rodgers not misfiring in the first 29 minutes of the game.
The first blunder occurred when Rodgers fumbled deep in his own territory, just like he did the last time he battled the 49ers. His teammate recovered this time, but this ruined a drive, and the situation was made worse with a shanked punt. The 49ers took over on a short field and scored on a Mostert touchdown to extend the lead to 17-0.
Green Bay's second big mistake occurred on the ensuing possession. The Packers were moving the chains well and approaching the red zone. It looked like they would get three points at the minimum, but a botched exchange between Rodgers and his center allowed the 49ers to obtain a key turnover.
The third and final error transpired on a Rodgers interception. This happened right after his initial incompletion. He fired the ball behind Davante Adams, and San Francisco once again scored on a short field. This gave the 49ers an insurmountable 27-0 lead.
Rodgers ended up 31-of-39 for 326 yards, two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. His second pick was a deep heave in desperation time. The numbers look great, but most of Rodgers' production occurred when the Packers were way down in the second half. He had just 64 yards at halftime. San Francisco's elite pass rush and secondary made things extremely difficult for him. Rodgers eventually caught fire, but it was too late by then.
Rodgers needs better receivers to throw to. Outside of Davante Adams, his options were lacking. Adams caught nine of his 11 targets for 138 yards. Jimmy Graham (4-59) was next on the receiving list. He appeared to score a touchdown, but replay review ruled him inches shy of the goal line. This paved the way for Aaron Jones to dive into the end zone on the next play.
Speaking of Jones, he didn't get to run very much because of the large deficit. He still had a great fantasy performance, however, thanks to his two touchdowns. He rushed for 56 yards on just 12 carries, and he also caught all five of his targets for 27 receiving yards.
Chiefs 35, Titans 24
If no one had seen the Chiefs-Texans game in the divisional round of the playoffs, there may have been some doubt about Kansas City's ability to win this game at one point in the opening half. The Titans established a 17-7 lead, as Mike Vrabel was doing an outstanding coaching job. The Titans were able to get the Chiefs offsides on three occasions, and they were able to get some clutch fourth-down conversions. Before long, Tennessee had a 17-7 advantage. With a lead, the Titans would surely be able to control the clock with Derrick Henry, as they did on a 9-minute drive to suck the life out of the game in the second quarter.
The Chiefs, however, had different ideas. They didn't have a gargantuan comeback like last week when they erased a 24-0 deficit, but they were able to overcome Tennessee's 17-7 lead by taking a four-point advantage into halftime. Patrick Mahomes was ridiculous, both as a passer and a scrambler. He hit Tyreek Hill with a laser to trim the margin to three, and then he had one of the best runs you'll ever see from a quarterback not named Lamar Jackson. He found the end zone at the end of his 27-yard burst to give the Chiefs a 21-17 lead heading into intermission.
Mahomes continued his brilliance in the second half. He launched a 60-yard touchdown bomb to Sammy Watkins to extend the advantage to 35-17 with about seven minutes remaining in the final quarter. That effectively ended the game, as the Titans were able to score a garbage-time touchdown to make this game appear closer than it really was.
Mahomes finished six yards shy of the 300-yard barrier, going 23-of-35 for 294 yards and three touchdowns. He also scrambled eight times for 53 yards and another score. I saw someone ask on Twitter if Mahomes is the best quarterback in the NFL right now, and there's no doubt that he is. In fact, I think there's a wide chasm between Mahomes and the second-best quarterback in the league. He's going to dominate the NFL for a very long time, and this is just the first of numerous Super Bowl appearances he will make in his career.
Two of Mahomes' touchdowns went to Hill, who snatched five of his seven targets for 67 yards. He finished behind Watkins on the receiving list, as Watkins grabbed seven balls for 114 yards and Mahomes' third touchdown.
Elsewhere in the receiving corps, Travis Kelce was a major disappointment with his three grabs for 30 yards. However, he made a big play in this game to catch a pass on fourth down on Kansas City's initial scoring drive of the afternoon.
Damien Williams didn't find much running room, but he ended up with a nice fantasy game because he scored a touchdown. He rushed for 45 yards on 17 carries, while also catching five passes for 44 receiving yards.
Amazingly, the Chiefs out-rushed the Titans. Part of that was Mahomes' running, but Tennessee couldn't establish the rush in the second half because of the double-digit deficit. Henry was given just three carries in the second half. He finished up with 69 yards and a touchdown on 19 tries.
Ryan Tannehill had to lead the Titans back from the double-digit deficit, but he just couldn't do much outside of one garbage-time drive in the second half. He ended up 21-of-31 for 209 yards and two touchdowns. Tannehill did a great job of managing the offense since taking over for Marcus Mariota, but his limitations prevented the Titans from keeping pace with Mahomes. It's worth noting that he was lucky that he didn't throw an interception. The Chiefs dropped two potential picks, and an apparent interception was ruled to hit the ground after replay review.
Corey Davis somehow led the Titans in receiving with five grabs for 65 yards, finishing just ahead of A.J. Brown (3-51) and Jonnu Smith (3-38). Anthony Firkser (1-22) and tackle-eligible Dennis Kelly both caught touchdowns.
Packers 28, Seahawks 23
This game began and ended identically. Green Bay opened the evening with a touchdown drive that featured a couple of brilliant third-and-long conversions by Aaron Rodgers, including a touchdown pass to Davante Adams. The final possession, which began with about 3:30 remaining as the Packers were trying to ice a 28-23 lead, featured Rodgers converting a pair of third-and-long attempts. One was to Adams, which helped Green Bay claim this victory.
Rodgers to Adams was a running theme all evening. The Seahawks had no answer for the star receiver. Adams' elite route-running ability allowed him to easily torch the Seahawks whenever Green Bay decided to air out the ball.
Adams caught eight of his 11 targets for 160 yards and two touchdowns. He had a very easy matchup this week, but things will be much more difficult next Sunday when he battles San Francisco's elite secondary.
Rodgers, meanwhile, was majestic on third downs. The Packers were 9-of-14 on third down, compared to 3-of-9 for Seattle. Rodgers finished 16-of-27 for 243 yards and two touchdowns. He'll have a much more difficult task next week against the 49ers, whom he struggled against in a Sunday night affair earlier in the year.
Aaron Jones wasn't overly productive as far as yardage was concerned; he rushed for 62 yards on 21 carries. However, he was able to score twice, allowing him to have a strong DFS performance against Seattle's tough run defense.
Aside from Adams, only one Packer logged more than 11 receiving yards. That was Jimmy Graham, who caught three balls for 49 yards, including Rodgers' final pass of the evening, which moved the chains for one last time to seal the victory.
As for the Seahawks, Russell Wilson did all he could to mount a comeback. The numbers say he struggled early - he was 6-of-13 for 105 yards at halftime - but that's because he endured several drops, one of which was by Jacob Hollister on third down. Wilson's supporting cast helped him more as the evening progressed, and Wilson also took matters into his own hands with numerous successful scrambles. However, a missed field goal, a blown assignment by Marshawn Lynch on a two-point conversion, and a foolish decision by Pete Carroll to punt on a fourth down with 3:30 remaining finished off Seattle's chances of advancing deeper into the playoffs.
Wilson finished 21-of-31 for 277 yards and a touchdown, and he also scrambled seven times for 64 rushing yards. He was his usual, amazing self, but those around him prevented him from completing an amazing comeback.
Wilson would've had a better DFS day if it weren't for Lynch, who vultured two touchdowns. Lynch may have fallen into the end zone twice, but he was largely ineffective otherwise. He mustered just 26 yards on 12 caries. The Seahawks gave the ball to Lynch three straight times on one possession in the opening half, which resulted in a three-and-out. This was another example of Seattle's poor coaching.
D.K. Metcalf was Seattle's leading receiver last week, but he took a step backward this Sunday. He caught four passes for 59 yards, trailing Tyler Lockett, who hauled in nine balls for 136 yards and a score.
As for Wilson's other targets, Hollister snatched five balls for 47 yards. He also fumbled early in the game, but the incompetent officials didn't make sure to find out who recovered the loose ball. Malik Turner (0 catches) is also worth mentioning because he dropped a pass on his team's final offensive drive. The Seahawks had to punt three plays later, so Turner was partly responsible for this defeat.
Chiefs 51, Texans 31
Patrick Mahomes is amazing. I'm not saying anything anyone doesn't know, but what he did in this game was ridiculous.
If you somehow missed what transpired in the opening half, the Texans established a 24-0 lead. That's not a typo. Houston went up by 24 points in the opening quarter, thanks to a cascade of Kansas City blunders. The first drive saw the Chiefs commit a false start, waste a timeout and then see Travis Kelce drop a pass on third down. If that wasn't bad enough, there was a blocked punt to make the score 14-0. The next possession featured a Demarcus Robinson drop on third down, leading to a Tyreek Hill muffed punt to set up another Houston touchdown. The third Kansas City drive had three players drop passes: Damien Williams, Robinson and Tyreek Hill, in that order.
The Chiefs looked like they were sleepwalking through this game. The Texans, up 21-0, drove deep into Kansas City territory. They had a fourth-and-1 in the red zone, and it appeared as though they would go for it. They used a timeout, and then O'Brien inexplicably decided to have his kicker try a field goal, which made me wonder why he didn't just take the delay-of-game penalty. The Texans converted, putting them 24-0, but moving to 28-0 would've made a Kansas City comeback more difficult. Instead, the Chiefs scored a touchdown right after that, and then received possession on two short fields as a result of a failed fake punt and a fumbled kickoff return. Amazingly, O'Brien called for a field goal on fourth-and-1 (wasting a timeout in the process), then tried a fake punt on fourth-and-4. He's one of the worst head coaches in the NFL, and he must be fired for Houston to take the next step.
Mahomes, meanwhile, became the second quarterback in NFL history (Doug Williams) to throw four touchdowns in a single playoff quarter. He showed tremendous poise and leadership while leading the comeback. He finished with some amazing numbers, going 23-of-35 for 321 yards and five touchdowns to go along with seven scrambles for 53 rushing yards. Had this been Alex Smith, or even Trent Green from years ago, the Chiefs would've suffered yet another disappointing playoff loss. Mahomes, conversely, is great enough to overcome any deficit. He's the best quarterback in the NFL right now, and it's not even close.
Kelce was the recipient of three of Mahomes' touchdowns. He bounced back from a couple of first-half drops to post a monstrous stat line, catching 10 of his 12 targets for 134 yards and three touchdowns. He also drew an interference flag on one of the second-half scoring drives. Kelce hurt his hamstring at the end of the opening half, but he was able to return to action after missing the opening drive of the third quarter.
Hill didn't have as much success on the stat sheet. He caught just three of his four targets for only 41 yards. He dropped a pass and muffed a punt, but he made up for it by drawing a deep interference flag in the second half. He trailed Sammy Watkins (2-76) on the stat sheet.
Damien Williams struggled to find much running room, struggling to do anything on the ground outside of his 26-yard run. Williams rushed for 47 yards on 12 carries, but he awarded those who played him in DFS with a whopping three touchdowns, two on the ground, and one aerially.
The Texans, meanwhile, scored just seven points in the second half, as the offensive line couldn't protect very well for Deshaun Watson. The Houston quarterback was constantly moving around in the pocket to avoid pass rushers. What's remarkable about this is that the Chiefs were missing Chris Jones, one of the top defensive players in the NFL. Kansas City would've been even more dominant in the trenches if they had Jones, who should be back next week.
Watson still posted a great stat line, going 31-of-52 for 388 yards and two touchdowns to go along with six scrambles for 37 rushing yards and a third score on the ground. Most of this did not occur in garbage time. In fact, both of Watson's aerial scores came in the opening half. He may have eclipsed the 400-yard barrier had he not endured several drops from unfocused teammates late in the game.
Like Kelce, DeAndre Hopkins suffered an injury just prior to halftime when he hurt his ribs. He didn't miss any action, catching nine of his 14 targets for 118 yards. He didn't reach the end zone, however, as Watson's touchdowns were thrown to Kenny Stills (3-80) and Darren Fells (3-22). Will Fuller also had a nice game with five grabs for 89 yards.
The Texans predictably couldn't run the ball very well. Carlos Hyde was limited to 44 yards on 13 carries. Duke Johnson (1-11) was nowhere to be found. O'Brien's misuse of Johnson is one of many reasons he should be fired. Regardless, the Texans will need to select a running back in the 2020 NFL Draft. Here are the 2020 NFL Draft Running Back Prospect Rankings.
Titans 28, Ravens 12
If you were to ask 100 people who would be winning this game with a score of 28-12, I'd have to believe that 101 of them would say that the Ravens would have the advantage. This result was shocking, to say the least. The Titans forced five turnovers and bullied the Ravens to establish control of this game, and hitting some big plays worked as well.
The Ravens effectively committed four turnovers that mattered in this contest, with two give-aways happening early to give the Titans a quick 14-0 lead. The first was a Lamar Jackson interception that went off the hands of Mark Andrews. The pass was a bit high, but Andrews would've caught it if he weren't banged up. This set up a Ryan Tannehill touchdown throw to Jonnu Smith. The next turnover came on downs when Jackson was stuffed at the line of scrimmage on a sneak. Tannehill took over and launched a bomb to Khalif Raymond. The usual special-teamer hauled in a deep bomb to put the Titans up 14-0.
Baltimore had chances to trim the margin, but it kept shooting itself in the foot. Steth Roberts dropped a deep pass. Willie Snead also dropped a ball on third down. Jackson was then stuffed on a fourth-and-1 sneak to set up yet another Tennessee touchdown to extend the lead to 21-6. The Titans followed that up by making it 4-for-4 in capitalizing on give-aways when a Jurrell Casey strip-sack of Jackson transformed into yet another touchdown. That's right - all four of Tennessee's touchdowns came off Baltimore turnovers.
Jackson was responsible for a fifth give-away late in the game when Kenny Vaccaro stepped in front of a telegraphed pass, but the contest was decided by then. Jackson didn't play terribly overall, despite the loss, as he endured several drops by his receivers. I wouldn't put him being stuffed twice on fourth-and-inches on him either. The pick was a bad throw, but that occurred in desperation time, so I wouldn't hold that against Jackson.
Jackson went 31-of-59 for 365 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He also had some long gains on the ground, scrambling 20 times for 143 rushing yards. Jackson's playoff loss last year was all on him, as he was absolutely dreadful versus the Chargers. This time, his teammates let him down.
Marquise Brown had a big game, and most of it didn't occur in garabge time. Brown caught seven of his 11 targets for 126 yards, which included a ridiculous one-handed grab in traffic. Jackson logged 84 receiving yards prior to halftime, so he didn't have to rely on Tennessee' prevent defense to do this.
Brown was the only Raven receiver to not disappoint Jackson tonight. Andrews (4-39) killed the Ravens' outlook with that drop-turned interception, but he was hobbled, so he at least has an excuse. Nevertheless, the Ravens must improve their receiving corps this offseason. I have them selecting Penn State wideout K.J. Hamler in my 2020 NFL Mock Draft.
Mark Ingram wasn't quite himself, as he had a balky calf in this game. He rushed just six times for 22 yards. Gus Edwards (3-20) probably should've gotten his carries.
While Tennessee's defense was instrumental in winning this game with the four crucial turnovers I referenced earlier, Derrick Henry will get more credit than anyone. Henry was exceptional, and the lead allowed the Titans to keep feeding the ball to him. Henry bulldozed the Ravens for 195 yards on 30 carries. He also threw a touchdown pass to Corey Davis on a trick play.
Amazingly, Tannehill completed just seven passes in this victory. Tannehill went 7-of-14 for 88 yards for two touchdowns. He also scored a third time on the ground.
Given that Tannehill converted on seven attempts, no one but Raymond accumulated more than 15 receiving yards. However, Jonnu Smith (2-12) made an amazing grab in the end zone.
49ers 27, Vikings 10
The final score of this game may seem like it was lopsided, but this was just a 14-10 affair at halftime. The Vikings were able to score 10 points via a deep pass to Stefon Diggs and then an Eric Kendricks interception. The 49ers weren't passing the ball very well, so it appeared as though San Francisco was going to be upset in its first playoff game in this regime.
The Vikings made sure that wouldn't happen. They self-destructed in the second half with a couple of crucial blunders. The first was a Kirk Cousins interception where Cousins threw the ball right to Richard Sherman on an inaccurate heave. This set up a San Francisco score, as did the ensuing error, which was a muffed punt by returner Marcus Sherels. The 49ers were able to turn these two give-aways into 10 points; otherwise, this score may have been 17-10 late in the game.
While the 49ers didn't pass very well, they were able to ram the ball down Minnesota's throat. It wasn't Raheem Mostert who handled the majority of the carries; instead, Kyle Shanahan went with Tevin Coleman, who didn't disappoint his head coach. Coleman rushed for 105 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries. Mostert gained 58 yards on 12 attempts, while Matt Breida (8-17) fumbled late in the game. Coleman and Mostert's production was surprising, given how well the Vikings had defended the run all year.
With the running game working so well, the 49ers didn't have to throw all that much. Jimmy Garoppolo went just 11-of-19 for 131 yards, one touchdown and an interception, which was a telegraphed throw, picked off by Eric Kendricks. I was worried about Garoppolo holding the ball too long in the pocket against a fierce Minnesota pass rush, but the San Francisco ground attack rendered all of that moot.
Still, it's not like Garoppolo performed poorly in his first-ever playoff start. He had a couple of dubious throws - in addition the pick, a batted ball was nearly intercepted - but he released his passes quickly, at least on the opening drive, which is encouraging moving forward.
Remarkably, only four 49ers caught passes. Deebo Samuel (3-42), Emmanuel Sanders (2-33) and George Kittle (3-16) all posted disappointing fantasy numbers. San Francisco's top receiver was Kendrick Bourne, who hauled in three balls for 40 yards and a touchdown. Bourne made one gaffe when he dropped a pass.
With the 49ers' offense not being overly dominant, the Vikings certainly had a chance to make things close, even after the two second-half turnovers. Cousins, however, was betrayed by his offensive line, which surrendered six sacks. San Francisco's ferocious defensive line dominated in the trenches. Nick Bosa, Dee Ford and the rest of the front-line players were stellar.
That said, Cousins didn't play well either. Cousins went 21-of-29 for 172 yards for one touchdown and the aforementioned pick. He made a few nice throws, but he pulled a Garoppolo by holding on to the ball too long sometimes. His interception was horrible, and there was one instance where he could've scrambled for a first down, but opted to throw a horrible ball on third down instead.
Cousins never had a chance with Dalvin Cook finding no room in the trenches. The 49ers stuffed him on every opportunity, limiting him to just 18 yards on nine carries. He helped his PPR players with six catches, but those went for just eight receiving yards. He also dropped a ball.
Diggs, as mentioned, caught a long touchdown on a great adjustment when he beat Ahkello Witherspoon. Diggs caught two passes for 57 yards and the score, and he also drew an interference flag. Adam Thielen (5-50) wasn't too far behind.
Texans 22, Bills 19
This was an exciting, overtime slugfest, but both teams made a number of blunders in this game. The Texans were guilty of numerous mistakes in the early stages, as they appeared to be unprepared for Josh Allen's rushing ability. Bill O'Brien then wasted a challenge on a pass interference call that was never going to be overturned, and Bradley Roby dropped a sure-fire pick-six. As this was happening, the offense couldn't get anything going. Deshaun Watson took countless sacks, while DeAndre Hopkins didn't catch a single pass in the opening half. Hopkins finally got his hands on the ball in the third quarter, and he was so eager to make something happen on his first touch that he carried the ball loosely and fumbled as a consequence.
The Bills pounced on Hopkins' fumble and kicked a field goal on the ensuing drive. This gave them a 16-0 lead, and it seemed as though the Texans would suffer yet another humiliating playoff loss.
Watson, however, caught fire after that, and it was Buffalo's turn to commit blunders. Allen lost a fumble to set up a Houston field goal, and then he knocked his team out of field goal range when he panicked and committed an intentional grounding penalty. Allen also recklessly lateraled on the final drive of regulation and was extremely fortunate that the ball trickled out of bounds.
The Bills ultimately trailed by three, but they hit the tying field goal at the end of regulation, thanks to another dropped Roby interception. Allen impressively converted a pair of third-and-long situations on his first overtime possession, but the Bills ultimately punter. Their defense then made a grave error, allowing way too much room to Duke Johnson on a third-and-18. Johnson picked up the first down, and then Watson somehow escaped two potential sacks on a play to find Taiwan Jones, who ran inside the Buffalo 20. The Texans kicked the decisive field goal on the very next play.
It was a tale of two halves (plus overtime) for Watson. He had just 49 passing yards prior to intermission, as he was constantly running for his life behind his atrocious offensive line. However, Watson was 14-of-17 for 198 yards and two touchdowns (one passing, one rushing) following intermission. Watson, who finished 20-of-25 for 247 yards, the pair of scores and 55 rushing yards, was spectacular following the slow start. He came through in the clutch, just like he did at Clemson.
Hopkins, as mentioned, didn't catch a single pass in the first half, yet he finished with six receptions for 90 yards and the fumble. He was the only Texan with more than 46 receiving yards. Kenny Stills (4-46) was next on the list, while Darren Fells (4-37) made a huge blunder by dropping a potential third-down reception in overtime.
Carlos Hyde caught a touchdown, salvaging his fantasy output. Hyde barely did anything otherwise, mustering just 48 yards on 16 carries. He nearly ruined this potential victory when he dropped a pitch near the goal line, resulting in a fumble. He was lucky to recover. Duke Johnson was far more effective than Hyde; he rushed for 38 yards on three attempts, while catching three balls for 30 receiving yards. It's ridiculous that he received far fewer touches than the inferior Hyde. This was yet more proof that Bill O'Brien has no idea what he's doing.
Devin Singletary was easily the best back in this contest. He was electric in making Houston defenders miss. He rushed for 58 yards on 13 carries, while catching six passes for 76 receiving yards. He made several big plays, including a 38-yard reception in the fourth quarter to put the team into field goal range.
Despite Singletary's great play, he didn't lead the Bills in rushing. That was Allen, who scrambled nine times for 92 rushing yards. Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll did a great job of scheming run plays for Allen, which made me wonder why O'Brien wasn't doing the same with Watson.
Allen also threw well for the most part, though he was lucky that the Texans dropped a pair of potential interceptions, including what should've been a telegraphed pick-six. He also appeared to fumble, but his knee was ruled down after replay review. Allen finished 24-of-46 for 264 yards. He made a number of clutch third-down conversions, but some mental blunders ruined this potential victory.
Aside from Singletary, John Brown led the Bills in receiving with four catches for 50 yards. He threw a touchdown on a trick play to Allen. Duke Williams (4-49) and Cole Beasley (4-44) were close to Brown on the stat sheet.
Titans 20, Patriots 13
If you were to tell me that the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady dynasty could potentially conclude with Belichick cowardly punting on a fourth-and-6 while down one with 3:30 remaining in regulation, I would've told you that you were crazy. Yet, that's exactly what happened, as Belichick opted to give away possession rather than have his top-100 NFL quarterback attempt another pass. The decision was especially odd because the Patriots had issues stopping Derrick Henry all night.
Sure enough, the Titans picked up a couple of first downs, draining the clock to less than 30 seconds in the process. The Patriots had to take over at their own 1-yard line with barely any time remaining, and Brady's first pass on the final possession, perhaps his last throw ever, was a desperation pick-six that extended Tennessee's lead to seven.
Belichick's decision to punt was awful. Henry rushed for 182 yards and a touchdown on 34 carries. His defense had no answer for him throughout the entire game. In fact, the Titans' game-winning drive, which occurred just prior to halftime, saw them give the ball to Henry seven times, which Henry turned into 75 yards and a score, as he rammed the ball down to New England's throat.
Besides it's not like Belichick couldn't trust Brady. The future Hall of Famer threw well for most of the evening. The stats don't look great - 20-of-37 for 209 yards and the final interception - but the stats don't indicate that Brady endured numerous drops, and also one deep catch by Ben Watson that was negated by Shaq Mason being illegally downfield. Brady could've converted a fourth-and-6; it's not like the Patriots were stuck in a fourth-and-15 situation, or anything.
This, by the way, was one of New England's two major coaching gaffes. The other occurred prior to halftime when the Patriots had a first-and-goal at the Tennessee 1-yard line. For some strange reason, New England opted to run the ball twice with Sony Michel, who was predictably stuffed at the goal line. Michel had been a disappointment all year, so it made no sense to give him the ball on some of the most important downs of the game. Michel gained 61 yards on 14 carries, but almost half of that came on one 25-yard burst. Excluding that play, Michel was limited to just 36 yards on 13 attempts. So, why did Josh McDaniels call two plays for him at the goal line? It made no sense.
That said, this could be it for Brady in New England, as he'll be hitting free agency in March. Brady can still play at a high level, but the Patriots will need to find better receivers. His only viable option was Edelman, who wasn't even healthy. Edelman caught three passes for 30 yards and a rushing touchdown. He also dropped a pass. James White (5-62), Ben Watson (3-38) and Rex Burkhead (3-32) finished ahead of him on the stat sheet. One player who didn't was N'Keal Harry. The rookie receiver really struggled to separate, catching just two of his seven targets for 21 yards. He was responsible for a drop as well. It's way too early to call him a bust, but it's hard to be optimistic about his future based on what we've seen from him this year.
The Patriots put the clamps on Tennessee's top receiver, as A.J. Brown was limited to just one catch for four yards. Backup tight end Anthony Firkser caught Ryan Tannehill's sole interception, which had to be tilting for anyone who rostered Jonnu Smith (1 catch, 9 yards). Firkser and Henry, thanks to a 22-yard reception, were the only Titans with double-digit receiving yards.
Speaking of Tannehill, he completed just eight of his 15 passes for 72 yards, one touchdown and an interception that he heaved off his back foot. Tannehill wasn't asked to do much with Henry successfully moving the chains. He was guilty of a horrible mistake on his pick, but he made some clutch third-down conversions late in the game to keep Brady off the field.
The Titans suffered a major injury to linebacker Jayon Brown, who left the field in tears. It's unclear how serious this injury is, but he'll be missed versus the Ravens if he can't play next week.
Vikings 26, Saints 20
It's quite apparent that the NFL has a vendetta against the Saints. Perhaps this stems from Bountygate, or maybe something else, but it seems like the league will screw over the Saints at every single opportunity.
The league's latest punishment of the Saints came on the final play of this game. Kirk Cousins lofted a touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph in overtime to prevail, but the replay showed that Rudolph (4-31) pushed off the defender. It was both clear and obvious. Yet, the NFL refused to even review the score. They were more than happy to watch the Saints lose again.
This is the second year in a row New Orleans has lost on an obvious non-pass interference call. They were playing defense this time, but it didn't matter. Apparently, offensive players can now shove defenders out of the way to reel in touchdowns without any sort of repercussion. Anyone battling the Saints next year should utilize this strategy.
That said, the Saints aren't completely blameless in this loss. If you were to tell someone that a quarterback would commit a turnover and a time-management blunder at the end of regulation, 11 out of 10 people would guess that would be Kirk Cousins. That was not the case, however, as Drew Brees was the one who was responsible for multiple gaffes. The first came on his penultimate drive after some nice Taysom Hill runs. Brees lost a fumble in field goal range when he was hit in the backfield. Brees was given another chance, but he and Sean Payton refused to call a timeout after a 10-second run-off. They inexplicably carried their final timeout into overtime. Had they used the stoppage, Brees could've taken some shots into the end zone to win the game. Instead, the Saints settled for a long field goal, and the rest was history.
It's a shame that this end-game drama by the Saints and the officials had to take some attention away from Kirk Cousins' performance. Cousins made some mistakes in this game - he was lucky that a potential interception of his was dropped - but he hit some big throws at the end of regulation and overtime. His best pass was a 43-yard bomb to Adam Thielen in the extra session, which set up the Rudolph touchdown.
Cousins finished 19-of-31 for 242 yards and a touchdown. He had an up-and-down game for the most part, but he shockingly came up big in the clutch.
As for Thielen, he was healthy for the first time in a while. He began the game on a sour note when Janoris Jenkins forced a fumble of his to set up a New Orleans field goal. However, Thielen made some big catches in this game, including the 43-yarder in overtime. He finished with seven receptions for 129 yards.
Stefon Diggs, conversely, didn't do nearly as much. He spent most of the afternoon pouting on the sideline because he was catchless. He finally came up with a big reception in the third quarter, hauling in a pass near the goal line. He also converted a third down in overtime. Those were Diggs' only receptions of the afternoon, but he shouldn't be too upset because he was instrumental in the team's victory.
Dalvin Cook had an excellent game for the most part, rushing for 94 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries. He also caught three passes for 36 receiving yards. Cook nearly made a huge mistake when he appeared to fumble the ball, which was returned for a touchdown. However, replay review showed that Cook's knee was down. It's no surprise that the NFL was quick to review this play, but not the Rudolph touchdown.
The Saints didn't run the ball nearly as well as the Vikings did. Alvin Kamara was limited to just 21 yards on seven carries, but he managed to find the end zone and also catch eight passes for 34 receiving yards. The Vikings were all over Kamara, with linebacker Eric Kendricks making a tremendous play in the backfield to force a loss on a third down.
Brees finished 26-of-33 for 208 yards and a touchdown, but he was guilty of two turnovers, including the aforementioned fumble. The other was an underthrown interception on a deep shot to Ted Ginn, who was double covered. Brees was great at times in the fourth quarter, but he killed the Saints with the blunders I discussed earlier.
Brees is an impending free agent, but the Saints are expected to re-sign him. Still, the future is bright with Taysom Hill, who launched a 50-yard bomb to rookie Deonte Harris. Hill also caught a touchdown.
Two Saints finished ahead of Harris on the stat sheet: Michael Thomas (7-70) and Jared Cook (5-54). More was expected from Thomas, especially against an injury-ravaged Minnesota secondary.
Seahawks 17, Eagles 9
You hate to see a major injury decide a game, especially a playoff contest, but that's exactly what happened in this affair. That occurred when Carson Wentz suffered a concussion on a dirty hit from Jadeveon Clowney. The stud defensive end used his helmet as a weapon on Wentz, who was already on the ground following a scramble. Somehow, a penalty wasn't even called even though Clowney would've been ejected for targeting in college football.
Josh McCown stepped in for Wentz and did a good job in between the 20s. However, Philadelphia's offense constantly bogged down in the red zone, so it really could have used its starting quarterback. Unfortunately for the Eagles, Wentz was not returning from his concussion, while Clowney was allowed to continue to play and dominate in the trenches. Clowney was part of a terrific pass rush that registered seven sacks, so his justified ejection would've been a major boon for the Eagles.
Meanwhile, Russell Wilson came up huge in the clutch. Shocking, I know. Wilson was terrific as both a scrambler and a passer. He picked up a first down on a third-and-15 with his legs, and he heaved multiple deep bombs to D.K. Metcalf.
Wilson finished 18-of-30 for 325 yards and a touchdown, and he also scrambled nine times for 45 rushing yards. It's easy to see why Wilson was an MVP candidate all year, and the Seahawks will continue to be a very tough out as long as Wilson is able to play.
I mentioned Metcalf previously, and he can't get enough praise for what he did in this game. Metcalf was a monster, hauling in seven of his nine targets for 160 yards and a touchdown. Both massive and extremely fast, Metcalf can't be covered. He has progressed as a route runner quicker than expected, and if he continues to work hard as a result of having a major chip on his shoulder, he could become the best receiver in the NFL in a few years.
Metcalf saw one more target than Tyler Lockett in this contest. Lockett caught four passes for 62 yards. He made an amazing reception along the sideline that was initially ruled incomplete. David Moore (2-57) also contributed.
Marshawn Lynch found his way into the end zone and caught a pair of passes for 25 yards, one of which moved the chains on third-and-1. Lynch, however, didn't do anything on the ground outside of plunge into the end zone, as he mustered just seven yards on six attempts. Travis Homer (11-12) didn't have much success against Philadelphia's stellar ground defense.
Going back to the Eagles, McCown went 18-of-24 for 174 yards. He also inexplicably scrambled for 23 yards. McCown did relatively well and tried his best, but his battered offensive line couldn't hold up. Still, McCown showed why he's one of the top backup quarterbacks in the NFL.
McCown's favorite target was Dallas Goedert. Goedert reeled in seven of his eight targets for 73 yards. Zach Ertz also contributed (2-44), but wasn't quite himself because of his injuries. Greg Ward was next on the receiving list. He caught three passes for 24 yards, while also drawing an interference flag.
Miles Sanders returned from injury to have a solid performance, for the most part. He rushed for 69 yards on 14 carries. There was one instance where Sanders moonwalked to avoid a defender and then bounced around like a pinball, which gave him a first down. However, Sanders crushed the Eagles with a glaring mistake, dropping a pass on fourth down in the final quarter.
Boston Scott, meanwhile, was explosive on his touches, picking up gains of 21 and 15. He dashed for 25 yards on six attempts, while also catching three balls for 23 yards.
For more thoughts, check out my updated NFL Power Rankings, which will be posted Tuesday morning.