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Mahomes Alone and Purdy Comebacks

Notes from the AFC and NFC Championship Games

NFL: AFC Championship-Kansas City Chiefs at Baltimore Ravens Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Chiefs 17 Ravens 10

In recent years, the road to the Super Bowl for Patrick Mahomes has traveled mostly through the friendly and raucous confines of Arrowhead Stadium.

This year, Mahomes and the #3 seeded Chiefs took to the road as uncustomary underdogs. Yet, hey were able to prevail over the #2 seed Bills 27-24 at Orchard Park and yesterday 17-10 over the #1 seed Ravens and their vaunted #1 defense at M&T Bank Stadium.

While this game was not one of Patrick Mahomes’ high scoring affairs, he put up these tidy and efficient numbers:

  • 30/39 (76.9%) for 241 yards, 1 TD, 0 ints., 2 sacks for -11 yards and a 91.1 RTG.

For the Ravens, league MVP favorite, Lamar Jackson posted:

  • 20/37 (54.1%) for 272 yards, 1 TD, 1 int., 4 sacks for -17 yards, and a 42.9 RTG. He led the Ravens in rushing with 8 carries for 54 yards (6.8 ave.) and 0 TDs.

Credit the Chiefs’ venerable DC Steve Spagnuolo for finding a way to get more pressure on Lamar Jackson than the league-leading defense in sacks could on Patrick Mahomes —- as well as managing to apply stickier pass coverage.

Yet, perhaps the major difference in this contest boiled down to:

I thought the Ravens got away with excessive extra-curricular chippy-ness during their 34-10 win over the Texans the week before. It carried over big-time into this week’s game and this time they were penalized time and time again for it.

Speaking of Lou Anarumo —- to think that his expert game plans versus Patrick Mahomes worked three times (the best being their 27-24 OT win at Arrowhead on their Super Bowl run) as did his plan to thwart Josh Allen in the Bengals’ 24-10 playoff win over the Bills at Orchard Park in 2022 —- it’s amazing that pretty much no other AFC DC has had a blueprint to stifle the AFC’s top QBs the way “Sweet Lou Anaroo” has.

What I love about Patrick Mahomes is his superb hustle —- the way he bolts back to the huddle to ensure the next play is delivered crisply and on time. Not too many QBs in the NFL play with the kind of bounce and hustle that he does. Plus, the way in which he floats around the pocket to buy time and to create open passing lanes is textbook.

Kudos to Lamar for his noteworthy improvement as a floater and one who can, as they say, “re-set the pocket.”

Mahomes Alone

How many NFL QBs in the history of the NFL have taken their teams to the Super Bowl in 4 of his first 6 seasons as a starter? Will that ever be accomplished by a young QB again?

Kudos to Travis Kelce for being the offensive MVP other than Mahomes —- 11 catches for 116 yards and 1 TD.

Rookie WR Zay Flowers from Boston College caught 5 passes for 115 yards and 1 TD, yet his 2nd bid for the end zone was folied by the Chiefs’ “Johnny-on-the spot” CB L’Jarius Snead who poked the ball out on the half yard line.

Rightfully so, many Cardinals fans are clamoring for Monti Ossenfort to throw a bag at Snead who is a 2024 UFA, but, realistically, the Chiefs will, if necessary, tag him. It’s more likely that they let 30-year-old Chris Jones test free agency than the brilliant 27-year-old CB heading into his prime.

As for Travis Kelce, he is the envy of those of us who grew up playing sports and knew how cool it was to see the girl they were crazy about sitting in the stands cheering them on while she was donning an article of clothing or a ring with their jersey number on it (or both!).

I give a ton of credit to Taylor Swift for supporting Travis Kelce in such a spirted, devoted and loving way. I think she has handled this situation with grace. She doesn’t need the added publicity. Thus, she wants to keep the true spotlight on Travis Kelce and the Kansas City Chiefs’ run for back-2-back Super Bowl rings.

As an aside, if you haven’t read this New Yorker article about the impact that Taylor Swift has had on an inmate’s life, it’s a fascinating read:

Listening to Taylor Swift in Prison | The New Yorker

49ers 34 Lions 31

  • Dan Campbell’s decision to go for it on those two fateful, game-changing second half 4th downs will be a topic for debate for years to come. I was rooting for Lions, of course. And I wanted Coach Campbell to try to kick the FG to make it a 3-possession lead, but it’s not a given to assume that Michael Badgely would nail the 46-yarder. After all, the 49ers’ K Jake Moody missed a 48 yarder when the Lions were up 7-0.
  • Yet, what’s impressive, imo, is not only Dan Campbell’s complete belief in his offense to convert those 4th downs, it’s how he embraces his players after they fall short, as evidenced by how he held his hand out to Josh Reynolds after Reynolds dropped the second conversion attempt while wide open and hit right in the numbers on a perfect strike form Jared Goff.
  • Campbell says he doesn’t regret his decisions and that’s what makes him genuine. BA was the same way. “No risk it, no biscuit.”
  • Credit Jared Goff for so many of the accurate throws he made in this game. The deep throw up the left sideline to Jameson Williams late in the game could have been a game-winner. That ball was on the money.

Purdy Comebacks for 49ers

  • Hard to imagine that Kyle Shanahan’s record of having zero come-from-behind wins when down 10+ points in the 2nd half could possibly have been the case, but two weeks in a row his offense, led by precocious Brock Purdy and relentless Christian McCaffrey found the special formula for roaring the team back from a 17-point deficit to victory.
  • Purdy’s 48-yards rushing kept the key TD drives alive. The kid is a baller who has an innate ability to ignore the temptation to dwell on previous mistakes, like the interception he threw in the first half. Two weeks in a row.
  • Major credit to Steve Wilks for making the most critical half-time adjustments of his career. Think about this —- if just one of the Lions’ possessions where his defense didn’t make such critical stops did not occur, chances are the 49ers would have lost this game —- and all the Wilks naysayers who at halftime on social media were predicting he would be fired after the game would have been doubling down ad nauseum.
  • Think of the pressure that has been on Steve Wilks since he took over for DeMeco Ryans. Ryans was so revered by his players and fellow coaches that it was only inevitable that the new DC was going to be perceived as a downgrade. Plus, given the talent the 49ers have on that side of the ball, as a veritable Pro Bowl defense on all three levels, this season has been in many ways a no-win situation for Wilks. if the team wins, well, after all, they were supposed to and, after all, DeMeco Ryans was the architect.
  • In the first half, the Lions’ outstanding offensive line was controlling the line of scrimmage. Yet, Wilks and his players found the cure in the second half by being a tad more sudden and physical that their stout counterparts.
  • Note: what the Cardinals GM and coaches can learn from this game is how with a rugged, physical offensive line, a thunder and lightning due at RB and a couple of big-target TEs to control the middle of the field —- this 49ers defense can be exploited.

Trade Results

  • While watching the Lions in the first half I was reminded of the trades they made with the Cardinals in the 2023 draft and realized that the first two players the Lions took with the picks the Cardinals gave them (when trading up to #6 to draft Paris Johnson Jr.) were RB Jahmyr Gibbs and TE Sam LaPorta —- and then I found myself once again lamenting the fact that the Cardinals passed on my favorite defensive player in the draft other than Will Aderson Jr., Brian Branch, when he was available at pick #41 —- because, lo and behold, the Lions stole him at pick #45.
  • Thus, I checked the draft though all 7 rounds to make a list of all of the players who were taken with picks the Cardinals had once possessed at one point or another, plus the 3rd round pick they lost for breaking the NFL’s head coaching candidate interview rules.
  • Here they are:
  • What a “Who’s-Who” of talented players, eh?

Cardinals’ 2024 Draft —- Unfinished Business:

  • However, the Cardinals have yet to make the first-round and two third-round picks they acquired in their 2023 draft trades —- so, it’s very exciting to think of what kind of a draft they can add this year to the array of young, talented first-year players they acquired in 2023.

Former Cardinals’ To Go On To Play or Coach in the Super Bowl

  • Anquan Boldin, WR
  • Tyrann Mathieu, FS
  • Tony Jefferson, SS
  • Anthony Sherman, FB
  • Jason Licht, GM
  • Bruce Arians, HC
  • Todd Bowles, DC
  • Nick Rapone, DBC
  • Harold Goodwin, OC/OLC
  • Byron Leftwich, QB/OC
  • Tom Moore, Advisor
  • Mike Caldwell, OLBC
  • Larry Foote, ILBC
  • Rick Christofel, TEC
  • Kevin Garver, DBC
  • Kevin Ross, DBC
  • Roger Kingdom, S&CC
  • Deone Bucannon, LB
  • Kevin Minter
  • Alex Okafor, ED
  • Ricky Seals-Jones, TE
  • Evan Baylis, TE
  • Drew Stanton, QB
  • Blaine Gabbert, QB
  • T.J. Logan, RB/KR
  • A.Q. Shipley, C
  • Ted Larson, G/C
  • Earl Watford, G
  • Matt Wile, P
  • Haason Reddick, ED
  • Steve Wilks, DC

Karma Pattern?

Bruce Arians, Todd Bowles, Steve Wilks...