Kansas City- 31
The playoff weekend kicked off in snowy Kansas City as the Chiefs played host to the red-hot Colts, with many favoring the team from Indianapolis to pull the upset. That poor weather seemed to impact the Colts more than the Chiefs, neutralizing Indy’s strong offensive line and shutting down their running game.
The Chiefs made an early statement, scoring on their first three possessions on their way to a 24-7 halftime lead. Each team struggled to produce points in the frigid second half, each scoring a fourth-quarter touchdown to bring us to the final score.
The defense was the real story for the Chiefs, who held QB Andrew Luck to just over 200 passing yards for the game and didn’t allow an offensive touchdown until the game was essentially out of reach. Luck didn’t even complete a pass in the first quarter. RB Marlon Mack had been playing at a high level entering the game but was held to 46 yards and suffered a late-game hip injury. WR T.Y. Hilton caught four passes on a team-high 10 targets, totaling 60 yards and a touchdown. While WR Dontrelle Inman (4/55) and TE Eric Ebron (5/51) chipped in, the lack of weapons for Luck was obvious in this game.
Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes didn’t need to put up his normal video game-like numbers to get the win in this game. He passed for 278 yards and no touchdowns while veteran RB Damien Williams continued to be a marvel since taking over for an ousted RB Kareem Hunt and injured RB Spencer Ware, who was inactive in this game. Williams rushed 25 times for 129 yards and a touchdown, adding five receptions for 25 yards. It is time to start considering how early you’ll be drafting Williams in 2019. TE Travis Kelce posted a 7/108 line to lead the way while WR Tyreek Hill totaled 108 yards, including a 36-yard end around for a touchdown. WR Sammy Watkins made his long-awaited return from a foot injury, catching six passes for 62 yards.
The Chiefs are moving on to the AFC Championship next week.
Los Angeles Rams- 30
The Dallas Cowboys had thrived all year thanks in large part to their run defense. In this crucial game, that was their downfall. The Rams set a franchise playoff record with 273 rushing yards, which was also the most ever allowed by a Dallas team in the playoffs. Prior to the game, star RB Todd Gurley was reportedly back to full strength after missing multiple games late in the season but it was veteran RB C.J. Anderson who led the team in rushing and had multiple statement runs, including the fourth-down conversion that sealed the game late in the final quarter. Anderson finished with 123 rushing yards and two touchdowns while Gurley added 115 yards and a score.
After taking an early 7-3 lead, the Cowboys fell behind 20-7 at the half and then simply never got the offense going in the second half. Dallas scored a touchdown just before the two-minute warning to cut the Rams’ lead to eight points but couldn’t get the necessary stop on defense to regain possession.
Rams QB Jared Goff didn’t have to throw much with that powerful running game leading the way. Goff finished with 186 scoreless yards as WR Robert Woods (6/69) and WR Brandin Cooks (4/65) led the way among pass catchers.
Cowboys QB Dak Prescott passed for 266 yards and a touchdown and RB Ezekiel Elliott was held to only 47 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. Rookie WR Michael Gallup caught six balls for 119 yards to lead the team and WR Amari Cooper added a 6/65/1 line. WR Cole Beasley and TE Blake Jarwin both played despite missing multiple practices during the week leading up to the game and both had little impact.
The Rams won just their second playoff game since they made the Super Bowl in 2001 and will now play for a chance to return to the big game.
New England- 41
Los Angeles Chargers- 28
In a season in which very little seemed to go their way, the Patriots showed us all once again that they can’t be written off too soon. The Patriots absolutely dusted the visiting Chargers, keeping the multiple streaks alive. The Patriots advanced to their eighth straight AFC Conference Final game while Chargers QB Philip Rivers remains winless in Foxboro for his career.
To be clear, this game was not nearly as close as the final score might appear. The Patriots built a 35-7 halftime lead and were able to cruise through the second half, even after the Chargers added some garbage-time scores to make the final count more respectable.
The New England running game was the difference, led by rookie RB Sony Michel’s 129 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries. RB Rex Burkhead added a touchdown run of his own while RB James White did his damage as a receiver, tying a playoff record with 15 receptions for 97 yards. QB Tom Brady passed for 343 yards and a score, extending his own playoff record for 300-yard passing games and veteran WR Julian Edelman posted a 9/151 line to lead the team. A pre-game report suggested TE Rob Gronkowski would strongly consider retiring this offseason and the future Hall of Famer saw only one target, catching it for 25 yards.
Rivers ended with an excellent fantasy stat line, including 331 passing yards and three scores as he tried to get his team back in the game. Considering the game flow and the huge early lead the Patriots put together, it is no surprise the Chargers run game was ineffective. RB Melvin Gordon rushed just nine times for 15 yards, though he did score a touchdown. WR Tyrell Williams led the team with 94 yards on five catches and WR Keenan Allen added 75 yards and a score on two grabs. WR Mike Williams survived an early-game injury scare to see a team-high 11 targets but caught just five for 68 yards. TE Hunter Henry made his season debut in this game after suffering a torn ACL prior to training camp. Henry was only targeted once and did not make a catch, though veteran TE Antonio Gates, in what could be his final game, caught five passes for 41 yards and a touchdown.
The Patriots will travel to Kansas City for a rematch with the Chiefs. New England handed QB Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs their first loss of the year back in Week Six.
New Orleans- 20
After the opening quarter of the weekend’s final game, it appeared we were in for a repeat of last season, with the magical run of the QB Nick Foles led Eagles continuing. The Eagles got off to a 14-0 lead, frustrating the Saints offense. By halftime, the home team had closed the gap with 10 points of their own and the Eagles would not score another point.
The Saints played keep away in the second half, scoring a touchdown and taking their first lead of the game on a short catch by WR Michael Thomas, who caught 12 passes for 171 yards. That capped off a drive that spanned nearly the entire third quarter. The nearly 12-minute drive is the longest scoring drive in the playoffs since the merger. The Eagles got the ball back and quickly moved down the field as the clock neared the two-minute warning before a Foles pass went out of the hands of WR Alshon Jeffery and into the hands of Saints DB Marshon Lattimore, his second interception in the game.
Saints QB Drew Brees finished with 301 passing yards and two scores. RB Alvin Kamara totaled 106 yards and RB Mark Ingram added 53 rushing yards. Foles’ unreal story comes to an end, passing for 201 yards and a touchdown in what is likely his final game with the Eagles. Jeffery led the team with 63 yards on five receptions while TE Zach Ertz added a 5/50 line. As usual, the Eagles had little running game to speak of, with RB Wendell Smallwood leading the team with 33 yards on 10 carries. Upgrading their backfield will be among the team’s priorities this offseason.
The Saints will now host the Rams in what will be expected to be an offensive explosion, sending the winner to the Super Bowl.
New Buccaneers HC Bruce Arians is not only interested in keeping veteran WR DeSean Jackson with the team for 2019 but is reportedly working hard to convince Jackson to stay. Although Jackson is under contract for next season, a parting of ways has long been anticipated and Jackson voiced his displeasure with the situation earlier this year. … Despite the loss, the Cowboys and HC Jason Garrett are reportedly working on a long-term contract extension. … Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald is reportedly undecided about playing in 2019. A free agent, Fitzgerald has plenty of options, including walking away from the game. … University of Alabama defenders DB Saivion Smith, LB Mack Wilson and DB Deionte Thompson all declared for the 2019 NFL Draft. … Former Falcons OC Steve Sarkisian turned down the same job with the Cardinals in order to take a position with the Alabama Crimson Tide, returning to the college game…With Patriots DC Brian Flores expected to take the Miami Dolphins head coaching position once New England’s season concludes, the Patriots are considering Greg Schiano to replace him. Schiano was most recently the defensive coordinator for Ohio State. … Clemson DE Clelin Ferrell declared for the 2019 NFL Draft. … Cowboys LC Sean Lee was non-committal about his status for 2019, saying he would “take some time to think about it.” Lee is not guaranteed a spot with Dallas even if he decides to come back. … The Browns hired former Buccaneers OC Todd Monken in the same role. It is a huge get for new HC Freddie Kitchens and should positively impact all key members of the Browns offense moving forward. … The Browns also added former Cardinals HC Steve Wilks as their defensive coordinator. Cleveland has nailed the early portion of the offseason.
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