Team Notes Week 20 2019
NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS AND OTHER GOOD STUFF
Directly from the desk of FlashUpdate Editor Bob Harris. The good; the bad; and yes. ... Even the Bears. There is no better way to jump start your weekend than browsing these always educational -- often irreverent -- team-by-team, Fantasy-specific offerings. ...
Access specific teams by clicking on a team name in the schedule appearing directly to your left or by clicking on a helmet below; return to the helmets by hitting the link labeled "Menu" following each teams notes. ...
Green Bay PackersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 January 2020
According to ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky, Aaron Rodgers didn't downplay what the Green Bay Packers' regular-season game at the San Francisco 49ers might mean.
"The way I look at it," Rodgers said in the days leading up to the Week 12 meeting at Levi's Stadium, "we've got to beat them once at their place at some point. It would be nice to do it now."
Of course, they did not. And it wasn't close: The Niners won by 29 points.
So now, the Packers get to try again.
They certainly earned it with their 28-23 victory over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday in an NFC divisional-round playoff game at Lambeau Field. Unlike the topsy-turvy AFC, which will be decided by the No. 2 seed and the No. 6 seed, the NFC is down to the top two seeds, which is what the Packers and Niners were when they met on Nov. 24.
"Yeah, we've got to play a lot better, obviously," Rodgers said Sunday. "They're a great football team, have a great front, obviously get after the passer and don't need to rush a lot of guys to do that. Excellent pass rush and really good on the back end, smart. ... One of those games where we know every possession's going to be really important. It's going to be loud. But this is where it gets really fun. There's only four teams left, and we're one of them. We've got a legitimate chance."
This time, Demovsky contends, Green Bay's offense looks well-oiled: Rodgers. Aaron Jones. Davante Adams. Even Jimmy Graham.
This will be the Packers' first appearance in the conference championship game since the 2016 "run the table" season, which came two years after their NFC Championship Game collapse at Seattle.
One of the differences this time is a rookie head coach, Matt LaFleur, who is the first Packers rookie coach to lead his team to the playoffs.
If Rodgers played only so-so in the regular season -- and even that was debated -- he turned into a former version of himself on Sunday. Gone were throwaways en masse, off-target passes and out-of-sync plays.
Instead, he did what he usually does with an early lead in a playoff game.
He improved to 9-1 in the postseason after having a halftime lead (21-3 in this case). The lone loss was the 2014 NFC title game collapse against Seattle.
This time, the Packers were surgical on some drives -- Jones capped two of them with 1-yard touchdown runs -- and they were spectacular on others. Adams' first touchdown, a 20-yarder, was a double move to cap the first drive of the game, which began with a 23-yard run by Jones. Adams' second TD, a 40-yarder on a post-corner, was even prettier. Plus, there was a 32-yard fade with 2:12 remaining after the Packers' defense -- fueled by the Smiths (two sacks each for Za'Darius and Preston) -- came up with a key stop to avoid a repeat of 2014.
Adams caught eight passes -- every one of them for a first down -- for 160 yards, a Packers playoff-receiving-yardage record.
Rodgers had an efficient, 243-yard game on 16-of-27 passing with two touchdowns and no interceptions for a 113.7 rating.
"I thought he made some clutch throws -- especially -- I think a good indication of really good quarterback play is: Look at the third down," LaFleur said. "It was one of the best performances we've had all year on third down; we were 9-of-13, I think it was."
As Profootballtalk.com noted, Adams and Rodgers hooked up on one of the biggest plays of Sunday's win over the Seahawks late in the fourth quarter when Rodgers hit Adams for a 32-yard gain on third down.
The pass was dropped on a dime, which was all the more impressive because Adams said he ran the route "a little bit different" than designed. That didn't throw off Rodgers and he said after the game that he was feeling a connection with Adams that was similar to one he and Jordy Nelson shared when the wideout was in Green Bay.
"Tonight reminds me of the connection that Jordy and I had for so many years where there were some unspoken things that we could do without even communicating anything about it," Rodgers said, via Madison.com. "And Davante made three or four plays like that tonight. So that was pretty fun."
The Packers will need more plays like that to keep the fun going beyond next Sunday's game against the 49ers, so it's a good thing for Green Bay that Rodgers and Adams can lean on that connection as they try to come up with an upset.
In their 37-8 loss to the 49ers in November, the Packers did next to none of the things they did Sunday. The Packers' offense averaged 2.8 yards per play against the Niners. Rodgers had 104 passing yards. Jones had 38 rushing yards. The 49ers' defense had five sacks, and it is coming off a divisional-round victory in which it had six.
One reason for optimism?
The 49ers allowed 124.2 rushing yards per game in the regular season, eighth most in the NFL.
If the Packers want to get to the Super Bowl in LaFleur's first season, it will come down to how much his offense learned from the first meeting and whether it can help them stay in the game this time around.
"I think there's a lot to learn," LaFleur said of that first meeting. "First of all, that's a really good football team, and we know that we are gonna have to be at our absolute best in order to compete with them. And I think, unfortunately, last time, for whatever reason, we weren't."
The Packers will have their work cut out for them Sunday in Santa Clara, as San Francisco opened as a seven-point favorite at Caesars Sportsbook.
This will be Rodgers' fourth NFC Championship Game appearance, and they've all been on the road. ...
On the injury front. ... Allen Lazard left the Seattle contest with an ankle injury and missed the second half. When Jones crashed into him, he tweaked the same ankle he hurt earlier this season, but Packers.com staffer Mike Spofford reports the wideout sounded optimistic about his chances to return for the NFC title game.
The Packers also hope to get Bryan Bulaga back after the veteran right tackle woke up ill on Sunday and missed the Seahawks game. Bulaga also sat out the bulk of the first 49ers game, leaving in the first quarter with a knee injury.
“We’re going to have a big challenge in front of us,” LaFleur said. “It’s something our guys are going to roll up their sleeves, prepare the right way and be ready to go.”
QBs: Aaron Rodgers, Tim Boyle
RBs: Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, Tyler Ervin, Dexter Williams
WRs: Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Geronimo Allison, Allen Lazard, Jake Kumerow
TEs: Jimmy Graham, Marcedes Lewis, Robert Tonyan, Jace Sternberger
Kansas City ChiefsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 January 2020
The Kansas City Chiefs put a message on the video board at Arrowhead Stadium apologizing to fans for running out of celebratory fireworks after scoring plays.
The shortage should have come as no surprise, as the Chiefs scored seven touchdowns and a field goal to roar back from a 24-point deficit and beat the Houston Texans 51-31 in the AFC divisional round on Sunday.
The Chiefs are the first team in NFL postseason history to score a touchdown on seven straight offensive drives. They are also the first team to both trail by 20 and win by 20 in the postseason.
Patrick Mahomes is the first player in NFL history with 300 passing yards, 50 rushing yards and five touchdown passes in a playoff game.
And now the Chiefs will face the Tennessee Titans Sunday at Arrowhead in the AFC Championship Game. They opened as 7-point favorites.
For what it's worth, when the Chiefs fell behind by 24 points in the second quarter, Mahomes gathered his offensive teammates for a message.
He urged them to go and do something special.
"Obviously, I knew as a team everything kind of had to go the right way," Mahomes said later. "Being down 24-0 in the NFL, you don't win a lot of those games."
While the final score left little doubt, wide receiver Sammy Watkins acknowledged that at 24-0, he began to think the Chiefs' season soon would end.
"A couple of times, I was like, 'This is over,'" Watkins said. "I kind of got down, like, 'I don't know what's going to happen.'"
He said he then looked to tight end Travis Kelce for guidance along the sideline.
"He said, 'Hey, don't look like that, your body language,'" Watkins said. "I was like, 'OK, he knows something I don't know.'"
Like Mahomes, Kelce was optimistic but couldn't know how quickly things would change. Mahomes threw four touchdown passes in the second quarter, tying an NFL playoff record for one period. Three went to Kelce, who set an NFL record for TD catches in a quarter.
The Chiefs needed just more than 10 minutes of game time to erase the 24-point deficit. They led 28-24 by halftime. Only three teams have overcome a bigger playoff deficit.
As ESPN.com's Adam Teicher noted, the Chiefs made plenty of mistakes early. They dropped four passes in the first quarter after dropping four in the previous six games combined. Their normally reliable pass defense blew a coverage on the Texans' first touchdown. They allowed a touchdown on a blocked punt. Tyreek Hill lost a fumble deep in Kansas City territory on a punt return.
These were all things that were uncharacteristic for the Chiefs, or as head coach Andy Reid said, "freak stuff."
"These are things that we haven't done," Reid said. "That's not us, right? It was just a matter of settling it down and calming the storm and making sure that our guys knocked whatever rust off and calmed down and made plays. We've been doing that all year, and it was important we got back to doing that.
"We were able to rebound. A lot of teams can't do that."
The Chiefs reeled off 41 points at one point before the Texans finally scored again. They scored on a touchdown on seven straight possessions, an NFL postseason record, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
"The goal is to score on every drive," said tackle Mitchell Schwartz, who added he didn't realize until the game was over that the Chiefs scored a touchdown on seven consecutive drives. "Realistically, it's never been achieved in NFL history. It was nice to string it together.
"It just keeps coming and keeps coming. Putting the ball in Pat's hands, usually good things happen."
Such offensive eruptions were common for the Chiefs in 2018, when they led the NFL in scoring. They haven't had as many offensive games like that this season, in part because they haven't needed to thanks to an improved defense. But they needed the points on Sunday and didn't seem to have any problem summoning them.
"When you see teams that don't have an MVP at quarterback and the skill guys we do, you kind of say, 'You want to get them into those passing situations.'" Schwartz said. "I don't think anyone approaches us and says, 'We want to make them throw the ball.' It definitely plays to a strength of ours."
Meanwhile, as ESPN's Dan Graziano pointed out, Mahomes is the best player remaining in these playoffs, and if a team can spot you 24 points and beat you by 20 in an NFL playoff game, that's as scary a team as we've ever seen.
Once the Chiefs' offense gets rolling, it's hard to imagine any team stopping it.
Graziano went on to suggest if Steve Spagnuolo's run defense -- which was the seventh worst in the league this year but the fifth best over the final six weeks of the regular season -- can find a way to slow down Derrick Henry, Reid should find himself in his second Super Bowl with a strong chance to win his first.
For now, expect plenty of reminders that the Titans won the teams' regular-season meeting in Week 10, a wild, 35-32 back-and-forth in Mahomes' first game back for the Chiefs after suffering a knee injury.
Kansas City displayed its usual offensive firepower, amassing 530 total yards and 28 first downs. But six of its possessions ended in field goal attempts, and the final two -- a bad snap with 29 seconds left and a block on the final play -- were no good and ultimately the difference in the game.
You might also recall that the Titans eliminated the Chiefs in the 2017 wild-card playoff round.
While containing Henry has to be a focal point, Ryan Tannehill can't be overlooked.
As ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert reminded readers, despite his well-earned credit in turning around the Titans this season, Tannehill was disproportionately vulnerable to strong pass rushes during the regular season. His 3.5 QBR when pressured was the NFL's fourth lowest.
He took 31 sacks in 89 dropbacks when pressured. The bet would be that Henry won't be able to carry the offense if the Chiefs can take away Tannehill's big plays.
On the injury front. ... The Chiefs were able to beat the Texans despite the absence of defensive tackle Chris Jones and they're hopeful that they'll have him on hand when they face the Titans.
Jones was scratched due to a calf injury. Reid said on Monday that Jones wasn't able to push off the injured leg during pregame warmups, which made it an easy call to keep him out of action.
Reid added that the team considers Jones day-to-day and will continue monitoring his condition throughout the week.
Cornerback Morris Claiborne was the only Chiefs player ruled out ahead of their win over Houston. Kelce was listed as questionable due to a knee issue, although his three touchdowns against Houston were a pretty good sign that he'll be able to keep on trucking into the next game.
In a related note. ... According to ESPN.com's Tristan Cockcroft, using ESPN's PPR scoring system, Kelce scored 41.4 points against Houston. That's the second-most by a tight end (Rob Gronkowski, 42.5 in the 2011 Divisional Playoffs), and 17th-most by any player, in a playoff game.
And finally. ... A year after scoring four postseason touchdowns last January, Damien Williams was back at it on Sunday with three trips to the end zone. His first score -- a 17-yard pass from Mahomes -- ignited the Chiefs’ rally while his final two touchdowns built Kansas City’s lead.
Interestingly enough, Williams and Kelce are only the second pair of teammates to each record 3-plus touchdowns in a playoff game, joining Jerry Rice and Ricky Watters in 1995.
Mahomes found Blake Bell for an 8-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter to extend the Chiefs’ lead, marking Bell’s first touchdown of the season.
Bell was the third player to find the end zone in the game for Kansas City, joining Kelce and Williams.
QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Matt Moore, Chad Henne
RBs: Damien Williams, LeSean McCoy, Darwin Thompson
WRs: Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Demarcus Robinson, Mecole Hardman, Byron Pringle
TEs: Travis Kelce, Blake Bell, Deon Yelder
San Francisco 49ersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 January 2020
The San Francisco 49ers attempted their first postseason pass last Saturday since Colin Kaepernick's fateful toss intended for Michael Crabtree way back in January of 2014.
As NFL.com's Nick Shook pointed out, it was a fun moment for history, but the passing game mattered little after that.
Kyle Shanahan's 49ers dominated the Minnesota Vikings on both sides of the ball in Saturday's Divisional Round win over the Minnesota Vikings, starting with the running game. San Francisco racked up 186 yards on the ground, outgaining the Vikings' entire offense with its rushing attack alone.
Tevin Coleman led the way with 22 carries for 105 yards and two scores, both from less than three yards out, and Raheem Mostert added 12 carries for 58 yards.
The numbers are excellent, sure, but one possession specifically demonstrated how the 49ers owned this game up front. Leading 17-10 and taking over with excellent field position thanks to Richard Sherman's interception of Kirk Cousins, the Niners covered 44 yards on eight plays, capped by a 2-yard touchdown run by Coleman. All eight of those plays were runs.
"I've never seen it before," quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo told NFL Network's Steve Wyche. "We came to the sideline and I was like, 'Ok, let's look at the pictures', and it was all runs. It was incredible so just a great team effort today. It was awesome."
It wasn't intended to be a statement drive, but it sure resonated as one after Coleman barreled into the end zone to push San Francisco's lead to 24-10.
"We didn't start it out that way," Shanahan said. "I mean, you don't start it out before and say, 'Hey, we're going to run it every down.' You just call a run to start out and you just stick with it and eventually we scored. Half of us were asking where the throws were on it and we looked back at the pictures and realized we didn't throw any. It was just a hell of a job by the O-line coming off the ball, getting some push.
"When you can do that, you wear the guys down and force 'em to change some of their coverages a little bit."
As a result, in the first playoff start of his career, Garoppolo didn't have many opportunities to join in the fun. He completed 11 of just 19 passes for 131 yards, one touchdown and one interception. The pass attempts marked a career low for any Garoppolo start, and he unleashed only six passes in the second half as the 49ers' offensive line and run game dominated the Vikings' front.
Oddly enough, as San Francisco Chronicle staffer Rusty Simmons pointed out, Garoppolo's most indelible play was a lead block. Garoppolo ended up in the open field ahead of wide receiver Deebo Samuel on his second-quarter reverse, and the quarterback caught linebacker Anthony Barr off-balance and backpedaling.
Save for a second-quarter interception, Garoppolo didn't show many jitters in his first postseason appearance since two mop-up handoffs in the AFC Championship Game in January 2015 as New England's backup.
During the week of preparation, Garoppolo cited his past experience with the Patriots and this season's performances in significant games as confidence-boosters ahead of his first playoff start.
In six regular-season games against playoff teams, Garoppolo completed 67 percent of his passes for 1,300 yards and eight touchdowns, with two interceptions and a 114.52 rating.
Early on Saturday, it looked as if he might have another big statistical game against Minnesota. He completed 5 of 6 passes for 57 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown strike to Kendrick Bourne on the 49ers' first possession.
But it turns out the best part of his day was already behind him and less than a week after the Vikings shut down any and all Saints hopes of running the ball, they did the opposite against the 49ers.
Thanks to the excellent play of its offensive line, San Francisco dominated time of possession 38:27-21:33, pounding the ball 47 times and getting a boost from its suffocating defense, which held the Vikings to 2 of 12 on third down.
"I was pumped for the defense," Shanahan said. "We had a goal going into this game. We thought the team that got over 30 runs would win this game. We truly look at that as a team goal and we ended up getting 47 on offense. It's a lot easier to do when the other team goes 2-of-12 on third down. I think we were 45 percent. I think they only ended up being able to get 10 [runs] and when you just see the way the defense is playing, it makes it so much easier to stay with that and I think our whole team kind of fed off it."
Thanks to their dominance up front, the 49ers are headed to the NFC Championship Game looking stronger than ever.
And that means this week's opponent, the Green Bay Packers, will have their work cut out for them in Santa Clara on Sunday.
So will the Niners.
It's not unfair to expect San Francisco's defense to continue to play at a high level, but ESPN's Dan Graziano made a reasonable point this week when he pointed if there comes a time when they need to outscore the Packers in a shootout, Garoppolo remains untested on this particular stage.
That said, his four-touchdown effort in Week 14's 48-46 victory over Drew Brees and the Saints in New Orleans is worth remembering. So is San Francisco's dominating home win over the Packers on Nov. 24.
In case you missed it, the 49ers sacked Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers five times and limited him to 1.7 net yards per pass play on 33 attempts.
For as impressive as that win was, Shanahan doesn't want his team believing it has any sort of bearing on what will happen in the biggest game of the season.
Instead, Shanahan has a simple message for his team this week.
"Don't be that stupid," Shanahan said. "That's not real. This is about Sunday's game. ... There's so many stories like that. And this is the NFL, so no team, the game before never matters like that. There are four teams left and that's four very, very good teams and it's going to be a hard game for all of us.
"Also, our players -- the type of guys they've been all year -- I'm not concerned about that. They'll have to answer that question, I'm sure, a lot. But I don't think that will be a worry for our players, which means it won't be for me."
To Shanahan's point, ESPN.com's Nick Wagoner notes that Sunday's meeting between the Packers and 49ers will be the 37th time in the Super Bowl era that teams will meet in the playoffs after one team beat the other by at least 25 points during the regular season. The team that won the first meeting is 22-14 in the ensuing matchup, including 7-2 in conference title games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Working in the 49ers' favor is the fact that the team that won the first meeting has won nine straight times in the rematch.
But those games have been much closer, with those wins by an average of 8.4 points. The largest margin in that group was 18.
What will hold relevance is how different the two teams might look in this matchup.
Green Bay should have tackle Bryan Bulaga back after he departed the first matchup in the first quarter with a knee injury. Assuming Bulaga is able to recover from the illness that kept him out against Seattle on Sunday, he should be available against San Francisco.
The news is even better for the 49ers, who are considerably healthy entering this matchup after playing the first game without left tackle Joe Staley, defensive end Dee Ford, linebacker Kwon Alexander, running back Matt Breida and kicker Robbie Gould.
Shanahan said Monday that the Niners have no new injuries to report and they should have their full complement of players available against the Packers, barring any practice injuries or setbacks.
One more prominent 49er, who will be available not only Sunday but next season, is defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. Saleh was a top candidate for the Cleveland Browns coaching job that ultimately went to Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski.
Shanahan said he found out Stefanski got the job when he was on his way to work on Sunday and he couldn't hide his excitement to have Saleh for another year.
"I was pumped," Shanahan said. "I was extremely excited. I definitely have some empathy for Saleh. Anyone who goes through that process and stuff, we're all competitive, you want to win and you want to get that opportunity and stuff. But for Saleh, every year we keep him, we'll be very fortunate.
"Saleh is going to be a head coach in this league. He could have been one this year. Most likely he'll be one next year. But he's going to have the right opportunity come around for him. It's just a matter of time. I'm just very happy that we're going to be able to have him coming into next year."
Saleh's unit will likely be a factor if they get the win this week.
As ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert suggests, not even a rejuvenated Rodgers can withstand a team that can dominate up front. The 49ers' defensive line was largely responsible for the dismantling of the Vikings, sacking Cousins six times and helping limit Minnesota to seven first downs.
If the Niners can collapse the pocket at the same frequency against the Packers, they'll make it very difficult for Rodgers, Aaron Jones or anyone else to be able to run the offense.
Beyond that, Sherman has fully returned from his 2017 Achilles tear and is once against a shutdown, big-play cornerback. If the 49ers can use Sherman to blanket Packers receiver Davante Adams, they'll have quite an advantage in strategizing against the rest of the Green Bay offense. ...
A few final notes. ... Of Coleman's 105 rushing yards, 61 came after contact, a season high. Coleman forced four missed tackles, tying another season high for him. Eight of his 22 carries resulted in either a first down or touchdown, the most of any 49ers running back this season.
“He looked good out there,” Shanahan said after Saturday’s game. “Tevin, I know his numbers haven't been as great. Raheem has had some real good runs. I think Tevin has had some unfortunate looks, just the luck of the draw a little bit. I think he got some better looks (on Saturday), took advantage of them. When you do that, I think it got him in a little bit of momentum. He was able to stay out there a little bit longer. I think he got some extra carries at the end, didn't have to split them as much with Raheem cramping and stuff. That's why we haven't changed much. We've been excited about Tevin all year. Glad he got his opportunities. He came through big for us.”
Coleman became the first 49ers running back with two or more rushing touchdowns in a postseason game since Frank Gore had two rushing touchdowns at Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Conference game in 2013. ...
According to Wagoner, Mostert was slowed by a calf cramp that came after he had been battling some sickness last week. He got an IV and said he has no concerns moving forward. ...
Bourne earned the 49ers highest Pro Football Focus grade on offense in Saturday’s Divisional Round matchup. The third-year wideout hauled in three catches for 40 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown on the 49ers opening drive of the game. All three of his catches resulted in either a first down or a touchdown. On the year, 26 of his 33 catches (78.8 percent) have resulted in either a first down or a touchdown. ...
And last. ... Wide receiver Trent Taylor is powerless to help his team this year as they’re on the cusp of reaching the Super Bowl for a second time in the last eight seasons.
According to Jennifer Lee Chan of NBC Sports Bay Area, Taylor has had to undergo five surgeries on his foot after developing an infection in the area after a secondary procedure. Taylor had surgery prior to training camp to address a Jones fracture. The area became irritated and the follow-up procedure led to infection.
Taylor underwent three more surgeries to treat the infection with antibiotics and remains in a walking boot and on crutches.
“It could always be worse,” Taylor said.
Taylor is hoping he’ll be ready to go for the team’s OTA workouts in the spring.
Taylor had compiled 69 receptions for 645 yards and three touchdowns in 29 games played over the last two season for the 49ers.
QBs: Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Mullens, C.J. Beathard
RBs: Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman, Matt Breida, Jeff Wilson
WRs: Emmanuel Sanders, Deebo Samuel, Kendrick Bourne, Dante Pettis, Richie James, Jordan Matthews
TEs: George Kittle, Ross Dwelley, Levine Toilolo
Tennessee TitansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 January 2020
As NFL.com's Nick Shook framed it, "How do you upset a No. 1 seed with a seemingly unstoppable offense?
"You turn that offense over, score, stuff that offense and take a deep shot for another score. You play with visible intensity and take no punches without delivering one of your own (within the rules, of course). And then you finish the job by riding your literal Titan of a running back to a victory. ..."
A fair assessment.
And it still stands going forward. The Titans' hopes of winning games in the playoffs rest squarely on the shoulders of running back Derrick Henry. The 6-3, 247-pound back put together a historic performance to fuel his team to a 28-12 playoff win over the heavily-favored Ravens in Baltimore.
ESPN.com's Turron Davenport, to put things in perspective, noted that Henry's 195-yard rushing performance against the Ravens was his third consecutive game (including the playoffs) with 180 or more yards. No other player has done that.
"They handed me a sheet that said, 'the only player in NFL history. ...' Whatever comes after that is pretty much self-explanatory when it's the only player in NFL history. It's fun to get to coach him," Titans coach Mike Vrabel said.
"He's special," quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. "I think he is special because he has the size that is extremely rare in a running back. But he also has the speed to go with it. So he has the size to run those 2- or 3-yard runs that are physical when there's no hole. He's getting the yards to keep us ahead of the chains. But also if he breaks free and gets past the first level, he has the speed to take it 60 or 70 yards, which is extremely rare and what makes him special."
Henry has gained more rushing yards than any other player in their opening four postseason games (561). In two playoff games this season, Henry has gained 377 yards, the most in a two-game span in NFL postseason history.
Henry's past eight games have produced historic results.
In that span, Henry has gained 1,273 rushing yards, the third-most in NFL history. Henry's 137 rushing yards after contact on Saturday were the most in a game in the past 10 postseasons.
Even though he is putting up amazing numbers, Henry is not losing sight of the big picture. In his mind, none of this matters unless the Titans keep winning.
"I am more happy that we won. The stats and all of that stuff is good. But we got the win, and we are advancing. That's the most important thing to me," Henry said.
Henry is in the last year of his rookie deal, and he'll be a free agent after the season.
"I think we are seeing the great back that we've always been seeing, but we are seeing a little more extra. He's playing with a determination to win," guard Rodger Saffold III said. "I'll say it again: We need to have him back next year. I don't want to hear anything else."
Thanks to Henry, Tannehill threw for less than 100 yards and won a playoff game for a second-straight week.
Unlike in their Wildcard Playoff win over the Patriots, Tannehill didn't make a single significant mistake in Baltimore, avoiding interceptions while also tossing two touchdowns.
The Titans leaned on receiver A.J. Brown all season, but Saturday was another quiet night for the rookie, who had just one catch for nine yards.
Receiver Corey Davis had the three-yard touchdown catch from Henry on the jump pass, but that was it.
So what happened on Saturday night?
Tight end Jonnu Smith made a spectacular 12-yard touchdown catch to give the Titans an early lead/ Forty-five of Tannehill's 88 passing yards came on one crucial completion to Khalif Raymond for a touchdown and a 14-point lead in what Shook described as "a teeth-rattling right hook."
Tannehill is piloting this offense that's powered by a massive engine in Henry, and he's making all the right turns and adjustments in speed along the way, benefitting from well-timed play-action and using his own athleticism to nudge Tennessee a little farther.
His touchdown run on the goal line capped this win, and slammed home the importance of offensive coordinator Arthur Smith's play-calling.
Those three factors combined to propel Tennessee to another stunning upset victory. The question now is whether they can keep that roll going in Kansas City this weekend?
Only part of that equation will be a strong offense.
There's no doubt keeping Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes off the field is a great starting point.
But the defense must find a way to disrupt Mahomes when he is on the field.
As ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert understated, the Texans had no answer on Sunday; the Chiefs' slow start was due mostly to third-down drops. At this point, giving Mahomes a clean pocket is a surefire ticket to defeat. He will find holes in zone schemes and is now healthy enough to run if no receivers are open against man-to-man coverage.
Seifert went on to point out the Titans weren't a big blitzing team during the regular season, finishing with the NFL's fifth-lowest blitz rate (19.2 percent). But blitzing isn't usually a good answer for Mahomes. In 2019, he had the NFL's third-best QBR when opponents rushed five or more players (90.5).
Instead, the best answer would be to mix and match in a way that keeps the Chiefs off balance and puts Mahomes in difficult downs-and-distances. ...
On the injury front. ... Adam Humphries, the slot receiver who last played Week 13, continued to miss time with his injured ankle. At this point there's no reason to believe he'll return this week, but if that changes, we'll follow up in the News and Views section of the site.
QBs: Ryan Tannehill, Marcus Mariota
RBs: Derrick Henry, Dion Lewis, Dalyn Dawkins, David Fluellen
WRs: A.J. Brown, Corey Davis, Tajae Sharpe, Adam Humphries, Kalif Raymond
TEs: Jonnu Smith, Anthony Firkser, MyCole Pruitt