Morning! Hope your weekend was much more KC than Baltimore.
Two of the best teams in the NFL got knocked to the canvas in their own houses this weekend. But only one of them got up and fought.
In their respective divisional-round games, Baltimore found itself down 14 to the dynasty-killing Tennessee before many of Charm City’s purple-clad fans even found their seats. About 16 hours later, Houston hung 24 straight on Kansas City. The big difference came in what happened next.
Kansas City's monster rally
You’ve heard the old Mike Tyson line about everyone having a plan until they get punched in the face. It’s a good maxim, calling out those who don’t anticipate crises, but it’s not quite complete. Because if you’ve got a good plan, it doesn’t much matter if you get punched in the face; you just go back to the plan.
Andy Reid, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs had a plan for the Texans. They ended up punching themselves in the face quite a bit to start the game, but they knew the Chiefs weren’t the gaggle of stone-handed clods they seemed to be in the first half. Mahomes kept throwing, the Chiefs finally started catching, and presto: Kansas City hung a stunning 41 straight points on Houston. The Chiefs scored so much that Arrowhead Stadium literally ran out of celebratory fireworks. That’s like McDonald’s running out of fries.
Baltimore's very bad day
Compare that with Baltimore, which took that punch to the face and immediately began writhing on the turf. (Note: I’m using “punch to the face” as a metaphor. Getting punched in the face really, REALLY hurts, and the rest of us wouldn’t be thinking about getting back up, we’d be looking for a table to hide under.)
To be fair, Baltimore would have needed to bring in a couple buses to slow down Tennessee’s Derrick Henry. But the Ravens sabotaged their own chances with dumb penalties, inept turnovers, and inconsequential trips to the red zone. Lamar Jackson threw up another wave of gaudy stats, but this time it was because the Ravens played the entire game from behind.
You’re going to hear a bunch of garbage that Lamar Jackson is all hype and no substance, that he got exposed Saturday. Don’t believe it. Baltimore — one of just six teams ever to go 14-2 or better and lose their first playoff game — just picked a very bad day to have a very bad day.
So what do we take from this? First, nobody’s going to take the Titans lightly. Next, Jackson and the Ravens are going to roll into their next postseason with a whole lot of new questions about big-game ability weighing them down. And finally, the Chiefs showed the kind of resilience that could have them hoisting the Lombardi in 20 days. After all, the best way to shake off a punch is knowing you’ve already taken a tougher one.
The NFC was much less colorful
The 49ers dismissed Minnesota with little fuss, and despite a few anxious moments in Green Bay, Seattle couldn’t quite close an 18-point deficit against the Packers. Though the Pack did benefit from a questionable call ruling this third-down catch by Jimmy Graham a first down in the closing minutes:
See, New Orleans? It’s not just you.
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