When the eerie Foxborough fog lifted, it became clear that New England’s reign atop the NFL was ending.
Derrick Henry ensured that with the kind of dominating playoff performance usually reserved for Tom Brady and the Patriots.
Brady vows to be back on an NFL field next season, but his contract with the Patriots is done.
“I love the Patriots,” the 42-year Brady said, adding about leaving the game after 20 seasons: “I would say it’s pretty unlikely, hopefully unlikely. I love playing football. I don’t know what it looks like moving forward.”
Doing the most moving forward Saturday night was Henry, who had a total of 184 yards rushing in two playoff games two years ago. He nearly got that against the league’s top-ranked defence in boosting the Titans (10-7) into the divisional round at No. 1 seed Baltimore.
“It’s a great win against a great team in a hostile environment,” Henry said on his 26th birthday. “Credit to my team. I’m just happy we were able to advance.
“We were just locked in. That was our mindset, just coming in here doing what we needed to do in all three phases, stay locked in no matter what happens in the game, and I feel like we did that.”
As that dense fog that shrouded Gillette Stadium for the first half dissipated, the Patriots, who made the last three Super Bowls and won two, stalled repeatedly with the ball. They no longer were the bullies on the block — Henry was.
As for this defeat, the Patriots’ fourth as a wild card, Brady noted: “They kind of stopped us in the first half and the second half and we couldn’t get the job done.”
There had been no scoring in the second half when All-Pro Brett Kern’s 58-yard punt that took up 10 of the final 25 seconds rolled down at the New England 1. Brady then was picked by former Patriot Logan Ryan for a 9-yard touchdown t o finish off the Patriots (12-5), who at one point were 8-0.
The game’s first three possessions wound up as three long scoring drives. A 29-yard screen pass to James White set up Nick Folk’s 36-yard field goal, but Tennessee answered with a 75-yard march built around Henry. He had no role on the touchdown, Tannehill’s pass to a Harvard man, tight end Anthony Firkser that made it 7-3.
Firkser is the first player from Harvard to score a playoff TD.
New England counterpunched with its own 75-yard drive, taking temporary control of the game by victimizing Tennessee’s defence on the outside. The Titans looked slow trying to protect the flanks as Sony Michel broke off a 25-yard run and White had a 14-yarder.
Julian Edelman finished it with the first rushing touchdown of his 11 pro seasons, a 5-yard dash to the unprotected left side of the Tennessee D.
New England appeared primed for another touchdown after Mohamed Sanu’s 14-yard punt return set up the Patriots at the Titans 47, and they steadily drove to first-and-goal at the 1.
All they got was Folk’s 21-yard field goal as three runs failed. It was the 13th time the Patriots had first-and-goal at the 1 in a playoff game in the Brady era and the first time they failed to get a TD on the drive.
Talk about a Work Horse 💪 <a href=”https://twitter.com/KingHenry_2?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@KingHenry_2</a> took the ball on all 7 plays of a 75 yard TD drive to close out the 2nd half! Happy 26th birthday! 🎉 <a href=”https://twitter.com/Titans?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@Titans</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/TENvsNE?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#TENvsNE</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Titans?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Titans</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/TitanUp?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#TitanUp</a> <a href=”https://t.co/cPvU4wsIFq”>pic.twitter.com/cPvU4wsIFq</a>
Tannehill led the NFL with a career-best 117.5 passer rating and by averaging 9.6 yards per pass attempt. But he didn’t do a whole lot Saturday night in his first post-season game: 8 of 15 for 72 yards. His awful decision to put the ball up for grabs on the first play of the fourth quarter resulted in Duron Harmon’s interception.
But New England’s spotty attack flopped and never revived. That has not been unusual during the second half of the schedule.
Tannehill’s passing yards were the fewest for a starter since the Ravens’ Joe Flacco had 34 in a wild-card win against the Patriots 10 years ago.
Tannehill now has five victories over Brady, second only to Peyton Manning’s six for the most by an opposing QB since 2001, including playoffs.
Henry celebrated his birthday by getting the most rushing yards against a Bill Belichick-coached Patriots team in the playoffs. He set an early tone by rushing for 49 of the Titans’ 75 yards on their opening touchdown drive. On the Titans’ second 75-yard TD march, all Henry did was gain every yard: 22 on a screen pass and 53 rushing, including a 1-yard dive into the end zone for a 14-13 halftime lead. Those were Tennessee’s first points in the final two minutes of the opening half since Week 8.
“When you can run it when the other team knows you’re gonna run it, that says a lot about your running game,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said.
Henry led the NFL in rushing this season with 1,540 yards in 15 games, the fourth-most rushing yards in franchise history. He also ran for 16 TDs, second most in team history.
Vrabel, a star linebacker for New England who won three Super Bowl rings, is a rare member of the Belichick coaching tree to defeat the Patriots’ long-time coach head to head in the playoffs. Another of those, Houston’s Bill O’Brien, also did it this season — and the Texans advanced to the divisional round earlier Saturday by beating Buffalo in overtime.
“I told ’em that to win the game, you’re going to have to be mentally and physically exhausted,” Vrabel said. “You’re going to get rubbed defensively. There’s gonna be gadgets. They going to force you to think. …
“We didn’t hand them anything. They feast on bad football.
“I don’t think our guys spend a lot of time looking at those banners.”
New England’s loss in the season finale at home to Miami, which cost the Patriots a wild-card round bye, was engineered by another former Belichick assistant, Brian Flores.
After winning their first eight games, the Patriots struggled mightily in the second half of the schedule. They lost four games, and with the defeat by the Titans, they fell three times at home.
Chiefs defeat Titans to advance to Super Bowl for first time in 50 years – Sportsnet.ca
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — With his best imitation of a tightrope walker, Patrick Mahomes high-wired the Kansas City Chiefs into their first Super Bowl since 1970.
Oh sure, Mahomes did his usual superb job passing, but it was his 27-yard tap dance down the left sideline late in the first half that gave the Chiefs their first lead. From there, they outran the run-oriented Tennessee Titans and star back Derrick Henry for a 35-24 victory Sunday in the AFC championship.
At last, for the third time overall, the Chiefs (14-4) are Super Bowl bound.
In two weeks in Miami, they will play the winner of the NFC title game between Green Bay and San Francisco.
“I mean, it’s amazing. It really is,” said Mahomes, had 294 yards passing and three touchdown passes. “To be here, to be a part of Chiefs Kingdom and to be able to do it here at Arrowhead, these people deserve it. And we’re not done yet.”
Adding to the joy of the achievement, coach Andy Reid and owner Clark Hunt accepted the Lamar Hunt Trophy — named after his father — emblematic of the AFC title. It was handed over to them by Chiefs Hall of Famer Bobby Bell, with Mahomes and safety Tyrann Mathieu jumping for joy on the makeshift stage.
Next up: chasing the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
“Very excited and very emotional to win the trophy that has my dad’s name on it,” Hunt said. “Yeah, 50 years were too long, but we’re going to another Super Bowl.
“Chiefs Kingdom, we are going to the Super Bowl.”
The Chiefs lost in 1967 in the first AFL-NFL Championship Game — nope, it wasn’t called the Super Bowl yet — to the Lombardi Packers 35-10. Three years later, one year after the New York Jets shocked Baltimore to lay claim to the AFL being equal to the long-established NFL, Kansas City was back. This time, it was known as the Super Bowl — indeed, Lamar Hunt is credited with coming up with the name — and his Chiefs hammered Minnesota 23-7 with the typical Wild West offensive flair and a staunch defence. Those are characteristics that helped carry KC this season.
Reid isn’t as animated as Hall of Famer Hank Stram, who famously urged the Chiefs team to “keep matriculating the ball down the field, boys.” Caught up in the moment Sunday, Reid said, “It’s awesome,” before asking the crowd to chant “How about those Chiefs?”
Moments later, standout tight end Travis Kelce proclaimed, “You gotta fight for your right to party.”
There will be plenty of partying on South Beach for Chiefs Kingdom heading into the championship matchup.
“Fired up to go to Miami, got to get on a diet so I can fit into my clothes,” Reid said. “Very proud.”
THAT. WAS. INCREDIBLE.
— NFL (@NFL) January 19, 2020
As they had done in their past three “elimination” games, the sixth-seeded Titans (11-8) got started quickly. The difference at Arrowhead as opposed to Houston, New England and Baltimore was that the Chiefs had Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins and Damien Williams on offence, and a vastly upgraded defence from when they lost in last year’s AFC title game. Henry was held to 7 yards rushing in the second half.
“They were doubling all these guys,” Mahomes said of his spectacular TD run on which he barely stayed in bounds. “I just ran it and got some good blocking at the end and found a way to get in the end zone.”
A week after they overcame a 24-0 deficit against Houston, the Chiefs had to rally again.
Down 10-0 and 17-7, Kansas City didn’t flinch, building a 35-17 lead while controlling the clock with a strong ground game. Naturally, Mahomes complemented that with sharp passing, spreading the ball on short and deep throws. The dagger came with a 60-yard completion to Watkins for the Chiefs’ 28th straight point midway in the final period.
Mahomes thrust both arms in the air as the crowd sang Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.”
That somebody will be either the 49ers or Packers in two weeks. They were deciding the NFC crown later Sunday in California.
After taking a 3-0 lead on Greg Joseph’s first field goal — with Tennessee’s penchant for scoring in the red zone, he hadn’t been called upon in his previous four games with the team — the Titans got a huge break. Bashaud Breeland appeared to make a diving interception, but replay review showed the ball hitting the ground.
Helped by consecutive offside penalties and a a fourth-down pass to Adam Humphries for his first career playoff reception, the Titans converted on, what else, Henry’s 4-yard run.
Then the Chiefs got rolling, scoring on three successive series. Hill took it in on a shovel pass, later beat top Titans cornerback Logan Ryan for a 20-yard reception, and Mahomes finished the half with his brilliant jaunt down the left sideline with half the Tennessee defence seemingly expecting him to step out of bounds.
That gave the Chiefs a 21-17 lead. It went to 28-17 on Williams’ 3-yard run to cap a seven-minute drive. Then Watkins toasted Logan for the clinching long pass.
Henry was held to 69 yards on 19 carries after rushing for 588 yards in the past three games as an unstoppable force.
“I feel like our backs were against the wall the whole season,” Henry said. “But we kept on fighting and kept on believing in each other. I think it speaks volumes about the team we have. We just came up short.”
The Chiefs easily outrushed the Titans on Sunday. Mahomes led the way with 53 of those yards and also was 23 for 35 for 294 yards passing.
Reid goes back to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 2004 season, when his Eagles lost to New England. That gap is second longest to Dick Vermeil’s hiatus.
“So much effort that went into this,” said Reid, who joined the Chiefs in 2013 after 14 years in Philadelphia. “It takes an army, it is not one guy at all. I appreciate the effort by everybody.”
Last week, Henry threw a jump pass for a touchdown against Baltimore. On Sunday, Dennis Kelly emulated his coach, Mike Vrabel. He sneaked free for Ryan Tannehill’s lob, falling back awkwardly but holding on for Tennessee’s second TD. The backup tackle is the only offensive lineman since 2000 with two TDs receiving in a season. He also had one against Jacksonville.
Vrabel caught 12 touchdown passes as a linebacker, including one in the Super Bowl when his Patriots beat Reid’s Eagles.
Displaying the gambling nature of both coaches, fourth-down conversions were key on early scoring drives. Humphries, who missed the last six games with an ankle problem, caught a 3-yarder on fourth-and-2 at the KC 29. Two plays later, Henry scored.
On the Chiefs’ ensuing possession, they went for it on fourth-and-2 from the Titans 28. Travis Kelce’s 4-yard reception continued a march to Hill’s first TD.
Titans: Figuring out if they ran out of gas or were beaten by a more talented team as they head into the off-season.
Chiefs: The Tomahawk Chop will be heard at Hard Rock Stadium in the Super Bowl.
Maple Leafs head into all-star break on a wave of boos, jeers and ridicule after thumping by Blackhawks – The Globe and Mail
The Toronto Maple Leafs headed into the all-star break on Saturday night amid boos and jeers and ridicule. It is not the way any team with postseason aspirations wants to enter its bye week.
Toronto played dreadfully in a 6-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, and the crowd assembled at Scotiabank Arena voiced its dislike. Catcalls accompanied the players as they filed down the tunnel during the intermissions. In the second period, when Frederik Andersen stopped an easy shot, the crowd cheered to mock him.
Until then, shots had bounced off, and gone around and through the Maple Leafs goaltender, who has not looked like one of the National Hockey League’s elite netminders for weeks. He was credited with 28 saves, but most came when the outcome was already decided.
“I think it’s time now for everyone here to look in the mirror, myself included,” Andersen said. “It’s not a time to point fingers or anything like that.
“[We have] to use this week to reflect, and make sure we come with more intensity and more purpose after the break.”
Toronto lost two of three games last week and has only one victory in its past six. Thanks to this clunker, it no longer holds down a playoff position.
It took Drake Caggiula 21 seconds to score the Blackhawks’ first goal and they led 3-0 after 20 minutes.
“I didn’t have that vibe going into it, but clearly from the drop of the puck we just didn’t have a lot of life,” said Toronto head coach Sheldon Keefe. “Then we’re down, we’re down early and it’s a tough game.
“It’s frustrating. I think when you go through these types of things … it’s a sign of where you are and that you’re not where you want to be. We’re not performing or playing with any level of discipline or consistency. We were an immature team here today.”
Afterward, players exhibited the same hangdog look as when they stumbled out of the gate to start the season. They talked about a lack of attention to details and being unprepared to play. They seemed puzzled by their lack of energy and ineptitude.
That is a bad sign 49 games into an 82-game regular season.
“We were sloppy and we missed assignments, and were careless with the puck,” John Tavares, the team captain, said. “It put us behind and gave [the Blackhawks] a lot of confidence, and got them feeling good about themselves. We were not good enough.
“It is not a good feeling. We have to dig down and ask ourselves where we want to get to.”
Toronto has won 12 of 25 games at home. It is playing without its top defenceman, Morgan Rielly, and one of its next best in Jake Muzzin. The latter’s broken foot may be healed well enough for him to be back in the lineup when regular-season games resume on Jan. 27.
The Maple Leafs begin the grind toward April with road games in Nashville and Dallas. They don’t play at home again until the Ottawa Senators visit on Feb. 1.
After a poor start to the season, they regained ground and seemingly were on the right path. It is hard to say that with certainty now.
As per usual on Saturday, they were outhit and had more shots blocked by an opponent than they did themselves. They were outworked and Andersen failed to come up with a big save when it was needed.
Teammates go out of their way not to criticize him and blame themselves instead for his erratic play. That does not make it any less disconcerting. Forty-two shots have made it past him in the past dozen games. His save percentage has fallen to .909, the lowest of his career.
Andersen is on his way to the all-star game proceedings with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. There is not a lot of criticism that can be directed at them. Matthews leads the team with 34 goals and 57 points. Marner, who missed 11 games with an ankle injury, has 47 points.
While the all-stars are in St. Louis, the remaining players will be resting and girding themselves for the gruelling task of securing a spot in the playoffs. By no means is it guaranteed, and that would be a terrible disappointment for this team.
“I think we just hit the reset button and have a nice week to rest and recharge,” Matthews said Saturday night. “Hopefully guys that have been out with injury can get themselves back and ready to play, but there’s really no excuse for how we played tonight.
“It doesn’t really matter who we’re missing or what guys are out. The way we played wasn’t really good enough. I don’t really know what else to say.”
That has been said too many times this season.
Patrick Mahomes' incredible touchdown run adds to dominant postseason – Touchdown Wire
The Titans had this one. They really had it. They put up a 17-7 second-quarter lead in the AFC Championship game over the Chiefs, thanks to a sleight-of-hand touchdown run by Derrick Henry and a tricky touchdown pass to offensive tackle Dennis Kelly. But when you’re the Chiefs, and you have Patrick Mahomes on the field, anything is possible.
Mahomes threw two touchdowns to Tyreek Hill to keep the game close, and then, with 11 seconds left in the first half, Mahomes did THIS from the Tennessee 27-yard line.
Was Mahomes helped by the rules and officiating perceptions that protect quarterbacks whether they’re in or out of the pocket? Perhaps. But Mahomes hasn’t needed any refs to put up the ridiculous numbers he has so far this postseason.
First, it was a five-touchdown performance against the Ravens in the divisional round, bringing Kansas City back from a 24-0 deficit. Now this, and the Chiefs went into the half with a 21-17 lead. No matter what happens in this game, Patrick Mahomes continues to define his legend as a player.
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