What We Learned in the N.F.L.’s Conference Championships

What We Learned in the N.F.L.’s Conference Championships

The Tennessee Titans were lovable underdogs, but their luck ran out on Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs, who beat them, 35-24. The Green Bay Packers found some balance on offense in their first season under Coach Matt LaFleur, but they were crushed by the San Francisco 49ers, 37-20, in a game that was nowhere near that close. The Chiefs and the 49ers will now face off in Super Bowl LIV on Feb. 2 in Miami Gardens, Fla., in a matchup between one team with an electric passing game and one that relies on its defense and running the ball.

Here’s what we learned in the conference championship games.

  • Kansas City’s long wait is over. The Chiefs lost Super Bowl I to the Green Bay Packers, won Super Bowl IV over the Minnesota Vikings and have not been back since. The 50-year gap between Super Bowl appearances is an N.F.L. record, but Mahomes was not shy about Kansas City’s chances, saying of his team: “We’re not done yet. We’re going to get it.” Since Kansas City’s last appearance in the N.F.L.’s championship game, the 49ers got there six times, winning five rings. The New England Patriots led all teams with 11 appearances in that span (winning six times), while the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Dallas Cowboys and the Denver Broncos each appeared eight times. San Francisco will be breaking a seven-season drought after having lost Super Bowl XLVII to the Baltimore Ravens after the 2012 season.

  • Robbie Gould can still let it rip. The 49ers kicker had not connected from more than 50 yards this season, and was just 6 of 12 from 40 or more yards in a season in which he missed three games as a result of an injury. But he turned the clock way back on Sunday, connecting from 54 yards early in the second quarter and from 42 in the fourth quarter. The 54-yarder was his longest field goal since 2015, and a return to form for a player who is now 30 for 42 in his career from 50-plus, including the playoffs. His 3-for-3 day continued a streak in which he has not missed in 13 career postseason field goal attempts.

The 49ers are currently underdogs and will be the road team in Miami Gardens, Fla. It will be the team’s third Super Bowl in the stadium formerly known as Joe Robbie, with San Francisco having beaten the Cincinnati Bengals there in Super Bowl XXIII and having defeated the San Diego Chargers there in Super Bowl XXIX.

San Francisco 49ers (13-3) at Kansas City Chiefs (12-4)

Sunday, Feb. 2, 6:30 p.m. Eastern, Fox

Early Line: Chiefs -1.5

Aaron Rodgers passed for 326 yards while trying to rally Green Bay in a blowout against San Francisco. But there was no question who the best quarterback on either field was this week, as Mahomes threw for 294 yards, had a sparkling passer rating of 120.4, and seemed capable of even more production if Kansas City had needed it.

All of the talk coming into this week was about Tennessee’s Derrick Henry, but it was San Francisco’s Mostert who put on an absolute show. He had the second-most rushing yards in a playoff game since at least 1950 (Eric Dickerson had 248 in the divisional round following the 1985 season) and also scored the second-most rushing touchdowns in a playoff game over the same span (Ricky Watters had five for San Francisco in the divisional round following the 1993 season).

The Packers’ Davante Adams led all receivers with 138 yards this week, but much of it came in garbage time, while Kansas City’s duo of Watkins and Tyreek Hill used their speed to disassemble Tennessee’s defense. The Titans did not have a player with more than 65 yards, and San Francisco had two players tie for the team lead in receptions — with two. An honorable mention is warranted to Tennessee’s backup tackle Dennis Kelly, who at 321 pounds became the heaviest player to score a receiving touchdown in a postseason game.

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