Playoff Judgements III: 49ers, critics last obstacles for Chiefs' Andy Reid
Andy Reid just slayed one dragon, and good for him. But it won’t matter unless he drops a second.
And now he has that chance.
For the second time in his career … and the first in the past 14 years … Reid has his team in the Super Bowl, and that’s a story in itself. Because Andy Reid, coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, is not supposed to win Super Bowls. More than that, he’s not even supposed to reach Super Bowls. Because the book on Andy Reid is that he’s the coach who can win a lot of games but not win a lot of big games.
Except he just did.
He beat Tennessee, 35-24, in Sunday’s AFC championship game, and, yes, that’s a big deal. Entering Sunday, he was 1-8 vs. the Titans, including a loss earlier this season. Entering Sunday, he was also 1-5 in conference championship games.
Now he’s not. Now he’s in Super Bowl LIV vs. San Francisco, and, for Andy Reid, there’s more – much more -- than a Lombardi Trophy or a ring at stake.
You see, Reid is someone who has just about everything except a Super Bowl trophy. He’s won ten division championships, including the last four with Kansas City. He’s reached the playoffs 14 times. He’s been an NFL Coach of the Year. He’s won 221 career games, including the playoffs. And now he’s going to a second Super Bowl.
But that’s the problem. He’s been to just one. And he lost it, beaten by New England in Super Bowl XXXIX.
Reid’s overall playoff record is 14-14, but the truth is: He’s known more for his playoff defeats (last year vs. New England; 2013 vs. Indianapolis) than he is his victories. Only six head coaches in NFL history have won more games than Reid, and they've combined for 29 league championships.
Reid has yet to win one.
Now, of course, he has an opportunity to rewrite that narrative. Because now he has Patrick Mahomes and a track team that no one the past two months has derailed – one reason oddsmakers make Kansas City an early Super Bowl favorite.
People will tell you this game is about Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs’ quick-strike offense, and it is. But it’s as much about their head coach and his legacy. Andy Reid has a reputation to shake, and so far, so good. Now the question: Can he finally finish what he started?
“Just getting there isn’t the goal,” said Chiefs’ tight end Travis Kelce. “Winning this thing for him is. I’ll leave it at that.”
SUNDAY SCHOOL: FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED
1. First and second seeds need only apply for the Super Bowl. Make this the seventh straight season that nobody but the No. 1 or 2 seeds from both conferences reached the NFL championship game. The last lower seed to get there? Try fourth-seeded Baltimore in 2012. The Ravens went on to win Super Bowl XLVII.
2. Kyle Shanahan has something to prove, too. When you mention Shanahan and Super Bowls together in a sentence, somewhere in there you’ll find a 28-3 score. That’s the lead that he and the Atlanta Falcons blew in Super Bowl LI when Shanahan, then the Falcons’ offensive coordinator, got greedy with his play calling. "I remember every single play," he said shortly after taking over in San Francisco, "and I will go over those for the rest of my life." As a head coach, he said he’s learned from his mistakes. Now he can prove it.
3. California is no Golden State for Aaron Rodgers. He was 0-3 there this season, including two losses to San Francisco, with the Packers outscored 100-39.
4. Mike Vrabel won’t have to live up to his promise. Thank goodness. He once said he’d go the Full Bobbitt on us if he won a Super Bowl. Fortunately, he won’t have to.
5. No matter what the score, Kansas City is never out of a game. In their last three playoff contests, the Chiefs were down 14-0, 24-0 and 10-0 and won two, with the third going to OT. According to @EliasSports, they’re the only playoff team in NFL history to trail in multiple games by 10 or more points in the first half and take the lead before intermission.
THIRD AND 20
1. Admit it. This is the Super Bowl you wanted. It’s not just Kansas City vs. San Francisco or Patrick Mahomes vs. Jimmy G. It’s New School vs. Old School, which is another way of saying it’s the two adversaries that matter most: Offense vs. Defense. Remember what your Dad told you (or was it your grandfather?) way back when – that offense sells tickets and defense wins championships? Now we find out. Again.
2. Tell me again why Patrick Mahomes lasted until the 10th pick of the 2017 draft. No, better yet, remind me why Mitch Trubisky was taken eight spots ahead of him.
3. Mahomes is eligible for a contract extension. I suggest the Chiefs exercise it.
4. Say goodnight to the State Farm Mahomes-Rodgers Super Bowl. And Happy New Year.
5. You might’ve guessed it, but I’ll remind you anyway: This is the first Super Bowl where both quarterbacks were drafted after 2008.
6. Baseball’s not the only game of inches. So is the NFL. The 49ers won the NFC West by no more than three inches when Seattle’s Jacob Hollister was stopped just short of the goal line in the season finale. Had he scored, it would’ve been Seattle, not the 49ers, that won the division and been the NFC's top seed.
7. Mike Pettine, report to the principal’s office. And bring a couple of tackling dummies with you.
8. Look for a big crowd around the 49ers’ Dee Ford next week. He’s the guy who cost Kansas City a Super Bowl last year. He may cost them one again.
9. For those outraged that Aaron Rodgers didn’t make the NFL’s Top 10 quarterbacks of all time, consider this: He’s 1-3 in conference championship games, with as many interceptions (7) as TD passes (7). Just sayin.’
10. I suggest Special K get in on the Super Bowl LIV ads. Because it’s not Mahomes-Garoppolo that’s the feature attraction. It’s Kelce-Kittle, the league’s two best tight ends, sans Gronk.
11. Gather round, Chiefs’ fans. I have good news and bad news for you. First, the good: Kansas City’s playoff average of 43 points per game is more than all but one team (Buffalo in 1990) to reach the Super Bowl. Now the bad: The Bills lost. Worse, only two of the previous five teams to average 40 or more points in the playoffs won the Super Bowl (San Francisco in 1994 and New England in 2014).
12. Gotta be honest: 49ers’ GM John Lynch has a better chance of winning a Super Bowl in Miami than he does reaching Canton. Lynch is a Hall-of-Fame finalist for the seventh straight year, but he’s a longshot.
13. Not saying it’s been an eternity since Kansas City reached the Super Bowl, but it has. When the Chiefs were in Super Bowl IV the No. 1 song on Billboard's Top 100 was “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” by B.J. Thomas.
14. Tennessee kicker Greg Joseph can return to work as the Maytag Repair Man. Joseph never attempted a field goal for the Titans, and the Titans never attempted a field goal since Week 15. They hadn’t made one since Week 13, either.
15. Passing can be overrated, and the 49ers are Exhibit A. They won with Jimmy Garoppolo completing six of eight passes. In the Super Bowl era, only Don Shula’s 1971 and 1973 Miami Dolphins won playoff games throwing fewer than 10 times.
16. That completes another season where neither Drew Brees nor Aaron Rodgers reached his second Super Bowl, further proof of how astounding Tom Brady’s nine appearances are.
17. Can’t wait to hear what Kansas City’s Frank Clark has say about Raheem Mostert.
18. My favorite quote this weekend didn’t come from a locker room. It came from former Dallas wide receiver Drew Pearson. He was a Centennial Class finalist but failed to make it to Canton. The only first or second-team member of the 1970s’ all-decade team not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Pearson promised not to give up or complain about the selection process. “I’m not going to be no Terrell Owens,” he said.
19. Philip Rivers just moved his family from San Diego to Florida … permanently. Translation: If he plays next season – which he says he’d prefer – it won’t be with the Chargers.
20. If ESPN hires Tony Romo, it should bring along Jim Nantz, too. These guys are more perfectly paired than Raymour and Flanigan.
STAT THAT MAY ONLY INTEREST ME
Aaron Rodgers’ last six playoff losses were to opponents that beat him earlier that season.
ONE THAT MAY INTEREST YOU
The Chiefs had five touchdown drives of 60 or more yards Sunday, the most TD drives of 60 or more yards in one game in Chiefs’ playoff history.
AND ONE THAT MAY INTEREST BOTH OF US
The 49ers hold the top two rushing records vs. Green Bay in the Packers’ playoff history – 323 yards in the Colin Kaepernick era on Jan. 12, 2013 and 285 on Sunday.
SUNDAY’S GOLD JACKET WINNERS
RAHEEM MOSTERT, RB, San Francisco. He scored four rushing touchdowns, the most in a conference championship game. He ran for 220 yards, a 49ers’ record and the second-most by anyone in a playoff game. Basically, he did it all. Since 1970, the only running backs with three rushing TDs and 150 yards in a conference championship game are Mostert, Thurman Thomas and Emmitt Smith. Thomas and Smith are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And Mostert? He was cut by six teams before landing with the 49ers. We know because he told the media Sunday. He also said that before every game he looks at the cut dates for motivation.
PATRICK MAHOMES, QB, Kansas City. He produced over 700 yards passing and rushing and nine touchdown during this year’s playoffs … without committing a turnover. In two seasons as the Chiefs' starting quarterback he's gone to two conference championship games and one Super Bowl.
SUNDAY’S GOLD JACKET QUOTES
“Fired up to go to Miami. I need to go on a diet so I can fit in my clothes.” – Kansas City coach Andy Reid on going to the Super Bowl.
"We were running the hell out of the ball tonight. It made my life very easy back there. So it was a fun night." -- 49ers' QB Jimmy Garoppolo.
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