Last updated 1/14/2020 at Noon
CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS FEATURE YOUNG QBS, NEW COACHES For the fourth time in franchise history the Houston Texans failed to reach the National Football League’s Conference championship round.
Sunday’s failure at Kansas City against the explosive Chiefs was unbelievably unique.
The Texans became the first team in NFL history to lead by 20 or more points and then lose by 20 points.
The game started off with the Chiefs looking like a team that would get blown out by 40 points as they suffered from six dropped passes in the initial period, a blown pass coverage that led to a Houston touchdown, a blocked punt that was returned for an easy touchdown and a muffed punt that resulted in another touchdown.
The first quarter ended with the Texans taking a commanding 21-0 lead which expanded to 24-0 in less than the first five minutes of the second period.
In fact, Houston head coach Bill O’Brien went for the jugular when he called for a fake punt that barely failed midway through the second period.
But that must have awakened a sleeping giant as the Chiefs didn’t want a repeat of the 31-24 loss to the Texans on Oct. 13 and came to life in a big way despite that in the last 10 seasons teams that trailed by 21 points in the first half had finished 12-169.
KC coach Andy Reid went into his huge bag of tricks and pulled out all the stops as he directed his team to a 28-24 lead at halftime by scoring touchdowns on all four possessions.
They also scored on the first three possessions of the second half, setting an NFL record of seven scores and 41 straight points on seven tries.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes hid behind the magnificent pass blocking of his offensive line to riddle the inept Texans’ secondary with his strong right arm and five touchdowns.
When he couldn’t find an open receiver, he picked up huge chunks of yardage with his legs.
When the final gun sounded, Kansas City had walloped the Texans 51-31 and earned the right to host the Tennessee Titans Sunday, the Cinderella team of this year’s playoffs.
As for the Texans—there’s already rumblings about firing O’Brien for not being able to get his team past the wild card round of the playoffs.
And in Sunday’s game, the team was at full strength, so there should be no excuses.
Houston has gone without a team in the AFC Championship Game since the Oilers did it after the 1979 season.
Tennessee’s second year head coach Mike Vrabel did what the Texans and O’Brien couldn’t do—pull an upset on the road.
The Titans shocked top-seeded Baltimore convincingly 28-12 Saturday night and could very well be headed to NRG Stadium in Houston if the Texans hadn’t collapsed after scoring 24 unanswered points against Kansas City.
But the Titans have a date against the Chiefs Sunday at 2:05 p.m.
Vrabel concocted a beautiful defense to stop the high-powered Ravens by keeping quarterback Lamar Jackson running toward the sidelines and not up the middle of the field where he makes most of his yardage.
Offensively, the Titans turned NFL rushing champion Derrick Henry loose, who gained 195 yards on 30 carries.
Henry also threw a one-yard touchdown pass that virtually took the wind out of Baltimore’s sails.
Tennessee quarterback Ryan Tannehill only threw 14 passes, connecting on seven with two going for touchdowns.
The former Texas Aggie also ran for a touchdown.
The two homefield favorites came through with wins in the NFC as the top- seeded San Francisco 49ers breezed past the Minnesota Vikings 27-10 Saturday behind quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and will host the Conference Championship Game Sunday at 5:40 p.m.
The Green Bay Packers’ defense had to subdue the determined Seattle Seahawks 28-23 after watching their 28-10 lead disintegrate in the second half.
But veteran quarterback Aaron Rodgers led the Packers to some crucial first downs late in the fourth quarter to assure the victory.
Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson led the late charge while Marshawn Lynch, who was rescued from the NFL scrap pile few weeks ago, chipped in with a couple of one-yard touchdown plunges.
San Francisco walloped Green Bay 37-8 on Nov. 24 and are an early seven-point favorite Sunday.
Of the four teams competing to play in Super Bowl LIV, only Tennessee has not won a Super Bowl.
The 49ers have five Vince Lombardi Trophies, Green Bay has four and Kansas City won Super Bowl IV back in 1970.
KWICKIES…My alma mater, McNeese State, is currently looking for a new head football coach after Sterling Gilbert left the Lake Charles, La.
school to accept a position with the Syracuse football program.
The final head coaching vacancy in the NFL was filled Monday as Kevin Stefanski was hired to replace the fired Freddie Kitchens.
The 37-year-old Stefanski was narrowly edged out for the Cleveland job last year by Kitchens.
He was the offensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings, who he has been with since 2006.
He worked with the Vikings’ running backs, tight ends and quarterbacks under three head coaches.
Stefanski is the sixth head coach hired by Browns owner Jimmy Haslam since he bought the team in 2012.
Port Arthur native Jimmy Johnson was surprised when it was announced on the Fox pregame show Sunday that he had been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a head coach for the Dallas Cowboys.
Less than 24 hours earlier, former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher also was notified of the same honor on the CBS pregame show between Houston and Kansas City.
Don’t be surprised if the 2020 Cinderella college football team is the Texas Longhorns, much like LSU was this season.
The ‘Horns have plenty of talent coming back this fall.
JUST BETWEEN US…The upstart XFL makes it debut Feb. 8 with eight teams ready to play under some new football rules that will be tested according to Commissioner Oliver Luck, a former NFL quarterback and longtime football executive.
The new league will have tiered options for extra points worth one, two or three points.
It will allow double forward passes behind the line of scrimmage.
In order to speed up games, a running clock will be used, except in the final two minutes of each half.
Overtime will look like the NHL’s version of using “shootouts” with each team getting up to five chances to score from five yards out.