News & Analysis

NFL Conference Championship PFF Senior Analyst takeaways

Jan 19, 2020; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers running back Raheem Mostert (31) celebrates the victory against the Green Bay Packers following the NFC Championship Game at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

PFF Senior Analysts Sam Monson and Steve Palazzolo reviewed the film, advanced stats and grades to offer their key takeaways from the Conference Championship Round of the NFL season.

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Sam Monson

Tennessee did what they could, KC are just too good

The Titans did a pretty good job of repeating the game plan from a week ago that was so successful in beating the Ravens. Against the Chiefs though, getting out to a lead and trying to chew time off the clock just didn’t have any effect. The Ravens were taken out of their comfort zone by the way that encounter developed, but the Chiefs were put right into theirs. Kansas City simply has too much speed on offense and too much confidence that they will score, will score plenty, and will score fast to be thrown off by a double-digit lead. The fact that they came back from a deficit so large against Houston a week ago and didn’t just overcome it but turned that game into a blowout in the other direction only added to their comfort level in that kind of situation. The Titans defense had been overperforming over the past few weeks but just had no answer for the Chiefs offense. And critically, Kansas City’s defense was good enough to steal some possessions back in a way they simply weren’t a season ago. The Chiefs were just too good for Tennessee.

Green Bay’s defense got wrecked

The Packers had been carried for much of the season by their defense, not Aaron Rodgers. When Rodgers showed up for his best game in a long time a week ago, suddenly you had a team that could compete with the best in the NFL. Neither of those things happened this week, but the defense being annihilated was a bigger shock. Green Bay has some high-level players up front, and they got blown off the ball by the 49ers run game, which in turn robbed them of the opportunity to affect the game as pass-rushers. No player on the Packers defense rushed the passer more than dozen times, and collectively barely registered any pressure at all. Much is made about the merits of running the ball vs. passing it, but at the point you simply can’t stop the opposition running it successfully down your throat, you have a huge uphill battle on your hands to get anything at all out of the game.

Steve Palazzolo

Patrick Mahomes has all of the tools in the toolbox

When fans think of Mahomes, the first thing they think of is likely one of his dazzling throws or no-look passes, and while those are certainly key parts of his game, he also does the “simple” stuff really well. Last season, Mahomes lit up the league with incredible plays every week, but he also ranked second at avoiding negatively graded throws, meaning he rarely left plays on the table. This season, he battled injuries and missed more throws than he did a year ago, but during this playoff run, Mahomes has been on point. Against the Titans, he diced up zone coverage, consistently finding the open man and throwing accurately on 27 of his 30 non-throwaways. On top of that, Mahomes has just started to tap into his athleticism as a scrambler, meaning the double teams and deep zones that are meant to curb his big-play ability have now opened up free first downs if the first reads are not open. The Chiefs are already nearly impossible to cover given their versatile playmakers and Mahomes’ ability to hit any throw from anywhere on the field, but now he’s adding value with his legs and defenses are running out of answers.

49ers run game dominates

This is not a hot take, but Kyle Shanahan’s offensive system is a thing of beauty and it was excellent on Sunday evening. The outside zone run is the base, but Shanahan has added wrinkles to his scheme in order to maximize blocking angles and outnumber the defense. It was on full display against the Packers as Raheem Mosert rushed for 220 yards — including 159 after contact — and four scores. Mostert has incredible speed and acceleration, a perfect combination when the offensive line is creating holes up front. The 49ers do a great job of getting their athletes in space and rookie WR Deebo Samuel also contributed 43 yards on his two carries. When the Shanahan system is working, the entire defense is on their heels and when you add in an incredible, seven-missed-tackle performance by Mostert, the offense is very difficult to slow down.

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