2019 NFC Championship Preview: Green Bay Packers vs. San Francisco 49ers

There is a tremendous amount of shared history between the San Francisco 49ers and the Green Bay Packers. Of course there is a tremendous amount of history dating back to the Bill Walsh coaching tree bearing fruit with Mike Holmgren heading to win in Lambeau to Steve Mariucci leaving Green Bay and coahing by the bay. Well this generation has Packers Head Coach Matt Lafleur having coached with Kyle Shanahan over the last 8 years.

Both Coaches are making their 1st appearance in a championship game and there are several questions:

  • Which coach will abandon the run first?
  • Which coach has self scouted their tendencies and know when and how to break them?

All year long the 49ers have boasted one of if not the best front 7 in all of football. With the return of Kwon Alexander, last week San Fran returned to the emotion & speed they played with earlier in the season.

Dee Ford has come back from injury and with NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Joey Bosa (9 sacks) and Arik Armstead (10 sacks) have their complete package of pass rushers to get after Aaron Rodgers.

The unsung hero on the defense this year in The Chancellor’s eyes is Fred Warner. He’s made several splash plays this year (118 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 int & 3 forced fumbles) has become the Novorro Bowman of this incarnation of a Niner championship defense. Warner & Alexander will eat up the intermediate throws if the Packers can’t establish the run. Which is the key to this game…

Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Jones runs during the first half of an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Seattle Seahawks Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)

The Packers have to take the ball out of Aaron Rodgers’ hand and feed Aaron Jones. They can’t get impatient and sit in shotgun and throw the football 30 plus times or they’re traveling back to Lambeau a loser. Surprisingly this is a weakness on an otherwise rugged #2 ranked defense. San Fran ranks 17th against the run but will LaFleur stay with it long enough??

In the last 5 games Green Bay has rushed the football more than 30 times, including 3 in the last 5 games. Even in last week’s playoff game when the run didn’t produce splash plays, they kept feeding Jones the football. His 21 carries for 62 yards allowed them to keep the ball out of Russell Wilson’s hands just enough in a 28-23 win. However on the road it’s real easy for a young coach to try to show his genius and throw the football more than he should.

The problem is the 3 headed monster in San Francisco with Tevin Coleman (544 yds) Raheem Mostert (772 yds) & Matt Breida (623 yds) has shown the penchaant to stay with the run. Last week they ran it 43 times and wore Minnesota down. Green Bay is 18th in defense 23rd against the run and tied for 24th allowing 4.7 yards per carry.

To win this game Green Bay needs to force several turnovers to steal the momentum. One of the problems is they haven’t forced any opponent with a winning record into just 2 in any game this season. In fact they haven’t forced more than 2 since they saw Mitch Trubisky (3) on December 15. Can they force Jimmy G into turning it over?? He has the most interceptions thrown of all QBs in the playoffs.

However we can’t bank on that… San Francisco wins 38-17 and make the trek to Miami for Super Bowl LIV.

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2019 AFC Championship Preview: Kansas City Chiefs vs. Tennessee Titans

Here we are on the day to find out who will make their way to Miami and Super Bowl LIV. Its the best week of football as the two cities that host the conference championships have the hardcore rank and file fans that have cheered their teams all season. So it has a more visceral emotional feeling than an antiseptic corporate Super Bowl crowd.

The raw emotion that is felt comes from the home team either moving on to the Super Bowl or finality of the season is over.

One week after a historic comeback in their 51-31 win over Houston, Mahomes is in a rare position. This is his 2nd straight AFC Championship Game at home and with a victory he’s off to be the face of the NFL with a Super Bowl appearance. With a loss and he becomes this generation’s Dan Fouts. Who had several great years but had his legacy derailed with huge home losses in ’79 playoffs & an AFC Championship loss in 1980.

Mahomes is on pace to break Kurt Warner’s record for most yards in his 1st four playoff games and will have to carry the Chiefs today. In this game he has to come out and land haymakers early and establish a 14-0 or 14-3 lead to knock Tennessee from the gameplan of turning and handing the football off to bruising Derrick Henry. They cannot come out with jitters as they did last week with 4 drops in their 1st four possessions. This included a couple drops by All World TE Travis Kelce.

If they do Kansas City’s glass jaw can totally be exposed in their defense. Yes the Chiefs have improved defensively this year with a ranking of 16th where they were 31st last year. However a closer look and they are 28th in yards allowed per carry with 4.9 yards per crack.

That doesn’t bode well when Derrick Henry is on a historic playoff run. First the 182 yards in knocking off the #1 defense and defending champion Patriots. Then the 195 yards on 30 carries trampling the 4th ranked Ravens in a 28-12 win. That doesn’t bode well. It isn’t the yards as much as it’s Henry and this offensive line imposing their will on a front 7. On a group giving up nearly 5 yards per carrry? Yikes!

Mahomes, Travis Kelce, and Tyreek Hill have to make the huge plays as they did last week. Come on… they scored on 8 straight possessions which is an NFL playoff record. Kelce made up for his early drops with 10 rec 134 yards and a playoff record 3TDs. He as to be the guy as cold neutralizes speed and Hill won’t be that effective. One or two big splash plays maybe but Kelce has to move the chains.

To The Chancellor of Football this is a replay of the 2000 Baltimore Ravens run to the title. They changed their quarterback mid year (Trent Dilfer/Ryan Tannehill) who had been shipped from a prior team whose city is hosting that year’s Super Bowl (Tampa/Miami). In 2000 the game that announced this was a hot team powering their way to the Super Bowl Baltimore powered through a physical Titan team on the road. This time Henry and Tennessee gut punched the Ravens in Baltimore’s house.

The last 3 games between these teams the Titans have won including two playoff games with one a 22-21 wildcard win in Arrowhead. No Mahomes wasn’t on the tear that he is now but styles make fights.

In an upset the Tennessee Titans win this game in a 27-17 win playing keep away. This is the NFL’s 100th season and we’re going to back to it’s roots. Titans going to Super Bowl LIV!

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Is Baker Mayfield Coachable On the NFL Level

A disappointing season ended in Cleveland with the firing of Head Coach Freddie Kitchens, however an undercurrent shrouded by the season’s finish rose to the surface. Not that of diva receiver Odell Beckham arguing in a demonstrative fashion with the aforementioned coach. Nor when it happened a few weeks before that with Jarvis Landry. It was the behavior of Baker Mayfield.

Lets take you back to the 15th game of the 2018 season when the Browns were putting the finishing touches on a 26-18 win over Cincinnati. Mayfield refused to shake the hand of former coach Hue Jackson who had been fired from Cleveland just 8 weeks before. Where he could have taken the high road he continued to act in the line of a tempestuous kid rather than a franchise QB.

Keep in mind he also had a disrespectful stare down with his old coach when he had completed a 66 yard TD to his TE Njoku. He jogged downfield staring down Hue Jackson as he went to celebrate with his teammates.

In a vacuum we didn’t know what had taken place behind closed doors between Jackson and Mayfield. Public reaction was mixed.

Fast forward to the last weeks of the season and we heard rumblings between he and Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry and interesting sound bites when it came to Coach Kitchens. At a time where Coach Kitchens could have benefitted from a vote of confidence from his franchise QB, he deferred to its a front office decision and out of his hands. Freddie was fired the night of the final Sunday and didn’t even make it to Black Monday.

Wasn’t Kitchens promoted from Interim Offensive Coordinator to Head Coach based on his work with Mayfield in ’18?? Why would he turn on the coach who believed in him?? Now make that 2 coaches in 2 years.

Uh oh… this just in: Browns GM John Dorsey just got fired! Make that 3 of 3!

Although Kitchens offense lacked creativity it was Mayfield who regressed on the field. Do you realize Baker’s quarterback rating sank from 93.7 as a rookie to 78.7 in year 2?? This is after acquiring RB Kareem Hunt and Odell Beckham. Take a look:

  • 2018 – 310 of 486 for 3,725 yards 27 TDs 14 Ints
  • 2019 – 317 of 534 for 3,827 yards 22 TDs 21 Ints

With all these offensive weapons he has not passed the eyeball test all year. Carson Wentz just went 4-0 with 3 receivers on IR to win the NFC East for the Philadelphia Eagles so Mayfield has no room for excuses. Where is he trending??

Baker Mayfield has gone into the offseason not wanting a QB coach. Now the GM that picked him 1st overall is gone. The 1st Head Coach in Hue Jackson with whom Dorsey conferred is gone along with hand picked 2nd coach in Kitchens. Attitude of Mayfield aside is this guy a coachable QB?? Will he backstab or undermine the next coach coming in?? The people who picked him are gone…

Baker Mayfield might go away as fast as his commercials. He has to become a student of the game and stay off Twitter downing beers. He is not maturing and may be out of the NFL in a little over a year.

He better as the new GM and Head Coach aren’t tied to him and there is a draft in April. A Jalen Hurts is available in round one. Remember former 1st round QB Josh Rosen in Arizona?? They got a new coach in Kliff Kingsbury and drafted Kyler Murray. You don’t think that can happen here?

Stay tuned…

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The NFL’s 100th Season: How Its a Passing League is a Misnomer

For years the battle has raged on the NFL has been called a passing league and the rule changes have been made for this to manifest itself. The league office has followed suit making sure the propaganda machines, NFL Network, FS1 and ESPN inundate viewers by saying it over and over. Yet here at Taylor Blitz Times we have told you this is and has been propaganda. When competing for a championship what plays out tells a different story…

Let’s take Drew Brees for instance…

For all the 5,000 passing yard seasons he’s had, do you realize when he won Super Bowl XLIV he threw for just 4,388 yards?? Even last year when his Saints were done in by a non pass interference call in the NFC Championship that kept him from the Super Bowl, Brees only threw for 3,992 yards? In the last 10 years these seasons rank as his 8th and 10th best in terms of yardage yet these are the seasons his team went the furthest. Imagine that.

Do you realize the 5 QBs with the most passing yards this season will watch the playoffs?

These are the “Pyrric Victory” QB…i.e. fantasy football guy: The QB that falls behind 24-7 with 80 or less yards passing during the competitive phase of a football game. Then with the opponent’s defense in vanilla zones protecting a 3 TD lead, the QB throws for a lot of yards as his team races to score 17 points throwing for 300 yards and a couple TDs in a 30-24 loss.
Hence a stat line that “looks” like he was in the game. Yet your eyes showed you when it was competitive he was completely ineffective. Since the stats look good its a “Pyrric Victory” although his team lost the war.

This is what plagues Dak Prescott, Jameis Winston and Phillip Rivers specifically. Just think, we just completed the last game of the season where Winston threw for more yards (5,109 yards) than Dan Marino’s great 1984 season. Stats can distort things and keep in mind this was a 7-9 team that has been out of the playoff race for months.

NFL Films once had a special that explained that teams that return an interception for a touchdown win the game over 75% of the time. Keep in mind Winston has thrown an NFL record 7 pick 6s which put his teams further behind…which forced him to pass more and… wait… this just in: The final pick 6 came in overtime and was the last play of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers season. Yikes!

Now Jameis wants $30 million per year after throwing 30 TDs & 30 ints….yet I digress

Football will always be a hitter’s game and until they turn this sport completely to lacrosse legislating against hitting, it’s principles still hold true.

The first is defense wins championships. Remember all the talk of the Rams and Sean McVay in last year’s Super Bowl? They ran into a Patriots team that played timely defense in a 13-3 win. Well it’s held true as 4 of the NFL’s top 5 defenses are all in the playoffs. Had the Steelers had any semblance of their offensive attack and Tomlin’s bunch would be in as well.

No question Mike Tomlin was Taylor Blitz Times NFL Coach of the Year.

The ability to come up with timely stops is where defenses win championships. Once you couple this with #2, a strong running attack, then you have a team that can power the football down their oponents throat and control the clock. You’ll also notice of the top 5 rushing teams 4 are in the playoffs. The only offset to this is the bubble screen teams are using as a replacement for high percentage running plays.

The name of the game in the NFL is balance with a high penchant for running and a competent passing game along with a steady defense. The recipe that has been rode to the Super Bowl has been a QB on a rookie QB with money spread along the team to a strong defense and running game. The Ravens rode this recipe to Super Bowl XLVII, Seattle to XLVIII and XLIX, the Eagles to LII & the Rams to LIII. It works.

chancellor.lombardiThe NFL has been around 100 years and The Chancellor of Football has been around for most of them and the axiom stands. Run it and play defense with a competent passing game and you have a chance to win it all. The playoffs start next week and the race to Super Bowl LIV begins.

The NFL is a balanced league… not a passing one.

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Taylor Blitz Times Coach of the Year: Mike Tomlin

No coach in the 2019 season has earned the tip of the cap for their coaching performance than Mike Tomlin. One interesting aspect was the respect earned once the season was underway with his former malcontent Antonio Brown. Believe it or not Brown deserves some of the credit.

Once AB’s antics tore at the fabric of the Oakland Raiders during the preseason, The Chancellor’s first thoughts were “What antics did Tomlin quell in the Steelers locker room over the last 5 years?”

We heard some of the rumblings and antics as his tenure was coming to an end there but nothing like his month long Oakland stay. Nor his few weeks in New England. Social media outbursts and squabbles with the collective front offices in less than 2 months. By October Brown was out of football.

Respect for Tomlin started to accrue then, even on the heels of public sentiment among many in Steeler nation who have called for his head. Even Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw chimed in late in 2016 on FS1’s Speak for Yourself:

Keep in mind this comes before his 1-4 start this year after losing potential Hall of Fame quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for the season. Ben was to be the stabilizing on field leader to aid a rebuilding team from a tumultuous 2018 season. All World RB LeVeon Bell sat out and the aforementioned Brown’s leaving the team. The Steelers were even 0-2 when Ben was lost…. so Tomlin led a team missing these three skilled players who had a combined 16 Pro Bowls between them without a dedicated succession in place.

While the Stillers sit at 8-5 and may not catch the AFC North leading Ravens, his team is 7-2 after a 1-3 start since their last loss to Baltimore. Tomlin has kept his team hitting hard and having belief they can win any game. He’s won all 8 games with Devlin “Duck” Hodges (3-0) and Mason Rudolph (5-3) as starting quarterbacks making their first starts.

The Steelers have lost another 3 games to injury to stand in receiver Ju Ju Shuster and 5 more for fill in running back James Conner. Yet they have plugged in low round draft picks at RB, QB, and WR and haven’t skipped a beat. He has had to take some risks like today’s fake punt in Arizona but he has turned back the clock here in the NFL’s 100th season to a tried and true approach… lean on your defense.

Tomlin’s Stillers defensive ranks:

For all the talk of the Packers pass rush of “The Jones Bros” in Green Bay, TJ Watt (12.5 sacks) and Bud Dupree (9.5) have been more of a hurricane with 9 forced fumbles compared to the Packers duo with only 2. They only have 1 more sack combined 23 to 21 yet influenced their team’s outcome more over the last 2 months.

Dare we say they have revived the force coming off the edge reminiscent of Kevin Greene & Greg Lloyd??

One of the benefactors is midseason acquisition Minkah Fitzpatrick whose 5 interceptions and stellar play has solidified the back end of the defense. He has had an All Pro season and the voting should reflect it at the end of the season.

Ironically in a Facebook Steelers group when this team was 1-4 I joked how the Steelers saw this in 1976 when they had a defensive performance for the ages. Well Tomlin has taken his team back in time and has his team winning with brute force while infusing belief into a series of rookies on offense. This team will finish with an 11-5 record and no one will want any of this team as wildcard weekend approaches.

Next to Tom Flores taking the Oakland Raiders to the Super Bowl XV championship, Tomlin’s performance is one of the greatest single season coaching jobs in NFL history. To find a season remotely close to this you have to return to the 1991 Philadelphia Eagles when they lost Randall Cunningham in week 1 and fought to a 10-6 record. That season saw history’s last #1 defense against the run, #1 against the pass, and #1 overall… the trifecta while winning games with their 2nd, 3rd, & 4th string QBs.

Much like Tomlin has…

Will Pittsburgh win in a championship this year?? Time will tell but The Chancellor of Football has Mike Tomlin as Taylor Blitz Times Coach of the Year for 2019. In this historian’s eyes, Tomlin’s performance along with his Super Bowl XLIII season anoint him into the pantheon of great coaches no matter what Uncle Terry says.

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Enough With Joe Buck & Troy Aikman Announcing All These Games

America is suffering from Joe Buck and Troy Aikman announcing fatigue. Do they really have to ruin both Thursday Night and games on Sunday with these two?

Nothing is better than the break fans get when Joe Buck is off to announce the World Series and takes his non football sensibilities with him. He takes his hero worship with him and we get a week break from how great he thinks Tom Brady or Drew Brees are. Yet he talks down to and refers to the rank and file player with a disdain that grates people the wrong way.

It does with The Chancellor of Football and I know it does with a series of former players.

Joe Buck is the worst play by play announcer in NFL history and made it there due to nepotism. His father was legendary St Louis Cardinals announcer Jack Buck. Yet you can hear his elitist privlege ooze out of him as he drones on during a game. You can tell he’s never been in the fray playing sports or being in the heat of a battle to see both sides. He’s ultra conservative and shapes every narrative that way and it leads Aikman’s commentary down that path.

It has become so negative and off putting that Seattle Seahawk fans petitioned to have them removed from broadcasting their games. This was followed by Green Bay fans that became so popular Aikman addressed it in the Dallas Morning News. CBS Sports even ran a story covering it as Packer fans sought 15,000 signatures and wound up with a whopping 29,597. That is actual signatures of fans who believe Buck and Aikman were biased against their team.

I believe their bias doesnt stop there as Buck often shapes the nation’s narrative and can villify a player in the court of purlic opinion before millions.

Case and point this last Thursday Night when the brawl broke out between the Browns and Steelers with :05 left in the game. He reacted with utter disgust at Miles Garrett when he swung Mason Rudolph’s helmet striking him in the head. He completely villified Garrett while completely omitting Rudolph’s involvement starting the fight, trying to yank off Garrett’s helmet off first, and kicking Garrett in the unmentionables.

Not once did Buck even try to describe what happened from Garrett’s point as to why or how he overreacted. He turned Rudolph into some innocent man who was assaulted when clearly he was the aggressor even after his helmet had been taken off.

From that moment on the rest of the NFL Network commentary followed Buck’s suggestion of Garrett being thrown out the rest of the year. Finally from within the studio Willie McGinnest and James Jones restored sense there were two sides to this incident. Scott Hansen was adding to the narrative of Buck’s overreaction when he noticed how upset his studio mate Jones was and offered him the chance to express what he was feeling:

Those biases seemed to come out and crystalize down racial lines when it came from Buck’s point of view. Inside the studio this commentary touched off the firestorm that has become of this incident. Now it’s being talked about on every sports outlet as suspensions have come down now and ironically Garrett is suspended indefinitely while Rudolph is only subjected to an undisclosed fine. You can’t tell me Buck’s reaction and commentary didn’t help shape this from the very outset.

Listen to the round robin commentary from the Fox Sports commentary of Terry Bradshaw, Jimmy Johnson, Howie Long, Curt Menifee, and Michael Strahan who admits he hit a former teammate Scott Gragg with a helmet himself:

Amazing how once former players and not a preppy announcer talked about what they experienced and saw, all of their commentary was more understanding and empathetic to all parties involved. Or as Michael Strahan concluded his comment “…but if you haven’t been in that situation you don’t understand.” And that is what I’m saying about Joe Buck and his commentary in a nutshell which painted with a broad brush to the viewing audience that made Rudolph seem like an innocent victim and not a culpable antagonist.

Glad Jimmy Johnson addressed this…

To remove myself from Buck’s prejudices and biases during playoff games I’ll switch to Spanish audio. It would be great if Fox offered some of the Thursday Night games to other sets of announcers. How about a 2nd set of announcers for us to switch to that is more pro player in their commentary??

This isn’t new as Buck’s commentary was referenced against the great play by play commentary by the late Charlie Jones in a playoff retrospective on a 1989 playoff between Buffalo and Cleveland. This was one penned nearly 8 years ago.  It’s time to quit the love affair with the preppy commentator following in his father’s footsteps. It’s like a cruel practical joke as we have to hear commentary from someone most of us would last choose to talk football with. He ruins games for several teams and has shaped opinion negatively on many players over the years.

Thank goodness for NFL redzone and CBS football coverage….

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