Super Bowl LIV Preview: Kansas City Chiefs v. San Francisco 49ers

We’re just 36 hours from crowning the 100th NFL champion with the conclusion of Super Bowl LIV. The narrative has largely been framed around the coaching experience of the Chief’s Andy Reid against the youthful brilliance of Kyle Shanahan. It should be as both have earned their way to football’s summit.

However the narrative that has dominated the headlines concerning both teams on the field is how can the 49ers 2nd ranked defense stop they dynamics Chiefs offense and all world QB Patrick Mahomes??

Kelce is crucial in moving the chains in LIV.

Over the last two seasons Mahomes has thrown for 76 TDs to just 17 interceptions. With TE Travis Kelce (97 rec. 1,229 yds/ 5TDs) Sammy Watkins, Tyreek Hill, and Mecole Hardman the NFL  hasn’t seen this type of lethal speed since The Greatest Show on Turf St Louis Rams. This team can get deep on anyone.

One matchup to keep your eye on is LT Eric Fisher protecting against super rookie Nick Bosa. Each are former 1st round draft picks and had Fisher started all 16 games he might have been a Pro Bowl performer as he had been in 2018. Yet Bosa (9 sacks) Erik Armstead (10 sacks) and DeForest Buckner (7.5 sacks) have benefitted with the return of Dee Ford. They have to collapse the pocket and protect their secondary. If Mahomes can buy time he has the arm to get deep to Hill, Mecole, or Watkins on a 31 year old Richard Sherman.

Mahomes has only been sacked 17 times in the 14 games he’s started and the Niners plan to get after him. Watch for Kansas City to attack with screens early on to slow the pass rush down. Reid and OC Eric Bienemy did adjust to a 2TE alignment and run the Titans, a run heavy offense, out of their gameplan. Can they do that on the 2nd ranked 49er defense though??

However…Did you know the San Francisco 49ers outscored the Kansas City Chiefs this season 479-451?? Did you know the Kansas City Chiefs allowed fewer points than the 49ers 308-310??

Can Mostert continue his hot hand??

Over the last 5 games of the season the 49ers gave up 147 points which included 46 given up to the Saints on the road. However the defense coming in hot is Kansas City where they only gave up 32 points over the last 5 games. For all the talk of 49er DC Robert Saleh it’s Chief DC Steve Spagnuolo whose defense has jelled as the season concluded.

He put the Chiefs in goalline defense on 4th and 1in the middle of the field in the AFC Championship Game. “Spags” has lined up his defense with 4 and 5 down linemen to stop bruising NFL rushing champion Derrick Henry when he had to. Now that Pro Bowl DT Chris Jones is healthy he has a pivotal role stopping the 49er running game.

Mathieu has been putting the smack down on receivers in 2019.

All Pro and Pro Bowl S Tyrann Mathieu will be pit against 49er Pro Bowl TE Kerry Kittle. Number 85 (85 rec / 1053 yds / 5 TDs) has to have a dominant game against Mathieu and Sorenson. Don’t know if Kittle can get lose on the instinctive athletic safety. Spagnuolo had to learn the strengths of his new defense and Mathieu as his wildcard defender

Shanahan’s running game is the key to the 49ers winning it. He has taken the ball out of Jimmy G’s hands in these last two playoff games. He’s only thrown 27 passes while the offense ran 89 times and controlled the flow of both games. What is going to happen if forced out of that game plan?? Can they unhide Garoppolo??

murray.49ersThe 49ers defense in games against mobile QBs Russell Wilson, Kyler Murray, and Lamar Jackson, they went 3-2 in those games giving up 27, 21, 25, 26, and 20 points while allowing an average of 147.6 yards rushing in those games. The Chancellor was front and center during the Halloween contest when they let Kyler Murray run 5 times for 34 yards to keep drives alive in a 28-25 loss. Keep in mind this is with 4 games played against division rivals they knew best.

When they faced a Lamar Jackson they didn’t know… he burst for 101 yards rushing. Mahomes will keep his eyes up and buy time for Hill and Watkins to get deep. In figuring the winner of this game the best defense will win.

Kansas City will win this game as they can be stopped for half the game and explode for 24 in just a few minutes. Patrick Mahomes will bring the Lombardi back to Kansas City 38-21.

Andy Reid finally wins that elusive Super Bowl!derrick.thomas

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Responding to Terry Bradshaw’s Criticism of Steeler Coach Mike Tomlin

If there is one thing I have come to know and understand over the last few years covering the NFL is its a brotherhood. Sure some former players have issues with others who had been with rival teams but normally there is a public face masking any contempt. That has been blurred in recent years when former colleagues have become a part of the media covering the league.

tomlinNow come on Terry…keep it above board. In all honesty we should have seen this coming from Bradshaw. He was critiqued very harshly as a QB in a time where you didn’t have the 24 hour scrutiny we have now. Not tabloid garbage mind you. People forget he was called dumb by the media. “‘Lil Abner in cleats”…etc… etc Millions upon millions of people reading you’re dumb for years. He’s never recovered from it.

How do we know this?

Consider the fact Terry Bradshaw left the Steeler organization following the 1983 season yet didn’t return to Pittsburgh until 2002 for an onfield tribute. He didn’t attend the funeral of former Coach Chuck Noll in 2014 and had a strained relationship with the organization and the fans of Pittsburgh for decades. Not only has time not healed all wounds but the preferential treatment afforded many high profile quarterbacks such as John Elway and Peyton Manning have drawn the Hall of Famers ire.

bradshawDo you remember following Peyton Manning’s loss in Super Bowl XLVIII to Seattle he scoffed “If you like winning good during the season and losing Super Bowls, that’s your guy?”

Do you remember right before Super Bowl XXIV when Bradshaw was quoted “John’s problem is he’s been babied. You know, babied by the city until this year and babied by the coach (Dan Reeves) a little bit. It’s just too easy. And you know what I went through in Pittsburgh a little bit. There’s nothing worse than just getting hammered. You fight that stuff. I think John’s got to get tougher.”  National pundits, who treated Elway as a media darling, shot back their criticism of Bradshaw’s comments and were silenced by his next bombshell.

The weekend of Super Bowl XXIV, Bradshaw as a part of CBS coverage, sat in a round table discussion on the game. When it came time to give their predictions Terry offered “I don’t see how Denver can win this game. This sucker could get as bad as 55-3.” Not backing from his criticisms of Elway.  What was the final score? Try 55-10! How off was he??

Let’s face it Terry Bradshaw is the opinionated uncle you pre-warn guests coming to your family’s Thanksgiving Dinner about. Yet his Hall of Fame status and career achievement winning 4 Super Bowl titles lend him that license. What he had to endure at the hands of the press and even NFL Films before their triumph in Super Bowl X, has left him scarred. If he had to overcome harsh criticism why can’t others?? Therefore he subjects others to it even though he still rails against his treatment in Pittsburgh.

Even filming Chuck Noll- A Football Life Bradshaw said on camera he wished Noll had dealt him away and didn’t like playing for him. So now he says Mike Tomlin is a cheerleader as a coach which begs to question which is it? Should the coach be driving and demanding like Chuck Noll as he had instead?? The same coach he didn’t attend his funeral and still speaks ill of their professional time together?? Does he feel as though Tomlin isn’t authoritative enough as a disciplinarian in his tenure in Pittsburgh? What fuels the criticism??

When Tomlin fired back “But what do I know? I grew up a Dallas fan. Particularly a ‘Hollywood’ Henderson fan.” A complete dig at Bradshaw in a tongue in cheek way. You’ll remember right before Super Bowl XIII Henderson was quoted “Bradshaw is so dumb he couldn’t spell cat if you spotted him the “c” and the “a”… prompting a funny response from Henderson: hollywood

The entire episode really illustrates what is before Coach Tomlin. I agree with Bradshaw in the fact that he is not a great head coach at this point. However 1 more Super Bowl appearance and he’ll become the 13th coach to have his team play for it all 3 times dating back to 1950. A 2nd Super Bowl win and he’ll become the 11th coach in the last 50 years to do so. Seven of which are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Bill Belichick will be the instant he is eligible. Not to mention the first black coach to do so.

Much like Bradshaw in his day he needs that 2nd championship to make the sporting press and critics cite him as great. His teams have evolved from the run first, defensive stalwart he inherited from Bill Cowher to a team that relies on its flamboyant passing attack with dynamic receivers and timely defense.

Hmmmm… isn’t that what happened with Bradshaw’s first two championship teams which leaned on Franco Harris & Rocky Bleier and one of the greatest defenses ever?? Bradshaw matured & had 300 yard passing games as the Steelers won Super Bowls XIII & XIV?? He ironically was the NFL’s MVP in ’78 and MVP of both those Super Bowls. Yet he emerged from being the Trent Dilfer of his day when he stood in and threw the 64 yard clinching score to Lynn Swann cementing his 2nd championship back in Super Bowl X.

The more you study the situation there is more to parallel their marches than meets the eye. Is a Super Bowl between Pittsburgh and Dallas looming in a little over a month?? Coach Mike Tomlin, the playoffs start in 2 weeks…. your mission should you choose to accept it…

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SUPER BOWL XXXV CHAMPION 2000 BALTIMORE RAVENS

One of The Chancellor of Football’s all time favorite teams!

35mainRay Lewis (The U) was most valuable player in a defensive game for the ages 34-7 over the NY Giants.  Ravens allowed 165 points for the season and would have won more if they would have stayed with a 4-3 defense and kept Trent Dilfer in 2001…yet I digress

What was crazy about this was the team meeting at the beginning of the offseason where Billick had Jim Brown talking to the team and he pulled Ray Lewis up.  Ray proceeded to address the team and told them he saw them winning the Super Bowl in a vision during his tumultuous off-season.  He gave an impassioned talk, in a grey t shirt and wearing a fishing hat, to his team of the need to be great and that he had to fulfill that prophecy in getting to Tampa. Wow!

Consider this is a team that had never been to the playoffs to that point. Not even close in their first 4 yrs from being borne of the Cleveland Brown ashes. Art Modell (Red Right ’88 /The Drive/ The Fumble) was supposed to be snake bitten. He carried the baggage of all the heartache from Cleveland playoff meltdowns.

35sideBoth Trent Dilfer and Tony Banks, the teams QBs, were cast off from other teams.  This was a true free agency Super Bowl champion with players who brought any real playoff experience was limited. Corey Harris (couple with Packers early 90s), Tony Siragusa (95 Colts run), Rod Woodson (mid 90s Steelers), Dilfer (97 Bucs/injured for 99) and the only player on the team I can think of with a Super Bowl ring was backup WR and special teamer Billy Davis (95 Cowboys)!! And head coach Brian Billick had been hired for his offensive acumen after leading the 1998 Minnesota Vikings to the NFL record of 556 points in a season.

The Chancellor of Football loved watching this team win it all because they did one thing…understood who they were and stayed with that belief.  I get so sick of teams copying “oh we’re running the west coast offense” blah blah blah…blow me! Develop who you are and game plan based on your personnel!! Defeat someone with something different than playing their same playbook!!

This team didn’t have the Vikings fleet receivers that Billick had in Minnesota, nor the quarterbacks. They learned early on “Hey we’re a running team and we have to play good defense and keep the score down.” Sam Adams, Tony Siragusa plug up the guard/center/guard and allow Sugar Ray (did I mention he’s from The U) to roam tackle to tackle and smash, Jamie Sharper smacking TEs…yikes!  Was there a better CB tandem on a Super Bowl champion than Starks and McAllister? Really? Woodson and Kim Herring were great as a tandem.  There just were no holes!

If they were still playing Super Bowl XXXV (15 yrs later) I still don’t think the Giants would have scored a touchdown yet on offense. By the time they reached the Super Bowl it was too late to derail them. It was facing the defending AFC Champions in Tennessee is where many experts thought would be an issue.

By the way… Tom Jackson took Tennessee that day on NFL Countdown… don’t let him fool you

It was beyond too late when they made the AFC Championship in Oakland as well

To watch them bludgeon their way to the Super Bowl was artful. I remember betting 3 friends at Fullerton Dodge that in the AFC championship that not only would the Ravens win, but they’d be the first team since 1970 to hold the host team without scoring a TD in their own stadium.  I won both bets! Lional Dalton claims I owe him money plus interest and it shut up Raider fans…Andre Rison pushed off and it was offensive pass interference.

Chancellor with Keith W at Hall

Ran into K. Wash at ’18 HoF Ceremony

Keep in mind if this man Keith Washington on the left in this pic doesn’t block those two field goals in the AFC Divisional in Tennessee, this team doesn’t hoist the Lombardi.

Pundits never gave this champion their just due. No defense in NFL history bludgeoned its way to a title as this one did. Back in 2016 I ran a comprehensive study to find the best single season defenses in modern NFL history and this unit ranked #2. Every championship defense, #1 defense, record setting defense, and trend setting defense from 1960 on. Some 200 units…

Yet looking back…

35logoStrong team, strong character, and staying the course are what this team taught.  Even had a string of 22 quarters or so without an offensive touchdown…just keep going!

2000 Baltimore Ravens-powerful Super Bowl champion!

SUPER BOWL XXXIV CHAMPION 1999 ST LOUIS RAMS: One of the greatest of NFL champions

Wanna hear a strange fact? In week 3 of the 1999 season the Bengals hosted the Rams and these teams were tied for the most losses in the NFL for the 1990’s.  This game was a tiebreaker that the Bengals lost and “won” the title of the losingest team of the decade…the Rams …uh…well…they went in a different direction..

xxxivThe 1999 St Louis Rams…one of the best teams in history!  Greatest Show on turf!!  Everyone is so focused on the turnaround of this team that they don’t remember the feats performed during that year.  The NFL fan base was still reeling from the retirements of John Elway and Barry Sanders. The latter of the two we were used to serious moves and highlights since he was still at the height of his greatness just 2 years removed from his 2,000 yd season….enter Marshall Faulk.

 

I followed the trade from the Colts as “wow what’s going to happen to him?” yet had a feeling it was football karma’s reversing the Eric Dickerson trade.  You knew history would judge the Colts decision between what happened between he, and Edgerrin James.  The Rams won. Marshall replaced Barry Sanders as the league’s highlight reel and played his way into the Hall of Fame with 60TDs in 3 years, won 3 Offensive Player of the Year awards, and an NFL MVP in 2000.  Oh, I almost forgot 2 Super Bowl appearances and this championship.

 

So the ’99 Rams explode onto the scene and compile a 13-3 record:

  1. This team’s AVERAGE MARGIN of victory at home (YES 8-0) was a whopping 25 points a game during the regular season…Yikes!! Get this, of a possible 480 minutes in 8 home games; they were only behind for 4:24 seconds of it.
  2. Had the 6th best defense in the league with the leading sack artist in Kevin Carter with 17. Led the league with 8 defensive touchdowns that year and was #1 against the run!!!

*** IT WAS 2000 WHEN THEY HAD DEFENSIVE PROBLEMS…NOT 1999! ***

  1. Had the best kick return team in the league with Tony Horne taking 2 KO TDs back & Az-Zahir Hakim taking back a punt for a TD

 

xxxiv1CONSIDER THIS BEFORE

  1. Kurt Warner threw for 4,300 yards (this generations Johnny U) & became the story of the league and became the second quarterback in history to throw for more than 40 TDs with 41. This hadn’t been seen since 1986, although Brett Favre had thrown 39 in an MVP Super Bowl season, same here. Threw for a Super Bowl record 414 yards and a 73 yard game winning score.
  2. Marshall Faulk’s ridiculous year where he became the second 1,000yd rusher/1,000yd receiver in the same season to join Roger Craig.  Craig had 1,050 yards rushing, & 1,016 yards receiving.  Marshall blew by that with 1,381 yards rushing and 1,048 receiving! And he sat out nearly 3 quarters in the last game at Philly and countless blowout 4th quarters!
  3. Broke Barry Sanders total yards from scrimmage record with2,429 yards from scrimmage…yikes!  Now, Chris Johnson broke Marshall’s record on a team that kept feeding him the ball, had Faulk not sat out 3qtrs of the last game in Philadelphia where the Rams still scored 31.  Nor sat out several blowout 4th quarters, how high would Faulk have REALLY PUSHED THIS RECORD??
  4. The Rams were #1 in offense, #1 in scoring and the highest scoring league champion ever with 526 points.

 

* They would become the first team ever to score 500 pts in multiple seasons with 3 straight. In doing so became the highest scoring team ever over a 3 year period averaging 32 points per game.*

xxxiv3The turnaround can be attributed to Dick Vermeil’s adjusting to the practice habits of modern coaching.  He stopped overworking his team before the 1999 season after two underwhelming seasons in St. Louis.  He learned from other coaches and had a staff of Mike White, Frank Gansz, Jim Hanifan, and Al Saunders who were all NFL former head coaches.

That’s before bringing up offensive coordinator Mike Martz who would become the Ram’s coach in 2000 replacing Vermeil. That’s a staff of SIX NFL Head Coaches!! They honed the Rams lethal speed into a precise machine that the NFL hadn’t seen before in a league champion. Defenses feared going into the Trans World Dome. It was great to see Vermeil be rewarded for taking a new approach.

 

pace-hall-speech

The Chancellor met Dick Vermeil before the ’16 HoF ceremony & was this close to witness Orlando Pace’s induction.

This 1999 team was a one of a kind meteor that was one of the best in NFL history for a season…more potent than any 80’s 49er team, more spectacular blowouts than the 70s Steelers teams.  They rank up with the 1985 Bears, 1972 Dolphins, and 1994 49ers as one of the most dominant teams in history for one season.  Just look at the numbers!!!!

greatestshowOn The Chancellor of Football’s list of greatest ever champions this team comes in at #2.

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SUPER BOWL XXXIII CHAMPIONSHIP 1998 DENVER BRONCOS

Talk about a curtain call.  How many of us had a former boss that we wanted to show them what we were about??  Super Bowl XXXIII was John Elway’s last game and it came courtesy of Dan Reeves…yikes.

xxxiii12I still thought the 98 Vikings were the best team that year but guess what?  History doesn’t care what The Chancellor thinks so after a 34-19 win over the Falcons; this was the crowning jewel for becoming back to back champions! And just like what happened with the early 90’s Cowboys we’re left with the glut of never ending questions when we’re drinking and talking football…”Would they have three-peated if___?”  In this instance had John Elway come back….would they have?  Well that wasn’t rhetorical, what do you think?

xxxiii3After 36 seasons and 4 other failed Super Bowl appearances the Broncos were champions.  Elway was now a champion and didn’t have to answer those questions anymore.  The organization, city, everyone celebrated the triumph in XXXII over the Packers. They were supremely ripe for a letdown.  Yet once the press conference to announce Elway’s return for his 16th season came, it seemed like the Broncos would be a good defending champion.  Who knew they would go on to be one of the strongest ever??

They leaned on their celebrated running game that had matured thru the previous post season.  Terrell Davis came into 1998 running strong. The Achilles heel from the season before was stopping the run, the best thing to do was to get an early lead and impose your running game on your opponent while forcing them to pass.  The Broncos did this with great aplomb as Davis became the first 2,000 yard rusher in the AFC since OJ Simpson in 1973.

So the Broncos went from defending champion to a team that threatened to run through the season undefeated.  The champagne on ice the ’72 Dolphins put away until the last team loses was ice cold as the Broncos raced out to a 13-0 record.  There was a strange feeling when the Broncos entered Giants Stadium during that 14th game. They had already wrapped up the AFC West Division where they had been a wildcard entrant the year before.

For the first time in the latter half of 1998, Denver faced a team that was not intimidated by them.  The Giants pulled off the upset when Kent Graham hit Amani Toomer with a late game touchdown 20-16.  The dream of the undefeated season had melted away, and after a Monday night loss to the Dolphins, there was concern the Broncos had lost their edge.  The playoffs beckoned yet Shanahan started resting his players. Countenance turned to anguish as some Denver fans remembered the ’96 finish and upset to the Jaguars at home in the playoffs.

xxxiii15Uh….well Denver faithful didn’t need to worry.  Something about that embarrassing loss brought the fire out of the Broncos who ran roughshod over the Jags 42-14.  Next up were the Cinderella New York Jets, who came in with Bill Parcells trying to become the first coach to take 3 teams to the Super Bowl.  In Elway’s last game at Mile High Stadium they prevailed 23-10 in a defensive struggle.

Next up, Super Bowl XXXIII and an old ally in former coach Dan Reeves.  In the end, Elway threw for 336 yards in an MVP performance in his last game.  Elway retired 4 months later and left us to ask that proverbial question…Would they have three-peated had Elway played another year??

What do you think??

 

 

SUPER BOWL XXXII RUNNER UP 1997 GREEN BAY PACKERS

 

Super Bowl XXXII between the Denver Broncos and the Green Bay Packers was a classic case of over coaching in Denver’s 31-24 upset win.  Was it really an upset??  The years of free agency made the AFC as physical as the NFC.

xxxii4In the previous 3 seasons, you saw the AFC getting more physical in their Super Bowl representative. San Diego in XXIX, Steelers in XXX, and Patriots in XXXI.  They weren’t like my Buffalo Bills in 3 of the previous 4 Super Bowls before that were being beaten on the lines and out hit.  Yet Green Bay was set to defend their title with Reggie White, Gilbert Brown, Santana Dotson and that defensive front.

What happened? The ’97 edition of the Packers were stout and were more in harmony as an offense. Edgar Bennett had been lost to injury. No worries, Dorsey Levens picked up the slack and had a career year with nearly 1,500 yards rushing.  A powerful runner that gave Green Bay a stronger running game than they had in ’96.  Robert Brooks was healthy and teamed with Antonio Freeman to give Favre the perfect set of receivers to go along with Pro Bowl TE Mark Chmura.  Freeman had become a star in ’97 and could be found on the end of many of Brett Favre’s 35 TDs thrown that year.  Brett was Co-MVP of the league and first time a player won it 3 straight years.  They were better X’s and O’s but what was missing?

Desmond Howard and Keith Jackson were missing.  Howard we’ll get to later, yet Jackson was the long time tight end who had come over as a free agent, had retired after the championship the previous year.  The Packers would use a little more two tight ends with Chmura and Jackson which kept teams honest. This protects an offense from overload blitzes a majority of the time.

xxxiii6The Packers also could split either TE away from the line so that formation wise they could keep a defense deployed in base personnel and back a few teams out of a blitz.  Evidenced by Keith Jackson’s huge game in the NFC Championship in ’95 v. Dallas with over 100 yards receiving in that game.  Yet here they were 13-3 again and headed to the Super Bowl looking to become a dynasty.

I can still see the Packers ripping off 13 yd runs by Levens, and 13 yd passes by Favre in this the Super Bowl where the NFC was on a 13 game winning streak.  I can still see that pretty pass from Favre to Freeman to end the first drive with a TD and a 7-0 lead.  The Packers were off and runnin’…yet took the ball out of Dorsey Levens hands when he was running wild on the worst run defense, by ranking (16th), and yards per carry avg. to make the Super Bowl up to that point.  This led to Favre being under more pressure from a blitzing Bronco defense.

After a Steve Atwater sack and forced fumble led to the Packers being behind 17-7, the Broncos had wrested strategic control from Green Bay.  Dorsey Levens was a pass blocker and part time receiver now that they were playing catch-up. Denver on the other hand had Terrell Davis to keep running north /south on the Packers defense tiring them out.  So is that great scouting by the Broncos or over coaching on the Packer’s part?

The Chancellor of Football thought over coaching since they took the ball out of Levens hands first when he had 11 carries for 62 yards at the half, including 5 runs of 7 yards or more. He was averaging 5.6 yards per carry yet Holmgren put the game in Brett Favre’s hands instead and right into the path of Bronco Defensive CoOrdinator Greg Robinson’s blitzers.

xxxii7In 1997 the defending champion Packers were a juggernaut and in many ways were just as strong as their 1996 champion.  They didn’t have Desmond Howard as the game breaking catalyst and it didn’t come back to haunt them until the late 3rd quarter in Super Bowl XXXII. When Antonio Freeman fumbled a kickoff that fired up the Broncos when Denver had just scored to take a 24-17 lead. It was ironic that roughly at about the same point in XXXI, Desmond took the kickoff the distance to deflate the Patriots.  Here it sent a shot of confidence and excitement through the Bronco sideline. Only a few plays before was the John Elway diving helicopter run.

Yet this team did win the NFC Championship in San Francisco with a 23-10 win to end Steve Mariucci’s rookie season.  The week before they held off the upstart Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the divisional game 21-7 in a game made famous by the back and forth taunting between Brett Favre and Warren Sapp.  That was a transcendent game yet Tampa didn’t have a ready for primetime offense that sank them.  This team should have repeated.

Yet tactically they gave it away.

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