Sat Jan 11 9:32pm ET
By JOSH DUBOW
AP Pro Football Writer
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) is tackled by San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman (25) during the first half of an NFL divisional playoff football game, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman (25) intercepts a pass in front of Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) during the second half of an NFL divisional playoff football game, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
Minnesota Vikings tight end Irv Smith (84) sits on the bench with teammates during the second half of an NFL divisional playoff football game against the San Francisco 49ers, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, in Santa Clara, Calif. The 49ers won 27-10. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) stands on the sideline during the second half of an NFL divisional playoff football game against the San Francisco 49ers, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8), is tackled by San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa, center, during the second half of an NFL divisional playoff football game, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) is tackled by San Francisco 49ers defensive back Emmanuel Moseley (41) during the second half of an NFL divisional playoff football game, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) The offensive formula for the Minnesota Vikings has been fairly simple this season. Establish the run with Dalvin Cook to set up some play-action deep shots for Kirk Cousins.
With Cook unable to get anything going on the ground against San Francisco, the Vikings had no chance against a healthy 49ers defense and lost the divisional round playoff game 27-10 on Saturday.
''We were just not really able to get in a rhythm so they were able to sit back and do what they do,'' Cook said. ''We just never got a rhythm and they were able to fly around and make plays.''
Cook got the ball 15 times on the day and was held to only 26 yards, gaining 18 yards on nine carries and 8 on six catches. It's a far cry from the season when he gained 1,654 yards in just 14 games to power the offense.
That's the kind of day it was for the Vikings (11-7) on offense as they were held to 81 yards and four first downs on their first nine drives of the game before padding the numbers a bit on two meaningless drives at the end.
In fact, over those nine drives the Vikings gained more yards on a 41-yard TD pass from Cousins to Stefon Diggs in the second quarter than they did on their other 32 plays as the run game never got going and Cousins was under constant pressure.
''They got a lot of edge rushers,'' Diggs said. ''Edge rushers and they defend the run really well. The guys they got on their front seven are very active. They just start with their D-linemen, and that's where it all starts.''
The Vikings were hoping to build on last week's 26-20 overtime victory at New Orleans and win multiple playoff games in the same season for the first time since 1987 when they went on the road and upset the Saints and 49ers in the first two rounds.
That pattern didn't repeat this year even though Minnesota kept it close in the first half thanks in part to the one big pass from Cousins to Diggs.
Then with a chance to tie the game late in the half after Eric Kendricks intercepted a pass from Jimmy Garoppolo to set Minnesota up at the San Francisco 29, things began to fall apart.
Cousins completed a pass to Adam Thielen to give the Vikings a first down at the 16. But Cook was hit for a 1-yard loss, Cousins threw an incompletion to Diggs and then was sacked on third down by Dee Ford. A field goal cut the lead to 14-10 and San Francisco pulled away in the second half.
The Niners got a field goal to start the third quarter and then Richard Sherman anticipated the route by Thielen and intercepted Cousins.
''It was completely my fault,'' Thielen said. ''I didn't cross his face and obviously he trusted me to win on that route and make a play on the ball. I didn't do that.''
Eight straight runs led to another touchdown and the Vikings never had a chance from there against a defense that was back to its early season form when San Francisco got off to an 8-0 start.
Cousins finished 21 for 29 for 172 yards but was also sacked six times.
''We knew what we would be facing,'' Cousins said. ''We knew they were the No. 1 seed with a bye and home-field advantage. You earn that, and you're a good team. You can look at a lot of their statistical numbers on defense. They've proven that they're a good front, a good defense and a good team.''
The Vikings once again proved they don't have quite enough to make a long playoff run. They have had success in six seasons under coach Mike Zimmer with four winning records and three playoff berths.
But they haven't made it to the Super Bowl since the 1976 season when they lost the championship game for the fourth time in a span of eight seasons.
''There's so many ups and downs throughout the course of it,'' ZImmer said. ''I know that I'm proud of this football team. The way they competed and worked and did all the things that they had to do throughout the course of the year. It's unfortunate we didn't play better today. It's not a good day to reminisce.''
Interview with a Champ
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill put together another strong performance on Sunday versus the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship Game. Hill caught nine of his 11 targets for a team high 172 yards against the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship Game. Hill wasn't able to get a touchdown in this contest, but he was dominant nonetheless. Hill has had a phenomenal season and he will look to keep that going versus a tough Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense in Super Bowl 55. He remains one of the best at his position and will be a top option for those participating in DFS.
Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes completed 29 of his 38 passes for 325 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-24 win over the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship Game Sunday, Jan. 24. WR Tyreek Hill had nine catches for 172 yards, and TE Travis Kelce had 13 receptions for 118 yards and two touchdowns. WR Mecole Hardman had two catches for four yards and a score to go along with a 50-yard run and a lost fumble on special teams. RB Darrel Williams rushed 13 times for 52 yards and a touchdown and added one catch for nine yards. Clyde Edwards-Helaire had six carries for seven yards and a score. LB Frank Clark recorded a pair of sacks, and S Juan Thornhill broke up four passes.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire scored a touchdown in his return to action versus the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship Game. The rookie player a minor role on Sunday with Darrel Williams being the featured back and Le'Veon Bell (knee) inactive. CEH picked up just seven yards on six carries and caught one of his two targets for zero yards, but it was good to see him return to action for the first time since injuring his ankle and hip in Week 15. Edwards-Helaire will now have two weeks to rest up before facing a tough Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense in the Super Bowl and he should be avoided in DFS for that contest.
Kansas City Chiefs running Darrel Williams rushed the ball 13 times for 52 yards and a touchdown versus the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship Game. Williams has performed well with Clyde Edwards-Helaire sidelined, but the rookie returned on Sunday and figures to play a bigger role in the future. Williams will also have to compete with Le'Veon Bell (knee) who was inactive on Sunday and could return for the Super Bowl. The Chiefs are a pass heavy team and will face a tough Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense Super Bowl 55. That will make Williams a risky option in DFS.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes helped lead his two to their second consecutive Super Bowl with a victory against the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship Game. Mahomes was his usual self and completed 29 of his 38 pass attempts for 325 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed the ball five times for five yards. Mahomes is now the only player in NFL history to reach three straight championship games before the age of 26 and will now go to his second straight Super Bowl. Mahomes is putting up legendary numbers in his young career and he will square off against Tom Brady and a tough Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense for the chance to win his second Super Bowl ring in two weeks.
Kansas City Chiefs tight end had a monster night versus the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship Game. Kelce has been setting all kinds of records this season and he has now jumped Rob Gronkowski for the most receiving yards in a season that includes the postseason for a tight end. Kelce had 13 catches on 15 targets for 118 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Kelce remains the top option with wide receiver Tyreek Hill for the Chiefs and he should be expected to play a big role in the Super Bowl versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Kelce remains the top tight end option in the league and he will be one of the safer options in DFS.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman had himself a day versus the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship Game. Hardman had a rough start to the contest by dropping a punt that would lead to a Bills touchdown, but salvaged his day by catching two of his three targets for a 3-Yard touchdown and four total yards on the evening. He also picked up 50 yards on his lone carry. Hardman is an exciting player, but remains a shaky play for managers with the Chiefs having so many options on offense. Wide receiver Sammy Watkins (calf) also sat out this contest and his return would factor into Hardman's snap count. Hardman is always capable of breaking a big play and he will look to do that versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl 55.
Kansas City Chiefs TE Travis Kelce went over 100 receiving yards in the third quarter of the AFC Championship Game against the Buffalo Bills. He became the first tight end in NFL history with five postseason games of 100 or more receiving yards.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense played another strong game in a 31-26 win over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game. Tampa Bay sacked Aaron Rodgers five times, forcing one interception and a fumble in the huge win. The Buccaneers' pass rush was fueled by two players- linebacker Shaquil Barrett, who had three sacks and four quarterback hits, and defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who had two sacks. Rising star Devin White led the team in tackles with 15, as he was a thorn in the side of the Packers' offensive plans all game long. Tampa Bay's defense will have its hands full in the Super Bowl against either Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen, though this unit is playing some excellent football at the right time.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski caught just one pass for 29 yards in his team's 31-26 win over the Packers. Gronkowski went catch-less through three quarters before picking up 29 yards on a screen pass in the fourth quarter, setting up Tampa Bay for a field goal. The former Patriot has nearly been an every-down player for the Buccaneers in the playoffs but has done little as a pass-catcher, as he's taken a backseat to fellow tight end Cameron Brate. No stranger to the big game, Gronkowski will get a chance to redeem himself in the Super Bowl.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate played a key role in another playoff victory for his team. Brate produced just 19 total yards, though he caught a third-quarter touchdown that helped extend the Buccaneers' lead to 28-10. The Harvard product exceeded 50 yards just once in the regular season but has accomplished the feat twice in Tampa Bay's three playoff wins. Tom Brady clearly has a trust for Brate as a pass-catcher, something that appears likely to continue as Tampa Bay prepares to be the first team to host and play in the Super Bowl.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers S Jordan Whitehead (shoulder) suffered a shoulder injury in the second half of the NFC Championship Game against the Green Bay Packers. He will have two weeks to recover before Super Bowl LV.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Scotty Miller saw extended playing time with Antonio Brown (knee) sidelined and made the most of it. Miller caught two passes for 36 receiving yards and a touchdown in the NFC title game victory. He came up with a huge play at the very end of the first half, hauling in a 39-yard bomb from Tom Brady with just seconds left until halftime. Miller has shown a knack for making big plays when given the playing time, as he has three scores this year of 30 yards or more. His services may not be needed in the Super Bowl if Antonio Brown (knee) is healthy.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin enjoyed a strong game in Sunday's NFC title game win over Green Bay. Godwin hauled in five of a team-high nine targets for 110 receiving yards. He came up with a huge, 52-yard grab that led to a Leonard Fournette touchdown in the first half. Godwin has exceeded 70 receiving yards in four of his last five contests and has led the Buccaneers in targets in each of their three playoff wins. While Antonio Brown (knee) will have a good chance of returning in time for the Super Bowl, Godwin should remain Brady's top target for the big game in Tampa Bay.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones II was stifled by the Green Bay defense, though his team will still be advancing to the Super Bowl. Jones carried the ball 10 times but produced just 16 yards, as he failed to find any room to run on the Packers' front. He's taken a backseat to Leonard Fournette during the playoffs, though the coaching staff seems committed to keeping this backfield as somewhat of a split. Jones should be well-positioned for a bounce-back performance in the Super Bowl regardless of opponent, as both the Bills and Chiefs have had their struggles stopping the run.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans caught three of eight targets for 51 yards and a touchdown. Most of Evans' production came in the first half, as he found himself free of Jaire Alexander's coverage on the first series of the game. He beat corner Kevin King in the end zone for a score, his 15th total touchdown of the season- including the playoffs. He did struggle with some drops, though he'll get a chance to rectify that in the Super Bowl. Tampa Bay will await the winner of the Chiefs-Bills game.
Green Bay Packers tight end Robert Tonyan caught four passes for only 22 yards in the team's 31-26 loss to the Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game. Tonyan led the NFL in the regular season, among tight ends, with 11 touchdowns but was held in check in this game. The Packers tried to get Tonyan on the run with some bootleg passes but the Buccaneers did an excellent job tackling on the edges. The 26-year-old enjoyed a breakout campaign but could be over-valued heading into the offseason due to touchdown-regression next season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette carried the ball 12 times for 55 rushing yards and a touchdown in a 31-26 win over the Packers. Fournette added five catches for 19 yards. The star back delivered a highlight-reel touchdown in the first half, bouncing a run to the outside and pulling off an impressive spin move en route to the end zone. He's been very productive for Tampa Bay during their playoff run- averaging 20.7 touches and 104.3 scrimmage yards per game along with three scores in three contests. Fournette should continue to operate as the 1a to Ronald Jones II's 1b when Tampa Bay plays in the Super Bowl.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Allen Lazard caught three passes for 62 yards in the team's 31-26 loss to the Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game. Lazard saw six targets in the game and made some nice contributions as the Packers played from behind most of the game. Lazard got off to a solid start this season but injuries prevented him from taking his game to another level. The 25-year-old finished the regular season with 33 receptions for 451 yards with three touchdowns. But the Packers head into the offseason still looking for a true complementary receiver to produce alongside star receiver Davante Adams. Whether Lazard can step into that role will depend on his development during the offseason.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams caught nine passes for 67 yards with one touchdown in the team's 31-26 loss to the Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game. Tampa Bay did all it could to contain Adams and, for the most part, did a solid job. But Adams is too talented to be shut down for long and picked up his 20th (regular season and playoffs combined) touchdown of the season. The elite receiver was able to move the chains on some smaller receptions but was unable to truly bust out. Adams finished the regular season with 115 receptions for 1,374 yards and 18 touchdowns.. He then backed that up with 18 receptions and two touchdowns in two playoff games. Adams will sit atop the fantasy charts among wide receivers heading into the offseason.