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Midnight Madness
FFL: Offseason | NFL: Superbowl

49ers use early season formula on playoff win vs. Vikings

Sun Jan 12 4:36pm ET
By JOSH DUBOW
AP Pro Football Writer

Players: Jimmy Garoppolo, Raheem Mostert, Stefon Diggs, Tevin Coleman

San Francisco 49ers free safety Jimmie Ward (20) celebrates during the second half of an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)


San Francisco 49ers running back Tevin Coleman (26) celebrates after the 49ers beat the Minnesota Vikings 27-10 in an NFL divisional playoff football game, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)


San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman (25) celebrates after the 49ers beat the Minnesota Vikings 27-10 in an NFL divisional playoff football game, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)


San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle DeForest Buckner (99) smiles as he rests on the bench with defensive end Nick Bosa (97) and defensive end Dee Ford (55) during the second half of an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)


SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) The formula that fueled a perfect first half of the season for San Francisco was more than enough to carry the 49ers into the NFC championship game.

The Niners ran for 186 yards and completely shut down Minnesota's offense in a 27-10 victory in the divisional round Saturday in San Francisco's first playoff game in six years.

Being able to win convincingly despite a less than spectacular game from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo bodes well for the future.

''We have shown that we can win in a variety of different ways,'' left tackle Joe Staley said. ''We have had to really air out and make all of the plays in the passing game, when the run game wasn't working. We have also had games like this when we run the ball well and control the clock. It really helps getting back everybody on defense. Our defense playing as terrific as they did today gives us the opportunity to really control the clock.''

After allowing only 11 points a game the first seven games, San Francisco (14-3) gave up 25.9 points per game the rest of the season as injuries to edge rusher Dee Ford, linebacker Kwon Alexander and safety Jaquiski Tartt took a toll.

But with the bye week giving those three extra time to heal up, the Niners looked like the version from the first half of the season when they limited Minnesota to 21 yards rushing, a franchise playoff-record 147 yards and only seven first downs in a dominant performance.

''That is what we wanted to get back to,'' Ford said. ''Unfortunately, we had a little stretch of facing some tough offenses. Whether I was out there or not, we played some tough offenses. We had to fight through it, and we got through it.''

WHAT'S WORKING

Pass rush. Ford's return opened things up for the entire defensive line leading to a six-sack performance. Ford got one to force a field-goal attempt late in the first half following an interception by Garoppolo. Rookie Nick Bosa got two of his own, while Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner and Solomon Thomas each got one. Ford's speed off the edge opened up opportunities for everyone else on the defensive line.

''Just having his presence and his pass-rush ability, his knowledge and communication, he's a true vet,'' Bosa said. ''It's nice to have him out there.''

WHAT NEEDS HELP

Passing game. Garoppolo started fast in his first career playoff start, completing 5 of 6 passes for 57 yards and a 3-yard TD to Kendrick Bourne on the opening drive. Garoppolo then went 6 for 13 for 74 yards, an interception and a 32.2 rating the rest of the game. Garoppolo didn't complete a single pass thrown beyond the line of scrimmage after the first drive of the second half with his only two completions coming on passes behind the line. That didn't matter this game, but the Niners will likely need more from Garoppolo to keep this playoff run going.

STOCK UP

RB Tevin Coleman. Coleman started the last nine games of the season even though he averaged only 3.2 yards per carry and 23.6 yards rushing per game. He rewarded coach Kyle Shanahan's confidence by rushing for 105 yards on 22 carries with two TDs. He was the first 49ers running back to rush for at least 100 yards and two TDs in a playoff game since Terry Kirby did it Jan. 3, 1998, against Minnesota. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick also did it in the 2012 playoffs against Green Bay.

STOCK DOWN

CB Ahkello Witherspoon. Witherspoon committed a penalty and gave up two catches on the second drive of the game, including a 41-yard TD to Stefon Diggs. That was the fifth TD allowed by Witherspoon the past three games with San Francisco allowing no other TD passes in that span. Witherspoon was replaced by Emmanuel Moseley after and didn't return until the fourth quarter, when he allowed another catch in place of Richard Sherman.

INJURED

Coleman (elbow) and fellow running back Raheem Mostert (calf) both left the game late with injuries that were not believed to be serious.

KEY NUMBER

47. The Niners set a franchise record for most runs in a playoff game and lost yardage on only two of those plays: a pair of kneel downs by Garoppolo. San Francisco ran on all eight plays on a key TD drive in the third quarter, the longest playoff drive for a TD without a pass since Chicago ran on all eight plays in the NFC title game against New Orleans following the 2006 season.

NEXT STEPS

The Niners will host the NFC championship game Sunday against either Seattle or Green Bay. San Francisco is 6-9 during the Super Bowl era in conference title games, including 4-5 at home.

Player Notes
Tyreek Hill Jan 24 10:30pm ET

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.

From RotoBaller

Patrick Mahomes Jan 24 10:23pm ET

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.

From TheHuddle

Clyde Edwards-Helaire Jan 24 10:20pm ET

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.

From RotoBaller

Darrel Williams Jan 24 10:20pm ET

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.

From RotoBaller

Patrick Mahomes Jan 24 10:20pm ET

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.

From RotoBaller

Travis Kelce Jan 24 10:20pm ET

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.

From RotoBaller

Mecole Hardman Jan 24 10:20pm ET

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.

From RotoBaller

Travis Kelce Jan 24 8:53pm ET

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.

From TheHuddle

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Jan 24 7:50pm ET

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.

From RotoBaller

Rob Gronkowski Jan 24 7:40pm ET

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.

From RotoBaller

Cameron Brate Jan 24 7:40pm ET

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.

From RotoBaller

Jordan Whitehead Jan 24 7:33pm ET

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.

From TheHuddle

Scott Miller Jan 24 7:30pm ET

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.

From RotoBaller

Chris Godwin Jan 24 7:20pm ET

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.

From RotoBaller

Ronald Jones II Jan 24 7:10pm ET

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.

From RotoBaller

Mike Evans Jan 24 7:10pm ET

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.

From RotoBaller

Robert Tonyan Jan 24 7:00pm ET

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.

From RotoBaller

Leonard Fournette Jan 24 7:00pm ET

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.

From RotoBaller

Allen Lazard Jan 24 7:00pm ET

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.

From RotoBaller

Davante Adams Jan 24 6:50pm ET

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.

From RotoBaller