The 32 things we learned from the championship round of the 2019 NFL playoffs with the Super Bowl LIV matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs now set:
1. This Super Bowl should be an enjoyable study of contrasts, the Chiefs installed as slight early favorites. But this generally projects as a tossup between one club that’s been absent from Super Sunday for a half-century and one of the NFL’s flagship franchises. And should be plenty of water cooler fodder as “experts” debate the merits of Kansas City’s quick-strike attack, triggered by QB Patrick Mahomes, and the Niners’ throwback formula, which relies on a relentless ground attack and an exceptional defense that is very hard to throw against.
2. Question: How are the Chiefs supposed to get more motivated to win the Super Bowl’s Vince Lombardi Trophy after winning their first Lamar Hunt Trophy, named for their franchise’s founder and conferred annually to the AFC champion?
2a. (Answer: It probably won’t be very hard.)
3. The Chiefs are back in the Super Bowl for the first time since they won Super Bowl IV following the 1969 season – the final time the NFL and AFL champions squared off before the leagues merged in 1970.
4. San Francisco joins the 1988 Bengals and 1999 Rams as the only teams to reach the Super Bowl a year after winning four or fewer games. The Rams won Super Bowl XXXIV, while the Bengals lost Super Bowl XXIII … to Joe Montana’s 49ers.
5. The Niners are now one win from securing their sixth Lombardi Trophy, which would tie them with the Steelers and Patriots for most ever.
6. San Francisco’s Kyle Shanahan is one win from joining his father, Mike, as a Super Bowl-winning head coach. It would be the first time a father-son combo won Lombardis in that role.
6a. Bum and Wade Phillips are the only other father and son to win playoff games as head coaches.
7. Super Bowl LIV also represents a redemptive opportunity for Kyle Shanahan, the target of significant criticism after the Atlanta Falcons — he was their offensive coordinator — infamously fumbled a 28-3 advantage to the Patriots in Super Bowl LI, Shanahan’s final game before getting his current job.
8. 49ers rookie DE Nick Bosa, who got the best of his cousin (Packers WR Jake Kumerow) Sunday, is one win away from earning the first professional title for the Bosa clan. Bosa’s brother (Joey), father (John) and uncle (Eric Kumerow) all played in the NFL.
9. “How about … Andy Reid!” The Chiefs coach has 221 NFL wins, including playoffs, most ever by a man who has not won the Super Bowl. Expect Reid, who guided the 2004 Eagles to Super Bowl XXXIX 15 years ago, to be a heavy sentimental favorite.
10. Kansas City’s 50-year gap between Super Bowl appearances establishes a new record.
10a. Jets fans simply cannot wait to break this one after their team just completed a 51st consecutive season without returning to Super Sunday.
11. Since the 49ers failed to draft Aaron Rodgers atop the 2005 draft, they’ve reached the Super Bowl twice. The Packers gave gone once in that same span.
12. San Francisco is also 3-0 against Rodgers in the playoffs.
13. Rodgers’ record in NFC championship games dropped to 1-3, and he’s lost in his past three appearances.
14. Rodgers now has 40 TD passes in 19 career playoff games.
14a. Brett Favre had 39 TD passes in 22 playoff starts for Green Bay.
15. Many NFL fans and media covering the league have some measure of Patriots fatigue. But how fun would a Tom Brady vs. Jimmy Garoppolo Super Bowl have been?
16. Instead, you’re going to, uh, get two weeks of buildup toward the showdown between RBs Raheem Mostert and Damien Williams.
16a. Still, do any two players better exemplify the NFL’s oft-told tale of perseverance?
16b. Williams, an undrafted Dolphins castoff who essentially replaced Kareem Hunt a year ago, now has nine playoff TDs, tying Terrell Davis and Larry Fitzgerald for most in a player’s first five postseason games.
16c. Mostert, cut by six teams before sticking in San Francisco in 2016, became the first player to rush for at least 200 yards and four touchdowns in a playoff game.
16d. Mostert’s 220 yards on the ground broke Colin Kaepernick’s team record (181) for a postseason game.
16e. Only Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson, who ran for 248 yards in a 1985 divisional contest, has had a more productive playoff game on the ground than Mostert.
16f. Mostert is also the first to run for four TDs in a conference championship game.
16g. Given the apparent serious nature of RB Tevin Coleman’s shoulder injury Sunday, Super Bowl LIV will likely be the first game Mostert will start in his NFL career.
16h. The 49ers have now run 89 times (89!) for 471 yards (471!) in their pair of playoff wins this year.
17. Remember when some were laughing at the Niners three years ago, when they lured John Lynch out of the broadcast booth to give him a six-year deal to be their general manager. Only Lynch, who now deserves an extension, should be laughing now.
18. In the first 27 postseason games in Chiefs history, they scored at least 31 points three times. In Kansas City’s four playoff appearances with Mahomes, the club has managed at least 31 points each time, averaging 37.
19. Mahomes, the NFL’s 2018 MVP, has done a great impression of presumptive 2019 MVP Lamar Jackson in these playoffs, rushing for a team-high 53 yards in each of Kansas City’s wins.
19a. Mahomes’ scintillating 27-yard TD run in the second quarter against Tennessee gave K.C. a lead it never relinquished.
20. Who’s more upset than State Farm? At least the rest of us will be spared what surely would have been an onslaught of those Rodgers-Mahomes commercials.
21. From a historical perspective, kind of a bummer the NFL’s centennial season won’t end with a matchup of the teams (Packers, Chiefs) who met in what is now retroactively referred to as the first Super Bowl following the 1966 season.
22. One bona fide comparison sure to dominate the next two weeks will involve the battle of Travis Kelce and George Kittle, almost inarguably the top two tight ends in the NFL and two of the league’s most colorful personalities.
23. Titans RB Derrick Henry was limited to 69 rushing yards in Sunday’s loss but still finished with one of the most epic postseasons in league history, the 2019 rushing champion averaging 148.7 yards in three games.
24. What a comeback for Garoppolo, whose 2018 season prematurely ended in Week 3 when he ripped up his knee … in Kansas City.
24a. But worth noting he hasn’t had to work too hard this month, throwing just eight passes Sunday after attempting 19 in the divisional round win over Minnesota.
24b. San Francisco became only the third team in playoff history to attempt fewer than 10 passes in a playoff game.
25. Likelier than ever that Niners CB Richard Sherman, formerly star of the Legion of Boom, will win a second ring before any of his former Seahawks teammates.
26. Sunday’s NFC championship matchup of Garoppolo and Rodgers was the first that paired two quarterbacks who never started in their first two NFL seasons.
27. The Titans/Oilers franchise has now completed 60 seasons without a Super Bowl victory.
27a. Good time to mention the 1960-61 Oilers claimed the AFL’s first two championships, though.
28. Tennessee was the sixth No. 6 seed to reach the championship round but fourth to fall short of a Lombardi Trophy (2005 Steelers, 2010 Packers won it all).
29. The last time the Chiefs and Titans franchises met with an AFL or AFC crown on the line was 1962 … when the Dallas Texans overcame the Houston Oilers 20-17 in double overtime in the AFL’s third championship game.
30. The Titans now head into a fascinating offseason, Henry and QB Ryan Tannehill both currently on track to become free agents.
31. Bravo to Tennessee OL Dennis Kelly, whose reception Sunday made him the heaviest player (321 pounds) in postseason history catch aTD.
31a. Kelly is the only O-line player since 2000 with multiple TD grabs in one season.
31b. Kelly joined newly elected Pro Football Hall of Famer Harold Carmichael as the tallest players (6-foot-8) with playoff TD catches.
32. Sadly, only one Nate Davis will be advancing to the Super Bowl. But congratulations to my namesake, now a starting guard for the Titans, on a strong rookie year. Hopefully we do that epic Nate-and-Nate sitdown in 2020.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.
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