Falcon Points

5 key points from the NFL Playoffs as we head to the conference finals

Hard to ignore the Patriots in the postseason. Patriots/Facebook

The NFL conference championship games are set, and the pretenders have been discarded. All four higher seeds won and advanced this past weekend. Only the Saints-Eagles game was competitive. Five thoughts as we move on to the next round:

1) Old vs. new. Both championship games will feature all-time great quarterbacks (Drew Brees and Tom Brady) facing two young up and coming superstars (Jared Goff and Patrick Mahomes). The ageless Brady will have to go on the road, but what the Patriots have done is amazing. Eight straight trips to the AFC Championship is simply silly. This may be the Chiefs year, but Brady and the Pats won't make it easy. Brees and Sean Payton have never lost a game at the Superdome in the playoffs. The Rams are solid, but the Saints played poorly Sunday and still advanced.

2) The Colts are close. They were dominated by the Chiefs, but they are a few players away from being a strong force in the future. Beef up the secondary, maybe add to the running game, and hope to keep Andrew Luck healthy, and they will be legitimate Super Bowl Contenders next year.

3) The Cowboys, too. They weren't competitive against LA, but the Cowboys are a team with potential. They can upgrade their DL, get a tight end and add to the secondary, but they don't have a lot of weaknesses. They just need to get a little better and hope they can win with Dak Prescott.

4) The Chargers are fool's gold. Everyone says they have the most complete team. But they are a lot like the Falcons. They seem to be lacking something. They have the coaching and the talent, but they just don't seem to be up for the big moments. They were run out of Foxboro by a Patriots team with flaws.

5) Predictions. I took New England over the Saints before the season. If I had to do it over, I would probably go with Chiefs over Saints. The four best teams in the regular season will be meeting for a shot at the Super Bowl. Both home teams (New Orleans and KC) have huge home field advantages. The Chiefs - who had one playoff win under Andy Reid (Texans fans will remember 30-0) - cleared a huge hurdle by housing the Colts. This might be their year.

Regardless, unlike this week, we should get competitive games. It will be surprising if we had the boring routs that we had in three of the four playoff games.

The bad news? We only have three football games left in the season. Hopefully they will be entertaining.

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For a quarter, the Texans dreams were coming true. Dreams of hosting an AFC Championship Game. Dreams of making it to that game for the first time in franchise history. Dreams of upsetting the Kansas City Chiefs.

In the second quarter, they woke up to a harsh reality that did not end until the game was over.

After racing to a 24-0 lead, the Texans collapsed, giving up 28 second-quarter points en route to losing to the Chiefs 51-31. The Chiefs will host Tennessee next week in the AFC Championship. The Texans will spend an off-season thinking about what might have been.

A tale of two quarters

The game could not have started any better. The Texans marched right down the field on their opening drive and scored when Deshaun Watson hit Kenny Stills for a touchdown pass on a busted coverage.

After the Chiefs dropped a third-down pass, the Texans blocked a punt, returned it for a touchdown and led 14-0.

Kansas City muffed a punt inside the 10, the Texans recovered and it was 21-0. After a field goal early in the second quarter, it was 24-0. The dreams began in full force.

Then it all collapsed.

The Chiefs got a big kick return after the field goal, then quickly scored on two plays. On the next possession, the Texans went three and out, then inexplicably faked a punt deep in their own end and failed. Kansas City quickly made it 24-14. On the ensuing kickoff, Deandre Carter fumbled the ball away, setting up another Kansas City score, and it was suddenly 24-21, and the Texans were essentially beaten. The Chiefs would march 90 yards to finish the quarter to take a 28-24 halftime lead they would never relinquish. Eventually they would score 41 straight points en route to the victory.

Microcosm of the season

The game unfortunately showed us what the Texans are. At times, a dominant, unstoppable force. At times, a clueless group that can't get out of their own way. We saw both on Sunday. So many times they made us think they could be special. The win at KC early in the season. The win over the Patriots. Key divisional victories over the Titans and Colts.

They also made us think they were hopeless. The loss in Baltimore. The home loss to Denver. We saw both teams on Sunday. The defense, a wreck all year, was at its worst. They could not stop tight end Travis Kelce, or anyone else for that matter. They could not get any pressure on Patrick Mahomes. They gave up chunk plays. The Chiefs are an extremely talented offense, but the Texans gave almost no resistance. In fact, they gave up touchdowns on SEVEN straight possessions, and none of them were ever in doubt. Whether or not it was personnel, Romeo Crennel, or a combination, major changes need to happen on that side of the ball.

It really is a shame. They came up short in a bizarre game that they had every chance to put away early. But the Chiefs are one of the most explosive offenses in football, and giving them short fields turned the game around.

The bottom line

What does it all mean?

Let's face it, the Texans were not supposed to win this game. They were 9.5-point dogs. But when you get out to a 24-0 lead, you start to believe and a trip to the AFC title game would have been unprecedented. Playing a familiar foe in Tennessee might have even meant a first-ever trip to the Super Bowl. But that's what the Texans are. Left to dream. They will have all off-season to ask those questions.

The truth is, the Chiefs were the better team. Better players. Better coaches. Sunday was on defensive coordinator Crennel more than anyone. His team not only could not stop the Chiefs, they gave up huge play after huge play. It was like watching LSU play McNeese State.

The Texans needed to play a perfect game to win. It started off that way. But they could not sustain it.

What's next?

Instead, they start looking to next year. How can they improve with no real draft picks? How can they fix the defensive issues? How many years does J.J. Watt have left? Does Bill O'Brien make staff changes? Are they really close to being a Super Bowl contender? How can they fix the pass rush? The secondary? Is it time for Crennel to ride off into the sunset after another year of horrible defense?

For a brief while, it felt like it could have been so much different. But then the Chiefs woke up. And so did the Texans, unfortunately.

It was a tough way to end a season that at times showed promise, and at times looked hopeless. The first quarter was the former. The second was the latter. The second half was a victory lap for the Chiefs.

And the Texans season died, right where it was expected to, in the second round of the playoffs.

Turns out hoping for anything more was just a dream, one that was all too brief.

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