NFL Playoffs: Conference Championship

NFL Playoffs: Conference Championship good, bad and ugly

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The NFL Conference Championship Weekend is their Final Four. You don't get the games played in the same place, but there is a buzz in both stadiums because each team knows theyarethisclose to a Super Bowl. Here are my observations:

The Good

-Chiefs' quarterback Patrick Mahomes is the real deal. We gawk at his arm strength and ability to make throws in spaces and from angles that'll challenge physics. But his athleticism and escapability are underrated. Prime example was his 27-yard touchdown run right before halftime. Not only did he evade the rush and scramble to the outside, but he tightroped along the sideline, cut back inside, then carried a couple defenders across the goalline. He led the Chiefs in rushing yards with 56.

-49ers running back Raheem Mostert has played on five different teams in his five year career. In his second stint with the 49ers, he's turned himself into an valuable piece of that offense. Although they use a stable of backs, it was Mostert who set a new team postseason rushing record with 196 yards and there was still almost 20 minutes of football left to play!

-We will have a great matchup of coaches in the Super Bowl. Head Coaches/Playcallers: Chiefs' Andy Reid vs 49er's Kyle Shanahan; defensive coordinators: Chiefs' Steve Spagnuolo vs 49er's Robert Saleh. The meeting of the minds with two weeks to prepare should give us a good game. Key word: should. Please guys, no blowouts.

The Bad

-Derrick Henry was dubbed "King Henry" after his recent rushing performances. He was unceremoniously removed from his throne by the Chiefs' defense. 69 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown with a long run of 13 backed up the tough talk from Chiefs' defensive end Frank Clark who said earlier in the week leading up to the game that Henry wasn't hard to tackle.

-Packers' quarterback Aaron Rodgers looked a little off. He missed a few key throws, including an interception that ended any hope they had of coming back because it led to the 49ers having a short field and going up by four scores instead of the Packers being down by two scores. It was a minute before halftime, but the way the 49ers were running the ball, that pick was a backbreaker.

-The NFL fined Chiefs' offensive lineman Eric Fisher $14,037 for an unsportsmanlike conduct for his double-fist beer touchdown celebration during last week's win over the Texans. I thought they turned the corner when they started allowing more touchdown celebrations. So let me get this straight: you can choreograph a dance routine with the whole team, but can't pretend to chug beer from a league sponsor? Talk about hypocrisy.

The Ugly

-With the score 28-17 Chiefs with 7:44 left in the game, 3rd&6 on the Chiefs' 40-yard line. Titans' corner Tramaine Brock Sr. fell down and was called for a holding penalty on Sammy Watkins as he was falling. The worst part of that play: Watkins broke open and Mahomes found him for a 60-yard touchdown. Later when they were down by 11 with 3:59 left, Brock was called for a 41-yard pass interference on 3rd&10 with the Chiefs on their own 19-yard line. Those plays sealed the deal for the Titans.

-49ers running back Tevin Coleman was carted off the field in the 2nd quarter with an injury to his right elbow. An arm injury must be pretty damn bad if you're carted off. Thoughts and prayers to the running back I thought the Texans should've signed. Major props to him wanting to come back to the sidelines to be with his teammates wearing a sling.

-The 49ers outrushed the Packers 185 to 51...IN THE FIRST HALF! They were up 27-0 and had "only" passed for 40 yards. That's all they needed since the Packers couldn't stop the run. Mind you, they ran the ball 22 times to get the 185 yards. Packers defense looked like wet brown grocery bags trying to hold two gallons of milk.

And then there were two. Through all the strife and struggle, we have our Super Bowl 54 will be a matchup of arguably the best on their respective sides of the ball: 49ers and their defense vs the Chiefs high octane offense. However, don't sleep on the 49ers' ability to score, or how well the Chiefs' defense has been playing as of late. Ultimately, I have the sads. We only have one meaningful football game left. Hopefully the 49ers and Chiefs give us something to talk about. I won't mind seeing a 24-21 or 31-27 game. As long as we don't get a multiple score blowout, I'm good. Props to the Titans and Packers for putting up a good fight. It just wasn't good enough. From 32 to two. And there will only be one.

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Houston can win series on Sunday

Timely hitting helps Astros edge out D-backs to even series

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The Astros had two losses over the last 24 hours; one a game against the Diamondbacks in the series opener on Friday night, the other the news that their recovering ace, Justin Verlander, announced Saturday afternoon that he is opting to undergo Tommy John surgery. The decision and surgery will likely sideline Verlander through 2021 when his current contract with Houston ends.

With that, the Astros headwinds continued to increase, meaning a win to even the series with Arizona on Saturday would be a much-needed pick-me-up. Here's how they did:

Final Score: Astros 3, Diamondbacks 2.

Record: 26-26, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Enoli Paredes (3-2, 2.84 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Luke Weaver (1-8, 6.51 ERA).

D-backs score two on Javier who is pulled early

Kole Calhoun, who drove in four runs, including a home run in Friday's game, would start the scoring on Saturday with a solo home run off of Cristian Javier in the top of the second, giving Arizona an early 1-0 lead. Javier allowed another run in the top of the third, giving up a leadoff single that would move to third on a groundout then score on a sac fly, doubling the lead to 2-0.

Javier finished the third and tossed a 1-2-3 fourth, but whether it be due to a pre-determined pitch count or other situation, he would not go any further, ending his night there on just 77 pitches. His final line: 4.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 1 HR, 77 P.

Astros grab a lead in the sixth

The Astros were able to cut the lead in half in the bottom of the third, getting a leadoff single by Josh Reddick, who would move to third after a walk and fielder's choice before scoring on an RBI-groundout by Jose Altuve, making it 2-1. Enoli Paredes was first out of Houston's bullpen, taking over for Javier in the top of the fifth and retiring six straight batters for two perfect frames.

Houston would get to Luke Weaver in the bottom of the sixth, getting a leadoff single by George Springer, who would score from first on an RBI-double by Altuve to tie the game. Altuve would come around as the go-ahead run later in the inning on an RBI-single by Kyle Tucker, knocking Weaver out of the game as the Astros took their first lead of the game, 3-2.

Houston evens the series and moves back up to .500

Josh James was the next reliever for Houston in the top of the seventh, and despite getting into a jam by issuing a one-out walk and hitting the next batter, he was able to get out of it. It was thanks to a great play by Michael Brantley, who started a double play by catching a lineout and throwing a runner out at second to end the inning.

Brooks Raley had the eighth and erased a one-out walk by retiring the next two batters to maintain the one-run lead. After a scoreless bottom of the eighth, the Astros turned to closer Ryan Pressly to get another save and finish the one-run game. Pressly would do so, as Houston would move back up to .500 and even the series 1-1 heading into the rubber game on Sunday.

Up Next: The finale of this series between Houston and Arizona, and Houston's last regular-season home game of 2020, will get underway at 1:10 PM Central on Sunday. Madison Bumgarner (0-4, 8.53) ERA will be on the mound for the D-backs, while Jose Urquidy (1-1, 2.70 ERA) will start for the Astros.

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