Headline Sports podcast with Barbara Mason: A look at this weekends playoff games; Cal tries to get back in win column host Wazuu this Thursday

sfgate.com file photo: Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) drops back to pass as he throws a pass that was fumbled and recovered by the New Orleans Saints in the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game, Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020, in New Orleans.

On the Headlines podcast with Barbara

#1 Taking a look at NFC Playoff game for Saturday, the Minnesota Vikings who surprised just about everybody with a huge victory over the New Orleans Saints at the Super Dome come to Levis Stadium on Saturday to face the 49ers. Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins threw a overtime four yard touchdown pass for the victory could the Vikings shock the 49ers too?

#2 The AFC Playoff game for Saturday the Tennessee Titans will face the Baltimore Ravens a team favored to make the Super Bowl the Ravens have been tough all year.

#3 On Sunday in the AFC the Houston Texans are in Kansas City to face the rugged Chiefs. The Chiefs with quarterback Patrick Mahomes have been doing it all season.

#4 Seattle got that big victory in Philadelphia on Sunday now head to Green Bay this should one for the ages as this one will be played on a very tough Lambeau Field

#5 Cal’s Men’s basketball has seen some tough times they took a tough loss to the Stanford Cardinal last Saturday and are hoping to turn things around this Thursday at Haas Pavilion against the visiting Washington State Cougars.

Join Barbara each Tuesday for all the latest in Headline Sports at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

That’s Amaury’s News and Commentary podcast: Pats and Brady to decide future; Can Vikings surprise 49ers Sunday? plus more

usatoday.com file photo: Tom Brady might have played his last game in New England however Robert Kraft team owner is knocking at Brady’s door

On the podcast with Amaury:

#1 The New England Patriots have lots of questions in their off season about Tom Brady’s future where does head coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots go from here?

#2 The San Francisco 49ers are hosting the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings are coming off a huge win New Orleans one thing for sure the 49ers can’t be too over confident going into this game.

#3 Dallas Cowboys Jerry Jones is not one to keep coaches long although his last one Jason Garrett survived nine seasons and finished this season at 8-8 as the Cowboys failed to make post season. Garrett will be replaced by former Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy.

#4 It was mentioned that congress might take away baseball’s exemption status if MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred goes ahead and reduces 42 minor league teams. Will this give Manfred something to think about before pulling the trigger on the 42 minor league teams.

#5 He’s called the Cuban Ohtani- Oscar Luis Colas who defected from Cuba is headed for The Show. Colas is a left handed pitcher, an outfielder and a first baseman.

Amaury Pi Gonzalez is the radio play by play talent for the Oakland A’s and can be heard on KIQI 1010 San Francisco and does News and Commentary at http://www.sportsradioservice.com


San Francisco 49ers Playoff podcast with David Zizmor: After surprise win in New Orleans will Vikings be a challenge for 49ers?

sfgate.com file photo: Kirk Cousins #8 of the Minnesota Vikings and Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco 49ers greet each other on the field after the game at U.S. Bank Stadium on September 9, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Vikings defeated the 49ers 24-16

On the 49ers podcast with David:

#1 The 49ers host the Minnesota Vikings on Sat Jan 11th at Levi Stadium. The Vikings are coming off a win in New Orleans. Can the Vikings come out and surprise the 49ers after what they did in New Orleans?

#2 The Vikings forced overtime on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints. Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins threw for a four yard touchdown in overtime on first possession for the win.

Join David for all of the San Francisco 49ers Playoff podcast coverage at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

NFL Playoffs podcast with Joe Hawkes: A look at all the playoff teams this weekend

houstonchronicle.com: Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) fights for yards against Tennessee Titans defensive back Tramaine Brock (35) as he makes a first down reception during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game at Nissan Stadium on Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019, in Nashville.

On the NFL Playoffs podcast with J Hawkes:

#1 On Saturday AFC Playoffs It’s the Houston Texans hosting the Buffalo Bills the Texans are 2.5 point favorites

#2 The Tennessee Titans are in New England to face Tom Brady and the Patriots. The Pats with home field advantage are favored by 4.5.

#3 Sunday’s NFC games: Taking a look at the New Orleans Saints led by quarterback Drew Brees will be in Minnesota. The Saints are favored by eight.

#4 Seattle is the slight underdog as they come calling in Philadelphia against the Eagles who are favored by 1.

J Hawkes will take you right through the NFL playoffs each Friday at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

San Francisco 49ers preview: Rams Seek Revenge While Niners Need to Get On Track

file photo from 49erswebzone.com: 49ers corner Richard Sherman (left) and tight end George Kittle (right) pose for a selfie with fans

By: Joe Lami

SANTA CLARA — The Niners stumbled in a trap game, yet still, control their own destiny to the NFC one-seed. If they win out, they take the top seed. A loss to the Rams before the NFC West winner-take-all matchup with the Seahawks would give home-field to either Green Bay or New Orleans. Even with a loss this week, San Francisco would win the NFC West with a win in Seattle, thanks to a tiebreaker.

The importance of retaining the #1 seed is crucial for San Francisco. Three of the five 49ers’ Super Bowl victories came when they were the top-seed in the conference.

The good news for San Francisco is they are beginning to get healthier. Both Richard Sherman and K’Waun Williams are set to return this Sunday after missing Sunday’s loss. The return of Sherman will be important to get him game time before next weekend’s gauntlet in Seattle. Guard, Mike Person is listed as questionable, fighting a neck injury. Jaquiski Tart (broken ribs) and Dee Ford (quad, hamstring) are listed as out.

The Niners will use this matchup against the Rams to get back on track. San Francisco’s won five of their last eight games against LA, including this year’s week four 20-7 win.

In that win, San Francisco’s defense completely shut down Jared Goff, allowing only 78 passing yards on 24 attempts. The Niners shutout the Rams on third-down, holding them to 0-for-9. The offense was just okay, as Garoppolo threw for 243 yards, 101 of them were caught by George Kittle, of course. Even though Jimmy didn’t throw a TD, he rushed one in San Francisco’s second touchdown of the afternoon.

The Rams have been Jekyll and Hyde this season, looking great at times, beating the Seahawks and Saints, but then getting boat raced by the Cowboys.

Kyle Shanahan mentioned last week about preparing for Atlanta’s Super Bowl. His team didn’t answer, and they’ll face another desperate team this week. LA’s playoff hopes have pretty much gone up in smoke, as they need to win out and pray for a miracle that Minnesota doesn’t beat the Packers or Bears. They hold the final tiebreaker over the Vikings.

His team will need to be ready for everything that the Rams will bring. Todd Gurley has been much more active these last three weeks, nearly totaling 200 yards and three touchdowns. He was inactive when the Niners completely shut down the Rams in week six, expect him to get a lot of carries on Saturday.

Jared Goff is currently fourth in the NFL in passing yards, just shy of 4,000. His 17-15 TD to INT ratio is shocking, however, and can be taken advantage of a hungry 49ers’ defense.

The Niners offense fell back to earth last week, scoring just 22 points. After the best month of his career, Garoppolo finished with 200 yards and a touchdown for a 90.3 rating, the lowest in the last five games. It was also the second-lowest in the last eight weeks. TLDR, Garoppolo has been one of the best QBs in the second half of the season.

If the Niners can contain Gurley, and get to Goff, like they did four times already this year, they should be able to slow down LA’s offense. Meanwhile, their defense is susceptible to the run. Breida only had four carries last week, while Raheem Mostert had 14. Mostert’s been excellent these past few weeks, giving the Niners a multi-headed monster in the backfield.

Vikings drop Raiders to 1-2; Cook’s carries help Vikes to 34-14 win

from sfgate.com: Minnesota Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen, right, sacks Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019, in Minneapolis

By Jeremy Kahn

Once again, the Oakland Raiders ran into a buzz saw and once again they were chewed up by their opponent.

Dalvin Cook carried the ball 16 times for 110 yards and a touchdown, helping the Minnesota Vikings to a convincing 34-14 victory over the Raiders at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Cook, who is in his third season in the NFL is coming off back-to-back seasons where he suffered debilitating injuries in those seasons.

In his rookie season, Cook tore his Anterior Cruciate Ligament and last season, he was hampered by a hamstring injury that derailed his season.

Alexander Mattison scored his first NFL touchdown, as the Vikings rushed for 211 yards as a team. Also, for the second time in two home games, the Vikings did not attempt a pass in the fourth quarter.

Kirk Cousins went 15-for-21 for 174 yards and a score to Adam Thielen on the Vikings initial series of the game.

Thielen also scored on a handoff that gave the Vikings a 28-0 lead in the second quarter, their second 28-0 lead of the season.

Derek Carr went 27-for-34 for 242 and two touchdowns to J.J. Nelson and Tyrell Wililams. Tight end Darren Waller caught 13 passes for 134 yards in the loss.

NOTES: Marquel Lee hurt his ankle in the first quarter and did not return to the game. While Vontaze Burfict missed nearly half the game with an elbow injury, but eventually returned in the third quarter.

UP NEXT: The Raiders will stay on the road, as they will face the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Raiders start long road journey away from Oakland Sunday in Minnesota

Photo credit: dailynorseman.com

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
SRS Contributor

After two AFC West divisional games to start the season at home, the Raiders get set for their first road test of the year as they prepare to face the NFC North’s Minnesota Vikings in Week 3. The Silver and Black are 9-5 all time against the Purple People Eaters, with each team winning two games apiece over their last four matchups.

In their last meeting, the Vikings took down the Raiders 30-14 on Nov. 15, 2015 at the RingCentral Coliseum in Oakland.

Kickoff is set for 10:00 a.m. PDT this Sunday at U.S. Bank Field, as the Raiders begin a 49-day stretch away from Oakland and the first of four games against the NFC North this season.

The Raiders (1-1) lost 28-10 to the visiting Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2, after jumping out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes shredded Oakland’s defense in the second quarter, throwing 278 of his 443 yards and four touchdowns in the period that put the game out of reach.

With the win, Mahomes improved to 3-0 against Oakland and has now thrown for 10 touchdowns to just one interception in those three games.

History was made in the game for Oakland as quarterback Derek Carr surpassed Hall of Fame quarterback Ken Stabler for most passing yards in franchise history, as Carr threw for 198 yards in the game and now stands at 19,196 threw his first 80 games.

Wide receiver Tyrell Williams caught his second touchdown of the year, while tight end Darren Waller led the Raiders in receptions again for the second-straight week as he caught six balls for 63 yards.

Per the Elias Sports Bureau, Waller joined Todd Christensen (1986) and Brandon Myers (2012) as the only tight ends in team history to record at least 50 yards receiving in the first two games of the season.

Defensively, the Raiders didn’t muster much of a pass rush against the Chiefs but Benson Mayowa had a day to remember, as he recorded 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble.

Mayowa became the first Raiders player to record at least one sack and one forced fumble in each of the first two games of the season since sacks became an official statistic in 1982, while also becoming just the seventh defensive player league wide to do so since 2010 according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

After defeating the Atlanta Falcons 28-12 in Week 1 at home, the Vikings (1-1) lost on the road in Green Bay, 21-16 in Week 2 at Lambeau Field.

Vikings running back Dalvin Cook rushed for a career-high 154 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries against the Packers. It was the second-straight game that the third-year pro from Florida State rushed for over 100 yards.

Through the first two games of the season, Cook is the NFL’s leading rusher with 265 yards.

Vikings signal-caller Kirk Cousins can play like he’s a top-10 NFL quarterback at times, making tough throws look routine to stud wideouts Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs.

Then there are times where Cousins will throw those head-scratching passes late in a game that’ll get intercepted, sealing a loss that makes you wonder, if he’s even worth the $84 million fully guaranteed the Vikings are paying him?

Minnesota has Super Bowl aspirations and the pressure is on Cousins to guide them to Miami (the site of Super Bowl LIV), this season.

After throwing just 10 times in the season opener against the Falcons, Cousins finished 14-of-32 with one touchdown and two interceptions against the Packers.

With a chance to throw a potential game-winning score for Minnesota late in the fourth quarter, Cousins was intercepted by Green Bay cornerback Kevin King in the end zone.

Didn’t I mention a few spaces before about those head-scratching throws from Cousins that’ll cost you a game?

But the ultimate strength of the Vikings is its defense, which has been among the NFL’s best during head coach Mike Zimmer’s six seasons in Minnesota. The Vikings can generate a strong pass rush from its edge rushers in Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen, which will give its strong secondary led by strong safety Harrison Smith and cornerback Xavier Rhodes opportunities to create turnovers.

Carr and the offense have to be on high alert for a tough Vikings team and one of the toughest venues in the NFL, U.S. Bank Stadium this Sunday.

Following Sunday’s game, the Raiders will travel to Indianapolis to battle the Colts in Week 4 before flying to London to take on the Chicago Bears in a “home game” in Week 5.

The Vikings will begin a two-game road trip when they take on the Bears in Week 4 followed by a trip to New York for a date with the Giants in Week 5.

NFL Thursday Night Week 3: Fantasy Football Written Prescription success


By Dr. Vasu Vaddiparty

Week 4 of the NFL Season is the quarter-point of the 2018 season. How are we all doing in our leagues? 3-0 and living large, 2-1 and feeling pretty good, 1-2 and feeling okay that nothing like a 2-week win streak would help out a rough start, or are you 0-3 and reaching for the Malox right now?

Week 4 starts out with Bye weeks and the first two contestants are the Carolina Panthers and the Washington Redskins. Fantasy Football Doctors will give you our thoughts on the podcast but for right now we break into Thursday Night’s extravaganza–Minnesota Vikings visiting the Los Angeles Rams.

Minnesota was a major player coming into the season with Kirk Cousins as the big Free Agent prize at QB and that stifling defense vs. the hottest team on the planet in the Rams. Here is the breakdown for tonight as it relates to Thursday night.

The Vikings have gotten off to an okay start. Everyone still feeling each other out on offense, the defense has played pretty well and then last Sunday happened. Vikes at home no less get thumped by the Buffalo Bills. TO’s, bad defense, bad tackling, everything that could go wrong went wrong right from the start. Did they overlook Buffalo in preparation for the huge matchup with the Rams? More importantly are there fantasy options still available for the Vikings this Thursday?

Kirk Cousins was the big free-agent prize for Minnesota for 3 years. He’s had a pretty good career with the Redskins but has gotten off to a shaky start in some respects for his new team. A mediocre home opening win vs. SF, a roughing the passer penalty that shouldn’t have been enabled them to tie GB in Week 2 and the drubbing vs. Buffalo last Sunday. The Rams defense has been extremely tough this year. The only bad stretch they had was opening night in Oakland where they actually trailed going into the 4th quarter. Cousins is still a really good passer, very accurate and has the ability with the players around him to be effective. This Rams defense is tough and might be tough on him Thursday. If you have a better option than Cousins, I would go the other way, even if that means going with a lesser QB who is playing a very bad defense (ie. Mariotta). IF you go with Kirk then be assured if they are behind they will be passing the ball a ton and that is where he excels in the 4th quarters of games.

There are few options here to choose from but are they even good enough options to use. The major one is Dalvin Cook. It seems he will be healthy enough to play after coming back from injury. He would be a good RB2 if you need one. Other options for Minnesota are Matt Boone and Latavius Murray. These are not stellar options as neither one has established himself in a way that would have fantasy owners salivating. Murray gained 1000 yards last year but worked out because Cook got hurt in preseason and had to sit out the whole year. Vikings RB are not a good option unless you can flex someone like Cook but certainly no #1’s here.

Minnesota has 3 solid receivers and with Cousins at QB. They are all viable targets and should be highly considered. Definitely look at Diggs and Theilen as WR 1 or 2 on your rosters and possibly a starter. If they fall behind these guys will be valuable as WR in the later stages throwing the ball. A red zone master the last few years even with other QB’s has been TE Kyle Rudolph. He is a very good receiver and more importantly a great receiver in and around the goal line. He is a high consideration for anyone in FFL who doesn’t have Ertz, Kelce or Gronk.

The highly anticipated matchup and what a lot seem to believe is the first real test for the Rams and QB Jared Goff comes tonight. Goff has had a bevy of weapons to go to and has come up pretty big in those situations. He will probably have a couple of scores and some yards but if they are ahead or have a comfortable lead they might run the ball more so it’s kind of an iffy situation with Goff. But he would be one I would seriously consider starting. He would be a good solid QB1 or QB2 on anyone’s roster.

The Rams RB’s are a collection of great RB but on everyone’s wish lists and thoughts Todd Gurley is the premier back everyone on the field would love to have and FFL owners number 1 pick on their collective wish lists as well. Not a lot of analysis needed here. START, START, START Gurley. Oh and he catches the ball too very well. He will have his usual 100 and 60 receiving even against a tough Vikings defense.

Rams WR are very underrated pieces to this machine that is rolling on all cylinders. The collection of WR are very good, but individually they may lack a little based on how much the ball is spread out. Robert Woods is the leader of the pack, the go-to guy, could be high on people’s list. A speed guy who can catch the long ones and go the distance. Brandin Cooks was brought in from the Patriots. He is also a speed guy whose hands were questionable in the past but has improved a great deal in the ability to make the catch. He can score as well too. Cooper Kupp is the guy to get the ball in the middle of the field. Typical WR3 that is in the slot a lot and looked upon to move the chains. Tyler Higbee is the TE. He is more the blocking type but he will catch his 3-4 and maybe get a score. But wouldn’t use him as TE2 even because of others available.

Special Teams/Defense
Both team’s defenses have played pretty well but the Rams are outstanding defensively. They have turned the opponents over been diligent in coverage. Only part of defense that might hurt is Talib is out for sure and Peters the other CB is questionable. Might be susceptible to the passing game tonight. But they do have a pass rush and can cause fumbling problems which the Vikings had a lot of fun vs. Buffalo. The Vikings play a great scheme defensively and their main meal money is the TO and have scored some TD’s off fumbles but mostly interceptions. Rams don’t turn the ball over very much so this might be a little shakier than taking the Rams’ defense. The Rams special teams are very good and are certainly a good play as Defense/Special Teams position. I would take them again as I have the last 3 weeks.

Overall Matchup
The Rams are -7 in the pointspread with an over/under of 49. Seems pretty high with two great defenses. The Rams defense might be a little greater. The Rams have scored 30+ points in all 3 games but have given up a few points in 2 of 3 sandwiching a week 2 shutout of Arizona. All that being said, I find myself leaning towards the Rams

LA Rams 34

Minnesota 13

Don’t forget to listen to our Fantasy Football Doctors podcast with Dr. Charlie O. Mallonee and myself Dr. Vasu Vaddiparty on SportsServiceRadio.com for the rest of the NFL as it relates to Fantasy Football.

Any correspondence you may have can be sent to my Twitter account @VPartySports or directly to Sports Radio Service @SportsRadioSrvc.

49ers Lose to Vikings 24-16; Fail Season Opening Test

Photo credit: @49ers

By: Joe Lami

Jimmy Garoppolo is no longer undefeated as a starter in the NFL, as the Minnesota Vikings outlasted the Niners 24-16.

Injuries, missed opportunities, bad timing, and turnovers from the 49ers assisted Kirk Cousins in his Viking’s debut. Minnesota’s new quarterback went 20-of-35 for 244 yards and two touchdowns.

He found success with Minnesota’s most dangerous targets, Adam Thielen and Dalvin Cook with each of them bringing down six catches. Thielen finished the day with 201 yards receiving, while Cook had 55 yards catching out of the backfield

Stefon Diggs and Kyle Rudolph each caught a touchdown. ‘

The 49ers are prepared to go into scramble mode thanks to injuries with several key pieces going down, including Marquise Goodwin, Joshua Garnett, and Mike Person.

Person and Garnett both went down with foot injuries, while Garnett’s appeared to be extremely serious needing a cart to assist him off the field from a non-contact play.

Goodwin attempted to return from his quad injury for the entirety of the game, as he was seen jogging and warming up on the sideline numerous times. Fortunately, the injury to Garcon seems to be the least severe of the three.

The Niners also missed opportunities the entire game. Pierre Garcon and George Kittle both had critical drops that would’ve led to touchdowns. Garcon was in the end zone, while Kittle’s was on a deep ball down the left sideline.

The drop ended up costing the Niners immediately, as Garoppolo threw his first of three interceptions. Rookie, Mike Hughes will remember his first interception for a long time, making a great play on the ball and jumping a Kenrick Bourne route for a pick 6 extending Minnesota’s lead to 17-3.

Earlier in the game, the Niners put together an eight-minute drive but once again the red zone offense completely shut down, eventually fumbling the ball on the one and giving the Vikings all of the momentum.

Despite everything that went wrong for the 49ers, they still hung in there until the very end. That is until Garoppolo started throwing interceptions, marking the first time in his career he’s thrown three in the same game. It just also happens to be his first loss as a starter.

San Francisco did have a few bright spots in all of the darkness. Tight end, George Kittle had five catches for 90 yards, though he’ll be remembered in this one for the wide-open drop.

Deforest Buckner appears to be an absolute beast in the pass rush. He was able to get to Cousin’s 2.5 times for sacks while recording 3 tackles for loss and seven total tackles.

Third round draft pick, Fred Warner not only was named a starter, but the linebacker was incredible. Having one of the best games out of any rookie, Warner started hot for the 49ers. In the first 20 minutes of the game, he recorded seven tackles and a forced fumble that Richard Sherman eventually fell on. He finished with 12 combined tackles, a tackle for loss, a pass deflection, and a forced fumble.

Sunday was a great measuring stick for the 49ers. Going up against one of the best defenses in the league and a team that made it to the conference championship game last year proves what this team is all about.

Kyle Shanahan was not kidding when he said that this team can go out and have a legit chance to win any game they play this season. We’ll see if they can finally strike gold at Levi’s next Sunday against the Lions at 1:05 pm PDT.

Sports Monday: The NFL Playoffs never lacks excitement

Photo credit: @NFL

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
SRS Contributor

Like most football fans, I was glued to my couch for most of the weekend watching the NFL’s best weekend of the year: the divisional round of the playoffs.

The divisional round usually features the best competitive games of the year as the eight remaining teams fight for their right to play in the conference championship games the very next week; with the winners heading to the Super Bowl.

With the Falcons losing to the Eagles, 15-10, in Philadelphia to kickoff the divisional round Saturday, their will be a new NFC Champion heading to Minneapolis on Feb. 4 for Super Bowl 52.

Sixth-seeded Atlanta (11-7) was trying to make a return trip to the NFC Championship Game and eventually back to the Super Bowl after last year’s painful loss in the Big Game to the New England Patriots after dropping a 28-3 lead, but Matt Ryan and Co. couldn’t get pass an Eagles team that were heavy underdogs coming into the game even as the NFC’s top seed with a 13-3 regular season and home field advantage.

And oh yeah, Philadelphia was playing without MVP front-runner and franchise quarterback Carson Wentz, who was lost for the season with a torn anterior crucial ligament in his left knee he suffered against the Rams in Los Angeles in Week 14.

Backup quarterback Nick Foles made every Eagles fan hold their collective breaths whenever he took a snap, played efficient football throwing for 246 yards on 23-of-30 passing with no touchdowns, but more importantly, zero interceptions. Foles kept Atlanta’s defense off guard for most of the afternoon as Philadelphia controlled the football for 32 minutes, compared to 28 minutes for the Falcons. Philadelphia converted 6-of-13 on third downs, while the Falcons were just 4-of-13 on third down conversions.

But the Falcons still had a chance to win a game, but Ryan and superstar wide receiver Julio Jones couldn’t connect on fourth-and-two from the Eagles’ own two-yard line with 1:05 left in the game. Jones, who finished with nine catches for 101 yards, slipped in the end zone and saw the pass slip right through his hands. Even if Jones makes the catch, his feet would’ve been out of bounds when you look at the replay.

Jones felt that he should’ve came up with the catch and made no excuses after the game.

“It was a sprintout, a rollout to me,” said Jones after the game per ESPN’s Vaughn McClure following the game. “Trying to take advantage of one-on-one [coverage] down there.

“I don’t know, but at the end of the day, I can make those plays. I ended up on the ground when I came out of my route. And that’s a tough call [for the official] to make during that situation in the game. That was it.”

Ryan finished the game throwing for 210 yards on 22-of-36 passing. Atlanta’s franchise quarterback did throw a six-yard touchdown to running back Devonta Freeman to give the Falcons a 10-6 lead in the second half, but Atlanta’s red zone woes that haunted them in the regular season (23rd in the NFL in red zone efficiency at 49.1-percent per ESPN Stats and Info), reared its ugly head.

“Just keep on disrespecting and we’re going to keep proving people wrong,” said Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey after the game to David Murphy of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Philadelphia (14-3) will host the Minnesota Vikings next Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field for the NFC Championship at 6:40 p.m. ET, which should be a great matchup given what the Vikings had to do to setup a date with the Eagles with a chance to play the Super Bowl in their own building, which would be the first time a team would play in the stadium where the Super Bowl is being held in NFL history.

Minnesota (14-3) had to rely on a 61-yard touchdown thrown from quarterback Case Keenum to wide receiver Stefon Diggs with 10 seconds remaining down the sideline to pull out an improbable 29-24 victory over the New Orleans Saints in the other NFC divisional playoff game Sunday. The play was reminiscent of a walk-off home run in baseball for the home team.

Diggs’ heart-pounding score sent a raucous sold out crowd at U.S. Bank Stadium into a frenzy as the stadium reached 118 decibels per reports. Diggs finished with six catches for 137 yards and the game-winning touchdown that cemented the Vikings’ first trip to the conference championship game in eight years.

“It’s a storybook ending — and it never ends that way,” Diggs said after the game to Ben Goessling of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “Usually, it’s reality. It’s real life. Things go, you walk home and worry about tomorrow. But today had other plans. I give it all to God, because things like this just don’t happen.”

After falling behind 17-0 to the Vikings at halftime, the fourth-seeded Saints stormed back with 14 unanswered points behind two touchdown passes from quarterback Drew Brees to wide receiver Michael Thomas that trimmed Minnesota’s lead to 17-14. Thomas’ two touchdowns came within a span of 3:09 that spanned into the fourth quarter.

Following a 49-yard field goal from kicker Kai Forbath that gave Minnesota a 20-14 lead early in the fourth quarter and an interception thrown by Keenum to rookie safety Marcus Williams that set up the Saints at the Vikings’ 40-yard line, Brees threw his third touchdown in the second half when he connected with rookie running back Alvin Kamara from 14-yards out that gave the Saints a brief 21-20 lead.

Brees finished the game throwing for 294 yards on 25-of-40 passing with three touchdowns and two interceptions, both coming in the first half.

“We’re still a bit shell-shocked after what happened there at the end,” said Brees after the game per the Associated Press.

But it was the big play by Diggs, who avoided a would-be hit by Williams and never looked back as he raced for the end zone for arguably the biggest touchdown in Minnesota’s history, a perfect delivered pass from the NCAA’s all-time passing leader in Keenum, who threw for 318 yards and matched Brees’ 25-of-40 passing.

On the AFC side, the top-seeded Patriots (14-3) made short work of the visiting Tennessee Titans (10-8), winning 35-14 on Saturday night advancing to their seventh straight AFC Championship Game next Sunday in Foxborough with a dominating performance over the sixth-seeded Titans in the chilly New England weather where game time temperature were in the 20s.

After taking a 7-0 lead in the first quarter, Tennessee saw New England roll off 35 unanswered points that led to the Patriots’ dismantling of the Titans. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady threw for 337 yards on 35-of-53 passing and three touchdowns, his 10th career postseason game in which he’s thrown three touchdowns moving past Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana for most in the NFL per the Elias Sports Bureau.

“To be in the playoffs, to play well and to advance, that’s just really great for this team,” Brady said to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald. “We’ve got to do it again next week.”

Wide receiver Danny Amendola, one of Brady’s most dependable pass catchers, finished with a team-high 11 catches for 112 yards. Tight end Rob Gronkowski hauled in six catches for 81 yards and a touchdown over Titans safety Kevin Byard, who predicted that Tennessee would make the future NFL Hall of Famer look like Blake Bortles.

More on Bortles and the Jacksonville Jaguars, who stand in the way of Brady from making his eighth Super Bowl appearance in his 18-year career that includes five wins in seven appearances, in a bit.

After the game, Brady was business as usual after leading New England pass by an overmatched Titans team that were doomed from the start. Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota played through a strained quadriceps muscle that he suffered on run in the first quarter that limited the Mariota’s mobility and Tennessee’s playcalling for the remainder of the game.

Mariota completed 22-of-37 passes for 254 yards and two touchdowns, but was under siege from Patriots’ pass rush that sacked Mariota eight times on Saturday night, a franchise record for one postseason game.

“Embarrassed,” said Mariota, standing at the podium after the game per the Associated Press.

“You play to win the whole thing. Yeah, it’s nice to be in the playoffs, but again, you don’t play to get in, especially coming into the divisional playoff losing the way we did.”

Raise your hands if you had the Jacksonville Jaguars heading to their first AFC Championship Game since 1999 at the start of the 2017.


Don’t feel bad if you didn’t because you aren’t alone, especially with the aforementioned Bortles leading the way. For most of his four seasons in Jacksonville, Bortles was the favorite punching bag for Jaguars fans (and the media) to hit for the team’s lackluster play even with a vastly improving defense with to lean on.

But the perception of Bortles is rapidly changing, especially after help leading the third-seeded Jaguars (12-6) to 45-42 victory over the second-seeded Steelers (13-4) at Heinz Field to close out the divisional round weekend. Bortles didn’t have earth-shattering numbers, completing just 14-of-26 passes for 214 yards and a touchdown, but didn’t throw an interception nor was he sacked in Jacksonville’s second win in Pittsburgh this year. Pittsburgh set a franchise record with 55 sacks this season, leading the NFL this season.

Jacksonville dispatched Pittsburgh 30-9 in Week 5 behind a punishing defense that forced five interceptions, returning two of those interceptions for touchdowns.

In that regular season game, Bortles was a non factor as he threw for just 95 yards on 8-of-14 passing and an interception, but the offense was carried by ground game as rookie running back Leonard Fournette rushed for a career-high 181 yards on 28 carries and two touchdowns, one of which went for 90 yards, the longest scoring run by a rookie against the Steelers per the Elias Sports Bureau.

This time around, Bortles appeared more confident and comfortable against Pittsburgh.

Jacksonville’s 45 points are the most points scored by an opponent against the Steelers in franchise history. Fournette scored two first half touchdowns, while backup running back T.J. Yeldon added another score that gave Jacksonville a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter before the Steelers answered with a touchdown of their own from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to wide receiver Antonio Brown that cut Jacksonville’s lead to 21-7.

Fournette, who left the game briefly with an ankle injury, rushed for a 109 yards on 25 carries and scored three touchdowns.

Shortly before the two minute warning and with Pittsburgh on the Jacksonville 47-yard line, defensive end Yannick Ngakoue sacked Roethislisberger forcing a fumble which was returned by middle linebacker Telvin Smith that gave Jacksonville a 28-7 lead. It was Smith’s second defensive touchdown against the Steelers this season, also finished with a team-high 14 tackles.

Roethlisberger would throw a 36-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Martavis Bryant before the end of the first half, then a 19-yard touchdown pass to running back Le’Veon Bell pulling the Steelers closer, 28-21, in the third quarter.

But Bortles made the biggest play of the game in my book, throwing a 45-yard bomb down the middle of the field in double coverage with 11:55 left in the fourth quarter that was hauled in by rookie wide receiver Keelan Cole that set up the Jaguars at the Pittsburgh 3-yard line before Fournette plowed into the end zone for his third rushing touchdown that re-opened a two-touchdown lead for Jacksonville making the score, 35-21.

“These guys played with confidence all day,” Bortles said after the game per the Florida Times-Union.

Jacksonville would add 10 more points in the fourth quarter, while the Steelers played catch up (pun intended) for the majority of the day despite big performances by Pittsburgh’s “Killer Bs” of Roethlisberger, Bell and Le’Veon Brown.

Roethlisberger threw for 469 yards on 37-of-58 passes, with five touchdowns and one interception. Brown, who appeared healthy following a torn left calf muscle he suffered in Week 15 against the Patriots that caused him to miss the Steelers’ final two games of the year, finished with seven catches for 132 yards and a pair of spectacular touchdowns.

Bell finished with 155 total yards from scrimmage (67 rushing and 88 receiving) and two touchdowns (one rushing and one receiving).

“Its disheartening” said Brown per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I thought we had the right group of guys.”

The conference championship games between Minnesota-Philadelphia in the NFC and Jacksonville-New England in the AFC weren’t what people imagined when the 2017 season started, even though most fully believed that the reigning Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots had the strongest chance at making another Super Bowl run.

Minnesota and Philadelphia did enter the season with postseason expectations, and should be a fierce matchup led by unwanted quarterbacks in Keenum and Foles along with strong defenses, and fan bases thirsty for a major championship.

Jacksonville wasn’t suppose to crash the postseason party, but here are the Jaguars who now must travel to New England and try to dethrone Brady and the Patriots to earn the franchise’s first trip to the Super Bowl.

“I’m sure there will still be tons of people that are going to disapprove and talk negative or hate or do whatever they want,” Bortles said before the Jaguars left Pittsburgh. “But we get to keep playing and we get an opportunity to play in Foxborough next week  for another week. Just honored to be able to do this especially with this group of guys.”

“Its been an awesome year. Just want to keep it going.”