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Win here.

Andy Richardson

A Day of Football

The Super Bowl some wanted

I'm done picking against Kansas City. I guess I'm also short on having faith in Cinderella stories in general. We thought the Ravens would cruise on into the Super Bowl, and also that just maybe the Lions would keep their roll going. Instead it's Kansas City-San Francisco, again, and as I guess we should have known.

In general, I'm going to spend more time talking about the losers of these games. We've got two weeks to talk about the winners, and preview that game. So let's close the book on the two teams who could (Baltimore) and should (Detroit) have won yesterday.

Kansas City 17, Baltimore 10. Four minutes into the second quarter this game was 14-7, and it looked like an unlikely shootout was in store. Instead, no touchdowns from that point forward, just a couple of field goals. I have many questions about this game, primarily from an approach standpoint on the part of the Ravens. They came into the game 1st in rushing and 21st in passing, while Kansas City's defense was 4th against the pass and 18th against the run. I understand these games aren't played by computers and stats and rankings aren't everything. But why the Ravens went to halftime having attempted three times as many passes (12) as they'd given their running backs carries (4) is something I will never understand.

Was the goal to surprise Kansas City by putting it all on Lamar Jackson's shoulders? Ha! The strength of your defense is the secondary, so we're going to throw right at it! Baltimore's lone touchdown was a busted play where Jackson miraculously escaped a sack and hit Zay Flowers. Other than that they did absolutely nothing on offense for essentially the entire game. I am also aware that their running back options of Gus Edwards, Justice Hill and Dalvin Cook (who didn't even step on the field) were uninspiring, and not their ideal, with J.K. Dobbins and Keaton Mitchell on IR. But those weren't new situations. It's just hard to understand.

Two huge plays of course. The Flowers fumble short of the goal line; it would have been 17-14. And the bizarre end-zone pick to a triple-covered Likely. Game might have been different, certainly closer. But if Baltimore had scored there, I think KC would have played more aggressively and scored more.

Looking at Baltimore's team, they've got a nice building block in Zay Flowers. Couple good tight ends in Mark Andrews and Isaiah Likely. And the MVP in Lamar Jackson. So how do they get over the hump and win next year? Better other receiving weapons than other teams' washed-up castoffs like Odell Beckham or their own busts like Rashod Bateman will be a start. Sure, Kansas City proves you can win with one good wide receiver, that's fair, but clearly Lamar needs more help. I think they can do it next year, but it will be with better options after Andrews and Flowers than what they had yesterday. And maybe a better offensive game plan, too.

Defensively, the Ravens maybe should have focused a little more on covering Travis Kelce in the first half? Thinking out loud here. Catching all 9 passes thrown his way suggests he maybe wasn't quite getting enough from attention the NFL's No. 1 scoring defense. They did a nice job holding Isiah Pacheco to just 2.8 yards per attempt. Bully for them. Players on the field win and lose games, but the coaches on the sidelines didn't help anything. Get ready for lots of Travis and Taylor fun over the next couple of weeks. It would be nice to say, as many are, that this is because of what the league wanted to happen. But the league didn't make the Ravens play irrationally and poorly yesterday. Baltimore did that on its own.

San Francisco 34, Detroit 31. This game...the Lions just gave it away. They had it, and coughed it up. Let me count the ways. First, and I'm sorry man, but Josh Reynolds. Rare will you see one wide receiver as responsible for a loss as Reynolds, who was targeted twice in crucial situations and dropped them both to kill drives that otherwise would/might have ended in touchdowns. Just brutal. Jared Goff, who has certainly deserved and endured some criticism over the years, was having the game of his life, and it looked like San Francisco's defense was not going to stop Detroit all game. But Reynolds dropped one pass on fourth down and another while wide, wide open on third and long, and that helped San Francisco get back in the game. I feel bad for Reynolds, but he's the main goat this morning.

Jahmyr Gibbs' losing a fumble near his own end was also, shall we say, a critical mistake. Gibbs was also a huge part of building a lead (and was open in the end zone for another touchdown where Goff missed him), so I can't give him too much grief. He looks like a guy I'm going to want to have on all my teams next season, even with David Montgomery around. In fact, with Gibbs, Amon-Ra St. Brown and Sam LaPorta, Detroit seems to have three of the very best fantasy players. The kind of trio we should be reading about over the next couple of weeks; oh well.

Regarding Dan Campbell's two decisions to pass up field goal attempts to go for it on fourth down. On the first one, with 7 minutes left in the third quarter of a 24-10 game, I would have kicked the 45-yard field goal to go up 17 points. No question. Being up three scores at that point of the game would have been nice. Now, that was the ball that Reynolds dropped on 4th-and-2; not an easy catch, but he should have had it. So we can defend the decision by saying they had the play that should have picked it up. But I still would have kicked. Five plays later, after a miracle completion that should have been picked off, it was 24-17, and game on.

Later, with Detroit down 27-24, eight minutes left, they passed up a 47-yard field goal to go for it on 4th-and-3. This play was not as close to being completed. I think I'd probably have kicked there, too, to tie the game up. (The argument can be made that a 47- or 48-yard field goal is no gimme, and that's true, but if you don't trust your kicker that's something you need to sort out as well.) I think if they'd kicked and tied it up they'd still have lost, their defense wasn't getting any stops at that point, so I can understand that decision a little more. But debatable. I think you need to tie it up there rather than risk going down by 10 points. Which of course happened a few plays later.

The final coaching snafu came with the Lions calling a run play on third down from the 1-yard line with a minute left in the game. That forced them to burn a timeout, and meant they wouldn't get the ball back if they failed their onside kick attempt. Having confidence in your offensive line and David Montgomery is all well and good, but if you're going to run the ball there (and you shouldn't) a quarterback sneak is the only viable choice. That was the game, the touchdown after that didn't matter much (except for those of us who made a last-minute decision to start Jameson Williams, hurrah). Respectable onside kick attempt, and if Detroit had all three timeouts, maybe they get the ball back. But no.

So blame for Detroit's loss can be given to Josh Reynolds, Jahmyr Gibbs, Dan Campbell and the lousy defense, in some order. Credit to San Francisco and Brock Purdy, and I'm glad Christian McCaffrey is going to a Super Bowl, he deserves it. But that's two weeks in a row San Francisco has escaped. Hey, that counts too.

So we've got the game many expected and I think a lot fewer wanted. Will talk a lot about it the next two weeks. For now, sorry Baltimore and Detroit. You had your chances. Maybe next year.

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