BALTIMORE — The 32 things I learned from the divisional round of the 2019 NFL playoffs … while also covering the Titans and Ravens from M&T Bank Stadium:
1. As the NFL’s 100th season nears its conclusion, we’re reminded the league is entering a new era. This was the first time the round of eight did not include Tom Brady, Peyton Manning or Ben Roethlisberger since the 2002 postseason.
1a. That trend will extend to conference championship weekend, and the AFC will not be represented in the Super Bowl by one of that vaunted trio of passers for only the second time since 2003 (Baltimore’s Joe Flacco in 2012 the only outlier).
1b. Still, good to know the beginning of the next NFL century is in the capable hands of such established and blossoming passers like Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson, Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers.
1c. Rodgers is the lone QB in the championship round who’s won (or even played in) a Super Bowl.
2. The NFC will be represented in the Super Bowl by the sixth different team in the past six seasons.
3. The sentimental Super Bowl vote has to be with Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, especially on a weekend when Bill Cowher and Jimmy Johnson were elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Reid, in his 21st season as a head man, is still seeking his first Lombardi Trophy.
3a. The other three surviving head coaches — Tennessee’s Mike Vrabel, Green Bay’s Matt LaFleur and San Francisco’s Kyle Shanahan — have six combined seasons of experience in the role.
4. Jackson was the most talented player on the field Saturday night, even if the majority of his yards (365 passing and 143 rushing) came in garbage time of Baltimore’s stunning loss to Tennessee. Jackson became the first person in playoff history to pass for at least 300 yards and rush for at least 100, his latest mind-blowing stat from a mind-blowing 2019 campaign.
4a. However the presumptive league MVP also committed three turnovers …
4b. … which is why there’s an argument to be made that maybe Titans RB Derrick Henry would be the MVP front runner if the vote was conducted after the playoffs — and maybe it should be. There’s really no question that Henry has been the most dominant — and most valuable — player in the league the past three weeks, a stretch in which he was largely responsible for the Titans clinching a wild-card berth, won the rushing title and became the first player ever to top 180 rushing yards in three consecutive games. He even threw a TD pass Saturday, matching Jackson’s total.
4c. Henry became the first running back to throw a postseason TD in 32 years.
4d. And the first to rush for 180-plus yards multiple times in the same postseason.
5. A belated vote would likely also bring Mahomes, the 2018 NFL MVP, back into the conversation for this season. He was stellar while outdueling Watson, becoming the first player in a postseason game to rush for at least 50 yards and pass for at least 300 and five TDs.
5a. Mahomes also joined Super Bowl XXII MVP Doug Williams as the only players to throw four TD passes in one quarter of postseason football.
6. Ravens FS Earl Thomas talked the talk last week, questioning the Patriots’ interest in tackling Henry, then got personally abused by a stiff-arm (and some sound bites) from the 6-3, 247-pounder Saturday.
6a. Remember, Earl, Baltimore’s fourth-ranked defense is pretty good, but it’s not “Legion of Boom” good. Consider that the next time your mouth is writing checks …
6b. Meanwhile, a pair of castoffs from the Ravens’ No. 1 D of 2018 — Chiefs DE Terrell Suggs and Packers OLB Za’Darius Smith — will vie for Super Bowl berths while their former Baltimore teammates are home watching.
7. The Titans overcame the league’s top-ranked scoring defense (Patriots) and offense (Ravens) in successive weeks. The only other playoff teams (1988 49ers, 2004 Patriots) since the merger to manage that both eventually won the Super Bowl.
7a. The Titans were outgained by 230 yards (530-300), the biggest deficit for a winning team in postseason history, per Elias. However an inefficient Ravens offense was on the field for 92 plays, nearly twice as many as Tennessee’s, which gained only one-tenth of a yard fewer per play than Baltimore.
8. Tennessee is back in the AFC Championship Game for the first time in 17 years.
9. The Ravens converted all eight of their fourth-and-1 attempts in the regular season but were 0-for-2 in the same situation against the Titans.
10. Besides proving he can win big games, Jackson must show in 2020 that he can pass Baltimore out of deficits. The Ravens lost all three times this season when they trailed by more than a touchdown.
11. Wilson, who finished his college career at Wisconsin, is now 0-4 at Lambeau Field.
12. Rodgers has never played an NFC Championship Game at Lambeau and will take his 1-2 record in that round to Santa Clara next weekend.
12a. Northern California native Rodgers is just 1-3 on the road against the 49ers, the team he’d hoped would draft him No. 1 overall in 2005.
13. The Houston Texans remain the only one of the NFL’s 32 teams never to play for a conference championship. Of course, with only 18 seasons to their credit, the Texans are still the league’s youngest franchise.
14. The Texans are now 0-2 in their playoff history against the former Dallas Texans, i.e. the Chiefs.
15. Kansas City and Houston combined for 52 first-half points, most in playoff history before intermission.
15a. To further underscore that distinctive first half, the Chiefs became the only team ever to go into the locker room with a lead after falling behind by 24 points.
15b. The most recent team to overcome a deficit that large in postseason was the Patriots, who trailed Atlanta 28-3 in Super Bowl LI.
16. Kansas City became the first team to ever trail a playoff game by at least 20 points, then win it by at least 20.
17. Davante Adams’ 160 receiving yards Sunday set a new Green Bay playoff record.
18. The Chiefs were the only one of the eight teams playing this weekend that also reached the divisional round last year. It marked the first time since 1990, when the league instituted the 12-team playoff format, that seven new teams advanced to the round of eight compared to the previous season.
19. The Chiefs are now also the first team in postseason history to score a touchdown on seven consecutive offensive drives.
20. Chiefs TE Travis Kelce became the first player in the Super Bowl era with three TD grabs in one quarter of a playoff game.
20a. Kelce and RB Damien Williams joined Jerry Rice and Ricky Watters (in Super Bowl XXIX) as the only teammates to score three TDs in a playoff game.
20b. Williams’ seven postseason TDs are the most in Chiefs history.
20c. Kelce joined Dave Casper and Rob Gronkowski as the only tight ends to score three TDs in a playoff game during the Super Bowl era.
21. Titans QB Ryan Tannehill has averaged 80 passing yards in Tennessee’s two playoff wins.
22. There were five Heisman Trophy winners on the field in the Titans-Ravens game: Henry, Jackson, Mark Ingram, Marcus Mariota and Robert Griffin III. RG3 was the only one not to get into the game.
23. The 49ers are now 1-0 all-time in playoff games at Levi’s Stadium.
23a. Levi’s Stadium will host its first NFC Championship Game when the Niners face the Packers next Sunday.
23b. However the building has already housed a championship team, serving as the Super Bowl 50 stage when Manning’s Broncos ousted the Panthers four years ago.
24. The 49ers advanced to their 16th NFC Championship Game. Only the Steelers have been to the championship round as many times.
25. San Francisco QB Jimmy Garoppolo still has more Super Bowl rings (2, both won with New England) than postseason starts, Saturday being his first.
26. The 49ers have now beaten the Vikings five times on divisional weekend, a new league record for dominance in any playoff round.
27. Including WR Kendrick Bourne’s TD on Saturday, the 49ers have 25 this season produced by undrafted players.
28. Looked like a rested San Francisco defense was back to midseason form after sacking Vikings QB Kirk Cousins six times and limiting Minnesota to 10 points.
28a. The 49ers surrendered just 147 yards, a playoff team record during the Super Bowl era.
28b. San Francisco also allowed seven first downs, third-fewest ever in a playoff game.
29. A solid Vikings offense spiraled in their season-ending loss. Now, major questions about the unit’s future with Cousins entering the final year of his contract, and coordinator Kevin Stefanski set to become the Cleveland Browns’ next coach. That means Cousins will be working with his third play caller in three seasons with the club.
30. How many times does a team’s leading rusher also pace it in special teams tackles and special teams fumble recoveries? Meet the 49ers’ Raheem Mostert, who stole a possession from Minnesota on Saturday by falling on a muffed punt while ripping off 58 yards on 12 carries.
31. If I ever find myself with a dearth of fun friends, my first call might be to Chiefs LT Eric Fisher.
31b. Or maybe Marshawn Lynch, who might have concluded his career with a flourish after scoring four TDs for the Seahawks in three games since returning to Seattle prior to Week 17.
32. For the first time — maybe on God’s green earth but almost certainly in 100 years of NFL football — two Nate Davises shared a victorious playoff locker room. Congrats, Big Nate, your blocking from the right guard position was certainly among the keys to Tennessee’s success.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.
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