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5 Numbers About… Championship Sunday

By: Ethan Fore

Dread it. Run from it. Destiny arrives all the same.

Tom Brady is the NFL’s Thanos. An unrelenting, uncompromising, unstoppable force that cuts through playoff teams like a knife through butter.

There’s no shame in losing to Brady in the postseason – it’s almost like a rite of passage in the NFL. All of the great modern quarterbacks have done it, a list that now includes Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees.

That list also includes Patrick Mahomes, who led the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night to their second consecutive Super Bowl appearance.

With the way the Chiefs are playing, they look like the newest iteration of the NFL dynasty: an offensive juggernaut that never takes its foot off the pedal. The Buffalo Bills, a talented but inexperienced team, were the latest victim in a long list of upstart playoff hopefuls.

On a Championship Sunday headlined by star quarterbacks, the seasoned, six-time champion veteran and the future face of the league prevailed. Here are five numbers from Sunday’s games.

3 Interceptions

…on three consecutive drives.

OK, Tom Brady isn’t perfect. After cruising to a 21-10 halftime lead, which included a last-second 39-yard rainbow of a touchdown pass to Scotty Miller, Brady’s first drive of the second half began on the 8-yard line. Brady immediately found Cameron Brate wide open in the back of the end zone.

Brady had an “up-and-down” performance against the Packers in the NFC Championship game. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

On the next drive, Brady overshot Mike Evans on a deep route, throwing his first playoff interception since his final game as a New England Patriot. Then, after driving into Green Bay territory, Brady overthrew Evans again. The ball tipped off Evans’ fingertips before falling into the waiting hands of Jaire Alexander, who made an impressive play to reverse course and make the catch.

On the following Bucs’ possession, Brady was blitzed on the weak side by safety Darnell Savage, forcing the Michigan man to throw up a prayer to the near side. He drastically underthrew Evans, and Alexander picked off his second pass of the game.

The Packers’ likely undoing was their failure to make Brady pay for his mistakes. Green Bay scored just six points off those turnovers.

This was just the second time Brady has thrown three interceptions on three consecutive drives. He accomplished the same feat in a 2001 Week 7 loss to the Denver Broncos, the fifth start of his career.

Brady has thrown three interceptions in four playoff games but surprisingly has won three of them. The only loss was courtesy of the Baltimore Ravens, who defeated Brady’s Patriots 33-14 in the 2009-10 wild-card round.

5 Sacks

The Tampa Bay defense wreaked havoc in the Green Bay backfield on Sunday. Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul had their way with tackles Rick Wagner and Billy Turner, recording three and two sacks, respectively.

Barrett and Pierre-Paul also each tied the game-high with two tackles for loss. Barrett added one additional QB hit to his three sacks, while Ndamukong Suh and William Gholston each totaled one QB hit.

Entering Sunday, Barrett generated a pressure rate (PR%) of 22.4, the sixth-best rate in the league, and an adjusted sack rate of 4.0. Pierre-Paul was not as effective at pressuring the QB, with a below-average rate of 12.6, but recorded an adjusted sack rate of 4.2.

Turner, who moved to left tackle from right tackle after David Bakhtiari suffered a season-ending knee injury in practice during Week 17, recorded a pressure rate allowed (PR-A%) of 9.2 and an adjusted sack rate of 1.4. Wagner, who assumed the right tackle position, allowed an above-average pressure rate of 6.8 and an adjusted sack rate of only 1.0.

It wasn’t an unideal matchup for the Packers offensive line, but it was not a perfect one either. Without Bakhtiari, who had the best PR-A% in the league before his injury, the Green Bay offensive tackles struggled against two of the NFL’s most recognizable pass rushers, resulting in a tough day for Rodgers.

172 Receiving Yards

Someone wrote last week that containing Tyreek Hill would be a key aspect of a possible Bills victory. Well, they didn’t, and they lost.

The Mahomes – Hill duo was unstoppable on Sunday in the Chiefs’ win over the Bills. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Hill exploded for 172 receiving yards on nine receptions, averaging a whopping 19.1 yards per reception. That mark was aided by a massive 71-yard gain to set up a Travis Kelce touchdown late in the third quarter. Hill failed to score, while Kelce added one more touchdown to his total in the fourth quarter, but his impact was seen throughout the day.

Andy Reid and Eric Bieniemy use Hill all over the field, and he can be extremely difficult to cover when he moves during pre-snap motions. Shannon Sharpe even took to Twitter to marvel at his ability.

Hill is as dynamic as they come, and even an elite cornerback like Tre’Davious White had trouble staying with him. He’ll be a focal point for a Tampa Bay secondary that can be exposed at times.

80.8 Passer Rating

It was Josh Allen’s sixth-lowest passer rating of the season, which is unfortunate timing for the biggest game of his young career.

The Chiefs defense did an exemplary job confusing the 24-year-old QB, as he never seemed to get into a groove. Allen completed 28 of 48 passes for 287 yards and two touchdowns, but he threw a critical interception early in the fourth quarter, leading to a game-icing Kelce touchdown. He averaged just 6.0 yards per attempt, and took four sacks, including a couple of ugly ones.

To make matters worse, Allen received minimal help from his running backs, as Devin Singletary and T.J. Yeldon combined for just 32 rushing yards on nine carries.

Allen looks like he has a bright future ahead of him, and the Bills’ window of opportunity is just opening. If the cards fall in his favor, he should get multiple shots at redeeming himself. But Sunday’s performance is one to forget.

1 Appearance 

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the first team to play the Super Bowl at their home stadium. Prior to this season, in the 54-year stretch of the Super Bowl era, 25 different stadiums had hosted the annual spectacle, and no team had ever appeared in its own stomping grounds.

Raymond James Stadium, home of the Buccaneers and Super Bowl LV. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken)

In 1980, the Los Angeles Rams played in Super Bowl XIV at the Rose Bowl, just 14 miles from their home at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. In 1985, the San Francisco 49ers played in Super Bowl XIX at Stanford Stadium, 30 miles southeast of Candlestick Park.

The 2017 Minnesota Vikings came close to playing Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis but lost to the eventual Super-Bowl-champion Philadelphia Eagles on the road in the NFC Championship.

 

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