Re­matches a com­mon thread for Sun­day slate

Baltimore Sun - - NFL - By Barry Wilner

The con­fer­ence cham­pi­onships will be all about re­matches, in­clud­ing a clas­sic ri­valry in the NFC.

The San Fran­cisco 49ers will host Green Bay af­ter the Packers held on to edge the un­der­manned Seat­tle Sea­hawks, 28-23, at Lam­beau Field on Sun­day. Th­ese teams met in Novem­ber, a 37-8 romp for the Nin­ers, but their post­sea­son his­tory in­cludes some tight games. They will be meet­ing in the play­offs for the eighth time, all since 1995. Green Bay leads 4-3.

In the AFC, the Kansas City Chiefs’ siz­zling come­back from a 24-0 hole to a 51-31 vic­tory over the Hous­ton Tex­ans sets up a re­match of a Novem­ber loss to the Ten­nessee Ti­tans. The Ti­tans also beat the Chiefs in a 2017 wild-card game.

NFC

Like Hous­ton, Green Bay (14-3) built a siz­able lead. Thanks to the re­ceiv­ing of Davante Adams ( eight catches for 160 yards and two TDs) and some key com­ple­tions late by Aaron Rodgers, the Packers sur­vived af­ter Seat­tle stormed back.

“He had an un­be­liev­able night, car­ried us on of­fense,” Rodgers said of Adams. “His route-run­ning abil­ity is just un­be­liev­able.

“We started off the game the right way, we fin­ished the right way.”

Sea­hawks quar­ter­back Rus­sell Wil­son threw for 277 yards and rushed for 64, while Mar­shawn Lynch scored two touch­downs.

The 49ers (14-3) romped past Min­nesota 27-10 on Satur­day with a bal­anced per­for­mance. They set a fran­chise play­off record by al­low­ing only 147 yards to the Vik­ings.

Jimmy Garop­polo threw a TD pass on his open­ing drive as a play­off starter and then mostly watched his de­fense and run­ning game (186 yards) take over. Two turnovers also hurt Min­nesota, and Tevin Cole­man rushed for 105 yards and two scores.

AFC

The Chiefs se­cured their place Sun­day by get­ting four touch­down passes from Patrick Ma­homes in the sec­ond quar­ter.

Ma­homes threw for five scores, three to star tight end Travis Kelce. Damien Wil­liams also scored three times and sec­ond-seeded KC (13-4) never was chal­lenged af­ter tak­ing the lead at half­time.

“I mean, it was an amaz­ing thing. Ev­ery­thing was work­ing,” Ma­homes said. “The play calls were open, every­body was get­ting open against man cov­er­age which we’ve been preach­ing all sea­son long, and guys were making plays.”

So now it’s on to host­ing the AFC cham­pi­onship con­test again; the Chiefs lost in over­time to the Pa­tri­ots a year ago.

The last time Kansas City and Ten­nessee met was also the last time the Chiefs were beaten, 35-32 in Nashville on Nov. 10. Ryan Tan­nehill threw a 23-yard touch­down pass to Adam Humphries with 23 sec­onds left, and Joshua Kalu blocked a last-sec­ond field goal at­tempt.

The Ti­tans also beat the Chiefs 22-21 in Kansas City in that 2017 wild-card game.

“We’ve al­ready played them and we know they’re a tough team,” Ma­homes said. “They’re a team that bat­tles all the way un­til the end. They’re a team that’s re­ally hot, play­ing re­ally good foot­ball right now, so we know it’s go­ing to take our best ef­fort. And, what­ever way, we’ve got to find a way to win. That’s the big­gest thing you saw here to­day was we’ve just got to find a way no mat­ter what.”

No. 6 seed Ten­nessee (11-7) won its sec­ond straight road play­off game with a sim­i­lar ap­proach: feed Der­rick Henry. The stand­out run­ning back dom­i­nated in New Eng­land in the wild-card round and was again un­stop­pable at Bal­ti­more. Henry is the first player with two games of 175 rush­ing yards or more in the same post­sea­son. He has set the post­sea­son sin­gle-game rush­ing record for the Ti­tans in con­sec­u­tive weeks.

He also has the most yards rush­ing through his first four post­sea­son games at 561.

And, get this, he threw a 3-yard touch­down jump pass at Bal­ti­more — the first by a run­ning back in the play­offs since1987, when Allen Rice of Min­nesota man­aged it.

“It’s go­ing to be grind, grind, grind and then he’s go­ing to bust one,” Ti­tans coach Mike Vra­bel said.

Ten­nessee’s de­fense isn’t likely to col­lapse the way Hous­ton’s did, and the Ti­tans al­most cer­tainly will stick with their so-far highly suc­cess­ful game plan of con­trol­ling mat­ters on the ground.

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