After the Chiefs went to Baltimore and took care of the Ravens as underdogs and the 49ers were able to come back from a huge first-half deficit to take care of the Lions in San Francisco on Championship Sunday in the NFL, Super Bowl LVIII is set and Kansas City is not favored to win their second consecutive title. (Betting against Patrick Mahomes usually works out so well…)
The matchup between the Niners and Chiefs, a rematch of Super Bowl LIV in which Kansas City was favored by 1.5 points (and covered), is going to be dissected ad nauseam for the next two weeks, and fans can expect plenty of interesting storylines to emerge and a whole lot of Taylor Swift. That being the case, there’s going to plenty of time to weigh if Mahomes will be able to nab his third Super Bowl MVP award and firmly establish himself as a challenger to Tom Brady’s GOAT status.
So, instead of looking ahead to what’s to come in two weeks in Las Vegas, let’s take a look back at how the season got to this point and the Ravens and Lions blew their respective chances to make it to Super Bowl LVIII.
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Why the Ravens lost…
Hosting the AFC Championship Game for the first time in the history of their franchise, the Baltimore Ravens certainly played as if they had not been in that situation before and beat themselves as much as the Kansas City Chiefs defeated them 17-10 on Sunday.
Facing a Kansas City team that has struggled to score points all season, the Ravens left Mahomes’s favorite target Travis Kelce uncovered for much of the afternoon and allowed him to catch 11 passes for 116 yards and a touchdown. Mahomes, who went 30-of-39 for 241 yards and a touchdown, didn’t have a great game, but he didn’t have to as the Ravens made mistake after mistake.
There were plenty, but the worst may have been Baltimore rookie receiver Zay Flowers getting a well-deserved flag for taunting after he spun the ball while standing directly above KC cornerback L’Jarius Sneed after catching a 54-yard pass from Lamar Jackson. Flowers, who subsequently fumbled into the end zone to take six points off the board for a Ravens team that scored 28.4 points per game in the regular season, cost his team 15 yards with the penalty and Baltimore was unable to recover and get a touchdown.
Always an emotional team, the Ravens looked as if they just weren’t quite ready to host a championship game and the Chiefs, who will be playing in their fourth Super Bowl in five years, were ready and willing to take advantage.
“I’m not frustrated at all,” Jackson said following the loss. “I’m angry about losing. We were a game away from the Super Bowl. We’ve been waiting all this time, all these moments for an opportunity like this, and we fell short, but I feel like our team is going to build. This offseason, we’re going to get right, get better, grind and try to be in this position again but on the other side of victory.”
If the Ravens play like they did on Sunday, they won’t be and it may be time to look at head coach John Harbaugh…
Why the Lions lost…
It would be very easy, and possibly justified, to blame Detroit’s loss on Lions coach Dan Campbell for repeatedly going for it on fourth and short only to see his team fail to convert, but what happened in Sunday night’s NFC Championship game was more than that.
Leading 24-7 at halftime, the Lions were unable to stop a nosebleed in the second half against the 49ers and gave up huge chunks of yardage on the way to a 34-31 loss that probably could have been avoided if the Lions kicked more field goals. They didn’t, as Campbell stayed aggressive despite his team having a big lead, and Detroit was unable to hold on against a 49ers team that started getting all the bounces after halftime.
Touted as a huge reason for Detroit’s success this season, Campbell’s aggressiveness blew up in his face and was not aided by receivers dropping passes once pressure started to build. The Lions had the game in their hands, but they couldn’t hold onto it — and the 49ers took it.
“I don’t care how much better we get or what we add or what we draft. It’s irrelevant,” Campbell said after the game. “It’s gonna be tough. Everybody in our division’s gonna be loaded back up. And, you know, you’re not hiding from anybody anymore. Everybody’s gonna want a piece of you. Which is fine, you know. Which is fine. So it’s hard. You wanna make the most of every opportunity. And we had an opportunity and we couldn’t close it out.”
If the Lions had caught a few more catchable passes and settled for field goals to bank points instead of attempting to convert fourth downs against a defense that proved itself capable of hanging tough, perhaps they would have. If Detroit’s pass defense, which was a weakness all year, was better, the Lions definitely would have closed it out.