CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS FEATURE YOUNG QBS, NEW COACHES
For the fourth time in franchise history the Houston Texans failed to reach the
National Football League’s Conference championship round.
Sunday’s failure at Kansas City against the explosive Chiefs was unbelievably
unique. The Texans became the first team in NFL history to lead by 20 or more points
and then lose by 20 points.
The game started off with the Chiefs looking like a team that would get blown out
by 40 points as they suffered from six dropped passes in the initial period, a blown pass
coverage that led to a Houston touchdown, a blocked punt that was returned for an easy
touchdown and a muffed punt that resulted in another touchdown.
The first quarter ended with the Texans taking a commanding 21-0 lead which
expanded to 24-0 in less than the first five minutes of the second period. In fact, Houston
head coach Bill O’Brien went for the jugular when he called for a fake punt that barely
failed midway through the second period.
But that must have awakened a sleeping giant as the Chiefs didn’t want a repeat
of the 31-24 loss to the Texans on Oct. 13 and came to life in a big way despite that in the
last 10 seasons teams that trailed by 21 points in the first half had finished 12-169.
KC coach Andy Reid went into his huge bag of tricks and pulled out all the stops
as he directed his team to a 28-24 lead at halftime by scoring touchdowns on all four
possessions. They also scored on the first three possessions of the second half, setting an
NFL record of seven scores and 41 straight points on seven tries.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes hid behind the magnificent pass blocking of his
offensive line to riddle the inept Texans’ secondary with his strong right arm and five
touchdowns. When he couldn’t find an open receiver, he picked up huge chunks of
yardage with his legs.
When the final gun sounded, Kansas City had walloped the Texans 51-31 and
earned the right to host the Tennessee Titans Sunday, the Cinderella team of this year’s
playoffs.
As for the Texans—there’s already rumblings about firing O’Brien for not being
able to get his team past the wild card round of the playoffs.
And in Sunday’s game, the team was at full strength, so there should be no
excuses. Houston has gone without a team in the AFC Championship Game since the
Oilers did it after the 1979 season.
Tennessee’s second year head coach Mike Vrabel did what the Texans and
O’Brien couldn’t do—pull an upset on the road.
The Titans shocked top-seeded Baltimore convincingly 28-12 Saturday night and
could very well be headed to NRG Stadium in Houston if the Texans hadn’t collapsed
after scoring 24 unanswered points against Kansas City. But the Titans have a date
against the Chiefs Sunday at 2:05 p.m.
Vrabel concocted a beautiful defense to stop the high-powered Ravens by keeping
quarterback Lamar Jackson running toward the sidelines and not up the middle of the
field where he makes most of his yardage.

Offensively, the Titans turned NFL rushing champion Derrick Henry loose, who
gained 195 yards on 30 carries. Henry also threw a one-yard touchdown pass that
virtually took the wind out of Baltimore’s sails.
Tennessee quarterback Ryan Tannehill only threw 14 passes, connecting on seven
with two going for touchdowns. The former Texas Aggie also ran for a touchdown.
The two homefield favorites came through with wins in the NFC as the top-
seeded San Francisco 49ers breezed past the Minnesota Vikings 27-10 Saturday behind
quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and will host the Conference Championship Game Sunday
at 5:40 p.m.
The Green Bay Packers’ defense had to subdue the determined Seattle Seahawks
28-23 after watching their 28-10 lead disintegrate in the second half. But veteran
quarterback Aaron Rodgers led the Packers to some crucial first downs late in the fourth
quarter to assure the victory.
Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson led the late charge while Marshawn Lynch,
who was rescued from the NFL scrap pile few weeks ago, chipped in with a couple of
one-yard touchdown plunges.
San Francisco walloped Green Bay 37-8 on Nov. 24 and are an early seven-point
favorite Sunday.
Of the four teams competing to play in Super Bowl LIV, only Tennessee has not
won a Super Bowl. The 49ers have five Vince Lombardi Trophies, Green Bay has four
and Kansas City won Super Bowl IV back in 1970.
KWICKIES…My alma mater, McNeese State, is currently looking for a new
head football coach after Sterling Gilbert left the Lake Charles, La. school to accept a
position with the Syracuse football program.
The final head coaching vacancy in the NFL was filled Monday as Kevin
Stefanski was hired to replace the fired Freddie Kitchens. The 37-year-old Stefanski was
narrowly edged out for the Cleveland job last year by Kitchens. He was the offensive
coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings, who he has been with since 2006. He worked
with the Vikings’ running backs, tight ends and quarterbacks under three head coaches.
Stefanski is the sixth head coach hired by Browns owner Jimmy Haslam since he bought
the team in 2012.
Port Arthur native Jimmy Johnson was surprised when it was announced on the
Fox pregame show Sunday that he had been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a
head coach for the Dallas Cowboys. Less than 24 hours earlier, former Pittsburgh
Steelers head coach Bill Cowher also was notified of the same honor on the CBS
pregame show between Houston and Kansas City.
Don’t be surprised if the 2020 Cinderella college football team is the Texas
Longhorns, much like LSU was this season. The ‘Horns have plenty of talent coming
back this fall.
JUST BETWEEN US…The upstart XFL makes it debut Feb. 8 with eight teams
ready to play under some new football rules that will be tested according to
Commissioner Oliver Luck, a former NFL quarterback and longtime football executive.
The new league will have tiered options for extra points worth one, two or three points. It
will allow double forward passes behind the line of scrimmage. In order to speed up
games, a running clock will be used, except in the final two minutes of each half. Overtime will look like the NHL’s version of using “shootouts” with each team getting
up to five chances to score from five yards out.