Wednesday, February 21, 2024
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Breaking down Lions’ historic collapse, plus Chiefs and 49ers headed for Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas

Welcome to the Monday edition of the Pick Six newsletter!

I hope you’re ready for two weeks of Taylor Swift! I’m just trying to mentally prepare you now because that’s almost certainly what we’re going to be getting with the Kansas City Chiefs advancing to the Super Bowl, where they’ll be facing the San Francisco 49ers, and no, you are not having déjà vu. We did just have that same exact Super Bowl in February 2020. 

Besides Taylor Swift, another thing you might hear NFL fans talking about over the next few weeks is “WHAT WAS DAN CAMPBELL THINKING?” The Lions coach loves to gamble and he bet the house on two different fourth-down plays on Sunday, and he now has no house. 

We’ll be talking about those fourth-down calls in today’s newsletter, plus we’ll be breaking down the Lions’ entire collapse. We’ll also be taking an early look at the Super Bowl, but we won’t go too deep into that since we have the next two weeks to talk about it. 

As always, here’s your weekly reminder to tell all your friends to sign up for the Pick Six newsletter. To get your friends to sign up, all you have to do is click here and then share this link with them. 

1. Today’s show: Breaking down the AFC and NFC title games

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Ryan Wilson, Will Brinson and I almost didn’t record a podcast for today and that’s because we were basically in shock by what happened to the Lions during the second half of their 34-31 loss to the 49ers in the NFC title game. 

For today’s episode, we spent 60 minutes talking about that game plus the Chiefs’ 17-10 win over the Ravens. Here are some of the topics we covered:

  • Did Dan Campbell lose his marbles? The Lions coach has been aggressive all season, but that aggressiveness came back to bite him in the rear end on Sunday. During the second half, the Lions had two different situations where they were facing fourth-and-3 or shorter with the ball inside San Francisco’s 30-yard line. On both occasions, they went for it, and on both occasions, they failed. I’m all for aggressiveness, but I thought Cambell should have kicked a field goal both times. The first kick would have given the Lions a 27-10 lead with seven minutes left in the third quarter. For that one, I think it makes sense to go up three scores. The 49ers opened the second half with a field goal and if you get your own field goal, you basically cancel out their drive. Now, they’re down 17 again with eight less minutes to work with. On the second kick, Campbell could have tied it at 27 with 7:30 left to play, but he decided to go for it on fourth-and-3. The Lions had been outscored 20-0 in the second half up to that point and I think you kick it just to stop the bleeding. You tie the game and then buckle in for a wild ending.
  • Did Brock Purdy shed his game manager label? For the second straight game, the 49ers QB looked overwhelmed and uncomfortable in the first half, but he took over in the second half. With the 49ers trailing 24-7, Purdy came through with a huge half that saw him complete 13 of 16 passes for 174 yards and a touchdown. Purdy also rushed for 52 yards on three scrambles and all three of those scrambles gave the 49ers a first down. It was gutsy performance by a QB who helped the 49ers pull off a historic comeback. 
  • What happened to the Ravens offense? The Ravens had one of the most bizarre offensive game plans of all time. They had the No. 1 rushing attack in the NFL during the regular season, but they only called SIX running plays to their running backs in the entire game. They decided NOT to run the ball against a Chiefs defense that surrendered more than 180 yards rushing against the Bills in the divisional round. It truly was baffling to see the Ravens offense do the opposite of what got them to the playoffs. Lamar Jackson definitely struggled against Kansas City — he threw an ugly interception and lost a fumble — but Todd Monken’s bizarre game plan didn’t do Jackson any favors. 
  • Can anyone beat the Chiefs? It’s starting to feel like the answer to this question is no. Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce proved once again that they’re almost impossible to stop. Even though the Ravens knew that Kelce was going to get the ball, they couldn’t do anything about it on a day where the tight end finished with 11 catches for 116 yards and a TD. It almost seems like the Chiefs got bored with the regular season and they were just waiting for the playoffs to turn it on. 

Not only did we go over each game, but we also took a very early look at Super Bowl XLVIII. To listen to today’s episode, be sure to click here. You can also WATCH today’s episode on YouTube by clicking here

2. Anatomy of a meltdown: How the Lions blew a 17-point halftime lead

So how did the Lions blow a 17-point halftime lead on Sunday? Glad you asked. Jordan Dajani took some time to break down their historic collapse and we’re going to take it closer look at it now. 

The second half turned into a classic case of Murphy’s Law for the Lions: Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. 

  • Failed fourth down. The collapse started when the Lions failed to convert a fourth-and-2 at San Francisco’s 30. The crazy part is that the Lions appeared to have the conversion when Jared Goff threw a bullet to Josh Reynolds, but Reynolds dropped the pass. The Lions could have attempted a field goal to go up three scores, but they went for it instead. Score at the time: Lions lead 24-10
  • Aiyuk’s Acrobatic catch. On the first play after the Lions’ fourth-down failure, Brock Purdy connected with Deebo Samuel for a 17-yard gain. One play later, Brandon Aiyuk caught a 51-yard pass that BOUNCED off the defender’s head (You can see the play here). The grab put the 49ers at Detroit’s 4-yard line and they would score three plays later. Score after the TD: Lions lead 24-17
  • Jahmyr Gibbs loses a fumble. The Lions could have responded to that TD on their next drive, but that hope went out the window when Gibbs fumbled on the first play from scrimmage. The 49ers recovered the fumble, and at that point, it felt like there was no way the Lions were going to win. After the fumble, the 49ers needed just four plays to score a touchdown. Score after the TD: Lions lead 24-24
  • Another failed fourth down. After the 49ers took a 27-24 lead, the Lions got the ball back and they immediately drove down to San Francisco’s 30-yard line where they faced a fourth-and-3. At that point, Dan Cambell could have called for a potential game-tying field goal, but instead, he went for it, and once again, the Lions failed to convert. The 49ers scored seven plays after the fourth-down failure to essentially ice the game. Score after the TD: 49ers lead 34-24

There was also a total defensive meltdown, a couple dropped passes and Detroit’s special teams blew an easy chance to down a 74-YARD punt inside of San Francisco’s 5-yard line (You can see the play here). It was an all-around disaster and it felt more like the Lions choked this game away than the 49ers winning it. 

Dajani covered the full second-half meltdown, and you can check out his full story here

3. 13 crazy stats from the conference title games

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Every Sunday night I get an email from our research department here at CBS Sports, and every Sunday that email always includes some amazingly wild facts about the games that were just played. 

With that in mind, here are 13 crazy facts from the conference title games: 

  1. 49ers pull off biggest comeback in NFC title game history. The 49ers’ 17-point comeback against the Lions was tied for the largest NFC title game comeback in NFL history. The only other 17-point comeback was also pulled off by the 49ers by in a 2012 win over the Falcons. The 17-point comeback was also the largest comeback from a halftime deficit in conference title game history (AFC or NFC). 
  2. 49ers get Lucky 38. The win over the Lions was the 38th playoff victory in franchise history for the 49ers, which is the most by any team in NFL history. The 49ers had previously been tied with the Packers and Patriots for the most ever with 37. 
  3. Purdy good. With the 49ers victory, Brock Purdy now has four playoff wins for his career, which is the second most in NFL history for a player in his first two seasons. Only Ben Roethlisberger (5) has more and Purdy can tie him with a Super Bowl win over the Chiefs. Purdy also had at least one win against every NFC team that made the playoffs, which makes him the first QB to pull off that feat since Joe Montana in 1984. 
  4. Lions’ receiver goes on a run. Jameson Williams scored on a 42-yard run against the 49ers, which was the third-longest TD run by a receiver ever in the playoffs, trailing only James Lofton (71-yard run in 1982 divisional round) and Ahmad Merritt (47-yard run in 2001 divisional round). 
  5. Lions’ road woes continue in the Bay. The Lions have now lost 14 straight road games against the 49ers, which is the longest active streak in the NFL. The 49ers haven’t lost a home game to the Lions since 1975. 
  6. Chiefs pull off AFC title game rarity. The Chiefs scored exactly zero points in the second half, which makes them the first team since the 2010 Steelers to go scoreless in the second half of an AFC title game and still win.
  7. Kelce catches Jerry Rice. With 11 catches against the Ravens, Travis Kelce now has 156 for his postseason career, which is the MOST in NFL history. He moved past Jerry Rice, who finished his career with 151. Kelce now also has 14 playoff games with at least one TD, which is tied with Rice for the most in NFL history.
  8. Mahomes is magic. The Chiefs QB will become the first player to start in four Super Bowls before the age of 30. He also won his 14th postseason game, which is tied for the third most in NFL history, trailing only Tom Brady (35) Joe Montana (16). 
  9. Lamar Jackson loses again in playoffs. With the loss to the Chiefs, the Ravens quarterback now has a career record of 2-4 in the postseason, which is tied for the fifth-worst record of all time for any QB who has started at least five games. 
  10. Ravens can’t get over the hump. The Ravens have won 66 games over the past six seasons, which is tied for the second most in NFL history for a team that didn’t make the Super Bowl during that six-season span. Only the Chargers, who won 67 between 2004 and 2009, won more without making the Super Bowl. 
  11. Chiefs can go back-to-back. The Chiefs have a chance to become the NFL’s first repeat Super Bowl champion since 2003-04 when the Patriots went back-to-back. 
  12. Reid vs. Shanahan, Part II. This will mark just the fourth time in NFL history that two coaches have met in a Super Bowl at least two times. We haven’t seen this happen since Tom Coughlin’s Giants played Bill Belichick’s Patriots two times over five seasons.
  13. Never bet against Mahomes. The Chiefs quarterbacks is now 3-0 as a playoff underdog in his career, which is impressive when you consider that he now has as many underdog wins in the postseason as Brett Favre, Dan Marino, Steve Young and Jim Kelly COMBINED. Those four Hall of Famers went 3-25 as underdogs in the playoffs. 

If you see any other fun facts, feel free to tweet them at me.

4. Early odds for Super Bowl LVIII: 49ers favored, but that could change

When it comes to the Super Bowl, the oddsmakers never waste any time getting the first point spread out. As soon as the clock hit zero in the 49ers’ win over the Lions, oddsmakers around the country released their opening point spread for the game. 

Let’s take a look at where things currently stand (via Caesars Sportsbook)

Super Bowl LVIII — Sunday, Feb. 11 in Las Vegas
(1) 49ers vs. (3) Chiefs, 6:30 p.m. ET (CBS)
Opening line: 49ers (-2.5)
Current line: 49ers (-1)

After watching Patrick Mahomes win two straight playoff games as an underdog, it seems that bettors decided to back him in a big way when the opening point spread for the Super Bowl came out on Sunday night. The 49ers opened as a 2.5-point favorite, but in less than 12 hours, the spread moved by 1.5 points toward the Chiefs and it won’t be surprising if this game ends up being a pick’em. 

This game will mark the eighth time in NFL history that we’re getting a Super Bowl rematch. These two teams met just four years ago in Super Bowl LIV, which is a game that the Chiefs won 31-20. The 49ers were actually leading in that game 20-10 at one point before getting outscored 21-0 in the fourth quarter.

One big storyline to watch is the fact that the Chiefs could become the first team to repeat as champions in 20 years. The NFL hasn’t seen a team go back-to-back since the Patriots won in both 2003 and 2004. This will be the fifth Super Bowl for Andy Reid, who is now tied with Tom Landry for the third-most Super Bowl appearances in NFL history, trailing only Bill Belichick (9) and Don Shula (6). 

Although you’ll be hearing a lot about Patrick Mahomes over the next two weeks, the Chiefs are probably going to need a huge performance from their defense if they want to win. The Chiefs defense gave up the second-fewest points and second-fewest yards this year, and that unit will be going up against a 49ers offense that was the second-highest scoring in the NFL in 2023. 

For a closer look at the early odds and early storylines, be sure to check out our full story here

5. NFL Draft order is almost set

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With the Ravens and Lions now done for the season, that means we just took two steps closer to finalizing the NFL Draft order for 2024. 

With that in mind, here is the official order for the top 30 spots in the draft:

1. Bears (7-10) via 2-15 Panthers
2. Commanders (4-13)
3. Patriots (4-13) 
4. Cardinals (4-13)
5. Chargers (5-12)
6. Giants (6-11)
7. Titans (6-11)
8. Falcons (7-10)
9. Bears (7-10) 
10. Jets (7-10)
11. Vikings (7-10) 
12. Broncos (8-9)
13. Raiders (8-9)
14. Saints (9-8)
15. Colts (9-8)
16. Seahawks (9-8)
17. Jaguars (9-8)
18. Bengals (9-8)
19. Rams (10-7)
20. Steelers (10-7)
21. Dolphins (11-6)
22. Eagles (11-6)
23. Texans (10-7) via Browns 
24. Cowboys (12-5)
25. Packers (9-8)
26. Buccaneers (9-8)
27. Cardinals (4-13) via 10-7 Texans
28. Bills (11-6)
29. Lions (12-5)
30. Ravens (13-4)

Now that we know most of the draft order, you might be wondering how the first round will play out and we have the answer right here in Ryan Wilson’s latest mock draft, so be sure to click over. As for the rest of the draft order, it will officially become finalized after Super Bowl LVIII. 

6. Extra points: It was a big weekend for offensive coordinator hirings

It’s been a busy weekend in the NFL, especially with coordinator hirings, and since it’s nearly impossible to keep track of everything that happened, I went ahead and put together a roundup for you. 

  • Browns hire Ken Dorsey. The former Bills offensive coordinator is headed to Cleveland (Details here). Dorsey was fired during the middle of the season in Buffalo, but he’s landed on his feet and it will now be up to him to make sure the Browns’ offense can work with Deshaun Watson running the show. 
  • Bills give OC job to Joe Brady. The man who replaced Ken Dorsey will be getting the job full-time. After Dorsey was fired, Joe Brady was named the interim offensive coordinator and he was promoted to the full-time job over the weekend
  • Eagles hire Kellen Moore. For the third time in three seasons, Kellen Moore is going to be an offensive coordinator for a different team. In 2022, Moore was the OC in Dallas. After parting ways with the Cowboys, he jumped ship to the Chargers for the 2023 season. For the 2024 season, Moore is expected to be in Philadelphia as Nick Sirianni’s offensive coordinator
  • Falcons make offensive coordinator hire. The Falcons also have a new offensive coordinator. New coach Raheem Morris has decided to bring Zac Robinson with him from Los Angeles. Robinson was the QB coach and passing game coordinator for the Rams over the past two seasons and he had been in L.A. as an assistant coach since 2019. He worked three seasons in L.A. with Morris, who was the Rams’ DC from 2021 thru 2023. 
  • Commanders set to interview Mike Macdonald and Dan Quinn. It’s a big week for the Commanders. The team is planning to interview Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald along with Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. 
  • Seahawks also set for two big interviews. Macdonald is going to be busy, because he’s also going to interview with the Seahawks this week, according to NFL.com. Seattle also plans on interviewing Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson. After the Commanders and Seahawks finish their interviews, it won’t be surprising if one or both teams end up making a hire at some point over the next week. If you want the latest on all the hiring news, be sure to follow our coaching tracker here

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