Four NFL teams remain in the hunt for the Lombardi Trophy, and three of them have a Hawkeye on their roster.
Anthony Hitchens tied for the team lead with seven tackles in Kansas City’s 31-13 drubbing of Indianapolis on Saturday. He also played a key role in this second half fumble by Andrew Luck, which was recovered by Justin Houston.
#Chiefs use the loop with Hitchens again. Same call from a couple series earlier. Ford just goes wider on his rush and Luck doesn’t feel like he can step up. #JacobsEyeInTheSky pic.twitter.com/KHQqJ1AsQd— Nick Jacobs (@Jacobs71) January 15, 2019
The strong performance by the Chiefs defense — a unit that ranked 26th in DVOA — was one of the more surprising storylines from the weekend.
”It’s the approach we were taking out there,” Hitchens said. “It’s not about the stuff that coach (defensive coordinator Bob Sutton) is calling. It’s not about what we’re doing. It’s how we’re doing it. We’re playing with aggressiveness. We’re having fun. We’re jumping around. It’s just a different type of vibe from our defense. It’s never too late and we caught on at the right time.”
Hitchens is joined in the AFC Championship game by fellow Hawkeye and teammate Ben Niemann, who didn’t record any statistics Saturday.
The Chiefs will be a three-point favorite against the New England Patriots, who advanced thanks in part to Adrian Clayborn. Clayborn tallied one sack and three quarterback hits, part of a New England defensive effort that made things hellish for Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers for most of the day in a 41-28 victory that was less competitive than the final score would suggest.
Clayborn, who had only managed 2.5 sacks on the season, had been a healthy scratch for the Patriots’ previous two games.
So much confusion caused by the #Patriots front 7 (or 6...or 5...or 4). Here, Kyle Van Noy engages the left guard then peels back. Left tackle turns out to block the edge. Adrian Clayborn gets a free shot on Rivers. pic.twitter.com/t0kc8x14nR— Michael Giardi (@MikeGiardi) January 14, 2019
Forecasts are calling for an “Arctic Blast” in Kansas City come Sunday, meaning kickoff temperatures as high as 10 and possibly dropping below zero.
James Ferentz remains New England’s backup left guard, while fellow offensive lineman Cole Croston is a member of the practice squad.
Austin Blythe helped drive a dominant offensive showing in the Rams’ 30-22 win over Dallas on Saturday. Los Angeles racked up 459 total yards of offense, including 273 on the ground with both Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson going for 100-plus. He spoke about the impressive performance afterward.
That win sets the Rams up for a date with the NFC’s top-seeded New Orleans Saints in the Superdome on Sunday. Los Angeles is a 3.5-point underdog.
Desmond King came up on the short end of Sunday’s blowout in Foxboro. He had eight tackles and averaged 21.4 yards on five kickoff returns, but struggled in coverage at times against a Patriots attack that was firing on all cylinders, was called for a defensive holding penalty, and muffed a punt.
He didn’t shy away from holding himself accountable for the lackluster performance after an All-Pro season.
Thank you God for an amazing journey and an even better organization. I would like to apologize to the bolt family and all my fans for not having a positive impact on the game yesterday. But i love my brothers and we fought hard all season. WE WILL BE BACK ⚡️— Desmond E. King II (@blaqbadger14) January 14, 2019