Mon Jan 20 7:30pm ET
By JOSH DUBOW
AP Pro Football Writer
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) celebrates after converting a first down against the Green Bay Packers during the first half of the NFL NFC Championship football game Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, center, and general manager John Lynch, right, celebrate while interviewed by Terry Bradshaw after the NFL NFC Championship football game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020, in Santa Clara, Calif. The 49ers won 37-20 to advance to Super Bowl 54 against the Kansas City Chiefs. Also pictured at bottom left is Mike Shanahan. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, center, celebrates with players during the second half of the NFL NFC Championship football game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020, in Santa Clara, Calif. The 49ers won 37-20 to advance to Super Bowl 54 against the Kansas City Chiefs. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) As the celebration raged in the victorious 49ers locker room, general manager John Lynch showed off a ''Mobile to Miami'' T-shirt that symbolized the turnaround in San Francisco.
The team that was so bad a year ago that the coaching staff got rewarded with a week coaching the Senior Bowl in Alabama is now playing for the championship in the Super Bowl on Feb. 2 in Miami against the Kansas City Chiefs.
''It is amazing,'' defensive lineman Arik Armstead said. ''It means a lot to us, especially going through all of the adversity that we went through over the past couple of years. To be going to the Super Bowl and have the chance to be the top of the league is amazing.''
The 49ers (15-3) got there thanks to a big-play running game led by Raheem Mostert that rushed for 285 yards and a defense that tormented Aaron Rodgers in a 37-20 win over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
That sent the Niners to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 2012 season.
Only a handful of players such as cornerback Richard Sherman, tackle Joe Staley, receiver Emmanuel Sanders and center Ben Garland have Super Bowl playing experience.
Coach Kyle Shanahan went there once before as an offensive coordinator for Atlanta in the 2016 season when the Falcons memorably blew a 28-3 lead and lost 34-28 in overtime to New England.
Shanahan took lessons from that game, including never feeling comfortable with a lead. But the biggest thing he learned was how to approach Super Bowl week.
He plans to have a normal week of practice before the team leaves for Miami, with coaches putting in the game plan on Tuesday and then players returning Wednesday for three straight days of practice.
The players will then get Saturday off before leaving for the game on Sunday and getting another week of preparation in Miami.
''We try to do everything before,'' Shanahan said. ''We definitely know we have the whole week when we get there. But there's different media obligations that get you out of your routine and everything. You don't want to play catch-up at the end of the Super Bowl week. You want to do that now.''
Running game. One week after Tevin Coleman ran for 105 yards and two TDs, Mostert did even better. Mostert had 29 carries for 220 yards and four touchdowns, posting the second-best rushing total in playoff history to Eric Dickerson's 248 yards for the Rams on Jan. 4, 1986. Mostert had the 11th game since 1950 with at least 200 yards rushing and at least four TDs.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Not much. Just about everything is going right for the Niners, who have won back-to-back playoff games in the season by at least 17 points for the fourth time in franchise history. The first three times that happened ended in championships following the 1984, '88 and '89 seasons. The defense did allow a couple of big pass plays in the second half but the game was well in hand by then and that caused little damage.
CB Emmanuel Moseley. Thrown back into the starting lineup after Ahkello Witherspoon got benched against Minnesota, Moseley came up with one of the biggest defensive plays of the game. He intercepted Aaron Rodgers late in the first half to set up Mostert's third TD run that made it 27-0. Moseley will be counted on again in the Super Bowl against the high-powered Chiefs passing game.
Garoppolo's stats. Jimmy Garoppolo threw the ball only eight times against the Packers, the third fewest for a team in a playoff game since at least 1940. Only the Dolphins threw it less in the playoffs with six and seven attempts on the way to the Super Bowl title following the 1973 season. Garoppolo completed six of the throws for 77 yards but was asked to do little with the defense and running game playing so well.
Coleman left the game with a dislocated shoulder. He was undergoing an MRI on Monday to determine the severity but Shanahan said he expects Coleman will have a chance to play. ... S Jaquiski Tartt irritated a rib injury that sidelined him for the final four games of the regular season but should be OK for the Super Bowl.
25.2. The Niners have passed on just 25.2% of plays this postseason, including sacks. San Francisco has run the 89 times in two playoff games, becoming the first team in 16 years to post back-to-back 40-carry games in a single postseason. Carolina did it following the 2003 season on the way to a Super Bowl loss.
The Niners seek their record-tying sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks in Miami. Only the Patriots and Steelers have won six Super Bowls.
Five Hot Plays: Week 8
Carolina Panthers kicker Joey Slye made one field goal and a pair of extra points in a 25-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Slye didn't get many opportunities in this one, as Carolina made just one trip to the red zone against a surprisingly resurgent Falcons' defense. There's not much that a kicker can do when he's simply not seeing the opportunities. With that said, Slye may be needed more in Week 9 against Kansas City, as the Panthers will probably have to put up a lot of points to win.
The Carolina Panthers Defense had an average day in a 25-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Carolina registered two sacks and an interception, holding strong on Atlanta's first two trips to the red zone. However, they couldn't stop the Falcons from marching down the field, ultimately surrendering 25 points to their division rival. At this point, there's nothing to suggest that the Panthers' defense is worthy of streaming for fantasy purposes. Don't even think about starting them in Week 9, as they face the Chiefs.
Carolina Panthers wide receiver Curtis Samuel enjoyed his most productive game of the season in a losing effort against Atlanta. Samuel caught four of five targets for 31 receiving yards and carried the ball three times for 23 rushing yards. The 24-year-old made a nice run in the red zone to start the scoring for the Panthers, then hauled in a deep pass from Teddy Bridgewater on a flea-flicker. It's Samuel's second straight game with a rushing touchdown. This was an encouraging performance from the former Buckeye, though it's worth noting that he was held under 50 receiving yards for the seventh time in eight games. He'll be a low-end flex at best in Week 9 against the Chiefs.
Carolina Panthers tight end Ian Thomas caught all three targets for 28 receiving yards in a 25-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. It was a juicy matchup for Thomas, but he certainly didn't exploit it, as his modest stat-line will support. His three targets were the most he's seen in weeks, though he seemed to surrender some playing time to fellow tight end Chris Manhertz. It's best to avoid Thomas completely until he picks up his production.
Carolina Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore had a quiet game in a 25-17 loss to the Falcons on Thursday Night Football. Moore caught two of six targets for 55 receiving yards, including a huge 42-yard reception on a 3rd-and-17 in the fourth quarter. In a strange turn of events, Moore went without a catch until the final drive of the fourth quarter. Fortunately, the 23-year-old still saw six targets, second on the team to only fellow wideout Robby Anderson. There should be better days ahead for Moore, as he had compiled at least 93 receiving yards in three straight contests coming into this one. He'll get a Week 9 matchup against Kansas City in what could turn out to be a high-scoring affair.
Carolina Panthers running back Mike Davis carried the ball 13 times for 66 rushing yards and caught one of two targets for 11 receiving yards in a loss to the Falcons. The 27-year-old disappointed in likely his last ride as the Panthers' lead back, as Christian McCaffrey (ankle) is expected to return in Week 9 against Kansas City. Davis was a PPR machine in McCaffrey's absence, with at least six targets in four games as the starter. He was so impressive at times that it's possible he earned himself a bigger role, though it likely won't amount to much with McCaffrey around to gobble up the majority of the touches. Keep Davis rostered until we find out McCaffrey is back for sure.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Russell Gage finished Thursday's win with two receptions for 25 yards on three targets. Gage continued to show his inconsistency on Thursday after coming into the game having gotten at least 54 yards in the past two contests. The WR is definitely streaky, which makes him a risky play most weeks. An ankle injury suffered by fellow wideout Calvin Ridley is worth monitoring. If Ridley cannot play next Sunday, Gage's value will surely go up, but it would still be hard to trust him for good production given his lackluster numbers this season.
Carolina Panthers wide receiver Robby Anderson hauled in five of eight targets for 48 receiving yards in a 25-17 loss to the Falcons. It could have been a bigger day for the former Jet, as he nearly made a one-handed touchdown grab on a throw from backup P.J. Walker, who came in relief of Teddy Bridgewater for one series. It certainly didn't help Anderson that Bridgewater was under constant pressure the whole night. However, his fantasy managers can take solace in the fact that he's now seen at least eight targets in six of eight contests this season. That sort of volume should keep him in the WR2 mix next week, even in a tough matchup against Kansas City.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones had seven receptions for 137 yards on 10 targets in the Week 8 win over Carolina. For the past three weeks, the WR has been playing at a tremendous level and has gotten at least seven receptions, nine targets, and 97 yards the past three games. His volume keeps him in the WR1 tier each week.
Carolina Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater completed 15 of 23 passes for 176 yards and a touchdown along with 30 yards rushing on five attempts in a 25-17 loss to Atlanta. Bridgewater left the game after taking a nasty hit in the third quarter, but he was able to return after making it through the league's concussion protocol. The 27-year-old made some nice throws when he was given time, including a beautiful deep ball to Curtis Samuel on a flea-flicker. Unfortunately, he was constantly under pressure, as he was sacked twice and hit six times by the Falcons Defense. A bounce-back could be in the cards next week- Carolina may need to rely on Bridgewater's arm in Week 9 against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley finished with three receptions for 42 yards on four targets in Week 8. The WR went down with an ankle injury in the first half of the game and didn't return. Managers will now have to monitor the status of the WR heading into the Week 9 clash against the Broncos.
Atlanta Falcons tight end Hayden Hurst finished with five receptions for 54 yards on seven targets in the Week 8 win over Carolina. Hurst has now seen seven targets in the past two games and has gotten at least 50 yards in four of the past five games. The TE has a decent role in this offense and the latest numbers are backing that up. Hurst should be considered a low-end TE1 each week given his consistency.
Atlanta Falcons running back Brian Hill finished with 11 carries for 55 yards and two receptions for nine yards on Thursday. It was the RB2 of the team who surprisingly led in rush yards, but this was a rare occurrence. Hill doesn't see enough weekly touches to merit good fantasy value going forward.
Atlanta Falcons running back Todd Gurley II finished Thursday night's win with 18 carries for 46 yards and a score. The back still had a decent night despite Brian Hill getting more rushing yards total. Gurley has now had at least 18 carries in the past three games and has three rushing touchdowns in the past two games. With a steady number of carries each week, the RB should remain in the low-end RB1/high-end RB2 tier every week.
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan went 21-for-30 and gained 281 yards and one interception in the Thursday night win over the Panthers. It was a rainy game and many players were clearly affected by the conditions. Ryan finished with an average night, which he has sometimes had this season. With a high-powered offense, the QB should remain in the starting tier most weeks, but is most effective in favorable matchups.
Teddy Bridgewater, after being tripped while trying to scramble, took a shot to the head as he fell to the ground against the Falcons. Obviously, the first concern after a hit to the head is a concussion. Bridgewater's head abruptly twisted to the side and he went into the tent shortly thereafter. The Panthers' backup tonight is XFL sweetheart, P.J. Walker.
Calvin Ridley has been ruled out for the Falcons' Week 8 game against the Panthers. He was tackled by a defender and his left foot got caught under the defender. Ridley immediately grabbed his left foot and went to the locker room. His status for Week 9 will now be in question.
New York Jets running back La'Mical Perine has been buried on the depth chart for most of the season. However, head coach Adam Gase mentioned last week that he wants to get Perine more involved. Perine was on the field for 70 percent of the offensive snaps during the Week 7 loss to the Buffalo Bills. He saw 11 carries for 40 yards and a touchdown in the loss. He'll get a decent matchup here against the Kansas City Chiefs who are average against the run this season. Perine could be worth looking at as a desperation option for owners in need of a running back.
New York Jets wide receiver Jamison Crowder (groin) was able to go through limited practice on Thursday. That is actually an upgrade since Crowder sat out of practice the day prior. Crowder has been basically the only bright spot for this team all season long. His absence would doom the Jets chances of doing anything at all on offense versus the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 8. Crowder has seen 10 or more targets in each game that he has played in this season. He'll be a reliable WR2, assuming he suits up here.
New York Jets running back Frank Gore has seen a significant role in the backfield this season. The departure of Le'Veon Bell has opened up lead back duties for Gore over the last few weeks. Sadly, the Jets offensive line and team as a whole is horrible this season. Gore has done what he can, but will likely see his role decrease going forward. Head coach Adam Gase wants to see La'Mical Perine more involved in the offense. That means, Gore is going to be a tough option to trust versus the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 8.