Tennessee Titans safety Kenny Vaccaro’s game-sealing interception against the top-seeded Baltimore Ravens highlighted the play among former Longhorns during this past weekend’s divisional playoff round. Entering the weekend, 13 Longhorns remained in the postseason. But with losses on the part of Baltimore and Seattle Seahawks, that number was more than cut in half, as seven of the 13 players were on the aforementioned teams.
Entering conference championship weekend – for the 15th consecutive season – it’s a guarantee that at least one former Longhorn will compete in this year’s Super Bowl. Along with Vaccaro, Chiefs defensive end Alex Okafor and 49ers wide receiver Marquise Goodwin remain in contention for a ring.
Two former Longhorn cornerbacks got a piece of the action on special teams in this game. But as a whole, Minnesota’s special teams unit was particularly bad. They muffed a punt while trailing 24-10, putting them completely out of striking distance.
- Vikings rookie cornerback Kris Boyd made a nice tackle on punt coverage inside the 10-yard line. Jimmy Garoppolo ended up throwing an interception on San Francisco’s ensuing drive. Known for his ability to tackle in open space, Boyd has impressed the Vikings’ coaching staff as a gunner for Minnesota this season. In particular, he’s shown an aptitude for taking quality tackling angles and finishing tackles ever since he was a freshman at Texas.
- Second-year cornerback Holton Hill was flagged with a 15-yard late hit penalty on kickoff coverage to start the second half. He was also in at cornerback throughout the fourth quarter, while Minnesota trailed by two scores.
Tennessee Titans 28, Baltimore Ravens 12
Running behind a dominate offensive line, Titans running back Derrick Henry – “the King” – was by far the best player on the field in this game. Henry made Baltimore’s defensive backs, including Thomas, look silly while attempting to bring him down in the open field.
Tennessee’s deep touchdown through the air came when Thomas picked up Henry on a designed play-action pass. Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey simply got beat one-on-one and had no help overtop.
- Justin Tucker hit a 49-yard field goal to put Baltimore on the board. Another chip shot right before halftime cut the deficit to 14-6.
- Earl Thomas notched his first career postseason sack on a designed blitz call in the redzone. Unfortunately, the Titans scored a touchdown on their following third-down play thanks to an impressive one-handed snag by tight end Jonnu Smith. Thomas finished the game as Baltimore’s leading tackler with seven total tackles (2 TFL).
- While up 28-6 with Baltimore driving, Titans safety Kenny Vaccaro made the defensive play of the game for Tennessee. He jumped a route ran at the sticks on third-down, snagged the ball with his fingertips, and secured the interception with full control all the way to the ground, showing an incredibly high IQ football play from the veteran defensive back.
Credit Tennessee for picking up Vaccaro, who was overlooked due to his age, as a free agent last season. Now, he’s one win away from playing in the Super Bowl in his first career postseason. Things couldn’t have possibly worked out any better for the 28-year-old safety.
In what was the most bizarre playoff game since the 2014 Wild Card matchup between the Chiefs and Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City prevailed behind elite quarterback Patrick Mahomes and their explosive offense, albeit predictably.
- Texans rookie Charles Omenihu was one of many Texans to jump offsides against Mahomes.
- Chiefs defensive end Alex Okafor is out for the season with a torn pectoral injury that he suffered back on Dec. 15.
Green Bay Packers 28, Seattle Seahawks 23
After nearly blowing a three-score lead, Green Bay got the benefit of a Lambeau Field spot to help hold off Seattle’s comeback.
- Seahawks punter Michael Dickson had a phenomenal game kicking in Green Bay’s cold weather. He averaged 53.7 yards on three punts, two of which were pinned inside the 15-yard line.
- Safety Quandre Diggs and defensive tackle Poona Ford each started for Seattle on defense. Ford assisted on a tackle and Diggs notched four tackles of his own, including a touchdown saving goal-line stand hit against Green Bay running back Aaron Jones. Unfortunately, the Seahawks jumped offsides on the next play and Green Bay punched it in from inches out.