Sunday was a mixed day for former Patriots involved in Conference Championship weekend.
Titans head coach Mike Vrabel, who was a linebacker for the Patriots from 2001-08, wasn’t able to work the same magic he used to defeat the Patriots and Ravens in the first two rounds as his team fell to the Kansas City Chiefs, 35-24, in the AFC Championship Game.
After riding running back Derrick Henry to a 17-7 lead in the second quarter, the Titans gave up 28 straight points and trailed 35-17 in the fourth quarter.
Vrabel failed to make the proper adjustments as the Titans offense stalled in the second half. Henry ran for just six yards in the second half while the Chiefs controlled the ball with two long touchdown drives in the half.
Tennessee didn’t score again until there was 4:18 when Ryan Tannehill connected with Anthony Firkser for a 22-yard touchdown pass. But that was too little, too late.
Former Patriots running back Dion Lewis wasn’t much of a factor in the Titans’ offense. With Henry taking most of the load for Tennessee’s ground game, Lewis didn’t have a single rushing attempt and only caught one pass for six yards.
Former Patriots cornerback Logan Ryan made his presence known. Despite the loss, he finished with six tackles (the second-most for any Titans player in the game), including a tackle for a loss.
For Patriots fans who were rooting for familiar faces to do well on Sunday, the NFC Championship Game was a better result.
Jimmy Garoppolo, who was once considered by some to be the heir to Tom Brady’s quarterback throne in New England, is heading to the Super Bowl after his San Francisco 49ers defeated the Green Bay Packers, 37-20.
Garoppolo didn’t have to do much in order for the 49ers to win on Sunday. He only threw eight passes, completing six of them for 77 yards. His main objective was to hand the ball off to Raheem Mostert and get out of the way. The running back ran for 220 yards (second-most in NFL playoff history) on 29 attempts to go along with four touchdowns on the day.
Super Bowl LIV won’t be Garoppolo’s first Super Bowl. He made it there twice with the Patriots. But it will be Garoppolo’s first Super Bowl start.
Garoppolo is excited to make the start, to say the least.
“It’s been a crazy whirlwind of a ride,” Garoppolo told reporters after Sunday’s game. “And nowhere else I’d rather be than in a dogfight with than with those guys in the locker room. Great group to be with, everyone pulling together and everyone tight together. Just a great group, it really is.”
Joining Garoppolo for his first Super Bowl start is former Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker. The Patriots’ old slot receiver is now the 49ers’ wide receivers coach.
The Super Bowl hasn’t been a kind game to Welker. He lost in both Super Bowls he played in during his time in New England. The first loss was in Super Bowl XLII where the Patriots’ quest for a perfect season came to a crashing end with a 17-14 loss to the New York Giants.
Welker’s second Super Bowl loss came in Super Bowl XLVI where the Patriots lost again to the Giants, 21-17, and Welker dropped a pass the could have sealed the game for New England.
Welker also played in Super Bowl XLVIII for the Denver Broncos, who were beaten up by the Seattle Seahawks, 43-8.
Maybe Garoppolo will be the quarterback that leads Welker to his first Super Bowl win.