In the first weekend of its kind in the NFL, we were treated to a fantastic super wild card weekend. The addition of the extra playoff spot in each conference wasn’t welcomed by everyone but you have to imagine they are rethinking their stance after the weekend we were just treated to. Three games on Saturday, another three on Sunday, and every one of them was entertaining. Defensive stops and offensive shots kept all NFL fans glued to the TV for about ten hours each day. Let’s have a look at what happened during our first-ever Super Wild Card Weekend.
NFL Super Wild Card Weekend Roundup
Indianapolis Colts 24 – 27 Buffalo Bills
In what was predicted to be a big win for the Buffalo Bills the Indianapolis Colts on super wild card weekend, almost stunned everyone. It came down to a hail mary attempt at the end for Phillip Rivers and he couldn’t get it into the hands of his receiver. The fact that it came to this though can be blamed on some questionable coaching decisions.
The rise of analytics in the game has been enjoyable for fans as we have more fourth-down attempts and more attempts at going for two points after a touchdown. However, when you’re the fan of a team that lost by three points, failed on a fourth down and a two-point attempt then you can be forgiven for just wanting the points on the board. With just under two minutes left in the first half, the Colts found themselves leading by three and on fourth and goal from the four-yard line.
A field goal would have given the Colts a six-point lead and very little time on the clock for the Bills to react. Instead, Frank Reich dialed up a play on fourth down and Rivers watched as his pass intended for Michael Pittman Jr sailed incomplete. Indianapolis then had to watch as the Bills marched 96 yards down the field and scored a touchdown in one minute and 36 seconds.
If the Colts had kicked the field goal then we could have had a tied game at the end but the game moved on and the Colts were still in it. Let’s go to the start of the fourth quarter and the Colts have just scored a 9-yard touchdown to Zach Pascal. After some missed field goals they felt that they had to go for two.
The attempt failed and the Colts have now left four points on the field, four points that would have won them the game. I know that they were forced into the two-point attempt and the first fourth-down attempt, it was probably the sensible option to go for it, but this is January Playoff football. Get the points on the board cause when it comes to this time of year anything can happen.
All that being said we were treated to a fantastic opening contest in Super Wild Card Weekend where we saw two quarterback throw for over 300 yards and two scores and we saw big defensive performances from both teams. In the end, it was Josh Allen, who had a great game linking up with star receiver Stefon Diggs (128 yards on 9 catches and a score), and the rest of his squad who marched into the divisional round.
Los Angeles Rams 30 – 20 Seattle Seahawks
As predicted this match was the defensive battle that we all thought we would get on super wild card weekend. By the half, Aaron Donald had two sacks of his own and Leonard Floyd added another one. To go with the sacks, Darious Williams added an interception of his own that he returned to the house. This gave the Rams a healthy lead just as Russell Wilson finally managed to hook up with D.K. Metcalf. On a play that looked completely blown up, Wilson somehow managed to scramble around, as he always does, and launched a deep ball 51 yards to a grateful Metcalf. All of a sudden the Seahawks were back in the game.
On the next drive, the Rams would go seventy yards in five plays and cap it off with a Cam Akers rushing touchdown to regain the ten-point lead that they would take to the half. Unfortunately in a defensive battle, you tend to see the quarterbacks getting hit and this game certainly had that. John Wolford would get the start for the Rams after the Jared Goff injury in Week 16.
A quarterback with one game of NFL experience gets a start in the playoffs and the chance to show what he is capable of. Unfortunately on just his second drive of the day, he suffered a brutal looking injury to his neck and he was taken straight to the hospital. Goff would have to come in and lead his team with a broken thumb. Despite throwing for under a hundred yards in the first half he led his team into the locker room with a lead.
Sean McVay is extremely good when he has the lead at the half. Heading into their wildcard matchup McVay boasts a record of 36-0 when leading at the half. The ability to prevent the comeback is quite fantastic and something that some other teams should take note of ..cough cough Atlanta Falcons cough cough…. With that being said the Rams must have been pretty confident heading into the second half even if they have a quarterback who can’t throw the ball.
Confidence was absolutely right. The defensive battle went on but when Jared Goff found Robert Woods in the end zone during the fourth quarter the Rams found themselves up 30-13. Wilson managed to find Metcalf for a consolation score but it was too little too late for the Seahawks. A big defensive display from the Los Angeles Rams saw them head into the divisional round but a key point to watch will be the fitness of Aaron Donald who appeared to have a rib injury late on in this one.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31 – 23 Washington Football Team
Most predictions had this game as a big win for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, then the news came out that their starting quarterback wasn’t able to suit up. Surely Washington had no chance in this one right. Well, they found themselves still in the game late in the fourth. Washington’s story throughout the season has been one of hard work and grit and they needed all of that in this one. In the first half, they had five drives and only one of them ended positively. Three punts an interception and one touchdown and yet they only found themselves down 18-7.
Unfortunately for Washington, the Buccaneers are undefeated this year when leading at the half. Tom Brady rolled back the years yet again as he continued his fine performances to finish the regular season. Another 381 passing yards and two scores were enough as he led his team into the divisional round of the playoffs. Throughout the game, Brady found six different receivers with four of them going for more than forty yards.
Antonio Brown and Chris Godwin were the lucky two to catch touchdown passes, both of which came in the first half. Much was also made about the injury to Mike Evans and whether or not he could suit up, let alone play. He finished the game with 6 catches for 119 yards. Safe to say Tom Brady was happy to have his number one receiver back.
Taylor Heinicke stepped into the starting role for the playoff game and performed admirably. After the interception on his second drive, he settled down and went on to finish the game with more than 300 passing yards, a passing touchdown, and a rushing one. Linking up well with Cam Sims (7 catches for 104 yards) Heinicke may have done enough to at least force Ron Rivera into thinking about using him as a starter next year. At the very least he should be in line to make some big money as a back-up somewhere.
In the end, Tom Brady continues his postseason excellence as he racks up his 31st playoff win. That is eight more than Washington has managed as a franchise. Tampa Bay progress to the divisional round and Washington go into an offseason where they have some questions to answer on the offensive side of the ball.
Baltimore Ravens 20 – 13 Tennessee Titans
Another game that didn’t follow that script that had been written. Derrick Henry to run all over the Ravens, Lamar Jackson to run all over the Titans and a load of points to be scored. Only one of these predictions came true. Lamar Jackson came out in what felt like a must-win game for him personally and was rocked early on. Tennessee scored a touchdown on their second drive of the game and then Jackson came out and threw a horrendous interception right into the hands of Malcolm Butler (his first that since play against Seattle). Once he got that out of his system he settled in and played like he had done to finish the season.
So an A.J. Brown touchdown gave the Titans an early lead which they followed up with a field goal to score ten unanswered points. It is well known that Baltimore is a completely different team when playing from behind but they proved the doubters in this one. Tennessee would then score a field goal and then be shut out until late on in the third quarter. Baltimore’s defense stepped up and allowed Jackson and company to get the points on the board. Baltimore would then score 17 unanswered points and take a 17-13 lead into the final quarter. Not the high scoring game we were all promised.
Tennessee’s inability to get the run game going cost them in this one as Derrick Henry was held to a measly 40 yards on 18 attempts. Their inability to get him going meant that Ryan Tannehill and his play-action was less effective. Still, though the Titans found themselves with the ball late in the fourth knowing that a touchdown would tie the game. Unfortunately, the Titans season ended in disaster as Tannehill threw a costly pick to Marcus Peters. Baltimore advances to the divisional round and Tennessee is sent into the offseason where they will need to have a look at their struggling defense.
Chicago Bears 9 – 21 New Orleans Saints
Well despite the Chicago offense looking good to close out the season they could do absolutely nothing in this one. Chicago opened the game going punt, turnover on downs, punt, field goal, punt, and another punt to close out the first half. Luckily, their defense managed to hold the Saints to a solitary Micheal Thomas touchdown. The script of the game changed very quickly after the half. Chicago continued to tire out their punter and the Saints scored two touchdowns on their opening two drives of the second half to put the game to bed.
Before the garbage time touchdown for the Bears, the Saints allowed just 140 total yards of offense as they stifled Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears’ offense. A huge game for the Saints’ defense as they allowed no third-down conversions for the whole game and only allowed six first downs. In what could have been his last game as a Bear, Trubisky had zero answers for a Saints’ defense that looked like they had been sitting in on Chicago’s offensive team meetings.
A pretty uneventful game sees the Saints march on and they will welcome the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the third time this year. New Orleans has had Tom Brady’s number in both the previous meetings and if their defense continues to play as well as this weekend then it is difficult to see past anything other than a Saints win.
Cleveland Browns 48 – 37 Pittsburgh Steelers
For the first time since 2002, the Cleveland Browns are back in the playoffs. For a franchise where winning seasons are at a premium, this Brown’s team has a chance to change the fortunes of Cleveland. The good thing about having a losing season after a losing season after a losing season is that you build up draft picks and can build a strong roster. That is exactly what has happened in Cleveland. They now have one of the best squads in the league and are playing like it.
However, they had to go into Heinz Field and play the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team that has completely dominated Cleveland since the beginning of time. Going into this game Cleveland was 6-44 in Pittsburgh since 1970. Surely Pittsburgh would be walking away with the win.
After playing each other in Week 17 the Steelers welcomed back their pro bowl center and their future hall of fame quarterback into the starting lineup. On the very first play of the game, Maurkice Pouncey snapped the ball over the head of Ben Roethlisberger and Cleveland scooped up the ball for a touchdown. It turns out veterans of the league can still get the jitters. Pittsburgh seemed to collapse after that and allowed Cleveland to score 28 unanswered points in the first quarter alone. Ben Roethlisberger threw three interceptions and the Steelers looked dead and buried.
Pittsburgh finally started to play in the second quarter. Winning the second quarter 10-7 took the Steelers into the half down 35-10. Time for Big Ben to throw the ball all over the field and get the Steelers back in the game as he has done throughout his career. Perhaps the best quarter of offensive football for Pittsburgh all season saw them score two unanswered touchdowns as the Browns defense had no answers for them. Down by 12 going onto the fourth was a dream for the Steelers.
The dream was ruined pretty quickly, however. Pittsburgh had a fourth and one at midfield and elected to punt. Cleveland thereafter marched down the field and scored another touchdown extending the lead to 42-23 at the start of the fourth.
Pittsburgh kept it interesting in the fourth but in the end, it was too little too late as Cleveland finally got another playoff win. Up next for Cleveland is the Kansas City Chiefs and the offseason from hell begins for the Pittsburgh Steelers. We can only hope that next years super wild card weekend is as exciting as this one was, we now look forward to the next round. Let’s hope for another weekend full of exciting games.
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