Express Line Through NFL Wild Card Weekend

Super Wild Card weekend has come and gone and it was one filled with highlights, lowlights, questionable decisions, and a Nickelodeon F-bomb. But you don’t have time for six game reports detailing every snap, not as we prepare for a Divisional weekend packed with intrigue and watch NFL news continue to unfold in real time. So here’s the express line on everything you missed from the Wild Card Round. 

Buffalo Bills 27- Indianapolis Colts 24

Shades of Nightmares Past

Bills’ Mafia is all too familiar with heartbreak, as recent as last season’s playoff collapse to the Houston Texans. Josh Allen had his team up 16-0 in the 2019 Wild Card round only to fall 22-19 in overtime. But from kickoff this year it was apparent that this year’s Bills team was different. Even with that, they weren’t completely free from their past demons. 

This game came down to Allen making more plays than veteran Philip Rivers. The Bills’ QB played well beyond his years and truly looked like a player on his way to being a perennial MVP candidate. He finished the game 26/35 for 324 yards through the air and two touchdown passes, as well as 11 rushed for 54 yards and a touchdown. 

While Allen was outstanding, the winning three points came off the foot of rookie kicker Tyler Bass when he sent a 54 yard field goal through the uprights with 8:08 left. By this point it was 27-16 and the Bills looked to be well and truly in control. But, seeing as it is the Bills, that would not be the end of the story. 

Less than two minutes after Bass’ field goal Rivers tossed a touchdown and completed a two-point conversion to tight end Jack Doyle. A disastrous following drive by the Bills (hello a sack for a loss of 23 and a barely recovered fumble) meant Rivers got one last shot to conquer his own playoff demons and secure a walkoff win. And this is when shades of Houston, and dare I say DeAndre Hopkins’ Hail Mary catch, bled into the game. Rivers aired it out for T.Y. Hilton who was poised to make the catch in the endzone. But Micah Hyde had seen enough of blown Bills’ leads, broke through the bodies to bat down what would have been the game sealing TD. 

With the loss, the Colts became the first team to rack up 450+ yards of offence, commit no turnovers, and still lose the playoff game. And with the win, Buffalo ended a quarter century of pain and misery…for now. 

LA Rams 30- Seattle Seahawks 20

Defence Wins…Championships?

The Rams defence has undoubtedly been the most consistent part of their football team for the better part of a year, and that held true as they visited Seattle on Saturday afternoon. After all, heading into the playoff matchup the Rams offence had been held without a touchdown for two whole games. 

It didn’t look overly promising that the LA offence would bounce back as they headed into the game with John Wolford under centre. And not to discredit the guy, but on paper a quarterback matchup of Wolford against Russel Wilson does not look like one the Rams would win. Wolford ended up exiting the game in the first with a neck injury, meaning it would be up to Jared Goff to lead the offence back from the grave, despite having thumb surgery less than two weeks previous. 

Goff did his job, he didn’t do anything stellar, but he also didn’t commit any disastrous mistakes. Luckily for the offence, Cam Akers had a monster day running the ball. An additional benefit the offence received was that Seattle’s offence didn’t do much of anything. The Rams’ defensive line, led by Aaron Donald, did not let Wilson get into a rhythm, including sacking him five times. 

Whatever mojo Wilson and Co were able to set was quickly erased when Darious Williams picked off the Seattle QB for the third time this season and returned it for a touchdown. Add to that the way that Jaelon Ramsey shut down D.K. Metcalf, and you have a recipe for a lifeless Seattle offence. 

For as good as the Rams defence is, that offence is going to need to click consistently for them to win a championship, if the defence is even enough to carry them there. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31- Washington Football Team 23

A Mathlete Almost Beats Brady

From now on feel free to bet money on whatever backup quarterback is facing Tom Brady in the playoffs to have an absolutely mental game. Taylor Heinicke was brought in as Washington’s “quarantine quarterback” while taking online math classes at Old Dominion and on Saturday night he almost completed the most unlikely underdog story in recent NFL memory. 

After the first half, it looked like it could get ugly quickly for the Football Team. Brady was rolling, looking like his vintage playoff self. He finished the game 22/40 for 381 yards and two touchdowns. This was largely thanks to the uncharacteristically quiet night from the Washington defensive line. They did get a standout performance from Montez Sweat but that was never going to be enough to stop Brady in his 42nd playoff appearance. 

The game took a turn in the second half when Heinicke became Houdini as he escaped the pocket on more than one occasion, including one leading up to his Superman-esque diving touchdown. Unfortunately for Washington, their quarterback sustained a shoulder injury on that play. He stayed in the game but it was clear his shoulder wasn’t at 100% for the rest of the night. 

At the end of the day, Tampa were simply too talented at every position that no amount of grit from Washington looked like it would be able to put a stop to it. 

Baltimore Ravens 20- Tennessee Titans 13

Revenge Tastes Better in the Playoffs

Baltimore had a chance at revenge for last year’s shocking playoff exit earlier this season, but Tennessee took that one too. It may have been for the best as it definitely seemed to fuel the Ravens even more for this one, and you know, a playoff win always means that much more. 

This matchup was going to be a chippy one from the outset, especially after the incident that occured on the Ravens’ centrefield shield earlier this season (look it up if you don’t know what I’m talking about). Combine this with the two previous losses, and Lamar Jackson still being in pursuit of his first playoff win and the result is a hard fought football game that may not make any Top 10 lists, but was definitely a must-watch. 

The biggest question going into this game was if Baltimore was going to be able to stop King Henry, who’s coming off a 2000 yard season. They answered the question with an emphatic yes, holding Henry to a mere 40 yards. For a while it looked like Ryan Tannenhill’s arm was going to be enough to keep the Titans in the game, and then he threw a pick. A bad one. 

Tennessee was driving in the dying minutes and genuinely looked like they were going to be able to tie it at 20 a piece and send this thing to overtime. Marcus Peters ended that when Tannenhill targeted Kalif Raymond, who tripped and watched the ball land into Peters’ hands from the floor. As much as this play was a combination of an unfortunate mistake and a defensive player coming up big, it’s hard to wonder why Tannnenhill never looked at the other sideline, because if he had he would have seen A.J. Brown all alone after beating his man off the line. 

You don’t have to watch the highlights to know that the Ravens wasted no time dancing on the Titans’ logo after the pick. Jackson sealed off the win with a streaking run down the sideline, on which he backtracked and stayed in bounds for the sake of the clock, truly showing his growth as a player. 

New Orleans Saints 21- Chicago Bears 9

No Surprises Here

It has been three years of shocking, freakish, borderline cruel playoff exits for the Saints, and with the lowly Bears coming to town it wasn’t hard to imagine what the fourth one might look like. 

The first half was a little rocky for New Orleans, leading them to only take a four point lead into halftime. They could have been down if Javon Wims didn’t replace his hands with sticks of butter pregame, but that’s a problem for the Bears to deal with in the offseason. 

The second half had no such jaggedness as Brees had the team rolling like a well-oiled machine. For the first time in a longtime Brees had both Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara on the field with him and the three-headed beast was just too much for an 8-8 Chicago defence to contend with. 

Speaking of the 8-8 Bears being in the playoffs, this game aired on Nickelodeon…make of that information what you will. 

Cleveland Browns 48- Pittsburgh Steelers 37

Corvette Corvette the Browns Pulled Off the Upset Upset

This game started last week when we found out the Browns and Steelers would face off in the Wild Card round. Juju Smith Schuster may have agreed to stop the logo dancing but he maintained the mind games, coming out and saying that the Browns were “the same, nameless, grey faces.” 

He ate those words real quick. 

The Steelers started the season 11-0, and ended it 1-5, and looked like a 1-5 team within 14 seconds of kickoff. Veteran centre Markice Pouncey sent the opening snap over Ben Roethlisberger’s head and Steelers faithful watched with horror as the ball rolled towards the end zone, as Big Ben got into a foot race with defensive linemen to recover. The Browns ended up with the ball and the opening touchdown. 

It was all systems go for the Browns from then on, who picked Pittsburgh off four times and recovered multiple fumbles as they enforced their will over their rivals. The whole ordeal was made all the sweeter for Dawg Pound because of the years upon years of hardships forced upon them by these very Steelers. 

Some garbage time touchdowns, when Cleveland shifted to “playing not to lose” made the score more respectable but that doesn’t change the fact that this was a beating, one Browns’ fans won’t soon forget. 

Thanks for sticking with us for the essentials on all things Wild Card! Unbenched Sports is excited to continue to bring you coverage of all things NFL Playoffs! Let us know what you want to see next.

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