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Wild Card Weekend Game Notes

Some interesting nuggets from all of this weekend’s NFL Wild Card games:

Buffalo 27, Indianapolis 24

Top Passers:

BUF- J. Allen, 26-35, 9.3 ypa, 2-0 TD-INT

IND- P. Rivers, 27-46, 6.7 ypa, 2-0

Top Rushers:

BUF- J. Allen, 11 carries, 4.9 ypa, 1 TD

IND- J. Taylor, 21 carries, 3.7 ypa, 1 TD

Top Receivers:

BUF- S. Diggs, 6 catches, 21.3 yards per reception, 1 TD

IND- M. Pittman, 5 catches, 18.0 yards per reception, 0 TDs

  • On Saturday, Buffalo was hosting their first playoff game in 24 years. Only Detroit (27 years) and Cleveland (26 years) have longer active streaks without a home postseason game. Meanwhile, Colts QB Philip Rivers entered Saturday 4-0 in wild card games (he has a record of 1-6 in all other playoff games).
  • After forcing three Bills punts on their first four possessions, Indy had a third-and-goal late in the first half with an opportunity to take a two-score lead. After a failed pitch to Jonathan Taylor, Rivers was unable to connect with Michael Pittman in the end zone on fourth down, giving Josh Allen an opportunity to score before halftime.
  • In a span of 1:32, Allen was able to lead a 10-play, 96-yard drive, capped off with his first postseason rushing TD.
  • Bills WR Stefon Diggs continued to add to his monster season. After leading the NFL in catches (127) and receiving yards (1,535) in the regular season, he had six catches, 128 yards and a 35-yard touchdown to open the third quarter.
  • Allen was excellent as well. He averaged over 9 yards on his 35 passing attempts and contributed three total touchdowns. He continues to be excellent in the red zone. Against Indianapolis, he completed his only two passes for 10 yards and a touchdown while also adding a 5-yard rushing TD.
  • Buffalo won their first playoff game in 25 years after winning nine straight home playoff games between 1988 and 1995.
  • Indianapolis enters an uncertain offseason at the quarterback position. Both Rivers and Jacoby Brissett are set to be free agents, and Rivers (39) must decide if he wants to continue his playing career.

Los Angeles Rams 30, Seattle 20

Top Passers:

LAR- J. Goff, 9-19, 8.2 ypa, 1-0 TD-INT

SEA- R. Wilson, 11-27, 6.4 ypa, 2-1

Top Rushers:

LAR- C. Akers, 28 carries, 4.7 ypa, 1 TD

SEA- C. Carson, 16 carries, 4.8 ypa, 0 TDs

Top Receivers:

LAR- C. Kupp, 4 catches, 19.5 yards per reception, 0 TDs

SEA- D. Metcalf, 5 catches, 19.2 yards per reception, 2 TDs

  • The Rams came into Saturday afternoon with the best defense in the league in EPA allowed per play and were facing a Seahawks defense ranked ninth in offensive EPA per play.
  • With Jared Goff still recovering from thumb surgery, they elected to start John Wolford, making his second career start. Midway through the first quarter, Wolford took a high hit from Jamal Adams, forcing him from the game.
  • Goff replaced Wolford. He was still clearly hurting but managed to pass for over eight yards per attempt with a touchdown without turning the ball over.
  • With an ailing quarterback, Los Angeles was able to ride their defense in the first half. Leading 6-3, Darious Williams was able to intercept Russell Wilson on a screen intended for DK Metcalf and return it 42 yards for a touchdown. On Seattle's first nine possessions, they managed only seven first downs and failed to convert on their first eight third downs.
  • Led by Aaron Donald, who had two sacks before leaving with injury, Jalen Ramsey, who only allowed 44 yards in coverage, and Leonard Floyd, who matched Donald with two sacks, the Rams held Seattle to just 2-of-14 on third down. Aaron Donald now has 15 career sacks in his games against Wilson. For the game, Wilson completed just 11 passes and averaged under 6.5 yards an attempt.
  • The Rams advanced to play at Green Bay after Sean McVay improved to 37-0 as a head coach when leading at halftime.

Tampa Bay 31, Washington 23

Top Passers:

TB- T. Brady, 22-40, 9.5 ypa, 2-0 TD-INT

WSH- T. Heinicke, 26-44, 7.0 ypa, 1-1

Top Rushers:

TB- L. Fournette, 19 carries, 4.9 ypa, 1 TD

WSH- T. Heinicke, 6 carries, 7.7 ypa, 1 TD

Top Receivers:

TB- M. Evans, 6 catches, 19.8 yards per reception, 0 TDs

WSH- C. Sims, 7 catches, 14.9 yards per reception, 0 TDs

  • Tom Brady entered his first postseason game with the Buccaneers after throwing for f40 touchdowns, the second-most he has thrown in his career and his best total since 2007. He also entered Saturday night with more postseason wins than the entire Buccaneers franchise.
  • After winning the NFC East for the first time since 2015, Washington was turning to a quarterback who was making his second career start in Taylor Heinicke.
  • Tampa was able to jump out to a 18-7 lead going into halftime after scoring on three of their first four possessions. In the first half, Brady was just 12-for-23 but he averaged over nine yards an attempt and threw two touchdowns. At 43 years old, Brady passes George Blanda as the oldest quarterback to throw a postseason touchdown pass.
  • Brady again connected with Antonio Brown for a 35-yard touchdown at the end of the first quarter. Brown now has six touchdowns in his past five games with Tampa and recorded his first postseason touchdown since 2018 against Jacksonville.
  • Brady entered Saturday with the most pass attempts of 20-plus yards downfield this season and the best completion percentage in the NFL on such attempts since Week 12. Against Washington he completed four of his seven passes of 20-plus yards downfield.
  • Despite trailing the entire game, Washington was able to pull within one possession twice in the second half. Their last opportunity ended after Heinicke was sacked on third down, setting up an impossible fourth down with Washington trailing by eight.
  • Brady improves to 23-1 in postseason games when leading by multiple possessions. Tampa’s 31 points is their second-most points they have scored in the postseason as a franchis -- the most being their 48-21 Super Bowl XXXVII victory.

Baltimore 20, Tennessee 13

Top Passers:

BAL- L. Jackson, 17-24, 7.5 ypa, 0-1 TD-INT

TEN- R. Tannehill, 18-26, 6.3 ypa, 1-1

Top Rushers:

BAL- L. Jackson, 16 carries, 8.5 ypa, 1 TD

TEN- D. Henry, 18 carries, 2.2 ypa, 0 TDs

Top Receivers:

BAL- M. Brown, 7 catches, 15.6 yards per reception, 0 TDs

TEN- A. Brown, 6 catches, 13.8 yards per reception, 1 TD

  • Similarly to their last playoff appearance, Tennessee was able to jump out to a multiple-score lead following a first-quarter interception by Malcolm Butler, his first postseason interception since clinching the Super Bowl for New England in 2015.
  • Baltimore entered the second quarter trailing by more than a touchdown for only the fourth time in their last 80 games and were previously 0-4 in those games. (per Warren Sharp)
  • After settling for a field goal, Lamar Jackson pulled off the play of the game on a 48-yard touchdown run on third-and-9 that allowed Baltimore to even the score at 10 heading into halftime.
  • Baltimore was able to score a touchdown to open the second half, giving them an insurmountable 17-10 lead. Following the first quarter, Baltimore outscored Tennessee 20-3. Jackson only averaged 7.5 yards a pass attempt but was the leading rusher in the game, rushing 16 times for 136 yards.
  • Despite Derrick Henry averaging just 2.2 yards on his 18 carries, Tennessee had an opportunity to take a fourth quarter lead after getting the ball back trailing by four. After an 8-yard Henry rush on first down, back-to-back incompletions set Tennesee up with a fourth-and-2 on Baltimore’s 40. They elected to punt, which allowed the Ravens to go back up seven following a Justin Tucker field goal.
  • Thirteen points is the lowest the Titans have scored all season, and Henry managed just 40 yards on the ground after rushing for over 100 yards in each of his previous two meetings against Baltimore.

New Orleans 21, Chicago 9

Top Passers:

NO- D. Brees, 28-39, 6.8 ypa, 2-0 TD-INT

CHI- M. Trubisky, 19-29, 6.9 ypa, 1-0

Top Rushers:

NO- A. Kamara, 23 carries, 4.3 ypa, 1 TD

CHI- D. Montgomery, 12 carries, 2.6 ypa, 0 TDs

Top Receivers:

NO- D. Harris, 7 catches, 11.9 yards per reception, 0 TDs

CHI- A. Robinson, 6 catches, 9.2 yards per reception, 0 TDs

  • After leading the NFL in catches and receiving yards by wide margins in 2020, Micheal Thomas only had 40 catches this season and only nine catches from Drew Brees. On their first two possessions, Thomas caught all three of his targets for 29 yards ending in an 11-yard touchdown grab to give the Saints a 7-0 lead.
  • In his first career playoff game, Deonte Harris had his most productive game as a pro. He led the Saints with seven receptions for 83 yards, setting career highs in both.
  • The Bears defense did a good job of keeping the game close for most of the game, but mistakes cost the Bears an opportunity to advance to the divisional round. In the first quarter, Javon Wims was unable to complete a flea-flicker completion that would have resulted in a 40-yard touchdown. Chicago also committed a costly defensive holding penalty on a Khalil Mack sack that would have forced New Orleans into a third-and-goal from the 20. Four plays later, New Orleans was able to punch it in, giving them a 21-3 lead.
  • For the game, Trubisky completed just 19 passes for under seven yards an attempt. On third down, Chicago was just 1-for-10 and seven of their drives ended in punts. After the Bears declined Trubisky’s fifth-year option, he enters free agency this offseason and his future in Chicago remains uncertain.

Cleveland 48, Pittsburgh 37

Top Passers:

CLE- B. Mayfield, 21-34, 7.7 ypa, 3-0 TD-INT

PIT- B. Roethlisberger, 47-68 , 7.4 ypa, 4-4

Top Rushers:

CLE- N. Chubb, 18 carries, 4.2 ypa, 0 TDs

PIT- J. Conner , 11 carries, 3.4 ypa, 1 TD

Top Receivers:

CLE- J. Landry, 5 catches, 18.4 yards per reception, 1 TD

PIT- J. Smith-Schuster, 13 catches, 12.1 yards per reception, 1 TD

  • The Browns were making their first playoff appearance since 2002 and were without head coach Kevin Stefanski, multiple assistant coaches, CB Denzel Ward and G Joel Bitonio due to COVID protocols.
  • A botched snap on the first play of the game led to a Cleveland defensive touchdown.
  • The Browns are the first team to score a defensive TD on the first play from scrimmage of a playoff game since the 1965 Baltimore Colts against the Packers. (ESPN Stats & Info)
  • After driving to the Cleveland 48, Ben Roethlisberger was pressured into his first interception of the game, his first since Week 15; Baker Mayfield, on the other hand, has not thrown an interception since Week 8.
  • Cleveland continued to extend its lead in the first half on Jarvis Landry’s first career postseason touchdown. This is the first time the Browns have scored 14 points in the first quarter against the Steelers since Sept 17, 2000.
  • The Browns' 28 first-quarter points are the most by any team in the first quarter of a playoff game since the 1970 NFL merger (per NFL Research).
  • The Browns scored as many points in the first quarter Sunday night as they did during the first quarter of their previous 13 games in Pittsburgh combined (per ESPN Stats & Info).
  • The Steelers turned the ball over on three of their first four possessions. Despite passing for 501 yards and 4 TDs, Roethlisberger also threw 4 INTs.