NFL 2020-2021 Conference Title Games Recap

January 24th, 2021

NFL 2020-2021 Conference Title Games Recap

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Green Bay Packers was the NFC Title Game in the afternoon. Tom Brady was in the postseason for the 18th straight year and in his 20th straight winning season. He led the 11-5 Buccaneers in his first season with them to road playoff wins over Washington and 12-4 New Orleans. Aaron Rodgers is in his fourth NFC Title Game but only his first one at home as the 13-3 NFC North champions hosted this game. The Buccaneers began the game facing 3rd and 4 from their own 40. Brady went deep to Mike Evans for 27 yards. On 3rd and 9 from the Green Bay 32, Brady went to Godwin for 14. On 3rd and 7 from the Green Bay 15, Brady went to Evans for the touchdown and he 7-0 Packers lead. Late in the first quarter a sack of Rodgers had the Packers facing 3rd and 15 from their own 5. Rodgers went to Lazard for 23, Devontae Adams for 15 and Robert Tonyan for 5. The second quarter began with the Packers facing 3rd and 3 from midfield. Rodgers went deep to Marques Valdes-Scantling, who out-jumped the defender, broke the tackle and glided into the end zone for the touchdown and the 7-7 game. 

The Buccaneers soon faced 3rd and 9 from their own 28. Brady went deep and Chris Godwin did his impersonation of Lynn Swann in the Super Bowl, making a juggling catch for a 52 yard gain. On the next play Leonard Fournette appeared bottled up but bounced to the outside and dove over a body pass the pylon for the touchdown and the 14-7 Buccaneers lead. After a touchback, Rodgers hit Valdes-Scantling for 12. Williams ran for 12. Jones ran for 12. Rodgers hit Marcedes Lewis for 9. Jones ran for 5 and fumbled, but Tonyan recovered as the Packers retained possession. Jones ran for one, 7, and on 3rd and 2 from the Tampa Bay 10, 4 more. On 1st and goal at the 6, a back shoulder throw to the end zone was dropped. On 3rd and goal, a high pass over the middle was caught out the back of the end zone. Despite the 15 play, 69 yard, 7 1/2 minute drive, 3 straight incompletions had the Packers settling for a 24 yard Mason Crosby field goal and a 14-10 Packers deficit. 

Late in the half, Rodgers was intercepted. With 18 seconds left in the half, the Buccaneers faced 3rd and 4 from the Packers 45. A deep ball should have been intercepted but was dropped. After initially deciding to punt, Bruce Arians changed his mind and decided to go for it on 4th and 4. Brady went to Fournette for 6. With 6 seconds left, rather than play for a field goal, Brady went for the bomb and hit Scotty Miller for the 39 yard touchdown. It was a completely inexcusable defensive breakdown as the Packers had no deep help. The Buccaneers led 21-10 at the half in front of a stunned Green Bay crowd. The Packers went from bad to worse as they began the third quarter facing 3rd and 5 from their own 30. Rodgers hit Jones for a 2 yard gain when Jordan Whitehead put his helmet on the ball and forced a fumble. White picked it up for the defense and rumbled 21 yards to the Green Bay 8 yard line. Brady immediately fired over the middle to Cameron Brate for the touchdown and the 28-10 Buccaneers lead. 

The Packers were on the ropes facing 3rd and 3 from their own 32. Rodgers fired to Tonyan for 10, Valdez-Scantling for 24, St. Brown for 10, Lazard for 16, and Tonyan for the 8 yard touchdown. The Packers were within 28-17, but now it was up to their defense to try and stop Brady. The Buccaneers got it back at their own 24. From their own 38, Brady went deep and was intercepted by Amos at the Green Bay 32. On 3rd and 3 from their own 39, Rodgers hit Adams for 4, Dillon for 13, Tonyan for 7, Lewis for 5, and on 3rd and 2 from the Bucs 24, Williams for 11. On 2nd and 9 from the Bucs 12, Rodgers hit Adams for 7, with a defensive personal foul for lowering the head to initiate contact adding 3 more yards to make it 1st and goal at the 2. On 3rd and goal, Rodgers hit Adams for the score. Matt Lafleur went for 2 rather than just kick the extra point. Rodgers’s pass was tipped but still should have been caught. St. Brown just dropped it as the Packers trailed 28-23 after three quarters.

A strong kickoff return had the Buccaneers taking over at their own 45. The Buccaneers easily moved to a 2nd and 11 at the Green Bay 28. The Packers had no answers on defense, but dumb luck was on their side. Brady went deep to Evans. The ball bounced off of his fingertips and was intercepted by Alexander at the Green Bay 3 yard line. Alexander returned it 16 yards as the Packers took over at their own 19 with 12 1/2 minutes left in regulation. Yet on 3rd and 5, Rodgers was sacked. The Buccaneers faced 3rd and 2 at their own 46. Under heavy pressure with a man about to sack him, Brady threw a deep duck that was intercepted. Three straight drives resulted in Brady being intercepted as the Packers took over at their own 24. A pass on 3rd and 11 was dropped as the Packers again wasted the opportunity. 

The Buccaneers took over at their own 28. Brady hit Godwin for 11 and Rob Gronkowski for 29. On 3rd and 8 from the Green Bay 28, Brady threw the ball into the ground. Ryan Succop hit the 46 yard field goal. The Buccaneers led 31-23 with 4: 42 to play as the failed 2 point conversion loomed large. A tough kickoff return had the Packers taking over at their own 34. Dillon ran for 9 and Rodgers hit Valdes-Scantling over the middle for 29 more. Rodgers hit Adams for 9. On 3rd and 1 from the Bucs 19, Rodgers hit Adams in the flat for 11. After 3 straight incompletions, Matt LaFleur made another bizarre decision. On 4th and goal at the 8 with 2:15 to play, he opted for the field goal rather than try to tie the game. Crosby hit from 26 but the Packers were still down by 5. The Buccaneers took over at their own 17 with 2:02 left. The Packers had all 3 timeouts left on defense. 

When the Buccaneers gained 9 yards on 1st down to take the clock to the 2 minute warning, the Packers purposely jumped offside rather than try and defend 2nd and 1. They still had all 3 timeouts as the Buccaneers faced 1st and 10 at their own 31. On 3rd and 4 from their own 37 with everything upon the line, Brady threw incomplete. A very late flag for defensive pass interference was a horrendous call. There was mild contact, but the officials had been letting the players play all day. Now they helped decide the game. For 20 years Brady has gotten virtually every call. He began his career with the Tuck Rule and was now benefitting from a late phantom call. On 3rd and 5 from the Packers 43, Godwin took the pitchout gained 6 yards, and slid down inbounds. Brady was going to his 10th Super Bowl. Bruce Arians was going to his first. Rodgers lost his 4th NFC Championship Game in 5 tries, including 2 years in a row. As for LaFleur, he surrendered as a Frenchman does. 31-26 Buccaneers

Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs was the AFC Title Game at night. The 13-3 AFC East champion Bills took on the 14-2 AFC West champion Chiefs. The Chiefs were hosting the AFC Title Game for the 3rd straight time, the first AFC team to ever do that. Walrus Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes were there for all 3 of them. After a touchback, the Bills soon faced 4th and 1 from the Chiefs 48. Sean McDermott decided to set the tone early on by going for it. Allen hit Knox for 8 yards. On 2nd and 3 from the Chiefs 33, Allen threw incomplete twice including a 3rd down deep ball that should have been intercepted. Tyler Bass snuck the 51 yard field goal inside the right upright for a 3-0 Bills lead. The first big break came when the Chiefs fumbled a punt and the Bills recovered at the Chiefs 3 yard line. Josh Allen found Knox in the flat, and Knox got to the corner and past the pylon for the touchdown and the 19-0 Bills lead. The extra point doinked off the right upright no good. The Chiefs overcame multiple double digit playoff deficits last year. They fell behind Houston 24-0 but led by halftime, outscoring them 51-7 the rest of the way. 

The Chiefs took over at their own 20. Mahomes hit Travis Kelce for 9, Mecole Hardman for one, Kelce for 11, Tyreek Hill for 11, and Kelce for 16. On 3rd and 12 from th Buffalo 34, Mahomes hit Pringle for 11. On 4th and 1 from the Buffalo 23, Walrus Andy Reid went for it. Mahomes hit Williams for 9 and Hill for 8. The second quarter began with Mahomes hitting Hardman for a 3 yard touchdown to get the Chiefs within 9-7. The Chiefs got it back at their own 18. Hardman took a pitchout 50 yards. Mahomes hit Pringle for 5 and Kelce for 15. Williams took a handoff up the gut and stretched the ball over the pylon for the 6 yard touchdown and the 14-9 Chiefs lead. The Chiefs got it back and faced 3rd and 1 from their own 32. Carl Edwards-Helaire gained 2. On 3rd and 6 from their own 38, Mahomes hit Kelce for 11, Hill for 33 and Kelce for 17 down to the one. Edwards-Helaire ran it in standing up as the Chiefs led 21-9 with 4 minutes left in the half. 

After a touchback, Allen hit Cole Beasley for 14, Knox for 12 and TY Yeldon for 20. Allen ran for 10. On 3rd and 3 from the Chiefs 12, Yeldon gained 4. With 21 seconds left in the half, the Bills faced 3rd and goal at the 4. Under heavy pressure, Allen hit Knox for 2. On 4th and goal at the 2 on the road, Sean McDermott decided not to gamble. Bass hit the 20 yard field goal to get the Bills within 21-12. They also didn’t leave Mahomes enough time to do anything before the half. After a touchback to start the third quarter, Mahomes immediately connected with Hill for a 16 yard gain. Mahomes then went to Hill and Pringle for a pair of 5 yard gains. On 3rd and 5 from the Buffalo 43, Mahomes hit Hill for 9 and then 7 more. Yet on 3rd and 3 from the Buffalo 27, a completion gained nothing. Harrison Butker hit a 45 yard field goal to make it 24-12 Chiefs.  

After a touchback, Allen hit Beasley for 6, Brown for 17 and Beasley for 23. On 3rd and 6 from the Chiefs 20, Allen threw incomplete but defensive holding meant an automatic first down. On 3rd and 3 from the Chiefs 8,  Allen rolled out and under heavy pressure threw out the back of the end zone incomplete. Bass hit from 27 as the 10 play, 67 yard, 5 minute drive got the Bills within 24-15. After a touchback, Mahomes connected with Hill, who weaved through the entire field for a 71 yard gain. Defensive holding meant a 2 yard gain and first and goal at the one. Then came a new throw in Mahomes’s repertoire as he tossed an underhanded shovel pass to Kelce for the touchdown and the 31-15 Chiefs lead late in the third quarter. 

The Bills soon faced 3rd and 2 at thrown 33. Allen hit Stefan Diggs for 6 and 10 and Beasley for 6. A sack of Allen had the Bills facing 3rd and 14 at their own 45. Allen hit Beasley over the middle for 13 as the Bills began the fourth quarter facing 4th and 1 at the Chiefs 42. Sean McDermott went for it and McKenzie gained 4. Allen then scrambled for 18 more. On 2nd and 10 from the Chiefs 20, disaster struck the Bills. Allen threw a pass that bounced off of the receiver’s hands and was intercepted by Fenton. Fenton returned it 30 yards to the Chiefs 42. Homes hit Kelce for 12 and ran for 9 himself. On 3rd and 1 from the Buffalo 34, Williams gained 5. Mahomes hit Hill for 12. Williams gained 11. On 3rd and goal at the 5, Mahomes went to Kelce for the touchdown to make it 38-15 Chiefs midway through the fourth quarter. 

The Bills got a garbage touchdown with 4 minutes left but Sean McDermott inexplicably went for 2. The attempt failed. So even though the Bills recovered the onside kick, they were down by 17 at 38-21 rather than 16. Bass hit a 51 yard field goal to get the Bills within 14 but there would be no miracle Buffalo comeback like in 1993. The next onside kick failed. The defending champion Chiefs are going to the Super Bowl to try and become the first team since New England in 2003-2004 to win two straight Super Bowls. That quarterback was Brady, who in the 2018 AFC Title Game denied the Chiefs what in retrospect would be 3 straight Super Bowl trips. Nevertheless, returning to the big game makes Andy Reid a most happy Walrus indeed. 38-24 Chiefs

Super Bowl XL (55) is set for Sunday, February 7 at 6:30 p.m. Eastern time on CBS. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (NFC) vs Kansas City Chiefs (AFC) will be played in Tampa, Florida.

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Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay Packers was the Saturday afternoon game. Light snow flurries came down as the 10-6 Rams fresh off their win at Seattle, took on the well-rested 13-3 NFC North champion Packers. The Packers from their own 32 moved 63 yards in 12 plays and nearly 5 minutes. Yet on 2nd and goal from the 5, Rodgers threw incomplete twice. Mason Crosby hit the 24 yard field goal to make it 3-0 Packers. The Rams from their own 19 responded and moved to a 4th and inches at the Green Bay 14. Sean McVay decided to go for it but a false start killed the chance. Matt Gay hit the 37 yard field goal for a 3-3 game.

The Packers soon faced 3rd and 1 from their own 25. Williams gained 8 yards. Runs and short passes had the Packers beginning the second quarter at the rams 39. Unnecessary roughness on defender Aaron Donald gave the Packers 15 more yards. On 3rd and goal at the one, Rodgers rifled a quick pass to Devonta Adams in the flat for the touchdown. The 14 play, 84 yard, 8 minute drive had the Packers up 10-3. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Rams punt gave the Packers a short field at the Rams 47. Rodgers hit Aaron Jones for 14 and Marques Valdez-Scantling for 11. On 3rd and 2 from the Rams 13, Williams gained 5, 4 and 3. On 3rd and goal at the one, Rodgers rolled out, faked a throw, totally juked out the defender, and ran it in for the touchdown. The extra point snap was mishandled but the Packers still led 16-3. Even with a short field, they took 6 minutes off the clock and held the ball for 19 minutes in the first half. 

After a touchback, Akers ran for 6, 10, 4 and 13. Goff went to Reynolds for 21, Robert Woods for 5, Akers for 6, and Jefferson for a 4 yard touchdown. with 30 seconds left in the half, the Rams were within 16-10. After a touchback, Rodgers went to Adams for 21 and Robert Tonyan for 33. On 1st and 10 from the Rams 21 with 14 seconds left, Rodgers went to the end zone twice and should have been intercepted both times. He was lucky to escape with incompletions and 4 seconds left. Crosby hit the 39 yard field goal to make it 19-10 Packers. After a touchback to start the third quarter, Jones took a handoff on the first play from scrimmage took a handoff up the gut, broke several tackles, and raced for a 60 yard gain. On 3rd and 2 from the Rams 7, Williams gained 4. On 3rd and goal at the one, Jones got in. The 2 point conversion failed but the Packers led 25-10. Packers The scored the first 5 times they had the ball. 

The Rams finally forced a punt and got the ball back at their own 21. Goff hit Jefferson for 4, Woods for 6, Reynolds for 16, Tyler Higbee for 4, Woods for 5, and on 3rd and 1 from the Green Bay 44, Jefferson for 16. On 2nd and 5 from the Green Bay 12, Akers ran for 5 and then out of a wildcat snap bulldozed threw defenders and stretched the ball over the plane of the goal for a 7 yard touchdown. Sean McVay pulled out all the stops on the 2 point conversion. Goff worked the hook and lateral and Akers took it in. The 11 play, 79 yard, 6 minute drive had the Rams within 25-18 with 1:45 left in the third quarter. The 9  minutes left in regulation the Packers faced 2nd and 4 from their own 33. Dillon got belted by 2 defenders and fumbled. Luckily for the Packers, Rodgers recovered it. On 3rd and 3, Rodgers threw short to Valdes-Scantling, who appeared stopped but lunged forward for a key 4 yard gain. Rodgers then found a wide open Lazard deep for a 58 yard touchdown bomb. Midway through the fourth quarter the Packers had the 14 point lead. With 5 minutes left on 4th and 13 from midfield, Goff was sacked. The Rams were game, but without Cooper Kupp, with an injured Goff, and an injured Donald, the Rams did the best they could on the road. The Packers are in the NFC Title Game for the second straight year, but unlike last year, this year it will be a Green Bay home game. 32-18 Packers

Baltimore Ravens at Buffalo Bills was the Saturday night game. The 11-5 Ravens went on the road and got revenge against Tennessee. Now they had to go at the 13-3 AFC East champion Bills. The weather was above freezing and the skies were clear, but winds took their toll on the offenses and the kickers. In the first quarter Justin Tucker had a 41 yard field goal doink off the left upright no good. Tyler Bass hit from 28 but in the second quarter missed from 43. Tucker then clanged one off the right upright no good. Tucker barely snuck a 34 yarder inside the right upright to end the half with a 3-3 deadlock. Bass missed again from 44 late in the game as well. The Bills began the third quarter facing 3rd and 2 from their own 42. Josh Allen hit Knox for 14 and Stefan Diggs for 20. Singletary ran for 12. On 3rd and 4 from the Baltimore 12, Allen hit Singletary for 9 and Diggs for a 3 yard touchdown. The 11 play, 66 yard, 5 1/2 minute drive had the Bills up 10-3. After a touchback, the Ravens moved 68 yards in 15 plays and took nearly 9 minutes off the clock. The drive ended with the play of the game. The Ravens faced 3rd and goal at the 9, and were one play from a 10-10 game. 

Lamar Jackson fired over the middle to the end zone and was intercepted by Taron Johnson, who split the seams, got a block, and tied an NFL record with a 101 yard interception return touchdown. The monster play had the Bills up by 14 after three quarters. There would be no comeback. The third quarter ended with a wild snap going past Jackson in the shotgun. He barely avoided a safety, but the intentional grounding meant the Ravens had 3rd and 33 from their own 2. Making matters worse, Jackson was belted on the play and left with a concussion. Backup Tyler Huntley finished the game as the Ravens finished their season. The Bills are back in the AFC Title Game for the first time since 1993. That year they beat Kansas City at home. This year, they travel to Kansas City. 17-3 Bills 

Baltimore Ravens at Buffalo Bills was the Saturday night game. The 11-5 Ravens went on the road and got revenge against Tennessee. Now they had to go at the 13-3 AFC East champion Bills. The weather was above freezing and the skies were clear, but winds took their toll on the offenses and the kickers. In the first quarter Justin Tucker had a 41 yard field goal doink off the left upright no good. Tyler Bass hit from 28 but in the second quarter missed from 43. Tucker then clanged one off the right upright no good. Tucker barely snuck a 34 yarder inside the right upright to end the half with a 3-3 deadlock. Bass missed again from 44 late in the game as well. The Bills began the third quarter facing 3rd and 2 from their own 42. Josh Allen hit Knox for 14 and Stefan Diggs for 20. Singletary ran for 12. On 3rd and 4 from the Baltimore 12, Allen hit Singletary for 9 and Diggs for a 3 yard touchdown. The 11 play, 66 yard, 5 1/2 minute drive had the Bills up 10-3. After a touchback, the Ravens moved 68 yards in 15 plays and took nearly 9 minutes off the clock. The drive ended with the play of the game. The Ravens faced 3rd and goal at the 9, and were one play from a 10-10 game. 

Lamar Jackson fired over the middle to the end zone and was intercepted by Taron Johnson, who split the seams, got a block, and tied an NFL record with a 101 yard interception return touchdown. The monster play had the Bills up by 14 after three quarters. There would be no comeback. The third quarter ended with a wild snap going past Jackson in the shotgun. He barely avoided a safety, but the intentional grounding meant the Ravens had 3rd and 33 from their own 2. Making matters worse, Jackson was belted on the play and left with a concussion. Backup Tyler Huntley finished the game as the Ravens finished their season. The Bills are back in the AFC Title Game for the first time since 1993. That year they beat Kansas City at home. This year, they travel to Kansas City. 17-3 Bills 

Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs is the Sunday afternoon game. The 11-5 Browns went on the road and shocked Pittsburgh last week, but now they faced the 14-2 Chiefs in Arrowhead. One of those 2 losses was in the regular season finale when Walrus Andy Reid rested his starters. The Chiefs were without the injured Sammy Watkins and Carl Edwards-Helaire. Yet they had Patrick Mahomes, and for some bizarre reason, the Browns decided to defer and let him on the field first. Pass-happy Andy Reid decided to send a message by starting with running plays. Tyreek Hill gained 4 and Williams added 12. Mahomes hit Travis Kelce for 7 and Hill for 26. On 3rd and 2 from the Cleveland 7, Hill gained 4. From the one, Mahomes rolled out, faked out a defender, and walked into the end zone for the touchdown. The extra point was no good but the 10 play, 75 yard, 6 minute drive put the Chiefs led 6-0.

The Browns after a touchback moved to a 1st and 10 at the Chiefs 20. A completion lost 3 yards and Baker Mayfield was sacked for another 8 yard loss. Cody Parkey hit a 46 yard field goal to cap the 12 play, 6 1/2 minute drive and get the Browns within 6-3. After a touchback, a short completion by Mahomes to Mecole Hardman went for a 42 yard gain. Mahomes then it Hardman for 9 and Pringle for 11. On 2nd and 19 from the Cleveland 20, Mahomes hit Kelce for the touchdown to make it 13-3 Chiefs early in the second quarter. The Chiefs moved from their own 15 to a 1st and goal at the Cleveland 27. A pair of incompletions was followed by a completion for a 5 yard loss. Harrison Butler hit a 50 yard field goal, the longest field goal ever at Arrowhead, for a 16-3 Chiefs lead. 

After a touchback, the Browns moved to a 1st and 10 at the Chiefs 26 with 1:45 left in the half. Mayfield had just completed a 23 yard pass to Higgins. Mayfield went back to Higgins for a 25 yard gain. Yet disaster struck when Higgins tried to stretch the ball over the plane of the goal. Higgins lunged for the pylon and had the ball knocked out inches short of the pylon. The fumble went out the side of the end zone for a touchback. With 1:34 left in the half from their own 20, Mahomes hit Kelce for 9 and Williams for 7. On 3rd and 7 from their own 39, Mahomes hit Hill for 13 and Kelce for 22. That was enough for Butker to hit from 28. Instead of only being up 16-10, the Chiefs had a 19-3 halftime lead. 

Early in the third quarter mayfield was intercepted. The Chiefs failed to capitalize when Butker doinked a 33 yard field goal off the upright no good. From their own 23, Nick Chubb ripped off gains of 23 and 18.Mayfield hit Higgins for 18. On 3rd and 1 from the Chiefs 7, Mayfield gained 3. Mayfield then hit Jarvis Landry for the 4 yard touchdown to get the Browns within 19-10. After a touchback, Mahomes hit Robinson for 14 and Kelce for 8. On 3rd and 1 from their own 48 midway through the third quarter, Mahomes rolled out and tried to run for the first down. He was hit legally by Wilson and stopped inches short. Worse, Mahomes was injured on the play. He had a concussion, and was out for the rest of the game. The hit was clean, and it was the worst nightmare for Chiefs fans. With backup Chad Henne in, Andy Reid gambled on 4th and inches. Henne lateraled to Williams for a 12 yard gain. Then Williams gained 16 more. On 3rd and 6 from the Cleveland 20, Henne hit Kelce for 5. Andy Reid was not in a gambling mood on this 4th and 1. Butker hit from 33 for a 22-10 Chiefs lead with 4 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter.

The Browns then began their longest drive of the year. On 3rd and 3 from their own 32, a completion gained only 2 yards. With 3 minutes left in the third quarter, Kevin Stefanski gambled on 4th and 1 from his own 34. Chubb went up the gut for 3. On 3rd and 4 from their own 43, Mayfield hit Higgins for 17. The fourth quarter began with the Browns facing 3rd and 3 at the Chiefs 33. Mayfield went to Njoke for 4. Hunt gained 10 and 4. On 3rd and 6 from the Chiefs 15, Mayfield hit Landry for only 3. With 12 1/2 minutes left in regulation, Kevin Stefanski went for it on 4th and 3 from the Chiefs 12. Mayfield hit Austin Hooper for 5. On 3rd and goal at the 3, Hunt ran it in. A staggering 18 plays. 75 yards. Over 8 minutes off the clock. With 11 minutes left in regulation, the Browns were within 5 points.  The Chiefs moved from their own 25 to a 1st and 10 at the Cleveland 23. A field goal would put them up by 8. Then came a 15 yard illegal crackajack penalty on the offense. Rather than play for field position, Henne went for it all. He threw to the end zone and was intercepted for a touchback. Midway through the fourth quarter, the Browns from their own 20 had a chance to pull off the upset of the year. 

On 4th and 1 from their own 29 with 6 minutes left, Kevin Stefansk went for it again and Mayfield snuck across for 2. Yet on 4th and 9 from their own 32, Stefanski opted to punt. The Chiefs took over at their own 28 with 4 minutes left. On 3rd and 4 from their own 34, Henne hit Williams for 5 as the Browns took their final timeout. A sack of Henne brought everything down to the 2 minute warning. The Chiefs faced 3rd and 14 from their own 35. In this situation you run the ball. Every. Single. Time. Everybody in the world except Andy Reid. Henne went back to pass and could not find anyone. He ran for it and gained 13. It was now 4th and inches from their own 48. As the clock wound down to 1:15, Reid lined up to go for it. If the Chiefs don’t make it, the Browns have a short field. If you have to go for it, you run the ball. Only crazy Andy Reid would call a pass play on 4th and inches with a backup quarterback and the entire season on the line. Henne fired a pass to Hill, who caught it for a 5 yard gain and immediately went down inbounds. The Browns were game, but the Chiefs survived the worst adversity to get to the AFC Title game. For the first time in AFC history, the AFC Title Game will be played in the same stadium for 3 straight years. That stadium is Arrowhead, where the Chiefs will host Buffalo. This makes Andy Reid a most Happy Walrus indeed, provided he has Mahomes back. 22-17 Chiefs

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints was the Sunday night game. For the first and possibly the last time, Tom Brady and Drew Brees faced off in the playoffs. Rumors are swirling that Pinball Wizard Brees will retire after this season. The 11-5 Buccaneers were swept by the 12-4 NFC South champion Saints in the regular season, including a 38-3 Saints thrashing of the Buccaneers in Tampa. This time the Saints would be without their versatile playmaker Taysom Hill. Early on it was the Saints special teams that got them going. Diontae Harris returned his first punt 54 yards to the Saints 21. Yet on 3rd and goal from the 5, Brees threw incomplete. Wil Lutz hit the 23 yard field goal to make it 3-0 Saints. Harris returned the next punt 67 yards for a Saints touchdown, but it was called back due to an illegal block. The Saints faced 3rd and 11 from their own 29. Brees hit Smith for 13. A defensive tripping penalty added 15 more yards. Alvin Kamara gained 10. Yet on 1st and 10 from the Tampa 25, a run gained one yard and Brees threw incomplete twice. Lutz hit from 42. The Saints were dominating but only led 6-0.

The Buccaneers soon faced 3rd and 1 from their own 34. Ronald Jones was stopped and Bruce Arians went high risk and decided to go for it. Brady got 2 yards. Leonard Fournette gained 5 and 8. On 3rd and 10 from just shy of midfield, the Saints jumped into the neutral zone. On 3rd and 5, Brady hit Chris Godwin for 11. The second quarter began with the Buccaneers facing 2nd and 8 at the Saints 33. Brady hit Brate for 16. Yet on 3rd and 1 from the Saints 8, Brady threw incomplete. This time Bruce Arians played it safe. Ryan Succop hit the 26 yard field goal to get the Buccaneers within 6-3. Brees was then intercepted by Murphy-Bunting, who returned it 36 yards to the Saints 3. Brady hit Mike Evans for the touchdown to make it 10-6 Buccaneers. 

The Saints soon faced 3rd and 6 at their own 29. Brees threw incomplete but defensive holding meant an automatic first down. On 3rd and 1 from their own 43, Brees got the yard. Sean Payton then went to the bag of tricks. Former Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston is now the backup for the Saints. Kamara took the direct snap and handed it to Emanuel Sanders, who lateraled it back to Winston. Winston went bombs away to a wide open Smith for a 56 yard touchdown and a 13-10 Saints lead. With 2 1/2 minutes left in the half the Buccaneers faced 3rd and 7 from their own 21. Brady hit Fournette for 8, Godwin for 8, and Fournette for 14. On 3rd and 2 from the Saints 41, Fournette gained 7. On 2nd and 15 from the Saints 29, Brady went for the home run ball and had Godwin in the end zone. Godwin got both feet down but the ball at the last moment popped out when he hit the ground for an incompletion. On 3rd and 15, Brady played it safe and hit Brate for 10. Succop hit the 37 yard field goal for a 13-13 halftime game.

The Saints began the third quarter with authority. From their 25, Brees hit Kamara for 7. On 3rd and 1 from their own 46, Brees gained 2. Kamara gained 17 and 6. Brees hit Montgomery for 13. Brees then threw a perfect fade to the end zone and Tre-Quan Smith came down with it over the defender and got both feet inbounds for a 16 yard touchdown. The 10 play, 75 yard, 5 1/2 minute drive put the Saints up 20-13. The Saints got it back at their own 15 and were on the move to try and put the game away. On 3rd and 2 from their own 45, Brees hit Jared Cook for 8 yards, but Cook had the ball stripped. White recovered it for the defense and returned it 18 yards to the Saints 40. Brady hit Brate for 19. Jones ran for 10 and 5. On 3rd and 5 from the Saints 6, Brady fired to Fournette for the touchdown. Late in the third quarter the game was tied 20-20.

The Buccaneers soon faced 3rd and 11 from their own 20. Brady went to Johnson for 15. On 3rd and 5 from their own 40, Brady went to Miller for 29. Jones ran for 12. On 2nd and 9 from the Saints 18, Brady threw incomplete twice. Succop hit the 36 yard field goal. The 11 play, 61 yard, 6 minute drive put the Buccaneers in front 23-20 with 10 minutes left in regulation. After a touchback, the Saints faced 2nd and 8 from their own 38 midway through the fourth quarter. Brees went over the middle and was intercepted by White. This time the defender returned it 28 yards to the Saints 20. Now it was the Buccaneers with a chance to close the door. Brady hit Gronkowski for 14 yards down to the 4. From the one, Brady snuck across for the touchdown. With 5 minutes left in regulation the Buccaneers had the 30-20 lead. For the fourth straight year, the Saints had blown a fourth quarter postseason lead. For the third straight year, they had blown this lead at home. In desperation mode, Brees had a ball bounce off of a receiver and was intercepted again. 4 turnovers including turnovers on 3 straight possessions doomed the Saints. If this was Brees’s final game, it was a bitter end. As for Brady, he was on to the NFC Title Game at Green Bay. Earlier this year the Buccaneers throttled Green Bay in Green Bay 38-10. Brady has already said he will be back next year. Now he has a chance for a 7th Super Bowl ring. 30-20 Buccaneers. 

The Conference Title Games are set. Both games will be played on Sunday, January 24, 2021. 

NFC Title Game: 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers/New Orleans Saints at Green Bay Packers at 3:00 p.m. on FOX

AFC Title Game: 

Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs at 6:30 p.m. on CBS

NFL 2020-2021 Divisionals Prequel

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NFL 2020-2021 Divisional Playoffs: The Preview and Bettor’s Guide

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Forget security: Joe Biden’s inauguration is as irrelevant as he is

NFL 2020-2021 Wildcard Recap

January 10th, 2021

NFL 2020-2021 Wildcard Recap

Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills was the Saturday morning game. The 11-5 Colts were a Wildcard taking on the 13-3 AFC East champion Bills. In the first quarter the Colts faced 3rd and 6 from their own 40. Philip Rivers hit TY Hilton for 23 and Pittman for 22. On 3rd and 7 from the Buffalo 12, a completion gained nothing. Rodrigo Blankenship hit a 30 yard field goal to make it 3-0 Colts. The Bills took over at their own 15. Josh Allen gained 12. Allen then went to Stefan Diggs for 36, Davis for 16, Devon Singletary for 5, Moss for 7, and Knox for the 3 yard touchdown to make it 7-3 Bills. In the second quarter the Colts took over at their own 35. Jonathan Taylor gained 10 and 8. On 3rd and 4 just past midfield, Rivers hit Taylor for 6, Pittman for 32, Jacob Doyle for 2, and Nyheim Hines for 8 down to the one. Jacoby Brissett came in at quarterback for one play and took the quarterback sneak for the touchdown and the 10-7 Colts lead. The turning point in the game came when the Colts moved from their own 41 to a 3rd and goal at the one at the 2 minute warning. Taylor got the carry and got blown up for a 3 yard loss. Frank Reich inexplicably went for it on 4th and goal at the 4 rather than kick the 22 yard field goal. Rivers went to the end zone and the ball was just barely overthrown, bouncing off of Pittman’s outstretched fingerprints incomplete. 

The Bills were at their own 4 yard line with 1:46 to play against a good defense that was smelling upset. Allen went deep to Davis for a 37 yard gain. Allen then went to Cole Beasley for 7 and back to Davis for 19. Sean McDermott decided to go for it on 4th and 3 from the Indianapolis 26 with 37 seconds left. Allen went to the end zone and was intercepted by Rodgers. Yet defensive offside nullified the turnover. From the 21, Allen went to the end zone again and was intercepted by Rodgers again. Although everyone thought Rodgers was down, no whistle blew. He got up and raced 104 yards for a defensive touchdown. Officials ruled that Rodgers was down by contact in his own end zone for a touchback. Then on further review, Rodgers dropped the ball. After all of that, it was only an incompletion. Allen then ran for 16 and again for the 5 yard touchdown. With 14 seconds left in the half, the 10 play, 96 yard drive had the Bills up 14-10. 

The Bills began the third quarter facing 3rd and 8 from their own 30. Allen went to Beasley for 10 and 13 and Diggs for 16. On 3rd and 2 from the Indy 23, Allen was sacked for a 5 yard loss. Tyler Bass hit the 46 yard field goal to make it 17-10 Bills. After a touchback the Colts moved 60 yards in 14 plays and 7 1/2 minutes. Yet on 2nd and 7 from the Buffalo 15, Rivers threw incomplete twice. Blankenship doinked the 33 yard field goal try off the upright no good. The Bills soon faced 3rd and 1 from their own 32. Allen hit Diggs for 3, Moss for 10, Beasley for 4, and Moss for 7. Allen then went to Diggs for a 35 yard touchdown as the Bills now led 24-10 only one minute into the fourth quarter.

After a touchback, Hines ran for 29 and Taylor gained 20. Rivers went to Zach Pascal for 11 and Mo Alie-Cox for 6. On 3rd and 4 from the Buffalo 9, Rivers went to Pascal for the touchdown. Frank Reich inexplicably went for a 2 point conversion. Taylor got stopped. With 11 1/2 minutes left in regulation, the Colts were within 24-16. After a touchback, Allen hit Diggs and Beasley for 16 each. On 3rd and 6 from the Indy 36, Allen threw incomplete. After pretending to go for it and failing to get the Colts to jump, Sean McDermott opted for a 54 yard field goal try. Bass delivered and the Bills had breathing room up 27-16 midway through the fourth quarter. Needing 2 scores, the Colts struck quickly. On 3rd and 7 from their own 27, Rivers hit Burton for 13. Hines ripped off a 33 yard gain. Rivers went deep to Doyle for a 27 yard touchdown. This time the 2 point conversion was good. With 6:13 to play, the Colts were right back in it down by a field goal. 

Rather than run the ball, the Bills stayed aggressive. They moved from their own 24 to a 1st and 10 at the Indy 34 with 4 minutes left. A touchdown would ice the game. Then disaster struck the Bills. Allen was about to be sacked. He somehow escaped but was then sacked again for an even bigger loss. Even worse, he fumbled. A mad scramble ensued as the ball was batted backward. The Colts were hoping to pick it up and return it for a touchdown. The Bills were saved when big offensive lineman Williams recovered it. Nevertheless, it was a 23 yard loss. The Bills punted and the Colts got the ball back at their own 14 without a timeout but with a full 2 1/2 minutes left. With 50 seconds left after 3 incompletions, the Colts faced 4th and 10 at their own 37. Then chaos ensued. Rivers hit Pascal for 17, but Pascal then got up without being touched and had the ball stripped away. The Bills recovered, but after a very lengthy review, Pascal was ruled down by contact. The officials blew the call. Pascal was not down. With 28 seconds remaining on 1st and 10 from the Buffalo 45, Rivers threw a completion that lost a yard followed by 2 more incompletions. With 4 seconds left, a 65 yard field goal try was too much to ask. The Hail Mary was knocked down incomplete and the Bills survived. 27-24 Bills

 

Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks was the Saturday afternoon game. 2 weeks ago these teams were playing a 6-6 third quarter slugfest in Seattle before the Seahawks eventually won 20-9. Jared Goff injured his thumb in that game and missed the regular season finale. Sean McVay went with backup John Wolford to start this game for the 10-6 Rams against the 12-4 NFC West champion Seahawks. The Rams moved from their own 20 to a 1st and 10 at the Seattle 20. Wolford gained 2 and was then hit in the head. He left the game injured. Goff had to play the rest of the game with an injured thumb in a gutty performance. On 3rd and 5 from the Seattle 15, Goff was sacked. Matt Gay hit a 40 yard field goal to cap the 12 play, 58 yard, 6 1/2 minute drive and make it 3-0 Rams. A field position game in the second quarter had the Seahawks taking over just shy of midfield. On 2nd and 6 from the Rams 37, an incompletion was followed by Russell Wilson gaining only 5. On 4th and 1 from the Rams 32, Pete Carroll decided not to gamble. Jason Myers hit the 50 yard field goal for a 3-3 game. After a touchback, Goff went deep to Cooper Kupp for a 44 yard gain. Yet on 3rd and 2 from the Seattle 20, a run lost a yard. Gay hit from 39 to make it 6-3 Rams midway through the second quarter.

After a touchback, the Seahawks soon faced 2nd and 7 from their own 47. Wilson threw a short swing pass, and Williams jumped the route. The cornerback intercepted the ball and strutted 42 yards for a defensive touchdown and a 13-3 Rams lead. From his own 26, Wilson quickly rebounded. From his own 36, Wilson gained 17. On 2nd and 14 just shy of midfield, Wilson rolled out and went bombs away to DK Metcalf for a 51 yard touchdown. With 3:43 left in the half the Seahawks were within 13-10. The Rams soon faced 3rd and 9 from their own 26. Goff connected with Akers, who escaped to the sideline, somehow stayed inbounds, and gained 44 yards. Akers then ran for 20 and again for the 5 yard touchdown. Just past the 2 minute warning, the Rams had the 20-10 lead.

The Seahawks got a jolt when they returned the second half kickoff 58 yards to the Rams 41. Yet on 3rd and 3, Wilson went deep incomplete. Myers drilled the 52 yard field goal to get the Seahawks within 20-13. The Rams returned the ensuing kickoff 37 yards to their own 41. Yet on 3rd and 6, Goff was sacked. The defenses dug in and the Rams took over late in the third quarter at their own 30. Goff hit Robert Woods for 20 to midfield. The Rams moved to a 3rd and 2 at the Seattle 19. A run gained the first down, but Sean McVay called a timeout before the play because the play clock was about to expire. The mistake was costly as Malcolm Brown got the carry on the do-over and only gained one yard. This time McVay took no chances on the road on 4th and 1. Gay drilled the 36 yard field goal to give the Rams breathing room up 23-13 with 11 1/2 minutes left in regulation. The Seahawks soon faced 3rd and 1 at their own 34. Chris Carson got stopped cold. Pete Carroll gambled on 4th and 1, but a false start killed the try. On 4th and 6 Carroll punted with 9 1/2 minutes left in regulation. 

The Rams faced 3rd and 1 from their own 29. Brown got stopped and Sean McVay immediately deep in his own territory opted to punt. Johnny Hekker had a short punt that kept rolling and bouncing and DJ Reed should have let it go. Instead Reed fielded it and had it stripped. The Rams fell on it at the Seattle 36 with a chance midway through the fourth quarter to deliver the knockout blow. Goff up to this point had only thrown 17 passes all game, completing 7 of them for far less than 100 yards. Rather than just grind down clock, McVay got aggressive. Goff hit Brown for 9. Brown ran for a pair of 6 yard gains. Goff then executed a perfect play action pass and found a wide open Woods for a 15 yard touchdown. With 4:46 left in regulation the Rams had a commanding 30-13 lead. 

Needing 3 scores from their own 24, Wilson quickly moved the Seahawks 76 yards Wilson hit DK Metcalf for a 12 yard touchdown to get the Seahawks within 10 with 2 1/2 minutes left. The Seahawks still had all 3 timeouts plus the 2 minute warning. The onside kick failed. On 3rd and 4 from the Seattle 43, Brown got the carry and appeared just short of the sticks. A very generous spot gave him a first down by the nose of the ball, effectively ending the game. A desperate Pete Carroll challenged the spot and won, making it 4th and inches. An attempt to draw the Seahawks offside failed and the clock hit the 2 minute warning to give the Rams time to think it over. McVay again gambled and Goff’s quarterback sneak appeared bottled up. The Seahawks were barely alive with 1:55 left. They still had one timeout left. From their own 40, Wilson was immediately sacked as the Seahawks took their last timeout. A throw past the marker was dropped. A deep ball was well defended incomplete. On 4th and 15 from their own 35, Wilson was sacked again. Goff was only 9 of 19 for 155 yards with one touchdown, but with zero interceptions in a gutty effort with an injured thumb. Wilson was an awful 11 of 27 for 174 yards, most of it with the game out of reach. Wilson had 2 touchdowns and one killer interception. Wilson was sacked 5 times. 30-20 Rams

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Washington 7-9ers was the Saturday night game. With Dwayne Haskins cut and Alex Smith injured, Taylor Heinecke got the start. Tom Brady after 19 straight playoff trips with New England took the 11-5 Buccaneers to the playoffs in his first season with them. The Non-Redskins were 7-9, which was good enough to win the NFC Least. The Buccaneers easily moved from their own 19 to a 3rd and 3 at the Washington 11. Brady threw incomplete. Ryan Succop hit a 29 yard field goal for a 3-0 Buccaneers lead. The No-Names moved from their 14 to their 47. Heinecke was intercepted to give the Buccaneers the ball at their own 42. On 3rd and 10, Brady went to Miller for 15. On 3rd and 3 from the washington 36, Brady went deep to Antonio Brown for the touchdown. The extra point was blocked but the Buccaneers led 9-0.

After a touchback, the Non-Redskins tried to make a game of it. Heinecke hit Logan Thomas for 24 and Terry McLaurin for 18. Heinecke ran for 10. The No-Names faced 3rd and 8 at the Tampa 19 to start the second quarter. Heinecke went to Sims for 10. On 3rd and goal at the 2, McKissic got in to cap the 10 play, 75 yard, 5 minute drive and get the No-Names within 9-7 early in the second quarter. Riverboat Ron Rivera tried a surprise onside kick that was more of a squib kick. It was recovered by the Buccaneers at their own 39. Brown took an end around 22 yards. On 3rd and 3 from the Washington 27, Brady hit Leonard Fournette for 5 and then went to Chris Godwin for the 27 yard touchdown. The 2 point try failed but the Buccaneers led 15-7. The Buccaneers got it back at their own 13 and moved easily. Brady hit Fournette for 22 and Cameron Brate for 19 and 24. At the 2 minute warning, the Buccaneers had 2nd and goal at the 5. Brady threw incomplete twice. Succop hit from 23 to make it 18-7 Buccaneers.

The No-Names tried to make a game of it from their own 30 in the third quarter. Heinecke hit McLaurin for 12 and Thomas for 29. On 3rd and 4 from the Tampa 18, Heinecke threw incomplete. Dustin Hopkins hit the 36 yard field goal to get the Non-Redskins within 18-10. The Buccaneers moved from their own 20 to a 1st and 10 at the Washington 44. Vaughn gained 6 but had the ball punched out. The 7-9ers recovered at their own 39. Heinecke ran for 13. On the next play a defensive horse collar tackle added 15. On 2nd and 4 from the Tampa 7, a run lost a yard. On 3rd and 5, Heinecke scrambled, got around the end, and from the 4 yard line dove all the way in the air as the ball hit the pylon for the touchdown. The 2 point try failed but the 7-9ers were only down 18-16 late in the third quarter.

The Buccaneers soon faced 3rd and 3 from their own 32. Brady went to Brate for 23 and mike Evans for 17 as the Buccaneers began the fourth quarter facing 1st and 10 at the Washington 23. On 2nd and 2 from the Washington 15, Brady was sacked. On 3rd and 7 he threw incomplete. Succop hit from 38 to put the Buccaneers up 21-16 only 90 seconds into the fourth quarter. The Buccaneers quickly got it back at their own 31. Brady hit Evans for 20. Fournette ran for 7 and Miller added 8. Brady went to Evans for 19. Fournette ran for a 3 yard touchdown to make it 28-16 Buccaneers with 9 minutes remaining. After a touchback, Heinecke hit Sprinkle for 8 and Sims for 23. On 3rd and 3 from the Tampa 33, Heinecke hit Thomas for 5 and McLaurin for 16. On 3rd and 10 from the Tampa 11, Heinecke threw a perfect fade to Sims for the touchdown. With 5 minutes left in regulation, the No-Names were within 28-23. 

The Buccaneers took over at their own 23. Brady went deep to Evans for 35. Fournette gained 13. The No-Names took their timeouts on defense. On 2nd and 9 from the Washington 26, Brady was sacked for a 9 yard loss. On 3rd and 18, Brady hit Godwin for 16. Bruce Arians took no chances on 4th and 2. Succop hit the 37 yard field goal to put the Buccaneers up by 8 with 2:50 to play. The No-Names were very much alive. After a touchback, Heinecke went to McLaurin for 16 and Sims for 10. On both plays the Buccaneers committed defensive holding, which was declined. The penalties kept stopping the clock. On 2nd and 10, a pass was caught and fumbled out of bounds. Yet officials called it an incomplete pass. The No-Names were out of timeouts so Ron Rivera could not challenge the call. On 3rd and 10, the pocket collapsed and Hence was sacked for an 11 yard loss. At the 2 minute warning the No-Names faced 4th and 21 from their own 40. Heniecke escaped the pressure, backpedaled, and threw a Hail Mary that fell incomplete. The 4th string quarterback took the 6 time Super Bowl champion to the limit, but Brady won his first playoff game with the Buccaneers. 31-23 Buccaneers 

Baltimore Ravens at Tennessee Titans was the Sunday morning game. Both teams were 11-5 but the Ravens were a Wildcard and the Titans were the AFC South champions. Last year in the playoffs the 10-6 Titans shocked the 14-2 Ravens. This year the Titans beat the Ravens again. Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Eddie George and Steve McNair brought America smashmouth playoff games, and now that tradition has returned. The first quarter belonged to the Titans. On 3rd and 3 from their own 37, Ryan Tannehill went deep to AJ Brown for 28. On 2nd and 11 from the Baltimore 36, Tannehill went to Brown for 14. On 3rd and 4 from the Baltimore 16, Tannehill hit Anthony Firkser for 9. Tannehill went to Brown for the 10 yard touchdown as the officials missed offensive pass interference. The 10 play, 70 yard, 6 minute drive made it 7-0 Titans. 3 plays later Lamar Jackson went deep and was intercepted. The Titans took over at their own 28. On 3rd and 1 from their own 37 and everyone expecting Derrick Henry, Tannehill connected with Firkser for a 35 yard gain. On 2nd and  9 from the Baltimore 27, a completion gained nothing followed by an incompletion. Stephen Gostkowski hit the 45 yard field goal to make it 10-0 Titans.

Then momentum shifted. The Ravens soon faced 3rd and 7 from their own 28. Jackson went deep to Andrews for 17 as the first quarter ended. The Ravens moved all the way to a 3rd and 6 at the Tennessee 10. Jackson was sacked. Justin Tucker hit the 33 yard field goal to cap the 12 play, 60 yard, 6 1/2 minute drive and get the Ravens within 10-3 with 10 minutes left in the half. The Ravens got it back at their own 18. Jackson hit Brown for 9 and Edwards ran for 8. Brown ran for 15. On 3rd and 9 from the Tennessee 48, Jackson scrambled through and around everyone. He dove for the pylon and got the touchdown for a 10-10 deadlock with 2 1/2 minutes left in the half. The Ravens began the third quarter at their own 23. Jackson hit Ricard for 11 and Andrews for 4. Jackson ran for 10 and JK Dobbins added 9. On 3rd and 2 from the Tennessee 44, Jackson ran for 23. On 3rd and 2 from the Titans 13, Jackson hit Ricard for 9. Dobbins ran for the 4 yard touchdown as the 10 play, 77 yard, 6 minute drive gave the Ravens their first lead up 17-10.

Late in the third quarter the Titans took over at their own 42. Tannehill hit Brown for 18 with 15 more added on for roughing the passer. Tannehill hit Westbrook for 12. On 3rd and goal at the 5, a pass from Tannehill to Henry lost 2 yards. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Gostkowski hit from 25 to get the Titans within 17-13. After a touchback the Raven moved to a 2nd and 7 at the Titans 34. Jackson threw incomplete twice. From 52 yards out, Tucker was no good. The Titans moved from their own 42 to a 2nd and 2 at the Baltimore 40. Tannehill threw incomplete twice. Mike Vrabel opted to punt. The Ravens took over at their own 15. Dobbins ran for 12. Jackson hit Brown for 9 and Andrews for 17. Jackson ran for 14. On 3rd and 6 from the Titans 31, Edwards only gained 4. John Harbaugh gambled on 4th and 2. Jackson hit Dobbins for 3 but offensive pass interference instead meant 4th and 12. This time Tucker hit from 51 as the Ravens led 20-13 with 4 1/2 minutes left. 

The Titans on 3rd and 1 from their own 30 gave it to Henry and he got stopped. On 4th and 1, Tannehill took the quarterback sneak for 2. At the 2 minute warning, the Titans had 2nd and 5 at their own 37. Tannehill then went deep over the middle and was intercepted. Marcus Peters returned it 13 yards to the Titans 47, but a taunting penalty on the Ravens after the play backed them up to their own 38. With 1:50 left, the Titans still had all 3 timeouts. Rather than run the ball, the Ravens inexplicably passed on 1st down, an incompletion that stopped the clock. On 2nd and 10, Jackson broke free, gained 33 yards, and smartly gave himself up inbounds to force the Titans to take their 1st timeout. The Titans took their final timeout with the Ravens facing 3rd and 1 at the Tennessee 20 with 1:25 left. Gus Edwards got the carry and bulldozed over the Tennessee defense for 5 yards. Jackson took a knee to end it. After losing 2 playoff games at home, Jackson silenced the critics by getting his first playoff win on the road. Jackson’s critics have been tough on him, but he left the field without shaking hands with anyone. Perhaps realizing his error, he returned to the field. This was a tough, physical win typical of a game between Baltimore and Tennessee. 20-13 Ravens

Chicago Bears at New Orleans Saints was the Sunday afternoon game. The 8-8 Bears staggered into the playoffs and took on the 12-4 NFC South champion Saints who had all their top talent back on the field from injury and COVID. In a bizarre new TV venture, the game was simulcast on Nickelodeon. The Saints took over at their own 45. Drew Brees hit Harris for 9. On 3rd and 8 from the Chicago 39, Brees hit Harris for 17. Brees hit Michael Thomas for an 11 yard touchdown to make it 7-0 Saints. The Bears took over at their own 20. Mitchell Trubisky hit Kmet for 9. Trubisky then went deep to Sims for a 28 yard gain. On the next play Matt Nagy went to the bag of tricks. Trubisky lateraled to Montgomery, who lateraled it to Cordarelle Patterson, who pitched it back to Trubisky, who went bombs away to Wims for what should have been a 40 yard touchdown. Wims dropped it. It was right in his hands. He just dropped it. On 4th and 4 from the Saints 34, Matt Nagy went for it rather than try a 52 yard field goal. Trubisky scramble around the end but only gained 2 yards. The second quarter began with Wil Lutz missing a 50 yard field goal that would have extended the lead. 

The Saints got it back at their own 16. From his own 27, Brees went for the bomb and had the ball stripped just as he threw it. It was plucked out of the air by big man John Jenkins at the Saints 24. On 2nd and 6 from the Saints 10, a completion gained only one yard. Then a killer unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after the late had the Bears facing 3rd and 20. It was a bad call. Kmet flipped the ball to the referee, but since the defender was in the area, it was treated as throwing the ball at the defender. After a false start, Cairo Santos hit the 36 yard field goal to get within 7-3 midway through the second quarter. The defenses dug in. In the third quarter the Saints faced 3rd and 4 from their own 21. Brees went to Thomas for a 38 yard gain. Brees then went to Cook, who broke through tackles for a 10 yard gain. A false start had the Saints facing 3rd and 14 from the Chicago 24. Brees went to Cook for 12. Sean Payton gambled on 4th and 2 rather than try an easy 30 yard field goal. The Bears bit on the hard count and jumped into the neutral zone. It was a killer penalty as Brees hit Latavius Murray for a 6 yard touchdown. The 12 play, 85 yard, 7 1/2 minute drive had the Saints up 14-3 with 4 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter. 

The Saints got it back and soon faced 3rd and 6 from their own 40. Brees hit Kamara for 10. On 3rd and 4 from the Chicago 44, Brees hit Harris for 5. On 3rd and 11 from the Chicago 40, Brees hit Humphrey, who juked out defenders for a 14 yard gain. Brees then hit Cook for 12. On 2nd and goal at the 5, Brees was sacked for a 14 yard loss. Yet defensive holding meant 1st and goal at the 2. On 2nd and goal at the 2, Hill threw incomplete but defensive pass interference meant 1st and goal at the one. After a loss, Kamara ran for a 3 yard touchdown. The Bears defense hung tough for most of the game, but the Saints finally broke them with a 15 play, 64 yard drive that consumed nearly 9 minutes. With 9 minutes left in regulation the Saints finally broke the defense to lead 21-3. The Saints got it back at their own 32. and moved to a 4th and goal at the one. Brees did not get in, but the goal line stand came with only 2 1/2 minutes left. Chicago finally got a garbage touchdown on the final play of the game. The Saints will host Tampa in the divisional round. 21-9 Saints

Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers was the Sunday night game. The 11-5 Wildcard Browns took on the 12-4 AFC North champion Steelers. The Browns last made the playoffs in 2002 and last won a playoff game in 1994. The Steelers started 11-0 before going 1-4 down the stretch, although their loss to Cleveland in the regular season finale came with backups. The Browns would have to win this game without a coach, as Kevin Stefanski was out with COVID. The Steelers were supposed to easily win. On the very first play of the game after a touchback, the Steelers lined up in the shotgun. Perennial Pro Bowler Maurice Pouncey snapped the ball high over Ben Roethlisberger’s head. A wild scramble ensued. The Browns recovered in the end zone for a 7-0 Browns lead only 14 seconds into the game. After a touchback the Steelers moved to a 1st and 10 at their own 48. Roethlisberger went back to pass and under heavy pressure threw a high pass over the middle that was intercepted by MJ Stewart. The Browns took over at the Pittsburgh 46. On 3rd and 4 Baker Mayfield fired over the middle to Jarvis Landry, who broke a couple bad attempts at tackles for a 40 yard touchdown as the Browns had the shocking 14-0 lead. 

The Steelers soon faced 3rd and 1 from their own 35. Derek Watt got the carry and got stopped cold. The Browns got it back at their own 35 and Nick Chubb gashed the Pittsburgh defense for gains of 17 and 20. On 3rd and 5 from the Pittsburgh 23, Mayfield hit Higgins for 12. Karim Hunt took it up the gut and smacked right into and over Pittsburgh defenders for an 11 yard touchdown and a 21-0 Browns lead. After a touchback and an offensive holding penalty, the Steelers faced 2nd and 20 from their own 26. Roethlisberger threw a high pass that was deflected and intercepted by Redwine. Redwine weaved through traffic and returned the interception 30 yards to the Pittsburgh 15. On 3rd and 3 from the Pittsburgh 8 out of the shotgun, Hunt went off tackle and found a seam and got in the end zone. In an absolute shocker, the Browns led 28-0 and there were still 2 minutes left in the first quarter. 

The 28 points were the most points in an NFL playoff game opening quarter by one team in league history. 

In the second quarter the Steelers got the ball back at their own 46. On 3rd and 2 from the Cleveland 46, Big Ben had a pass deflected high in the air. Gustin made a diving interception as the Browns took over at their own 47. On 2nd and 11 Mayfield somehow escaped a sack and hit Austin Hooper for 16. However, offensive holding nullified the play and instead meant 2nd and 21. A pass close to the sticks to Hooper was dropped. Hunt gained 13. On 4th and 8, a field goal try would be 53 yards. After failing to get the defense to jump offside, the Browns punted. 

The Steelers got it back at their own 11. On 3rd and 1 from their 20, Bennie Snell gained 2 the hard way. Roethlisberger hit Washington for big gains of 17, 10 and 27, James Conner for 7, Diontae Johnson for 6, Washington for 4 and Eric Ebron for 5 to set up 3rd and 1 at the Cleveland 2. Roethlisberger threw high and incomplete as the clock hit the 2 minute warning. On 4th and 1 from the 2 out of the shotgun, Conner got the carry up the middle and appeared stopped short. A very generous spot for some reason was not reviewed. On the next play Conner got in off-tackle as the Steelers trailed 28-7 with 1:44 left in the half. Johnson returned the ensuing kickoff 33 yards to his own 36. On 3rd and 6 from their own 40, Mayfield scrambled for just enough. Mayfield then went to Chubb for 21 and Hooper for 8. Chubb ran for 12. On 1st and 10 from the Pittsburgh 12, Mayfield hit Hooper for 5 as the Browns took their last timeout with 37 seconds left. Mayfield went again to a wide open Hooper for a 7 yard touchdown as the Browns had a 35-7 lead over the shellshocked Steelers fans watching at home. 

The Browns defense relaxed too early as the Steelers took over at their own 32 with 34 seconds left. Snell gained 11. Big Ben hit Johnson for 11 and 15. It appeared Claypool was tackled inbounds but the refs ruled he got to the sideline. Chris Boswell drilled a 49 yard field goal as the Steelers trailed 35-10 at the half. In the third quarter the Steelers took over at their own 16. Roethlisberger hit Chase Claypool for 7, Eric Ebron for 9, Juju Smith-Schuster for 10, Johnson for 12, Conner for 4, Ebron for 10, Johnson for 15, and Ebron for a 17 yard touchdown. The 2 point try failed but the Steelers were within 35-16 midway through the third quarter. Roethlisberger was 8 for 8 on the drive. Browns fans got a big collective lump in their throats after going 3 and out. The Steelers soon faced 3rd and 9 at their own 33. Roethlisberger hit Johnson for 15 and Smith-Schuster for 27. On 3rd and 10 from the Cleveland 20, Roethlisberger hit Smith-Schuster for 15. Big Ben then threw 3 straight incompletions. On 4th and goal at the 5, Mike Tomlin decided to go for it. Roethlisberger hit Smith-Schuster for the touchdown. The Steelers were within 35-23 with 3 minutes left in the third quarter.

The Browns went 3 and out again as the Steelers got it back at their own 37. On 3rd and 8 Roethlisberger hit Smith-Schuster for only 7 as the third quarter ended. The fourth quarter began with the Steelers facing 4th and 1 from their own 46. Lined up in punt formation and making motions for a fake punt, attempts to draw the defense offside failed. Despite having all the momentum, the Steelers took a delay of game penalty and then punted. The Browns faced 3rd and 2 at their own 28. Mayfield threw a short pass to Landry, who got around the edge for a 17 yard gain and a key first down to give their defense a rest. Mayfield went back to Landry for 15 more. On 2nd and 10 from the Pittsburgh 40, the Steelers blitzed and a perfectly executed screen pass beat it. Chubb broke tackles and raced to the end zone for a touchdown. The Browns now had breathing room up 42-23 with 12 1/2 minutes left in regulation. 

The Steelers struck back very quickly from their own 24. Roethlisberger hit Johnson for 7 and 15, Smith-Schuster for 25, and Claypool for a 29 yard touchdown. The 2 point try failed but the Steelers were within 42-29 with 11 minutes left in regulation. A 30 yard kickoff return by Johnson had the Browns starting at their own 35. Chubb ran for 9 and one. Rather than grind down clock, the Browns stayed aggressive. Mayfield hit Hunt for 13 and Landry for 17. On 3rd and goal at the 6, a pass to the end zone was dropped. Cody Parkey hit the 45 yard field goal to put the Browns up 45-29. Yet because of the incompletion, 4 1/2 minutes remained rather than 3:45. After a touchback, the Steelers soon faced 1st and 10 from their own 40. Roethlisberger was intercepted by Takitaki, who returned it 23 yards to the Pittsburgh 25 with 3:16 to play. It was Pittsburgh’s 5th turnover including 4 interceptions of Roethlisberger. Parkey hit a 37 yard field goal to ice the game and make it 48-29 Browns with 2:50 to play.

The Steelers took over at their own 23. On 4th and 10 from the Cleveland 40, Roethlisberger hit Smith-Schuster for 33 and Claypool for the 7 yard touchdown. The 2 point conversion got the Steelers within 11 with 1:09 to play. The onside kick failed and he Browns finally survived. Roethlisberger threw 68 passes, completing 47 of them for 501 yards. He had 4 touchdown passes to go with the 4 interceptions. Mayfield was 21 of 34 for 263 yards, 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. The Browns were missing more than head coach Kevin Stefanski. They were also without offensive line coach Bill Callahan. They had more than one offensive lineman go down during the game. For those wondering, special teams coach Mike Priefer was the interim head coach in this game. He was once interim coach for another team a few years ago, a loss. His first win was a sweet one as David stunned Goliath. After 26 years, the playoff drought is over. After 16 straight years losing in Pittsburgh, that drought is over as well. The Browns won a playoff game and will travel to Kansas City in the Divisional round. 48-37 Browns

My birthday: 49 Happy Memories upon turning 49

January 9th, 2021

My birthday: 49 Happy Memories upon turning 49

I entered this world 48 years ago today on January 9, 1972. On my 49th birthday, here are 49 happy memories.

1.) Every moment I ever spent with my grandparents. They are gone now, but I had all four of them when I graduated college and three of them when I turned 30. I am blessed.

2.) January 9, 1977 — The Oakland Raiders won the Super Bowl on my fifth birthday. I saw the logo and became a Raider for life.

3.) August 15, 1980 — Smokey and the Bandit II came out. I saw the original and the sequel and became a lifelong fan of the Bandit and the Snowman.

4.) January 22, 1984 — The Raiders won their third Super Bowl. I still remember telling the kids at school the next day one simple message. “Just win baby!”

5.) January 21, 1985 — I had my Bar Mitzvah, the Jewish passage into manhood. My Orthodox Rabbi grandfather led the ceremony.

6.) July 13, 1990 — I watched Bill Murray in “Quick Change” for the first of over 100 times. This movie is true New York, and Murray remains a national hero.

7.) August 26, 1990 — I flew from New York to Los Angeles for college. I immediately fell in love with this city and never left.

8.) September 26, 1990 — I joined the campus radio station and developed my lifelong love of radio.

9.) May 10, 1992 — I wrote my first song. 70 more would follow.

10.) January 9, 1994 — The Raiders won a playoff game over arch rival Denver on my 22nd birthday. We all had a big party to celebrate afterward at 1950s Cafe Ed Debevic’s.

11.) June 14, 1994 — The New York Rangers won the NHL Stanley Cup and ended the 54 year curse.

12.) September 13, 1994 — I passed the Series 7 stockbroker’s exam. At that moment I was now a professional.

13.) June 1, 1997 — I saw my friend doing something on a computer that seemed different. He was in a chat room. It was my first time using the Internet.

14.) July 4, 1999 — My friends and I crashed an Independence Day party on the beach and escaped moments before police busted up the party.

15.) September 23, 1999 — I finally got my driver’s license. I never needed one before.

16.) December 31, 1999 — Ringing in the Millennium in Las Vegas.

17.) March 1, 2000 — I flew from Los Angeles to New Orleans for Mardi Gras 2000. I still have my Calvin and Hobbes t-shirt, “Life is short. Party naked. Mardi Gras 2000.”

18.) February 13, 2003 — I watched the movie “Old School.” I will forever thank Vince Vaughn, Will Ferrell and “The Godfather” Luke Wilson for inspiring me at age 31 to finally start going to Florida for Spring Break. Years of South Beach, Miami revelry ensued at the Clevelander and Ocean’s 10. 

19.) March 14, 2003 — I flew to Singapore and Thailand and got to experience five days of beauty in each country. I met the Jewish communities of both nations.

20.) November 4, 2003 — NFL Network was born. Finally, a television channel worth watching existed. 

21.) November 2, 2004 — Enjoying the 2004 election with my closest friends.

22.) February 12, 2006 — I flew from Los Angeles to Hawaii. I met the Jewish community of Honolulu and attended my first NFL Pro Bowl. I met ESPN’s Chris Berman.

23.) April 28, 2006 — I flew from Los Angeles to New York and went to Radio City Music Hall. For the first time, I got to attend the NFL Draft and meet a bunch of great football heroes. 

24.) August 4, 2006 — I flew from Los Angeles to Ohio and drove to Canton. I visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame, saw the induction ceremony featuring John Madden, and attended the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game.

25.) March 11, 2007 — I Started a blog called the Tygrrrr Express. That column somehow turned into five books and a national speaking career.

26.) September 11, 2007 — On the sixth anniversary of the attacks, I flew from Los Angeles to New York and then drove to Great Adventure in New Jersey. I attended Sean Hannity’s Feedom Concert and saw New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani light up the crowd.

27.) October 17, 2007 — I joined Facebook. Between that and Twitter, I have met many good people, increased book sales, and built my business.

28.) February 2, 2008 — I flew from Los Angeles to Phoenix and attended my first Super Bowl. The New York Giants shocked the previously unbeaten New England Patriots.

29.) March 30, 2008 — My friend adopted a child from Guatemala. On this day “the boy” turned one. Being “Unca Eric” is the best job in the world.

30.) May 13, 2008 — I flew from Los Angeles to Washington, DC. I attended the Republican Jewish Coalition Leadership Conference and met Dr. Charles Krauthammer.

31.) August 6, 2008 — I flew from Los Angeles to Israel and spent a week in the Holy Land.

32.) August 30, 2008 — I flew from Los Angeles to Minneapolis for my first Republican Convention. For a week, friends and I slept in a sports bar. It was like being Norm Peterson from “Cheers.”

33.) April 5, 2009 — My first book “Ideological Bigotry” was published.

34.) September 1, 2009 — I left Wall Street after 15 years and began my career as a full-time professional speaker.

35.) November 11, 2009 — I flew from Los Angeles to Galveston and spoke at the Texas Federation of Republican Women Convention. I made TFRW and other lifelong friends in the Lone Star State.

36.) March 11, 2010 — I flew from Los Angeles to Oklahoma City to speak at the National Federation of Republican Women Spring Conference. That launched me nationally since the NFRW run the world.

37.) May 1, 2011 — In Aiken, South Carolina, I saw the news that Osama bin Laden was killed. That night I told my very best political joke. “Osama bin Laden is now burning underground with 72 Helen Thomases.” It was the bookend to my very first political joke. “Never rely on a Palestinian GPS tracker. I took one wrong turn, ended up at a cemetery, and a sinister voice said, ‘You have reached your final destination!’ I got so angry I threw the thing out the window, which was good because 5 seconds later it exploded.”

38.) February 9, 2013 — I met Vice President Dick Cheney and spoke in front of him at a dinner.

39.) September 25, 2013 — I spoke to a Tea Party group in Hays, Kansas. At that moment, I had officially spoken in all 50 states.

40.) November 4, 2014 — I spoke at an election night party in New Jersey.

41.) March 20, 2015 — After writing four political comedy books, I finished my first religious comedy book “Jewish Lunacy.” This allowed me to move beyond political speaking into religious speaking.

42.) May 12, 2015 — I met President George W. Bush and shook his hand.

43.) November 8, 2016 — Enjoyed a raucous election night party in Raleigh, North Carolina.

44.) December 31, 2016 — New Year’s Eve with the friends who matter most to me.

45.) Any woman whoever let me play with her yummy bouncies or at least was nice enough to send me pictures of them.

46.) January 9, 2018 — On my 46th birthday, the return of Chucky as Jon Gruden returns to the Black Hole to rejoin the Raiders. Like me, Gruden has unfinished business.

47.) November 9, 2018 — I met Angela Lansbury in Beverly Hills and got my picture taken with her. She remains one of the most talented people in the history of entertainment. 

48.) 2019 was the year I branch out beyond books and into t-shirts. I started with 2 or 3 designs in 2017 and 2018. By the end of 2019 I had 49 mostly original t-shirt designs. My best seller remains “Stop judging women by their tops. #BackSidesMatter!”

49.) 2020 was a brutal year for so many people because of a global pandemic. Yet thank God I was healthy and in better financial condition than previous years. On January 9, 2021, I watched the NFL Wildcard playoffs with friends. Normally there would be 2 games as has been the case for the last 30 years. Yet for the first time, there were 3 games, with 3 more to occur on January 10th. I watched football all day and had a great day with people who matter to me. I was besieged with well-wishes from hundreds of people by text, phone call and social media. My birthday evening capped with a special someone. I am blessed as can be to have had such a great birthday. 

I would like to thank my parents for raising me right and Angela Lansbury’s JB Fletcher of “Murder, She Wrote” for catching murderers and making the world safer.

Anything I could possibly wish for has already been granted.

eric @ Tygrrrr Express