NFL 2022-2023 Wildcard Recap

NFL 2022-2023 Wildcard Recap.    

7) Seattle Seahawks at 2) San Francisco 49ers was the Saturday afternoon game on FOX. The 49ers started 3-4 but then won 10 straight. Even more amazing, they have started 3 different quarterbacks. Trey Lance got injured very early in the season. Jimmy Garoppolo, who was supposed to be shipped out of town, was doing well until he got injured later in the season. Mr. Irrelevant Brock Purdy, the final pick in the 2022 Draft, has hone 5-0 in leading the 49ers to the two seed. The Seahawks snuck in the playoffs on the final regular season weekend with a 9-8 record. No coach has his finger on the pulse of his team or gets more out of less than Pete Carroll. He oversaw the Legion of Boom defense that made this the nastiest rivalry in the NFL. Yet this Seahawks team does not have a great defense. They have a revitalized Geno Smith.

Early on it was all 49ers. The 49ers moved from their own 46 to a 3rd and 3 at the Seattle 16. Purdy threw incomplete. Robbie Gould hit a 34 yard field goal to make it 3-0 49ers. The 49ers got it back at their own 15. Christian McCaffrey immediately ripped off a 68 yard gain. On 2nd and 13, Purdy hit Mitchell for 18. Purdy hit McCaffrey for a 3 yard touchdown to make it 10-0 49ers. 

The Seahawks soon faced 3rd and 5 at thrown 27. Smith DK Metcalf for 12. Walker ran for 4 and 6. Smith ran for 11. On 3rd and 4 from the San Francisco 27, Smith hit Tyler Lockett for 6. As the first quarter ended. The second quarter began with Kenneth Walker running for 2, 5, and the 7 yard touchdown. The 14 play, 78  yard, 7 minute drive got Seahawks within 10-7. After a touchback the 49ers moved to a 2nd and 9 at the Seattle 12. Purdy was sacked to kill the drive. Gould hit from 33 to make it 13-7 49ers. The Seahawks took over at their own 29. Smith hit fast for 11. On 3rd and 3 from midfield, Smith went bombs away to Metcalf for the touchdown. With 5 minutes left in the half, the Seahawks led 14-13. 

With 1:08 left, the 49ers took over at their own 23. The 49ers quickly moved to a 1st and 10 at the Seattle 28 with 41 seconds left. Purdy went deep incomplete thrice. Gould hit the 46 yard field goal. With 13 seconds left, the 49ers led 16-14. Yet Kyle Shanahan, who has a history of bad coaching decisions in big games, made another one. Rather than kick the ball deep out the back of the end zone, he decided to squib kick it. This allowed the Seahawks to take over at their own 38 with 9 seconds left. Smith ran for 9 yards, and a mindless defensive unnecessary roughness penalty added 15 more. With one second left, Jason Myers came in for a 56 yard field goal try. The kick was good. The Seahawks led 17-16 at the half.

The Seahawks were plucky and over-achieving. The 49ers began the third quarter facing 3rd and 1 from their own 34. Purdy gained 3. Purdy went to George Kittle for 23. On 3rd and 7 from the Seattle 37, Purdy hit Deebo Samuel for 21. McCaffrey ran for 7, 2, and on 3rd and 1 from the Seattle 7, 5 more. Purdy ran for a one yard touchdown. The 13 play, 75 yard, nearly 8 minute drive had the 49ers back on top 23-17. After a touchback, the Seahawks moved 45 yards in 12 plays and 5 minutes. On 2nd and 9 from the Seattle 14, Smith hit Lockett for 7. Yet an ineligible man downfield nullified the gain. An incompletion left 3rd and 14 from the San Francisco 19. The Seahawks still had a chance to lead. Even a field goal would make it a 3 point game. Then came the play of the game. Smith was sacked and fumbled. Nick Bosa recovered for the 49ers at their own 30. Smith has been plagued by fumbling problems throughout his career. 

Purdy hit Samuel for 11. McCaffrey ripped off gains of 8 and 12 as the third quarter ended. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Purdy went deep to Jennings for 33. Purdy went to Mitchell for the 7 yard touchdown. Purdy hit Kittle for the 2 point conversion. One minute into the fourth quarter, the 49ers led 31-17. The 49ers got it back at their own 24. Purdy went to Samuel for a 74 yard touchdown. 11 minutes remained, but the 49ers were now comfortably ahead 38-17. Smith was then immediately intercepted, leading to a 31 yard Gould field goal to make it 41-17 49ers with 5minutes left. 25 unanswered points turned a close game into a blowout. The Seahawks managed one garbage touchdown but no more as the 49ers advance to the Divisional round match at home. 41-23 49ers 

5) Los Angeles Chargers at 4) Jacksonville Jaguars was the Saturday night game on NBC. Although the Chargers had the better record, the Jaguars had the home field due to winning their division. Doug Pederson was supposed to need 2 years to turn the Jaguars around, but despite starts of 2-6 and 4-8, the Jaguars came in winners of 5 straight games. Despite consecutive winning seasons, Brandon Staley has been criticized for ill-times 4th down gambles and other questionable coaching decisions. Last week Staley played his starters despite having clinched their playoff spot. This led to Mike Williams getting injured and missing this game. 

On the second play from scrimmage on 2nd and 6 from his own 28, Trevor Lawrence had his pass batted, juggled and intercepted by Tranquill. The acrobatic interception was returned by Tranquill 15 yards to the Jacksonville 18. Two plays later, Austin Ekeler ran for a 13 yard touchdown to make it 7-0 Chargers less than 90 seconds into the game. The Jaguars after a touchback moved to a 4th and 7 at the Chargers 33. Doug Pederson passed up a 51 yard field goal try and went for it. Lawrence was intercepted by Asante Samuel, who returned the pick 16 yards to his own 39. The Chargers moved 57 yards in 12 plays. On 2nd and goal at the 4, Herbert threw incomplete twice. Cameron Dicker hit a 22 yard field goal to make it 10-0 Chargers. 

The Jaguars soon faced 3rd and 5 at their own 19. Lawrence was intercepted by Samuel again. The Chargers had another short field at the Jacksonville 16. Ekeler ran for 7, 3, and the 6 yard touchdown. 3 interceptions of Lawrence had the Chargers up 17-0 after the first quarter. The Chargers got it back and faced 3rd and 5 from their own 43. Justin Herbert hit Donald Parham for 12. On 3rd and 11 from the Jacksonville 46, Herbert went to Keenan Allen for 23 and Palmer for 13. On 3rd and goal at the 9, Herbert hit Gerald Everett for the touchdown to make it 24-0 Chargers. The Jaguars got a jolt when the ensuing kickoff was returned to midfield. Yet on 3rd and 10, Lawrence was intercepted for the 4th time on the day and for the 3rd time by Samuel. The Jaguars defense held but the punt bonked off of a Jacksonville platyer’s helmet. After a mad scramble, the Chargers recovered at the Jacksonville 6 yard line. Yet the Chargers did not slam the door shut. A run gained one yard and Herbert threw incomplete. Dicker hit the 23 yard field goal. 5 turnovers including 4 by Lawrence had the Chargers up 27-0 with 4 1/2 minutes left in the half. 

The Chargers got it back at their own 18 with 3:11 left in the half. All Brandon Staley had to do was run the ball, eat up the clock, and then do likewise in the second half. This game was over as long as Staley ran the ball. Instead he came out throwing. On 3rd and 1, Herbert fumbled the snap. The Chargers retained possession but lost 10 yards and had to punt. A short 34 yard punt gave the Jaguars a short field at the Chargers 47 with 1:49 left. Lawrence hit Travis Etienne for 12. On 4th and 1 from the Chargers 26, Doug Pederson passed up a 44 yard field goal try and went for it. Lawrence hit Jones for 12. Lawrence hit Evan Engram for a 9 yard touchdown. With 24 seconds left, the Jaguars were finally on the board down 27-7.

In the third quarter, Staley refused to commit to the run, as Herbert came out throwing. The Chargers punted and the Jaguars took over at their own 11. Lawrence hit Christian Kirk for 10, Engram for 7, Zee Jones for 5, Engram for 9, Kirk for 5, and Engram for 24. On 3rd and 7 from the Chargers 19, Lawrence was sacked for a 16 yard loss. Yet Joey Bosa had lined up offside, so instead of 4th and 23 it was 3rd and 2. Etienne gained 7. On 3rd and goal at the 6, Lawrence hit Jones for the touchdown. The 14 play, 89 yard, 7 1/2 minute drive had the Jaguars within 27-14 with 5 minutes left in the third quarter. The Chargers took over at their own 23. Staley kept calling pass plays and Herbert kept throwing. The Chargers moved to a 1st and 10 at the Jacksonville 31. A run lost a yard and Herbert threw incomplete twice. Dicker nailed a 50 yard field goal to put the Chargers up 30-14 with 3 minutes left in the third quarter. 

The Jaguars took over at their own 32. Etienne gained 5. Lawrence went to Jones went to 11. Etienne added 8 and 5. Lawrence went deep to Jones for a 39 yard touchdown. Doug Pederson went for 2. While the try failed, a mindless defensive unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Joey Bosa after the play nearly saw him ejected. The rest of the game, Bosa was rattled. Meanwhile, the Jaguars were only down 30-20 after three quarters. The Chargers took over at their own 20 to start the fourth quarter and moved 58 yards in 14 plays and 7 minutes. A touchdown would put the Chargers up 37-20 and pretty much lock up the win. On 3rd and 3 from the Jacksonville 22, Herbert threw incomplete. Dicker came in for a 40 yard field goal try to make it 33-20 Chargers. Yet the kick was no good, hooking wide left at the last possible moment. With 6 1/2 minutes left in regulation, the Chargers still only led 30-20. 

The Jaguars got it back and an immediate sack of Lawrence had then facing 2nd and 19 from their own 21. Yet on the next incompletion, defensive pass interference meant 6 yards and an automatic first down. Lawrence then went to Jones for 8, Kirk for gains of 12 and 17, and Engram for 21. Lawrence went to Kirk for a 9 yard touchdown. After the score, a disgusted Bosa slammed his helmet down in frustration. The resulting unsportsmanlike conduct penalty did not result in an ejection but did affect the conversion. With the ball on the one instead of the two, Doug Pederson gambled on a 2 point try. Lawrence got in by leaping over the top and barely stretching the ball over the plane of the goal. With 5 1/2 minutes left in regulation, the Jaguars were only down 30-28. 

Staley could still run the ball and run out the clock, but stubborn is as stubborn does. He kept throwing, and after a touchback Herbert was immediately sacked. The Chargers went 3 and out and the Jaguars took over at their own 21 with 3:20 to play. The Jaguars only needed a field goal to win. Lawrence went to Kirk for 12. Lawrence ran for 8 and went to Kirk for 9, With 90 seconds left on 3rd and 1 from the Chargers 41, Lawrence threw incomplete. A field goal try would be 59 yards. Even if it was good, the Chargers would still have plenty of time to drive for the win. So on 4th and inches, Doug Pederson went for it. Everyone bunched up the middle expecting a quarterback sneak. Etienne got around the end for a 25 yard gain and purposely went down inbounds. Now a field goal try would only be 32 yards. The Chargers could still take their timeouts on defense in the hopes of having 30 to 45 seconds left to pull off a miracle. 

This time Brandon Staley lost his mind. He just let the clock run down. He is known for his many bad decisions on offense, but the former defensive coordinator is supposed to know defense. Timeouts are useless in the locker room after the game. Yet Staley did not call one. Etienne ran for a 2 yard loss to center the ball as the clock kept running down. On 2nd and 12 from the Chargers 18, Doug Pederson finally called timeout with 3 seconds left. There would be no reprieve for a bad snap or hold. Riley Patterson came in for the 36 yard field goal try to pull off the shocking comeback. The kick kept drifting rightward but barely snuck inside the right upright. At first it appeared no good but officials ruled it was good. The Jaguars celebrated but there was a flag on the play. An offensive penalty would nullify the kick and end the game without a chance for a retry. Yet the penalty was on the defense for jumping offside. 17 unanswered points and a 31-3 Jaguars explosion erased the 27 point deficit. The Chargers collapse was complete. Speculation immediately centered on whether Staley would be fired. His absolute refusal to run the ball along with mismanaging the timeouts cost his team the game. As for Lawrence, after a first half with 4 interceptions, he responded by also finishing with 4 touchdown passes. This was a comeback for the ages. 31-30 Jaguars

7) Miami Dolphins at 2) Buffalo Bills was the Sunday morning game on CBS. The Bills entered the playoffs with a 13-3 record and a wave of emotion. Less than 2 weeks after Damar Hamlin nearly died on the field, he was in the locker room just to encourage his teammates before this game. He spent game day at home recovering from his near fatal heart attack. The Dolphins started 8-3 but collapsed down the stretch. They had lost 5 straight before barely surviving the Jets at home 11-6 in a finale with no touchdowns to get to 9-8. Tua Tagovailoa was out injured with a concussion and backup Teddy Bridgewater was out with a broken finger. The warm weather Dolphins had to go into cold weather Buffalo and win with 3rd string quarterback Skylar Thompson. The heavily favored Bills were riding a wave of emotion and expected to dominate this game.

The Bills began at their own 27. Josh Allen went to Stefan Diggs for 20. On 3rd and 15 from his own 42, Allen went bombs away to Diggs for a 52 yard gain. On the next play Allen went to Dawson Knox for a 6 yard touchdown to make it 7-0 Bills. Two plays after a touchback, Thompson was intercepted. Marlowe returned the interception 10 yards to the Miami 23. On 3rd and 1, Singletary gained 2. On the next play James Cook ran for a 12 yard touchdown to make it 14-0 Bills. The Bils got it back at their on 33 and moved 52 yards in 11 plays and nearly 5 minutes. 90 seconds into the second quarter on 2nd and 8 to the Miami 13, Allen went to Knox for the touchdown. 21-0 probably would have ended the game, but the touchdown was reversed to an incompletion. Then Allen was sacked. Tyler Bass hit a 33 yard field goal to make it 17-0 Bills early in the second quarter. The rout was on. 

Then it was not. Bass kicked the kickoff out of bounds to set up the Dolphins at their own 40. They moved 38 yards in 10 plays and 5 minutes. On 2nd and 9 from the Buffalo 15, Thomson was sacked to kill the drive. Jason Sanders hit a 40 yard field goal to get the Dolphins within 17-3. Three plays after a touchback from his own 47, Allen went for it all and was intercepted by Xavier Howard at the 3 yard line. Howard returned the interception 49 yards to the Buffalo 48. On 4th and 8, Mike McDaniel went for it and Thompson hit Wilson for 13. On 3rd and 7 from the Buffalo 30, Thompson threw incomplete. Sanders hit a 48 yard field goal. The Dolphins trailed 17-6 with 2:15 left in the half. The Bills soon faced 3rd and 8 at their own 30. Allen went bombs away to Shakir for a 64 yard gain. Yet on further review, the play was reversed to an incompletion. The Bills punted and Wilson returned the punt 50 yards to the Buffalo 27. On 3rd and 2 from the Buffalo 19, Thompson threw incomplete. On 4th and 2, McDaniel was not in a gambling mood. Sanders hit his third field goal from 37 to get the Dolphins within 17-9 with 1:15 left in the half. 

After a touchback, all the Bills had to do was get to the half. Yet Sean McDermott decided to stay aggressive. On the third play of the drive from his own 36, Allen was intercepted again. This time it was Holland who returned the pick 29 yards to the Buffalo 18. On 3rd and 1 from the Buffalo 9, Thompson followed up his 12 yard run with a critical 2 yard gain. On the next play Thompson went to Mike Gesicki for a 7 yard touchdown. Thompson went to Tyreek Hill for the 2 point conversion. The game was tied 17-17, but the Dolphins left 33 seconds on the clock. After a touchback, the Bills quickly moved to the Miami 21. Bass hit a 39 yard field goal to put the Bills back up 20-17 at the half. The Dolphins went 3 and out to start the third quarter, and the Bills took over after one minute at their own 30. On their first play of the second half, disaster struck. Allen got blasted in the pocket and fumbled. After a mad scramble, Sieler picked up the fumble and coasted 5 yards into the end zone. The defensive touchdown gave the Dolphins their first lead of the game up 24-20. 

The defenses dug in as the Bills punted on their next 2 drives sandwiched around a Miami punt. Midway through the third quarter, a sack of Thompson had the Dolphins facing 3rd and 19 from their own 8 yard line. The safe call would be a give up run and a punt. The Dolphins were winning with defense. A field position game made sense. Yet neither coach was playing it safe in this game. Thompson went deep and was intercepted to set up the Bills at the Miami 33. Allen hit Gabriel Davis for 13. On 3rd and 8 from the Miami 18, Allen ran for 12. Allen hit Cole Beasley for the 6 yard touchdown to put the Bills back up 27-24. The Bills got it back at their own 32. Allen hit Morris for 12. On 3rd and 6 from their own 48, Allen went to Beasley for 29 yards.  On the next play Allen went to Davis for the 23 yard touchdown. The Bills led 34-24 after three quarters, but this game was not over. 

After a touchback, Thompson went to Hill for 12. Defensive pass interference added 8 more yards. The fourth quarter began with the Dolphins at midfield. Thompson went to Wilson for 14 and Ahmed for 13. A sack of Thompson meant 2nd and 18 from the Buffalo 31. Thompson went to Ahmed for 20. Wilson ran for a one yard touchdown. With 11 minutes left in regulation, the Dolphins were within a field goal. The defenses dug in again as the Bills again punted twice sandwiched around a Miami punt. With 4 1/2 minutes left the Dolphins took over at their own 14. They moved to a 3rd and 1 at their own 48. Ahmed got the carry and got stopped cold for no gain. On 4th and inches, the Dolphins lined up to go for it. A costly delay of game penalty meant 4th and 5. Thompson then threw incomplete. 

The Dolphins were out of timeouts but the 2 minute warning would stop the clock. 2:22 remained. That meant if the Dolphins could get a stop, they would have maybe 20 to 30 seconds to get in field goal range. Remember, the Bills took the lead with 13 seconds left in last year’s AFC Title Game. That was enough time for Kansas City to force overtime. The Dolphins needed only a field goal. Everything came down to the Bills facing 3rd and 7 from the Miami 40 with 1:15 left. Singletary got the carry and at first appeared stopped after 3 or 4 yards. Yet the whistle did not blow and Singletary kept dragging defenders with help from his offense as everyone trie to move the pile. By the time Singletary finally came down, he was only inches short of the first down marker. Officials called it a first down. Replay showed Singletary was short, but barely. Perhaps by the nose of the ball. It would be 4th and inches for all the marbles. Except it wouldn’t. In a shocking move, the officials affirmed the first down. Allen took a knee and ended things. The Dolphins were game, but the Bills are the ones moving on. 34-31 Bills


6) New York Giants at 3) Minnesota Vikings was the Sunday afternoon game on FOX. The Giants entered as the 10-7 Wildcard against the 12-5 Vikings. The Vikings have an explosive offense but have question marks on defense. The Giants brought the defense. The Vikings had the home field, but the Giants rested their starters last week to keep them fresh. Both Brian Daboll and Kevin O’Connell were in their first season as an NFL head coach and their first playoff game. After an opening touchback, the Vikings moved with ease. Kirk Cousins hit Justin Jefferson for 10. Dalvin Cook ran for 9 and 2. Cousins hit Jefferson for 10 and Adam Thielen for 13. On 3rd and 2 from the Giants 10, Cousins went to TJ Hockenson for 4. Cousins ran for a one yard touchdown. The 12 play, 75 yard, 6 1/2 minute drive made it 7-0 Giants.

Yet the Giants punched back quickly and easily. Offensive holding had them facing 1st and 20 at their own 15. Daniel Jones hit James for 13 and ran for 7 himself. Jones went to Darrius Slayton for 22 and ran for 15 more. Saquon Barkley ran for a 15 yard touchdown to tie the game 7-7. The Giants got it back at their own 19 and again made it look easy. Jones went deep to Slayton for 47 yards. Barkley then ran for 16. Isaiah Hodgins ran for a 14 yard touchdown to make it 14-7 Giants. The Giants got it back at their own 9 yard line to start the second quarter and embarked on the drive of the year. 20…yes, 20…plays. 85 yards. 11…yes, 11 minutes off the clock. Yet on 2nd and goal at the 6, Brian Daboll refused to play smash mouth. The drive was vintage New York Giants football. The last 2 plays were not. Jones threw incomplete twice. Graham Gano hit the 25 yard field goal to make it 17-7 Giants. 

The Giants soon faced 3rd and 9 from their own 26. Cousins went to Hockenson for big gains of 27 and 28. Cousins went to Jefferson for 6 and to KJ Osborn for a 9 yard touchdown. With 45 second left in the half, the Vikings were within 17-14. Yet after a third quarter touchback, the Giants kept rolling. On 3rd and 3 from their own 32, Jones went to Barkley for 24 and to Hodgins for 32. Jones went to Bellinger for a 9 yard touchdown and a 24-14 Giants lead. After a touchback, Cousins went to Mundt for 12. On 3rd and 7 from their own 47, Cousins went to Hockenson for 19 and to Thielen for 25. Cousins hit Smith for a 3 yard touchdown to get the Vikings within 24-21 midway through the third quarter. The Vikings got it back at their own 24 and moved 56 yards in 12 plays and 6 1/2 minutes. On the last play of the third quarter, Kevin O’Connell gambled on 4th and 2 from the Giants 43. Cousins went to Hockenson for 18 yards. In the fourth quarter O’Connell gambled again on 4th and 1 from the Giants 16. Yet a false start killed the try. Greg Joseph hit the 38 yard field goal try. With 12 1/2 minutes left in regulation, the game was tied 24-24.

After a touchback, Jones hit Slayton for 14 and James for 11 to midfield. Jones went to Hodgins for 19.  and Barkley for 10. With 8 1/2 minutes left in regulation the Giants faced 4th and 1 at the Minnesota 7 yard line. A field goal would give the Giants the lead. Yet Brian Daboll wanted it all. It seemed like a reckless decision, but he gambled and won when Jones snuck the ball for a 2 yard gain. Barkley ran for a 2 yard touchdown. Midway through the fourth quarter, the Giants led by 7 rather than 3. The Vikings quickly went 3 and out and Kevin O’Connell decided to punt and trust his defense with 6 1/2 minutes still left. The Vikings got the ball back with 3 minutes left at their own 12 yard line, plenty of time to tie the game. With 1:44 left after an incompletion, the Vikings faced 4th and 8 at their own 48. They were out of timeouts. This was their last gasp. Cousins hit Hockenson, who was quickly tackled after a 3 yard gain. Jones took 3 knees to give the Giants the surprising road win. 31-24 Giants  

6) Baltimore Ravens at 3) Cincinnati Bengals was the Sunday night game on NBC. This was a typical AFC North street fight. There was no finesse. This was stone age football. With hard-nosed running and brutal defense. Last year the Ravens started 8-3. Then Lamar Jackson got injured and the Ravens lost 6 straight games. This year the Ravens started 10-3 before Jackson got injured. The Ravens lost their last 4 games and backed into the playoffs. Last week the Ravens lost at Cincinnati 27-16, and were now facing the Bengals on that same field. Again Tyler Huntley would start despite the Ravens being 0-10 in those late games Huntley or 3rd stringer Anthony Brown filled in for Jackson. The Bengals had their starters heathy, but the Ravens turned this into a bare-fisted defensive slobber-knocker. The Bengals happily obliged.

After a touchback, the Bengal moved 54 yards in 14 plays and 6 1/2 minutes. On 1st and 10 from the Baltimore 21, Zac Taylor abandoned smashmouth. Joe Burrow threw 3 straight incompletions. Evan McPherson hit a 39 yard field goal to make it 3-0 Bengals. 5 plays later Huntley was intercepted, setting up the Bengals at their own 40. Burrow hit Hurst for 13. On 3rd and 8 from the Baltimore 45, Burrow hit JaMarr Chase for 12. On 3rd and 10 from the Baltimore 33, Burrow hit Chase for 13. On the last play of the first quarter, Burrow hit Chase for 12. On the first play of the second quarter, Burrow hit Chase for a 7 yard touchdown. McPherson missed the extra point but the Bengals led 9-0.

Yet the Ravens after a touchback embarked on a mind-numbing drive. 17 plays and 75 yards took 10 minutes offf the clock. Huntley went to Sammy Watkins for 12. On 3rd and 1 from their own 46, Edwards gained 4. JK Dobbins ran for 13. On 3rd and 1 from the Cincinnati 28, Mark Andrews got stopped for no gain. John Harbaugh gambled on 4th and 1 rather than try a 46 yard field goal with the best kicker in the game. Huntley kept the ball and gained 2. Huntley then hit Andrews for 14. On 3rd and 5 from the Cincinnati 6, Huntley was sacked. Yet a defensive facemask penalty instead meant 1st and goal at the 3. On 3rd and goal at the 2, Huntley hit Dobbins for the touchdown. With 5 minutes left in the half, the Ravens were within 9-7. The Bengals took over at their own 30 but a sack of Burrow meant 3rd and 16 from their own 39. Burrow went to Hurst for 6 yards on what was meant to be a short give up play. Yet Hurst got blasted and fumbled. The Ravens recovered at the Cincinnati 44. The Ravens moved to a 1st and goal at the 3 with 23 seconds left. Yet after a short Huntley pass lost a yard, he threw 2 more incompletions to leave 7 seconds. Tucker hit the 22 yard field goal. The earlier missed extra point was the difference as the Ravens took a 10-9 lead to the locker rooms. 

The Bengals in the third quarter soon faced 3rd and 1 at their own 26. Burrow gained 4. Joe Mixon gained 7 and 4. Burrow hit Tyler Boyd for 10 and 5. O 3rd and 9 from the Baltimore 48 after a false start, Burrow hit Chase for 10 and again for 19. Burrow went to Hurst for 18 down to the one. Burrow got in to cap the 12 play, 83 yard, 7 minute drive. Zac Taylor went for 2 and Burrow hit Tee Higgins for the conversion to make it 17-10 Bengals. In a game where every yard was fought for, this time the Ravens from their own 19 struck quickly. Huntley went to Dobbins for 27 and Edwards for 13. Huntley then went to DeMarcus Robinson for a 41 yard touchdown. The game was tied 17-17 after three quarters. In the fourth quarter the Ravens moved from their own 18 on an 80 yard drive. With 11 1/2 minutes left in regulation, the Ravens faced 3rd and goal at the one. Even if they failed to take the 24-17, an almost automatic Tucker field goal would put them up 20-17. Then came the play of the game and the entire season for both teams. 

Huntley took the quarterback sneak and tried to leap over the top and stretch the ball over the plane of the goal. At the goal line, he had the ball knocked out of his hands by Pratt. Huntley celebrated, insisting that he had scored the touchdown. Yet no whistle had blown. The ball bounced to Cincinnati defensive end Sam Hubbard, who returned the ball and rumbled down the field with a convoy of blockers. One final attempt at tackling him failed. Hubbard returned the fumble 98 yards for a defensive touchdown. Chaos ensued as each team thought they were on their way to a 24-17 lead. Officials got the all right. Replay clearly showed that Huntley was short of the goal line when he fumbled. It was the Bengals, not the Ravens, who were up by 7. Both defenses dug in as each team the punted twice. Yet a 16 yard punt return with 5 more tacked on for a penalty had the Ravens taking over with a short field at the Cincy 46 with 3:12 to play. That was plenty of time to tie the game or even go for the win. 

With 34 seconds left, the Ravens had moved to a 1st and 10 at the Cincy 17. After an incompletion, John Harbaugh made a very questionable coaching decision. He decided to surprise the Bengals by calling a running play with the entire football world expecting passes. The Bengals were not fooled as the play only gained 4 yards. Making matters worse, offensive holding on the play meant 2nd and 20 instead of 2nd and 6. Two more Huntley incompletions left 8 seconds. The Ravens were facing 4th and 20 from the Cincy 27. Huntley rolled out and threw the shortened version of the Hail Mary. Everyone jumped for the ball in the end zone. It was deflected backward to an open Baltimore receiver. The receiver dove for the ball and even got one hand on it but not both hands as the ball bounced off his fingers incomplete. It was a typical ugly but beautiful AFC North game. The defending AFC Champions survived. 24-17 Bengals

5) Dallas Cowboys at 4) Tampa Bay Buccaneers is the Monday night game on ESPN/ABC. The Cowboys entered the playoffs 12-5 while the Buccaneers were a horrendous 8-9. It was Tom Brady’s first losing season in 23 years, but it was good enough to win the awful NFC South. The Cowboys as a Wildcard would have to win at Tampa. The Cowboys have far more talent, especially on offense. Yet in his career, Brady has never lost to Dallas, a perfect 7-0. Mike McCarthy knows offense and Todd Bowles knows defense, but both coaches would be on the hot seat with a loss. Each team punted twice to start, but then the Cowboys went on a roll.

The Cowboys began their third drive at their own 20. Dak Prescott hit Michael Gallup for 15. Roughing the passer added 15 more. Tony Pollard added 18. Prescott went to Dalton Schultz for a 22 yard touchdown. Brett Maher missed the extra point as the Cowboys led 6-0. After a touchback, the Buccaneers moved 70 yards in 14 plays and 6 1/2 minutes. The second quarter began with the Buccaneers facing 1st and goal at the 5. After an incompletion, Brady went to the end zone and was intercepted by Kearse for a touchback. The Cowboys soon faced 3rd and 1 from their own 29. Ezekiel Elliott gained 3. On 3rd and 3 from their own 39, Prescott hit Pollard for 5. On 3rd and 8 from their own 46, Prescott hit TY Hilton for 14.  Prescott then went to Ferguson for 34. On 3rd and goal at the one, Elliott got stopped for no gain. Mike McCarthy gambled. On 4th and goal, a fake handoff drew everyone to the middle. Prescott rolled out on a naked bootleg and easily strutted into the end zone. Maher missed his 2nd straight extra point wide right but the 15 play, 80 yard, 8 1/2 minute drive had the Cowboys led 12-0.

The Cowboys got the ball back at their own 9 yard line. Prescott hit Hilton for 9 and Dalton Schultz for 20. On 3rd and 6 from their own 44, Prescott ran for 11. On 2nd and 15 from midfield, Prescott went to CeeDee Lamb for 20, Gallup for 13, Schultz for 6, and Shultz again for an 11 yard touchdown. Maher’s nightmarish night continued as his 3rd missed extra point this time was wide left. Yet the 11 play, 91 yard drive made it 18-0 Cowboys. Needing a comeback, the Buccaneers quickly went 3 and out. The Cowboys took over at their own 14. Prescott went to Schultz for 26. On 3rd and 4 from their own 46, Prescott went to Lamb for 26. Pollard ran for 18. Prescott went to Gallup for a 2 yard touchdown to cap the 86 yard drive. The Cowboys had 4 straight touchdown drives, all of them at least 80 yards. Everything was going right for the Cowboys except for their kicker. Maher missed his 4th straight extra point try and 5th dating back to the previous week as the Cowboys led 24-0.

The Buccaneers were down by 24, but Tom Brady came back from down 25 in the Super Bowl a few years ago. Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn was the losing head coach in that Super Bowl meltdown. Late n the third quarter the Buccaneers took over at their own 5 yard line. On 3rd and 7, Brady went to White for 11 and Chris Godwin for 16. Godwin fumbled and the Cowboys recovered, but officials ruled Godwin was down by contact. Replay showed that Godwin was losing the ball before he hit the ground. It would not be the first time in his career that Brady benefited from officials incorrectly reversing a fumble to an incompletion. Brady hit Russell Gage and Jons for a pair of 7 yard gains. On 3rd and 7 from the Dallas 48, Brady went to Mike Evans for 18. On the last play of the third quarter, Brady went deep to Julio Jones for a 30 yard touchdown. The 2 point conversion try failed but the Buccaneers were within 24-6. 

A good kickoff return had the Cowboys taking over at their own 34. Prescott hit Brown for 15. On 3rd and 6 from the Tampa 47, Prescott hit Gallup for 12. Pollard gained 11. On 4th and 4 from the Tampa 18, Maher was ready to try a 36 yard field goal. Mike McCarthy was having none of it. After 4 missed extra points, Maher was kept on the bench and McCarthy went for it. The gamble paid off as Prescott found a wide open Lamb, who waltzed into the end zone for an 18 yard touchdown. After 6 combined touchdowns, 5 of them by Dallas, the game finally saw a successful extra point. Maher’s first good kick had the Cowboys up 31-6 with 10 minutes left in regulation. The Buccaneers moved from their own 16 to a 1st and goal at the 2. Brady threw incomplete twice and then was sacked. On 4th and goal from the 11 under heavy pressure, Brady as he was going down threw a desperation incompletion to nobody. This time there would be no comeback, although the Buccaneers did get a garbage touchdown with 2 minutes left. If this was Brady’s final game, it ended in humiliating fashion. Todd Bowles is now on the hot seat whether or not Brady returns. As for the Cowboys, they are at San Francisco in the Divisional round. 31-14 Cowboys 

The Divisional Playoffs are set:


6.) New York Giants at 1.) Philadelphia Eagles

5.) Dallas Cowboys at 2.) San Francisco 49ers


4.) Jacksonville Jaguars at 1.) Kansas City Chiefs

3.) Cincinnati Bengals at 2.) Buffalo Bills

Saturday, January 21, 2023:

4:30pm: AFC: Jacksonville Jaguars at Kansas City Chiefs on NBC

8:00pm: NFC: New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles on FOX

Sunday, January 22, 2023:

3:00pm: AFC: Cincinnati Bengals at Buffalo Bills on CBS

6:30pm: NFC: Dallas Cowboys at San Francisco 49ers on FOX


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