Archive for the ‘SPORTS’ Category

Do not change the NFL overtime rules

Tuesday, January 25th, 2022

Leave the NFL Overtime Coin Toss rule alone

NFL 2021-2022 Conference Title Games Prequel

Monday, January 24th, 2022

NFL 2021-2022 Conference Title Games Preview and Bettor’s Guide

NFL 2021-2022 Divisionals Recap

Saturday, January 22nd, 2022

NFL 2021-2022 Divisionals Recap

The 2021-2022 NFL Wildcard matchups were last week. This week was the Divisional games.

Cincinnati Bengals (4)(10-7) at Tennessee Titans (1)(12-5) was the Saturday afternoon game. The Bengals won the AFC North and then last week survived on the final play for their first playoff victory in 31 years. The Titans won the AFC South and had the bye week last week along with home field throughout the playoffs. The Titans were seeking to reach the AFC Title Game for the second straight year while the Bengals were seeking to reach their first AFC Title Game since 1988. The Titans got a major emotional lift with the return of beast running back Derrick Henry, who missed the second half of the regular season with an injured foot. 

On the very first play from scrimmage after a touchback, Ryan Tannehill was intercepted by Bates, setting up the Bengals at the Tennessee 42. Joe Burrow hit Joe Mixon for 21, but a delay of game penalty meant 3rd and 14 from the Tennessee 28. Burrow hit Tee Higgins for only 8. Evan McPherson hit a 38 yard field goal to make it 3-0 Bengals. The Bengals got it back at their own 12. Burrow threw a quick swing pass to JaMarr Chase, who evaded a tackle and raced for a 57 yard gain. Yet a sack of Burrow meant another 3rd and 14 from the Tennessee 34 had Burrow hitting Higgins for only 7. McPherson hit again from 45 to make it 6-0 Bengals.

In the second quarter the Titans took over at their own 16. Tannehill went deep to AJ Brown for 41. On 3rd and 3 from the Cincinnati 36, Tannehill went to Hilliard for just enough. Henry ran for 6. Tannehill hit Julio Jones for 13 and Brown for 8. Henry took a direct snap for a 3 yard touchdown. The extra point was good, and the Titans briefly led 7-6. Yet a penalty on Cincinnati gave the Titans the option of better field position for the kickoff. For some bizarre reason, Mike Vrabel instead decided to take the extra point off the board, move the ball from the two to the one, and go for a needless 2 point conversion. Henry got the carry and was stopped. Instead of taking the lead, the game was tied 6-6.  

The Bengals soon faced 3rd and 3 at their own 32. Burrow hit CJ Uzomah for 6. Burrow then went to Higgins for 15 and again for 22. On 3rd and 9 from the Tennessee 19, a false start followed by a sack killed the drive. McPherson hit from 54 for a 9-6 Bengals lead with 1:40 left in the half. Despite not reaching the end zone and Burrow getting sacked 5 times in the first half, the Bengals were setting the tone. The Bengals began the third quarter at their own 35. On 3rd and 1 from their 44, Burrow hit Higgins for 12. Joe Mixon ran for 6 and 10. On 3rd and 5 from the Tennessee 23, , Burrow avoided a sack, ran up the middle, and dove for 7 yards. Mixon then ran up the middle to the right and weaved back left for a 16 yard touchdown and a 16-6 Bengals. After a touchback, Henry ran for 9, 3 and 9. Foreman then broke several tackles for a 45 yard gain. The Titans had 1st and goal at the 9. Tannehill tried to throw a swing pass. Hilton made a leaping deflection and then plucked the ball out of the air for an interception. Only a tackle by Tannehill prevented Hilton from returning the interception for a defensive touchdown. 

The Titans got it back at their own 28. Henry ran for a pair of 5 yard gains. Tannehill then went deep to Brown for a 40 yard gain. Yet on 3rd and 9 from the Cincinnati 21, a completion from Tannehill to Hilliard gained only 5. Randy Bullock hit the 34 yard field goal. With 1:40 left in the third quarter, the Titans were within 16-9. A strong kickoff return had the Bengals taking over at their own 40. Last week the Bengals won with help from a blown call. This week a controversial call went against them. Burrow threw a short pass for Perine that bounced off his hands. Hooker made a shoestring interception and returned it 15 yards to the Cincinnati 27. Replay showed the ball clearly hitting the ground at the exact same time as Hooker got his hands on the ball. It should have been an incompletion. After a lengthy review, the calls took. After a false start, Tannehill went deep to Brown into double coverage. The throw was perfect and Brown made a one-handed grab for the touchdown. The Bengals were on the verge of putting the game away earlier, and instead the game was tied 16-16 after three quarters.

The Bengals began the fourth quarter at their own 20. Burrow hit Uzomah for 7 and Mixon ran for 13. Burrow connected with Chase for 21. On 3rd and 3 from the Tennessee 32, Burrow was sacked for a 16 yard loss. The 7th sack of the day was a tremendous mistake for Burrow, because it pushed the Bengals out of field goal range. The Titans moved from their own 17 to a 3rd and 1 at the Cincy 35. Tannehill tried the quarterback sneak and got stopped. Mike Vrabel passed up a 53 yard field goal try that would have given the Titans the lead. Instead Henry got the carry on a slow moving play and was gang tackled in the backfield for a 2 yard loss. Midway through the fourth quarter, the game was still tied. The Bengals moved to a 3rd and 8 at the Tennessee 48. Burrow was then sacked for the 9th time. There were no fancy blitzes. This was just a straight bull rush up the middle and the Tennessee defense repeatedly overwhelmed the Cincinnati offensive line. 

The Titans took over at their 16 with 2:43 left in regulation. After a 3 yard run, the clock ticked all the way down to the 2 minute warning. The Titans moved with very little urgency, not wanting to leave any time for the Bengals if they failed to make a first down. Yet the Bengals also let the clock run down, not wanting to leave the Titans time if they did get first downs. On 3rd and 5 from his own 20, Tannehill fired over the middle and had the ball bounce off the receiver into the air and intercepted by Logan Wilson. Tannehill’s 3rd interception set up the Bengals at their own 47 with 20 seconds left and 2 timeouts. Burrow fired the ball to Chase for 19, leaving 15 seconds. The Bengals were in long field goal range. Zac Taylor was not going to risk Burrow getting sacked a 10th time. A pair of very safe runs followed by 2 timeouts took the clock down to 3 seconds but added 0 yards. McPherson came in for the 52 yard try to win it. A miss meant overtime.

There would be no overtime. McPherson buried the kick and the Bengals had the stunning road upset win. Home field, the bye week, and the return of Derrick Henry did not matter. McPherson hit 4 field goals for the 2nd straight week. Burrow became the first quarterback in NFL history to get sacked 9 times and still win a playoff game. The Titans won all year playing smash mouth. The Bengals normally win with flash. They won this game with grit and toughness. This was old-school football. The Bengals are on the road for the AFC Title Game. 19-16 Bengals

San Francisco 49ers (6)(10-7) at Green Bay Packers (1)(13-4) was the Saturday night game. The 49ers snuck into the playoffs by going on the road, overcoming a 17-0 deficit, and shocking the Rams 27-24. Then the 49ers in the Wildcard round went on the road again and stunned Dallas 23-17. The Packers breezed their way to the NFC North crown and a bye week with home field throughout the playoffs. The Packers in the regular season were an unbeaten 8-0 at home. The Tundra at Lambeau Field truly was frozen with a kickoff temperature of 4 degrees. The Packers made it look early on from their own 31. Aaron Rodgers hit Devonta Adams for 14 and Aaron Jones for gains of 19, 10 and 11. AJ Dillon ran for 5 and then for the 6 yard touchdown to make it 7-0 Packers. The Packers did not face a single 3rd down on the 10 play, 69 yard, 5 1/2 minute drive. The defenses took over the rest of the opening quarter in which the 49ers had negative 7 total yards. With 6 1/2 minutes left in the half, the 49ers were at minus 10 yards. Yet the Packers after their opening drive did nothing as San Francisco’s defense kept the 49ers in the game.

On 2nd and 10 from their own 23, Jimmy Garoppolo threw a sideline pass and George Kittle made a leaping one-handed catch for a 15 yard gain. It was Garoppolo’s first completion and the 49ers first 1st down after nearly 24 minutes of futility. On 3rd and 1 from their own 47, Mitchell gained 4. Garoppolo hit Mitchell for 16 and Mitchell ran for 6 more as the 2 minute warning came with the 49ers facing 2nd and 4 at the Green Bay 25 yard line. Garoppolo hit Kittle for 12 to set up 1st and goal at the 9 as the Packers took their 2nd timeout on defense with 1:10 left in the half. Yet then came offensive holding. On the next play Garoppolo twice avoided being sacked and rolled out but his pass was intercepted by Amos at the 4 yard line. The Packers were willing to run the ball to end the half, but the 49ers took a timeout on defense that backfired on them. The Packers on 3rd and 3 from their own 11 saw Rodgers escape the pressure, roll to his right, and lob a pass to Jones for a 76 yard gain. Yet on 1st and 10 from the San Francisco 14 with 26 seconds left, Rodgers got sacked and fumbled. The Packers retained possession and Rodgers spiked the ball with 3 seconds left. Mason Crosby came in for a 39 yard field goal try to extend the lead. The kick was blocked. 

The 49ers got a jolt to start the third quarter when Deebo Samuel returned the second half kickoff to midfield. With snow now coming down, pass-happy Kyle Shanahan actually started running the ball. After 4 straight runs, Garoppolo then hit Samuel for 18. On 2nd and 5 from the Green Bay 12, Mitchell tried to get around the end and looked like he had the edge to the end zone. Yet stokes made a touchdown saving tackle at the 3 yard line. Making matters worse, Mitchell was called for an offensive facemask. Instead of 1st and goal it was 2nd and 14 from the green Bay 21. Then came an illegal formation on the offense. On 3rd and 16, a give up completion from Garoppolo to Samuel gained only 12. The 10 play, 7 minute drive netted only 39 yards. Robbie Gould hit the 29 yard field goal to get the 49ers on the board. 

The Packers took the ball at their own 28 and held the ball for 9 minutes. The 14 play drive moved them 57 yards and set up 2nd and goal at the 5. A false start moved the Pack back. On 3rd and goal at the 8, Rodgers was sacked. Crosby this time hit the 33 yard field goal but the Packers only led 10-3 with 11 1/2 minutes left in regulation. The 49ers had their turn at their own 28, moving on a drive that took 5 1/2 minutes off the clock. The snow was coming down harder now. On 3rd and 11 from their own 48, Garoppolo fired to Kittle for 24 yards. On 3rd and 7 from the Green Bay 25, Garoppolo fired over the middle to Jennings near the sticks. Jennings thought he had the first down but a perfect tackle by Amos kept Jennings short. Kyle Shanahan decided to go for it on 4th and 1 from the Green Bay 19. Mitchell got the carry and got blasted by the Green Bay defense for a one yard loss with 6:15 to play. The 49ers defense forced a 3 and out as Rodgers was sacked for a 5th time on the night. On 4th and 19 from their own 12, the Packers punted. Then came the shock.

The punt was blocked by Willis. Talanoa Hufanga picked up the blocked punt at the Green Bay 6 yard line and ran it in for the touchdown. This was more than just the first time a game had featured a Talanoa Hufanga. It was now a 10-10 deadlock with 4:40 to play in front of a shellshocked snowed upon home crowd. The Packers had failed to put the game away the entire game and now were in a fight for survival. The Packers went 3 and out again as the 49ers took over at their own 29 with 3:20 to play. Garoppolo hit Kittle for 12 and Samuel for 14. The Packers took their final timeout on defense with 1:03 to play. Then the 49ers took their 1st timeout. Everything came down to the 49ers facing 3rd and 7 at the Green Bay 38. A 56 yard field goal try with snow coming down was not a serious option. Pass-happy Kyle Shanahan actually called a running play. Samuel gained 9 yards for a key first down. With 4 seconds left, Gould came in for the field goal try to win it. Now the the kick was 46 yards. Gould was good. 

For the second straight season, the Packers won 13 games and home field throughout the playoffs only to flame out in the playoffs. Jimmy Garoppolo was too classy to yell at Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay crowd: “I own you! I f-in own you! I always will!” Garoppolo was expected to be replaced early in the season by Trey Lance. Instead, Garoppolo and the 49ers led by their nasty defense are on the way to the NFC Title Game for the 2nd time in 3 years.. Garoppolo is as unassuming and humble as Rodgers is insufferable. Rodgers spent the entire offseason last year complaining that he did not have enough help. The defense gave up 2 field goals. Rodgers led one early touchdown drive and did nothing the final 54 minutes. He is a great regular season quarterback. For the second year in a row in cold Green Bay football weather, he lost to a warm weather team. This loss is on him and the horrendous Packers special teams. In addition to giving up a blocked field goal, a blocked punt, and 2 long kickoff returns, the special teams saved their worst for last. On the final decisive field goal, the Packers only had 10 men on the field. This was a stunning playoff upset. 13-10 49ers

Los Angeles Rams (4)(12-5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2)(13-4) was the Sunday afternoon game. The Rams won a shootout over the Buccaneers in Week 3 in Los Angeles, but the rematch was in Tampa. These teams came into the game knowing that the winner would play in the NFC Title Game on their home field. The Rams clobbered Arizona last week in the Wildcard while the Buccaneers breezed through their Wildcard game against overmatched Philadelphia. Both Sean McVay and Bruce Arianss are offensive wizards. The Buccaneers do have the great Tom Brady, but have suffered key injuries including on their offensive line. The Buccaneers came in seeking to go to the NFC Title Game for the second straight year while the Rams were looking to go to the NFC Title Game for the 2nd time in 4 years. The Rams finally got Cam Akers back after he missed most of the entire regular season. The Buccaneers got Leonard Fournette back after he missed 4 weeks. Fournette began the game with runs of 11 and 10, but after that the Rams defense held. 

The Rams took over at their own 20 and Matthew stafford came out throwing. Stafford hit O’Dell Beckham for 6, Akers for 9, and Cooper Kupp for 17. After a holding penalty meant 1st and 20, Stafford calmly went to Beckham for 20 and Tyler Higbee for 29 more. Yet on 1st and goal at the 9, a run gained one yard and stafford threw incomplete twice. Matt Gay hit the 26 yard field goal to make it 3-0 Rams. The Rams got it back at their own 29. Stafford went to Beckham for 9. On the next incompletion, defensive pass interference added 16 more yards Stafford then hit Higbee for 9. Another incompletion saw Ndomakung Suh get called for taunting, adding 15 more yards. Stafford may have gotten away with a light kick to Suh, but Suh was heard mouthing expletives that go beyond football. Suh has a history of such behavior on the field. Akers ran for 9 and Stafford hit Blanton for a 7 yard touchdown to make it 10-0 Rams. 

After a touchback with 3 minutes left in the opening quarter, Brady finally completed his first pass, hitting Fournette for 13. Brady then somehow avoided a sack and fired over the middle to Rob Gronkowski for 29. Yet on 3rd and 4 from the Rams 27, Brady threw incomplete. Ryan Succop hit the 45 yard field goal to get the Buccaneers within 10-3 after the first quarter. Yet Succop then kicked the ensuing kickoff out of bounds, setting the Rams up at their own 40. A sack of Stafford st up 3rd and 20 from their own 30. Stafford calmly went bombs away to Kupp, who evaded a tackler for a 70 yard touchdown and a 17-3 Rams lead. The Buccaneers were all called for a defensive penalty for a player removing their helmet and slamming it to the ground in the field of play. The Buccaneers went 3 and out and the Rams got the ball back at midfield with a chance to all but turn out the lights. The Rams wasted the opportunity and the Buccaneers got the ball back at their own 20.

On 3rd and 7 from his own 23, Brady hit Mike Evans for 9. On 3rd and 6 from his own 36, Brady hit Evans for 21. On 1st and 10 from the Rams 43, Brady hit Evans for 8. Yet an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Brady meant 2nd and 17 instead of 2nd and 2. Brady cursed out the officials for failing to throw a flag on a hit that was perfectly legal. Brady went to Fournette for 19 while still yelling. Yet from the Rams 31, a run gained one yard and Brady threw incomplete twice. From 48 yards out, Succop’s kick was no good. The Rams moved from their own 38 to a 1st and 10 at the Tampa Bay 28. After an incompletion, a swing pass lost 4 yards. On 3rd and 14, Stafford hit Kupp for 11. Matt Gay hit the 40 yard field goal to cap the 12 play, 41 yard, 6 1/2 minute drive and make it 20-3 Rams with 2:23 left in the half. A sack of Brady had the Buccaneers facing 2nd and 17 at their own 8 at t he 2 minute warning. Brady went deep for Gronk and Scott made a leaping interception in front of him at the Tampa Bay 31. The Rams moved to a 2nd and goal at the 6 with 24 seconds left in the half looking for the kill shot. Akers got the carry and fumbled at the one yard line. The Buccaneers recovered. The Rams got the ball to start the third quarter but again did not put the game away. The Buccaneers were 3 scores down, but both teams knew what Brady was capable of. Also, the Rams lost their regular season finale by blowing a 17 point lead. 

A great punt pinned the Buccaneers at their own 5. They went 3 and out and Powell returned the punt 33 yards to set the Rams up with gift field position at the Tampa Bay 28. Rather than grind down clock, Sean McVay kept his foot on the gas. Stafford hit Blanton for 11, Kupp for 4, and Beckham for 10. On 3rd and goal at the one, Stafford took the quarterback sneak and bulled forward across the plane of the goal for a 27-3 Rams lead midway through the third quarter. After a touchback, Brady hit Evans for 5 and Howard for 7. Brady then went deep to Gronk for 42. and to Evans for 11. Yet on 1st and 10 from the Rams 12, Brady threw 2 incompletions sandwiched around a sack. With the home crowd booing, Bruce Arians on 4th and 11 opted for the field goal. Succop hit from 31 but the Buccaneers still trailed 27-6 with 3 minutes left in the third quarter. Yet every time the Buccaneers had the slightest momentum, they lost it. For the 2nd time on the day, the ensuing kickoff was kicked out of bounds  and the Rams took over at their own 40.

Yet every time it looked like the Rams were going to permanently turn out the lights, they didn’t. A short pass from Stafford to Kupp was fumbled. Murphy-Bunting returned the fumble 10 yards to set up the Buccaneers at the Rams 30. On 3rd and 9, Brady threw incomplete and was lucky he was not intercepted as the defender just dropped it. This time Bruce Arians went for it on 4th and 9, Brady hit Scotty Miller for 16. On 2nd and 7 from the Rams 10, a short pass to Tyler Johnson saw johnson break through 2 tackles and somehow turn nothing into a 9 yard gain and 1st and goal at the one. Fournette got in off right tackle for the touchdown. The Rams had every chance under the sun to put this game away. Instead the Buccaneers only trailed 27-13 after three quarters. The Rams quickly went 3 and out and took only 9 seconds off of the fourth quarter. A blowout was now a ballgame. 

Yet in a game of rapid momentum shifts, momentum shifted again. Brady got sacked by Von Miller and fumbled. The Rams had the ball at the Tampa 25 and needed only a field goal to make it a 3 score game again. Then this crazy game got even crazier. Out of the shotgun, Stafford was looking away from the ball and had no idea the snap was coming. It sailed past him and the Jason Pierre Paul recovered for the Buccaneers all the way at the Rams 46. Brady hit Gronkowski for 13 and Fournette for 5. Yet on 3rd and 5 from the Rams 27, Brady was sacked by Floyd. On 4th and 14 from the Rams 36 with 12 1/2 minutes left in regulation, Brady went deep incomplete but appeared to be bailed out by a late hit on a defenseless receiver. The home crowd celebrated, thinking it was 15 yards and a new set of downs. Yet after an official huddle, they ruled the late hit occurred after the play, making it a dead ball fail. The Rams would get the ball and the penalty was post possession. It was a very questionable call, as the late hit appeared to be part of the play. It was a fraction of a second call and the Rams were bailed out.

The Rams played smash mouth to bleed clock. Van Jefferson broke off a 15 yard run. Akers added 3 and 8. A short pass from Stafford to Jefferson went for 15. The Rams moved all the way to a 1st and 10 at the Tampa Bay 31. A pair of safe runs meant 3rd and 12. Sean McVay took no chances and called another safe run that gained 4 yards. Gay came in for a 47 yard field goal try with 6 1/2 minutes left in regulation to lock up the win. The kick was inside the posts but short, no good. 47 yards, short! In beautiful warm weather. Whatever deal Brady made with the devil 20 years ago was very much still in existence. The Buccaneers took over at their own 37. Brady hit Evans for 9 and Fournette for 6. Defensive pass interference added 15 more. On 3rd and 6 from the Rams 28, a swing pass was blown up by a perfect tackle for a 3 yard loss. On 4th and 9 from the Rams 31, Brady had all the time in the world but threw incomplete. The Rams defense had done its job all game and made up for second half ineptness on offense and special teams. From their own 31, they needed to just calm down and end things. The Buccaneers had all 3 timeouts on defense. The Rams went 3 and out but forced the Buccaneers to take all their timeouts. The Buccaneers took over at their own 23 with 4 minutes remaining.  

Brady went to Smiller for 19 and Fournette for only 3. Then Brady went bombs away to a wide open Evans for a 55 yard touchdown. 77 yards took only 36 seconds. The Buccaneers were within 27-20 with a full 3:15 to play. The defensive breakdown meant that the Rams offense had to find a way to get one first downs. 3 straight runs would take the clock down to nearly one minute. Yet on 2nd and 7, Akers fumbled for the 2nd time on the day and the Buccaneers recovered. The Buccaneers took over at the Rams 30 with a full 2 1/2 minutes to play. On 3rd and 1 from the Rams 21, Fournette gained 3. On 3rd and 10 from the Rams 18, Brady hit Cameron Brate for 9. The Buccaneers lined up quickly to immediately go for it So Sean McVay took the Rams 2nd timeout on defense to let them regroup. With everything on the line and everyone bunched inside, Brady handed to Fournette as he tried to bounce it outside. A defender tried to tackle Fournette in the backfield for a loss but Fournette shook the tackle, got to the outside, and practically walked into the end zone. Forget a deal with the devil. Tom Brady might be the devil himself.

After a touchback, only 42 seconds remained in the game. While the conventional approach might be to just play for overtime, remember what happened in the Super Bowl 5 years ago. Brady led New England back from a 28-3 deficit to face overtime. New England won the coin toss. Brady led a touchdown drive. Atlanta never saw the ball in overtime. Brady had led his team back in this game from down 27-3 to 27-27. It was imperative he not get the ball back again. The Rams had self-destructed, but still had the most potent offense in the league. On the first play, Stafford was sacked for a one yard loss. McVay was still not willing to let the clock run down to overtime. He called the Rams last timeout with 35 seconds left. Stafford went deep to Kupp for 20. Kupp got out of bounds. Then Stafford went bombs away to the best receiver in the game, and Kupp came down with it for a 44 yard gain. Stafford rallied everyone to the line and spiked the ball to stop the clock with 3 seconds left. Gay came in again. This time the kick to win it was only 30 yards. A miss would have Rams fans ready to lose their every loving football minds. Gay was good. In their regular season game, Brady threw 55 passes. In this game he there 54, completing 30 for 329 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Stafford was 28 of 38 for 366 yards, 2 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. The dragon was slayed. The Rams will host the NFC Title Game against archival San Francisco, who beat them twice this year. The Rams took down Brady and now need to beat his backup to go to the Super Bowl. 30-27 Rams

Buffalo Bills (3)(11-6) at Kansas City Chiefs (2)(12-5) was the Sunday night game. The Bills won the AFC East and blasted archival New England to pieces 47-17. The Chiefs won the AFC West and destroyed Pittsburgh 42-21. Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes both threw 5 touchdown passes last week. Last year the Chiefs beat the Bills in the AFC Title Game 38-24. This year the Bills went into Kansas City in Week 5 and stunned the Chiefs 38-20. The Chiefs were one win away from reaching the AFC Title Game for the 4th straight year, a feat the Bills accomplished from 1990-1993. That was the last time the Bills were in the AFC Title Game. The teams came into this game knowing that results from the previous day meant the winner would be hosting the AFC Title Game on their home field. 

The Bills began at their own 29. Josh Allen hit Devin Singletary for 13. On 3rd and 9 from their own 43, Allen hit Cole Beasley for 7. On 4th and 2 from midfield, Sean McDermott went for it. This was a tacit admission that keeping Mahomes off the field was the only way to win. Allen got around the end for 10. Singletary gained 7 and caught a pass from Allen for 15. Isaiah McKenzie gained 11. On 3rd and goal at the 2, Allen only gained one. McDermott again went for it, concluding that field goals would not beat the Chiefs. On 4th and goal at the one, Allen lateraled to Singletary, who took the pitchout around the end for the touchdown. The 13 play, 71 yard, 7 minute drive made it 7-0 Bills. The Chiefs soon faced 3rd and 5 from their own 31. Patrick Mahomes hit McKinnon for just enough. On 3rd and 6 from their own 40, Mahomes scrambled up the middle for 34 yards. Mycole Hardman ran for 6 and Mahomes added more. On 3rd and 5 from the Buffalo 8, Mhaomes scrambled around the left end, dove for the pylon, and stretched the ball just enough for the touchdown. The 11 play, 74 yard, 5 1/2 minute drive tied the game 7-7. 

The Bills after a touchback moved to a 1st and 10 at the Chiefs 41. A run gained one yard followed by an incompletion. On 3rd and 9 and needing only a few yards for long field goal range, Allen was sacked. A great punt pinned the Chiefs at their own one yard line. They went 3 and out and punted. Yet with the Bills getting excellent field position and facing 3rd and 2 just past midfield, a run lost 2 yards. The Chiefs took over at their own 14. Mahomes went deep to Travis Kelce for 21, to Byron Pringle for 12, and to Tyreek Hill for 10. Clyde Edwards-Helaire gained 22. On 3rd and 3 from the Buffalo 14, Mahomes hit McKinnon for 6 yards. A sack of Mahomes set up 3rd and goal from the 11, Mahomes was sacked. Yet a killer defensive holding penalty meant 1st and goal at the 6. On 3rd and goal at the 2, Mahomes somehow escaped a sack and fired high to the end zone where Pringle came down with it for the touchdown and the 14-7 Chiefs lead. The Bills after a touchback had 1:52 to work with. Allen went to Beasley for 24. On 3rd and 2 from the Chief 43, Allen hit Davis for 5. Allen gained 9 and 11. Allen then went to Davis in the end zone for an 18 yard touchdown and a 14-14 game. 

After a touchback, Mahomes had only 37 seconds left but all 3 timeouts. Defensive holding added 5 yards. Mahomes then went to Hill for 26. Mahomes hit Hillagain for 4 and Kelce for 8 as the Chiefs took their 1st timeout on 1st and 10 from the Buffalo 32. A pair of incompletions left 3 seconds. Harrison Butker came in for the 50 yard field goal try to give the Chiefs the lead. Butker was no good, just barely missing the right upright. After a touchback to start the second half, the Chiefs faced 3rd and 1 from their own 34. McKinnon gained 3. On 3rd and 4 from the Buffalo 43, Mahomes hit Hill for only 3. Walrus Andy Reid went for it on 4th and 1. Mahomes hit McKinnon for a 20 yard gain. On 3rd and 8 from the Buffalo 18, Mahomes scrambled all over the place and gained 9. Yet in a very clean game, offensive holding instead meant 3rd and 18 and killed the drive. It was the first penalty on the Chiefs all game, and only 2 penalties had been called on the Bills. This time from 39 yards out Butker barely snuck the kick inside the right upright good. It was ugly but the Chiefs led 17-14 after the 13 play, 54 yard, 8 minute drive.

The Bills soon faced 3rd and 2 from their own 33. Singletary took a pitchout laterally and only gained one. This time from his own 34, Sean McDermott was not in a gambling mood. Perhaps he should have been. The Chiefs took over at their own 39. Mahomes hit Kelce for 8 and Pringle for 5. Edwards-Helaire ran for 20. Then Hardman ran around the end, appeared to be trapped after a short gain, and somehow veered back inside and shot past everyone for a 25 yard touchdown. Butker’s miserable night continued as he doinked the extra point off the left upright no good. Yet with 2 minutes left in the third quarter, the Chiefs had breathing room up 23-14. One play and 10 seconds after a touchback, the Bills were right back in it. Josh Allen went bombs away and found Davis in stride for a 75 yard touchdown. Just like that, the Bills were within 23-21. 

The Bills held on defense and got the ball back early in the fourth quarter with a chance to take the lead. Yet they were pinned at their own 8 yard line. Allen hit Davis for 17 but after that the drive bogged down. Hill almost delivered the back-breaker, returning the punt 45 yards to the Buffalo 16. Yet on 3rd and 1 from the Buffalo 7, McKinnon took the direct snap and got blown up in the backfield for a 3 yard loss. Butker hit the 28 yard field goal but the Chiefs only led by 5 with 9 minutes left in regulation. The Bills soon faced 3rd and 3 from their own 32. Allen hit Beasley for 5. On 3rd and 4 from their own 43, Allen scrambled all over the place and gained 9. On 3rd and 1 from the Chiefs 39, Allen gained 3. On 3rd and 6 from the Chiefs 32, Allen only gained 2. With 3 minutes left, Sean McVay could have kicked the field goal and trusted his defense. Yet with Mahomes on the other sideline, going for it on 4th and 4 was the right move. Allen scrambled and gained 6. On 3rd and 6 from the Chiefs 20, Allen under heavy pressure threw a dump off pass that would have been better off dropped. Instead it was a 7 yard loss as the clock ticked down to the 2 minute warning. Again, with Mahomes on the other side, going for it even on 4th and 13 was the only sane option. Allen evaded a sack and found a wide open Davis in the end zone. It was a complete defensive breakdown. The 27 yard touchdown gave the Bills the lead. Now they needed the 2 point conversion. Allen scrambled all over and finally threw across his body to the back of the end zone. Stefan Diggs made a leaping catch for the conversion. The Bills led 29-26 with 1:54 to play. What happened in the final 2 minutes will be talked about forever for all the right reasons. 

The Chiefs soon faced 3rd and 10 from their own 25 with 1:39 left. Mahomes hit Kelce for 11. With 1:16 left, on 2nd and 10 from their own 36, Mahomes threw a short pass to Hill, who split the seams, got to the sideline, picked up a block, and outraced everyone for a shocking 64 yard touchdown. The Chiefs now led 33-29. After a touchback the Bills had one minute left and all 3 timeouts. Allen went to Davis for 28 as the Bills took their first timeout. Allen then went to Davis for 12 and Emanuel Sanders for 16. Defensive pass interference stopped the clock with 23 seconds left. On the next play Allen evaded the pressure and found Davis for a 19 yard touchdown. With 13 seconds left, the Bills had the 36-33 lead in front of a shellshocked home crowd at Arrowhead.  Allen had the game of his life. The third lead change in the final 2 minutes made this a game for the history books. Yet after a touchback, Mahomes had 13 seconds and 3 timeouts, needing only a field goal to tie it. Mahomes went to Hill for 19 and called timeout with 8 seconds left. Mahomes then fired over the middle to Kelce for 25 yards and called timeout again with 3 seconds left. Butker was having a miserable game, but from 49 yards out it was all on him. This time Butker was good. The 4th score in the final 2 minutes had this insane game going into overtime tied 36-36.

Yet this game appeared over once the Chiefs won the overtime coin toss. On 3rd and 1 from their own 34, Mahomes hit Kelce for 10. Mahomes then hit McKinnon for 16. On 2nd and 6 from the Buffalo 34, Mahomes hit Hardman on a short pass, but Hardman raced for a 26 yard gain down the sideline. Mahomes then went to the corner of the end zone and Kelce made a leaping catch for the 8 yard touchdown. The Bills never saw the ball in overtime. This game was an instant classic for the ages. The teams combined for 4 total penalties and 0 turnovers. They also combined for nearly 1,000 yards of total offense. Allen was magnificent, going 27 of 37 for 329 yards and 4 touchdowns. He did everything a quarterback could be asked to do. He was 13 seconds away from victory. Gabriel Davis caught all 4 of those touchdown passes. Yet Mahomes was 33 of 44 for 378 yards and 3 touchdowns. Mahomes had 177 yards passing in the final 2 minutes and overtime alone. The Chiefs host Cincinnati in the AFC Title Game. The Chiefs became the first team in NFL history to host the AFC Title Game 4 straight years. This makes Andy Reid a most happy walrus indeed. 42-36 Chiefs  

All 4 Divisional Playoff games came down to the final play. 3 underdog road teams won and the fourth nearly did as home field advantage proved worthless this weekend. 

The Conference Title Games are set. Both games will be played on Sunday, January 30, 2022.

AFC Title Game: Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs at 3:00 p.m.

NFC Title Game: San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams at 6:30 p.m.

eric

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Sunday, January 16th, 2022

NFL 2021-2022 Wildcard Recap

The 2021 NFL Regular season is now in the history books. The Wildcard matchups are set and will take place from Saturday through Monday, January 15-17.

Las Vegas Raiders (5)(10-7) at Cincinnati Bengals (4)(10-7) was the Saturday afternoon game. The Raiders had won a playoff game in 19 years. The Bengals had not won a playoff game in 31 years. This was only the 2nd Raiders playoff game in 19 years and first in 5 years. This was Derek Carr’s first playoff game and the first playoff game ever for the city of Las Vegas. The Bengals rested their starters last week after clinging the AFC North and were well rested. The Raiders were 6-7 and ran the table, winning 4 games by a total of 12 points. They needed an entire 5 quarters to defeat the Chargers on the final play of overtime to make the playoffs. It was also the first playoff game for Joe Burrow. The Bengals were heavy favorites, but the Raiders had a puncher’s chance if they could hang around and survive the first quarter intensity of a jacked up crowd at the Jungle. The weather was 31 degrees at kickoff and dropped to around 20.

After a touchback, Josh Jacobs ran for 5 and 3. On 3rd and 2 from their own 33, Carr went to Zee Jones for 17 to midfield. Carr then hit Hunter Renfrow for 6. On 3rd and 3 from the Cincinnati 43, Carr hit Darren Waller for 8. Carr then found Jacobs for 9. Yet on 2nd and 1 from the Cincinnati 26, a false start messed up the rhythm. On 3rd and 3, Carr went deep incomplete. Daniel Carlson hit the 47 yard field goal to cap the 10 play, 47 yard, 5 1/2 minute drive and put the Raiders on the board first up 3-0.

Yet after a touchback, the Bengals offense made it look easy. Burrow hit JaMarr chase for gains of 11, 17 and 9 and Joe Mixon for 21. The Bengals did not have a single third down on the drive until 3rd and goal at the 7. Burrow hit CJ Uzomah for the touchdown to finish the 10 play 75 yard, 5 minute drive and give the Bengals a 7-3 lead. After a touchback Carr went to Zee Jones for 13, but then disaster struck. On 3rd and 8 from their own 40, Carr had the ball stripped from him. Ogunjobi recovered it for the defense and returned the fumble 11 yards to give the Bengals gift field position at the Raiders 15. Yet on 3rd and 3 from the 8, the Bengals committed a false star. Burrow on 3rd and 8 threw incomplete. Evan McPherson hit the 31 yard field goal to make it 10-3 Bengals.

The Raiders return man made a horrendous mistake on the ensuing kickoff. The ball was headed out of bounds. The rule is if the return man places one foot out of bounds and then touches the ball, the return team gets great field position at their own 40 yard line. Instead, Peyton Barber fielded the ball inbounds and then went out of bounds. Barber’s blunder had the Raiders backed up to their own 2 yard line. A sack of Carr had the Raiders punting on 4th and 11 from their own one. The Bengals had excellent field position at the Raiders 45. to start the second quarter. Burrow hit Chase for 28, but on 3rd and goal at the 4, Burrow was sacked. McPherson hit form 30 to make it 13-3 Bengals. The Raiders defense twice forced field goals when forced to defend a short field, preventing a blowout.

A strong kickoff return had the Raiders taking over at their own 39. Jacobs ripped off  a 14 yard run and then broke free for a 35 yard gain. On 2nd and 8 from the Cincy 10, Carr threw incomplete. On 3rd and 8 Carr had a wide open design Jackson in the flat for what would have been an easy first down and maybe a touchdown. Jackson dropped it for another incompletion. Carlson hit from 28. The Raiders were only down 13-6 midway through the second quarter, but mistakes were killing them.

The Bengals took over at their own 18 and soon faced 3rd and 1 from their 27. Burrow hit Boyd for 5. Burrow then went deep to Uzomah for 29. Evans ran for 9. On 3rd and 1 from the Raiders 31, Burrow threw incomplete. A 49 yard field goal try in cold weather with wind was not ideal, so Zac Taylor went for it on 4th and 1. With the Raiders prepared to defend the run up the middle, Chase took a pitchout 15 yards. At the 2 minute warning, the Bengals faced 3rd and 4 at the Raiders 10. Then came a play even crazier than Joe Montana throwing “The Catch” to Dwight Clark. Burrow rolled all the way to his right. With men in his face, he threw the ball across his body to the back of the end zone. There was a question as to whether Burrow had remained inbounds before he threw the ball. Boyd caught the ball in the end zone but was not celebrating. Officials blew the whistle while the ball was in the air. The defenders stopped. Replay showed Burrow was inbounds, but the whistle automatically blows the play dead. After a lengthy officials conversation, they ruled the play a touchdown rather than a dead ball play, which would result in that rare do-over. The blown call finished the 12 play, 82 yard, 6 minute drive and had the Bengals winning 20-6.

The Raiders took over at their own 20. Knowing the Bengals would get the ball to start the second half, the Raiders needed to score in the final 1:51 of the half. Carr hit Renfrow for 7 and on 3rd and 3 from their own 27 hit Bryan Edwards for 19. On 3rd and 10 from their own 46, Carr scrambled for a 20 yard gain. On 3rd and 6 from the Cincinnati 25, Carr hit Darren Waller for 11. With 13 seconds left in the half, Carr hit Zee Jones for the touchdown to get the Raiders within 20-13. The Bengals scored on all 4 of their first half possessions not counting the kneel down to end the half. The Raiders defense needed to stop Burrow if they were to have a chance.

The Bengals began the third quarter at their own 35 and moved easily to a 1st and 10 at the Raiders 29. Then the Bills were called for an illegal formation. Burrow threw 3 straight incompletions. McPherson hit the 43 yard field goal to put the Bills up 23-13. The Raiders after a touchback moved to a 3rd and 4 at their own 42. Carr went deep to Renfrow who caught the ball for a 22 yard gain, had the ball chopped out of his hands, but saw the ball harmlessly roll to the ground. The Raiders tried to rush up to the line of scrimmage and snap the ball but Zac Taylor challenged the catch. After further review, Taylor won the challenge and the call was incomplete. The Raiders punted. The Bengals took over at their own 29. They had scored on 5 straight drives discounting the kneel-down and another touchdown would turn out the lights. Yet an illegal block set up 3rd and 12 from their own 27. Burrow was sacked. For the first time all game, the Raiders defense forced a punt.

The Raiders took over at their own 27 and had a drive that showed their very best and very worst. On the first play Carr went deep to Jackson for a 35 yard gain. The play was wiped out by offensive holding to set up 1st and 20. On 3rd and 11, Carr hit Renfrow for 16. Jacobs banged out runs of 8, 7 and 5 to set up 2nd and 5 at the Cincy 38. Jacobs got the carry again and got just enough. Yet offensive holding wiped out that gained and instead had the Raiders facing 2nd and 15 from the Cincy 48. Carr hit Jacobs for 7 and on 3rd and 8 hit Renfrow for 5. On 4th and 3 from the Cincinnati 36, a field goal try in less than ideal conditions would be 54 yards. Rich Bisaccia decided to go for it. Carr threw incomplete but defensive pass interference meant an 11 yard gain. Carr hit Edwards for 16. After an incompletion, Jacobs banged ahead for 8 in what should have been 3rd and goal at the one. Yet instead offensive holding meant 2nd and goal at the 19. Three offensive holding penalties by three different guys killed the drive. Carlson opened the fourth quarter by hitting a 34 yard field goal to get the Raiders within 23-16. The 13 play, 57 yard drive took 7 1/2 minutes off the clock but red zone inefficiencies that plagued the Raiders all season remained.

The Raiders defense had time to rest but it didn’t matter. The Bengals on 3rd and 1 from their own 34 saw Mixon get hit in the backfield but not wrapped up as he gained 2. On 3rd and 7 from their own 39, Burrow hit Chase for 19 and again for 11. Burrow then went to Tee Higgins for 10. On 3rd and 1 from the Raiders 10, Mixon got stopped short. The Bengals lined up to go for it on 4th and inches but it was a bluff to draw the defense offside. The defense didn’t bite. Zac Taylor took no chances, understanding a field goal would again make it a 2 score game. McPherson hit his 4th field goal from 28 to culminate the 13 play, 65 yard, 7 1/2 minute drive and put the Bengals up 26-16 with 6:49 left in regulation.

The Raiders took over at their own 23. On 2nd and 7, Carr hit Jacobs for a 19 yard gain. Yet an ineligible man downfield penalty on rookie Alex Leatherwood, who also had a holding penalty and a false start in this game, instead meant 2nd and 12. A completion lost a yard, but defensive holding meant an automatic first down. Carr hint hit Waller for 13 and Renfrow for 5. On 2nd and 5 from their own 44, Carr threw incomplete twice. With 4 1/2 minutes left down by 10, the Raiders were down to their last gasp. On 4th and 5, Carr went deep to Jackson for 26. Carr then went to Jacobs for 13 and Jones for 7. Yet on 2nd and 3 from the Cincy 10, Carr threw incomplete twice. Again, the Raiders could not finish a drive. Carlson hit his 4th field goal from 28. The Raiders again got back within 7 points but only 3 1/2 minutes remained and the Raiders only had one timeout plus the 2 minute warning. To have a chance, the Raiders had to stop Burrow, which they failed to do throughout the game.

After a touchback, a couple of conservative runs had the Bengals facing 3rd and 11 as the Raiders took their last timeout with 2:35 to play. The Bengals had a big decision to make. An incompletion would stop the clock and save the Raiders 30 to 40 seconds. Zac Taylor decided to trust his quarterback. Burrow completed a pass to Uzomah, but Uzomah was swarmed and held to a 7 yard gain as the clock hit the 2 minute warning. The defense got the stop. The Raiders had life. A short 33 yard punt gave the Raiders the ball at their own 35 with 1:51 to play and 0 timeouts. This was plenty of time for Carr and the rest of these cardiac Raiders.

Carr hit Jacobs for q 15 yard gain, with more tacked on for roughing the passer. The Raiders had moved 30 yards in only 7 seconds. A sack of Carr had the Raiders facing 3rd and 17 from the Cincinnati 42. Carr fired over the middle to Waller for 23 yards to the Cincy 19 as the clock ticked below one minute. On 3rd and 10, Carr fired to Jones over the middle for just enough. Carr then spiked the ball to stop the clock. 30 seconds remained. The Raiders had 2nd and goal at the 9. They would have 3 chances to tie the game or win it if Rich Bisaccia was crazy enough to go for a 2 point conversion. Carr fired over the middle incomplete. On 3rd and goal, Carr went to Renfrow but Renfrow slipped and the ball fell incomplete. With 17 seconds left, it came down to 4th and goal at the 9. The Raiders had lived on the edge for the entire season. Carr fired over the middle at the goal line into double coverage. Pratt made the interception. The Raiders fought to the bitter end, but came up one touchdown short. The Bengals won their first playoff game since the 1990 season. The Bengals travel to Tennessee for the Divisional round. 20 years after the Tuck Rule, the Raiders lost a close playoff game. Yet this time it was not stolen.

Any talk of Mark Davis blowing up the team and starting over from scratch must end now. This team had to overcome obstacles that when combined no team has ever had to deal with. The Jon Gruden mess was bad enough. The Henry Ruggs tragedy will reverberate far beyond football for years. Then Damon Arnette had his incident. This team lost their coach, their fastest wide receiver, and a promising cornerback. Rich Bisaccia and Derek Carr held the team together. This team needs a few pieces. Replacing Bisaccia is not the answer. Trading Carr should be a non-starter. Pay him. Let’s see what Mike Mayock can do as general manager with complete decision making authority over personnel. He started the season as the only general manager who answered to the coach. The NFL Draft is 3 months away. It will be held in Las Vegas. So will the Pro Bowl. As for the Super Bowl, the Raiders are a few pieces from being a legitimate contender. Al Davis would love this team. For 4 straight week, they took “Just win baby” to a new level. They went on the road in a hostile environment and freezing cold and almost pulled out a miracle win. Mr. Davis has a good team. He needs to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Keep it together and see if good can become great. Expectations will be high next year if this team is allowed to continue. They deserve to stay together. They’ve earned it. 26-19 Bengals

New England Patriots (6)(10-7) at Buffalo Bills (3)(11-6) was the Saturday night game. The Bills won the AFC East for the 2nd straight year, ending the Patriots nearly 19 years of dominance. These teams both won on the opposing team’s field to split the series.The Patriots won a 14-10 slugfest in Buffalo by running the ball 46 times as Mac Jones threw only 3 passes. Yet the Bills then went into New England and won 33-21. The temperature at kickoff was only 6 degrees. While both teams are used to bitter cold, only one team showed up early on. The Bills began at their own 30. Josh Allen hit Stefan Diggs for 9. Allen scrambled for a 26 yard gain. On 3rd and 3 from the New England 24, Allen ran again for 15. On 2nd and goal from the 8, Allen rolled out all the way to his right, threw a high pass to the corner, and somehow Dawson Knox came down with one knee down inbounds. One knee equals two feet and the Bills led 7-0. The Patriots moved from their own 13 to the Buffalo 34. Jones went to the end zone to tie the game but was intercepted by Micah Hyde for a touchback. The Bills took over at their own 20 and Allen went deep to Knox for 24. Ian McKenzie gained 7 and Devin Singletary added 6. Allen went to McKenzie for 19. Allen went to Diggs for 6 and ran for 5. Allen found Knox again for an 11 yard touchdown as the earlier 70 yard drive was followed by this 10 play, 80 yard, 5 minute drive to make it 14-0 Bills.

The Bills got it back in the second quarter at their 19. Singletary gained 9 and 3. Allen hit Singletary for 5 and Davis for 22. Allen ran for 8, with a defensive facemask on the next play adding 15. Singletary did the rest, running for 4, 9, one, and the 3 yard touchdown. The extra point was blocked but the 10 play, 81 yard, 6 minute drive had the Bills up 20-0. The Bills got it back at their own 11 with 3:44 left in the half and made it look easy. Allen hit McKenzie for 19 and then went deep to Diggs for 45. Allen ran for 9. At the 2 minute warning, Singletary ran for a 16 yard touchdown as the Bills were winning a laugher up 27-0. For the first time in their long franchise history, they scored 4 touchdowns on their first 4 possessions in a playoff game. The Patriots managed a field goal to end the half but still faced the largest postseason deficit in their franchise history.

The Patriots began the third quarter moving from their own 24 to just past midfield. Yet any hope of a comeback was quickly dashed when Jones had a pass batted up in the air and intercepted by Wallace at the Buffalo 42. On 3rd and 4 from their own 48, Allen hit Singletary for 9. McKenzie ran for 15. On 1st and 20 from the New England 34 after an offensive penalty, Allen went to Emmanuel Sanders for the touchdown. For the second time on the day, Tyler Bass had his extra point blocked, the only thing going wrong for the Bills on a day they led 33-3. They became the first team in the history of the Super Bowl era that began in 1967 to score a touchdown on their first 5 drives of a postseason game. The 1992 Bills came back from a 35-3 deficit, but this time the roles were reversed and their would be no comeback. The 1990 Bills won a game 51-3, but these Bills fell short. The Patriots managed a touchdown, but in the fourth quarter the Bills kept up the carpet-bombing.

The Bills from their own 23 saw Singletary run for 10. Allen hit Knox for 8. On 3rd and 1 from their own 42, Allen gained 3. Allen hit Beasley for 19. Early in the fourth quarter, Allen hit Davis for a 19 yard touchdown to make it 40-10 Bills. Special teams got in the act when Hyde returned a punt 52 yards and nearly broke it the distance before falling down at the New England 39. Allen went deep to Knox for a 38 yard gain down to the one. Sean McDermott pulled out all the stops as Allen threw a one yard touchdown to Doyle on a tackle eligible for a 47-10 Bills lead. The Bills scored a touchdown on their first 7 drives. The Patriots got one more garbage touchdown with 1:44 left. Mitch Trubisky came in place of Allen to take 3 knees to end the game. Those kneel downs were the only thing preventing the Bills from having a perfect offensive game. Critics will say they did not score a touchdown on every single drive, since the 3 knees count as a drive. Reality says this was close enough to perfect. The Bills did not punt, turn the ball over, or attempt a field goal. The Bills travel to Kansas City for the Divisional game. It has been a long time since a Bill Belichick team took such a royal beating. 47-17 Bills

Philadelphia Eagles (7)(9-8) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2)(13-4) was the Sunday morning game. Early in the regular season, the Buccaneers went into Philadelphia, took a 28-7 third quarter lead, and coasted to a 28-22 win. The rematch in Tampa was not expected to be competitive. The Buccaneers were considered vulnerable due to some key injuries on offense, but the Eagles were overmatched. The Buccaneers got the ball first and set the tone right away. On the first play from scrimmage Vaughn went up the middle for a 17 yard gain. Roughing the passer a couple plays later added 15 more. On 3rd and 7 from the Philadelphia 40, Brady hit Mike Evans for 8. On 3rd and 2 from the Philadelphia 24, Brady hit Giovanni Bernard for 9. Bernard ran for a 2 yard touchdown to cap the 12 play, 75 yard, 5 minute drive and make it 7-0 Buccaneers. The Buccaneers got it back at their own 30. Brady hit Rob Gronkowski for 13 and 8, Johnson for 17, and Evans for 16 and 8. Vaughn ran for a one yard touchdown to make it 14-0 Buccaneers after the first quarter. The Buccaneers got it back in the second quarter at their own 31 and moved on their third long drive. Yet this time despite 1st and goal at the 5, the Bucs went backward. On 3rd and goal from the 9, Brady was sacked. Ryan Succop hit the 34 yard field goal to have the Buccaneers up 17-0. 

The Eagles had their chances. They moved from their own 17 to a 4th and 10 at the Tampa 37. Rather than try a 55 yard field goal, Kevin Sirianni went for it and Jalen Hurts threw incomplete. Late in the half from the Tampa 21, Hurts went to the end zone but suffered an interception. In the third quarter the Eagles fumbled a punt to set up Tampa at the Philly 48. Brady hit Bernard for 22. On 3rd and 3 from the Philly 19, Brady hit Evans for 17 and Gronk for the 2 yard touchdown to make it 24-0 Buccaneers midway through the third quarter. The Eagles then moved after a touchback to a 4th and 3 at their own 46. Sirianni went for it and hurts had an open receiver. Shaq Barrett made a leaping one handed interception and returned it 17 yards to the Philadelphia 36. One play and 7 seconds later the Buccaneers were in the end zone again as Brady hit a wide open Evans for the touchdown to make it 31-0 Buccaneers after three quarters. The Eagles got a couple of late touchdowns to create the illusion of a respectable score. Brady completed a franchise record 29 passes. The Buccaneers host Arizona or the Rams in the Divisional round. 31-15 Buccaneers 

San Francisco 49ers (6)(10-7) at Dallas Cowboys (3)(12-5) was the Sunday afternoon game. These teams have a long history of epic NFC Title Games that is well documented, having met in 5 of them. This time they meet in the Wildcard round under different circumstances. The 49ers had to scratch and claw and get an upset road win over the Rams to even make the playoffs. The Cowboys easily won the NFC East. Both teams had playmakers on offense while the Cowboys had the edge on defense. After a touchback, the first play from scrimmage saw the Cowboys jump into the neutral zone. Deebo Samuel gained 9 and one. Jimmy Garoppolo hit Benjamin for 17 and Brandon Aiyuk for 11. Mitchell ran for 13. Garoppolo hit Samuel for 15. Mitchell ran for a 4 yard touchdown to give the 49ers the 7-0 lead without a single 3rd down conversion. The 49ers got the ball back at their own 42 and moved to a 2nd and 5 at the Dallas 29. A sack of Garoppolo ended the drive but Robbie Gould hit a 53 yard field goal to make it 10-0 49ers. The 49ers got it back again at their own 22 and moved to a 3rd and 3 at the Dallas 24. Samuel only gained 2. Kyle Shanahan decided not to gamble, taking the points on the road. With 10 minutes left in the half, Gould hit the 40 yard field goal to cap the 12 play, 56 yard, 8 minute drive and make it 13-0 49ers. 

After 20 minutes of football, the Cowboys had 7 yards of total offense. From their own 33, they finally got going. Ezekiel Elliott ran for  pair of 5 yard gains, Tony Pollard added 8, and CeeDee Lamb gained 5 more. Dak Prescott hit Cedrick Wilson for 18. On 3rd and 5 from the San Francisco 20, Prescott hit Amari Cooper for the touchdown to get the Cowboys within 13-7. After touchback, Garoppolo went deep to Aiyuk for a 37 yard gain. On 3rd and 6 from the Dallas 34, Garoppolo threw incomplete. Gould hit a 52 yard field goal as the 49ers took a 16-7 lead to the locker rooms in front of a stunned home crowd at Jerryworld Metropolis. A sack of Prescott had the Cowboys facing 2nd and 28 from their own 19. Prescott was then intercepted by Williams at the Dallas 26. One play and 7 seconds later, Samuel was in the end zone on an end around as the 49ers led 23-7 with 6 minutes left in the third quarter. 

Late in the third quarter a sack of Prescott and a penalty had the Cowboys facing 2nd and 25 at their own 15. Prescott fired over the middle to Wilson for 24. On 3rd and 1 from their own 39, Prescott gained 4 as the third quarter ended. When Prescott threw incomplete on 3rd and 5 from their own 48, Mike mcCarthy gambled on a fake punt. Punter Anger hit Goodwin for 16. Yet the drive stalled again. On 4th and 7 from the Frisco 33, Mike McCarthy decided on a 51 yard field goal try rather than go for it. Greg Zuerlein was good but the Cowboys still trailed 23-10 with 12 minutes left in regulation. The 49ers took over at their own 26. From their own 44, Garoppolo threw high and was intercepted by Brown, who returned it 23 yards to the Frisco 28. Prescott hit Cooper for 11 and Lamb for 10. On 3rd and goal at the 5, Prescott ran for the touchdown. Left for dead, the Cowboys were right back in it down 23-17 midway through the fourth quarter. While many want to blame Garoppolo, Kyle Shanahan blew 2 Super Bowls with 2 different teams by refusing to run the ball with a lead in the fourth quarter. 

The 49ers took over at their own 18 determined to give the game away. On 2nd and 7 from their own 42, Kyle Shanahan kept throwing rather than run the ball. Garoppolo threw a low ball to George Kittle, who fumbled it and the Cowboys recovered. Yet the 49ers were bailed out when officials properly ruled that the original pass hit the ground incomplete. On 3rd and 12 from their own 37, Garoppolo threw incomplete but defensive holding kept the drive going. On 3rd and 5 from their own 47, , Garoppolo hit Samuel for 4 as Leyton Vander Esch made the tackle of a lifetime to prevent the first down. The 49ers tried to get the Cowboys to jump offside on 4th and 1, but the attempt was half-hearted and the Cowboys didn’t bite. The Cowboys took over at their own 16 with 2:51 left left and all 3 timeouts plus the 2 minute warning. Prescott went to Lamb for a 38 yard gain. At the 2 minute warning, the Cowboys faced 3rd and 11 from the San Francisco 47, plenty of time. An incompletion meant 4th and 11. The 49ers defense brought the house and Prescott under all out pressure threw a deep ball. Wilson reached out but it bounced off his fingertips incomplete. 

The 49ers with 1:42 left needed a first down because the Cowboys had all 3 time outs. Yet on 2nd and 9, a defensive holding penalty nowhere near the play gave the 49ers a key first down. The Cowboys still had 2 timeouts. The Cowboys took their final timeout with 1:21 left and the 49ers facing 3rd and 10 from the Dallas 47. The idiotic thing to do would be to throw the ball. You don’t even think of throwing the ball in this situation. You run the ball. Every. Single. Time. Kyle Shanahan had Garoppolo line up in the shotgun. Was he going to blow a 3rd playoff game with one pass too many? Shanahan instead went to the bag of tricks. He called a run, a reverse. Samuel at first appeared to have the first down, but on further review Samuel was literally 1 to 2 inches short. This was something out of “Any Given Sunday.” The 49ers let the clock run down to 40 seconds and took a timeout. Everything came down to 4th and inches from the Dallas 43. Shanahan decided to go for it. Garoppolo took the quarterback sneak and with a great second effort got the first down. Yet a killer false start penalty instead meant 4th and 5. The Cowboys were alive. The punt meant to pin them back instead became a touchback. 

From their own 20 with 32 seconds left and 0 timeouts, the Cowboys needed a miracle. Prescott hit Wilson for 9, and Wilson lateraled to Lamb for 11 more. Lamb got out of bounds after the 20 yard gain with 24 seconds left. Prescott then hit Pollard for 10 to midfield, leaving 18 seconds. In 1975, it was Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach who threw the 50 yard Hail Mary to pull off a miracle win. Prescott could easily throw the ball 50 yards. Instead he threw a quick pass to Schultz for 9 more yards. 14 seconds still remained. A Hail Mary from the Frisco 41 would easily reach the end zone. The risk would be throwing it out the back of the end zone. Prescott had time for 2 shots to the end zone. What happened next will be argued forever. For reasons nobody will ever understand, Prescott decided on a quarterback draw. He raced up the middle for 17 yards as the clock ticked down. As the official rushed to set the ball, Prescott handed it to his center to snap without the official spotting it first. The rule is clear. Only the official can spot the ball. Prescott thought he spiked the ball with one second left, but he did not. The clock was at zeroes. There would be no Hail Mary attempt. Dumb play-calling by the 49ers no longer mattered because of even dumber play-calling by the Cowboys. In the battle of who wanted it least, the Cowboys won. Their reward is to be sent home. The 49ers are off to Green Bay, where in Week 3 they lost 30-28 on the final play of the game. 23-17 49ers

Pittsburgh Steelers (7)(9-7-1) at Kansas City Chiefs (2)(12-5) was the Sunday night game. Three weeks ago the Steelers went into Kansas City and got blasted 36-10. Charvarius Ward and L’Darius Sneed were both playing for the Chiefs, marking the very first game featuring a Charvarius and a L’Darius. More importantly, Juju Smith-Schuster returned to the Steelers after being on injured reserve for 12 weeks. Big Ben Roethlisberger is widely expected to retire at the end of this season, so a loss would make this his final game. Mike Tomlin knows defense and Walrus Andy Reid knows offense. Yet with Patrick Mahomes, Reid clearly had the advantage. Last time the Chiefs jumped to a quick lead and put the game away by halftime. This time it was much more competitive early on. The first quarter was scoreless. With 11 minutes left in the half and the Chiefs at their own 31, chaos ensued. Mycole Hardman took a wildcat snap and Handed off to Damien Williams. Williams fumbled the handoff but was lucky to get the ball back. Rather than stay down, he tried to get up with bodies all around him. Williams got hit and fumbled again. TJ Watt recovered the fumble and returned it 26 yards for a defensive touchdown. Earlier this year Watt tied the NFL single season sack record. Now he had his first touchdown as the Steelers led 7-0. 

All that did was make Mahomes mad. From his own 24, he went to Tyreek Hill for 20 and 2 and McKinnon for 14. Mahomes scrambled for 23. Mahomes then went to Travis Kelce for 15 and then hit McKinnon for 5 and again for the 4 yard touchdown to make it 7-7. The Steelers went 3 and out and the Chiefs got it back at their own 26. Mahomes connected with Kelce for a 31 yard gain. McKinnon gashed the defense for gains of 15 and 13. On 3rd and 7 from the Pittsburgh 12, Mahomes went to Pringle for the touchdown to make it 14-7 Chiefs with 2:12 left in the half. The Steelers again went 3 and out ad the Chiefs got it back at their own 20 with 52 seconds left. Mahomes hit McKinnon for 15 and Robinson for 27. Yet Mahomes was then sacked for a 10 yard loss to push them out of field goal range with 30 seconds left. An incompletion meant 3rd and 20 from the Pittsburgh 48 with 22 seconds left. Rather than a short pass to get back in field goal range, Andy Reid went for it all. Mahomes went bombs away to Kelce for the touchdown. The Chiefs led 21-7 at the intermission.

The Chiefs began the third quarter at their own 32 looking for the kill shot. McKinnon gained 12. Mahomes hit Robinson for 29. A sack had the Chiefs facing 3rd and 12 at the Pittsburgh 28. Mahomes went to McKinnon for 23. On 3rd and goal at the one, it was big man with football as Mahomes hit Allegretti on a tackle eligible touchdown for the 28-7 Chiefs lead. On the next play from scrimmage from their own 30 the Steelers fumbled and the Chiefs recovered at the Pittsburgh 29. Two plays later Mahomes threw a 31 yard touchdown pass to Hill.  Mahomes’s 5th touchdown pass of the night made it 35-7 Chiefs. The Steelers did manage an offensive touchdown late in the third quarter, but the Chiefs kept coming. 75 yards came easily and Andy Reid finished with a trick play. Kelce took the direct snap and threw the option pass to Pringle for the 2 yard touchdown to make it 42-14 Chiefs. The Steelers added a garbage touchdown. Mahomes finished 30 of 39 for 404 yards, 5 touchdowns and one interception. Roethlisberger tried to get one more touchdown before ending his 18 year career, but his receiver was tackled 2 yards short. Reid and Mahomes hugged Roethlisberger after the game.5 years from now, Big Ben is a lock for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, in Canton, Ohio. For now, the big blowout win has the Chiefs hosting Buffalo next week, making Andy Reid a most happy walrus indeed. 42-21 Chiefs

Arizona Cardinals (5)(11-6) at Los Angeles Rams (4)(12-5) was the Monday night game. Both teams got a superstar back from a devastating injury early in the season as JJ Watt returned for the Cardinals and Cam Akers came back for the Rams. The Rams missed out on the two seed by bowing a 17-0 home lead last week and losing 27-24 to archival San Francisco. Yet they still won the NFC West. Meanwhile, the Cardinals missed out on a chance to win the NFC West by losing their regular season finale as well. That is why the Cardinals were at the Rams instead of vice versa. The Cardinals started 10-2 but went 1-4 down the stretch. On the year the Cardinals went 8-1 on the road but only 3-5 at home. Kliff Kingsbury and Sean McVay both run high-powered offenses with creative play-calling. The winner of this final Wildcard playoff match would be at defending champion Tampa Bay next week. Each team won on the other team’s field. 

A field position game had the Cardinals punting on 4th and 11 form their own 8 and the Rams taking over at their own 48. Matthew Stafford hit O’Dell Beckham for 17. Akers ran for 7 and 2. On 3rd and 1 from the Rams 26, Stafford took the quarterback sneak and got the yard. On 2nd and 13 from the Arizona 28, Stafford hit Tyler Higbee for 22. On 3rd and goal at the 4, Stafford hit Beckham for the touchdown to cap the 10 play, 52 yard, 6 minute drive and make it 7-0 Rams. The Rams got it back at their own 32. After losing 2, Akers gained 15. Stafford then hit Higbee for 14 as the first quarter ended. In the second quarter on 3rd and 2 from the Arizona 33, Stafford went deep to Beckham for 31. On 3rd and goal at the one after getting stopped on a quarterback sneak, Stafford tried the sneak again and was ruled stopped again. Sean McVay challenged the spot and on further review it was ruled that Stafford barely broke the plane of the goal for the touchdown and the 14-0 Rams lead.

Midway through the second quarter a great punt pinned the cardinals at their own one yard line. Kyler Murray went to AJ Green for 22 yards, but Green got blasted and fumbled the ball out of bounds. McVay challenged the catch and on further review it was changed to an incompletion. On 3rd and 7 from his own 4, Murray was about to be sacked for a safety. At the last moment he threw an underhanded pass and was possibly going to be called for intentional grounding, making it a safety anyway. Yet a worse scenario occurred for Murray when Long intercepted the ball and glided 3 yards into the end zone. The defensive touchdown had the Rams up 21-0. The Rams began the third quarter facing 3rd and 3 at their own 32. Stafford hit Higbee for 10. On 3rd and 8 from their own 44, Stafford went deep incomplete but defensive holding meant 5 yards and an automatic first down. Sean McVay then went to the bag of tricks. Stafford fired a lateral across the field to Beckham, who then threw the option pass deep to Akers for a 40 yard gain. Stafford then fired to Kupp for a 7 yard touchdown to have the Rams cruising up 28-0. 

After a touchback, Murray hit Rondale Moore for 11. On 4th and 4 from their own 44 midway through the third quarter, they had to go for it. Murray ran for 7. Murray hit Christian Kirk for 7 and again for 23 with defensive unnecessary roughness adding 7 more. James Conner finished the 12 play, 75 yard, 6 1/2 minute drive with a 2 yard touchdown run. Kliff Kingsbury for some reason went for 2 and Murray hit Wesley for the conversion to get the Cardinals within 28-8. The Rams took over at their own 31. Stafford went bombs away to Van Jefferson for a 41 yard gain. On 3rd and 1 from the Arizona 15, Akers got stopped in the backfield for a 4 yard loss as the third quarter ended. Matt Gay began the fourth quarter by hitting a 37 yard field goal to make it 31-8 Rams.  After a touchback the Cardinals moved to the Rams 27 where a run went nowhere and Murray threw a pair of incompletions. On 4th and 10, Murray escaped the pressure and found Kirk for 16. Yet the effort was wasted by offensive holding. On 4th and 20,  Kliff Kingsbury brought in Matt Prater to kick a 55 yard field goal. Prater was good but the Cardinals still trailed 31-11 with 10 minutes left. The Rams bled the clock with a 6 minute drive. Gay hit a 46 yard field goal to make it 34-11 Rams with 4 1/2 minutes left. The Rams are off to Tampa for the Divisional game. 34-11 Rams.

The Tennessee Titans (1)(12-5) and Green Bay Packers (1)(13-4) had the bye week.

The Divisional playoff games are set.

SATURDAY

AFC

Cincinnati Bengals (4)(10-7) at Tennessee Titans (1)(12-5) at 4:30 p.m.

NFC

San Francisco 49ers (7)(10-7) at Green Bay Packers (1)(13-4) at 8:00 p.m.

SUNDAY

NFC

Los Angeles Rams (4)(12-5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2)(13-4) at 3:00 p.m.

AFC

Buffalo Bills (3)(11-6) at Kansas City Chiefs (2)(12-5) at 6:30 p.m.

eric

NFL 2021-2022 Wildcard Prequel

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NFL 2021-2022 Wildcard Preview and Bettor’s Guide

My birthday: 50 happy memories upon turning 50

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My Birthday: Grateful for 50 Happy Memories upon turning 50

NFL 2021 Week 18 Recap

Sunday, January 9th, 2022

NFL 2021 Week 18 Recap

Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos was the Saturday afternoon game. The 7-9 Broncos were done for the year.. The question would be if Vic Fangio would be fired on Black Monday or earlier. Drew Lock replaced Teddy Bridgewater, who still had not recovered from his concussion. While the Broncos had nothing to play for, the 11-5 Chiefs had everything to play for. Last week they lost at Cincinnati, ending their eight game win streak and knocking them from the number one seed. The Chiefs had already locked up the AFC West. With a win and a Tennessee loss on Sunday, the Chiefs would regain the top seed with home field throughout the playoffs and a first round bye. 

The Chiefs brought the offense and the Broncos brought the defense. The Chiefs began at their own 9 yard line. On 3rd and 7 from their own 12, Patrick Mahomes ran for 11. Mahomes then found Mecole Hardman for 21 yards and Byron Pringle for 11. On 3rd and 1 from the Denver 33, Damien Williams gained 3. On 3rd and 1 from the Denver 21, Williams again gained 3. Mahomes ran for 11 more. On 3rd and goal at the 3, Mahomes hit Travis Kelce for the touchdown. The staggering 17 play, 91 yard, 8 minute drive had the Chiefs up 7-0. 

The Broncos took over at their own 33 and quickly went 3 and out. Yet a roughing the kicker penalty on the punt gave the Broncos new life and kept the drive going. On 3rd and 3 from the Chiefs 43, Williams gained 9. On 3rd and 4 from the Kansas City 28, Lock hit Tony Patrick for 6. Vic Fangio then went to the bag of tricks. Williams took the direct snap and lateraled to Cortland Sutton, who hit Noah Fant for 16 yards. Lock then ran for a 5 yard touchdown to cap the 12 play, 67 yard, 5 1/2 minute drive for a 7-7 game. The Broncos got it back at their own 20 in the second quarter. Melvin Gordon ripped off big gains of 29 and 6. Williams ran for 5 and 3. Lock hit Patrick for 11. On 3rd and 7 from the Chiefs 23, Lock scrambled all the way for the touchdown as the Broncos had the surprising 14-7 lead. 

The Chiefs moved from their own 25 to a 1st and goal at the 6. Then offensive holding killed the drive. Harrison Butker hit the 34 yard field goal as the Chiefs trailed 14-10at the half. After a third quarter touchback, Derrick Gore ran for 6 and Mahomes hit Kelce for 10. Gore added 5 more and Mahoems scrambled for a 25 yard gain. Gore gained 5 more and Mahomes hit Hardman for 7. On 3rd and 7 from the Denver 14, Mahomes hit Jerick McKinnon for the touchdown. The second lead change of the game had the Chiefs back on top 17-14.  

The Broncos soon faced 3rd and 13 from their own 22. Lock went deep to Patrick for 31. Gordon then broke free for a 47 yard touchdown. Just like that, the third lead change had the Broncos back on top 21-17. A field position game had the Chiefs had the taking over at their own 43. Offensive holding had the Chiefs facing 3rd and 20 at their own 33. A short pass from Mahomes to Pringle went for a 19 yard gain. Andy Reid gambled on 4th and 1 from the Denver 48. Mahomes hit Tyreek Hill for 2 yards. The fourth quarter began with the Chiefs facing 2nd and 6 at the Denver 32. Mahoems threw incomplete twice. Butker nailed the 51 yard field goal to get the Chiefs within 21-20. 

The Broncos took over at their own 25 and moved 62 yards in 10 plays and 7 minutes. A touchdown would not put the game out of reach but it would put the Broncos in a very strong position. Midway through the fourth quarter, the Broncos faced 2nd and 2 at the Kansas City 9 yard line. The home crowd was smelling upset. Moment later they were left shellshocked. Gordon got the carry and got blasted in the backfield. He fumbled the football. Bolton recovered for the Chiefs, broke through a tackle attempt by Lock, and rumbled 86 yards for a defensive touchdown. Walrus Andy Reid went for the 2 point conversion and Mahomes got in. Just like that, the fourth lead change had the Chiefs back in front 28-21. 

After a touchback, Lock connected with Patrick for a 29 yard gain. On 3rd and 6 from the Chiefs 42, Lock went deep to Jerry Jeudy for 28 more. Yet on 1st and 10 from the Chiefs 14 a run gained one yard and Lock threw incomplete twice. With 4 1/2 minutes left, Vic Fangio made a very controversial decision. With nothing to lose, Fangio decided to kick a field goal rather than go for it. Brandon McManus hit the 31 yard field goal to get the Broncos within 4 points, but the crowd booed the decision. Fangio decided to trust his defense to get the ball back. 

Whoever expected the Chiefs to run the ball do not know pass-happy Walrus Andy Reid. Mahomes went to Hardman for a 44 yard gain. A pass from Mahomes to McKinnon went for 8 yards and another first down as Fangio took his last timeout on defense with 3 1/2 minutes left. With 2:03 left after a false start, the Chiefs faced 3rd and 8 from the Denver 17. One more stop would hold the Chiefs to a field goal and give the Broncos a chance to tie or even win the game. Since the 2 minute warning had not happened yet, a run or pass would make little difference from a clock standpoint. Mahomes found Kelce for a 12 yard gain to put the dagger in. Mahomes took 3 knees and Fangio’s conservative decision backfired. Fangio was fired on Sunday. The 12-5 Chiefs locked up the two seed. The Chiefs enter the playoffs winners of 9 of their last 10 games, making Andy Reid a most pleased walrus indeed. They host Pittsburgh in the Wildcard round. However, Tennessee would win on Sunday to deny the Chiefs the top seed, making Andy Reid a most concerned, furrow-browed walrus indeed. 28-24 Chiefs

 

Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles is the Saturday night game. The 11-5 Cowboys came in having already clinched the NFC East. The 9-7 Eagles had locked up the wildcard. With nothing to play for, Kevin Siriani benched his starters. Gardner Minshew started in place of Jalen Hurts. Eagles center Jason Kelce wanted to keep his games played streak of122 games alive, so he played the very first offensive snap and then sat down for the night. The Cowboys kept their starters in for an outside chance at moving up from the four seed to the two seed. It was a questionable decision by Mike McCarthy. 

The Eagles began facing 3rd and 9 from their own 26. Minshew went deep to Devonta Smith for 25 and Jalen Reagor for 12 more. On 3rd and 3 from the Dallas 30, Kenneth Gainwell gained 9, 12 and 4. On 3rd and goal from the 3, Minshew hit Jackson for the touchdown to cap the 11 play, 75 yard, 5 1/2 minute drive and make it 7-0 Eagles. The Cowboys soon faced 3rd and 5 at their own 30. Dak Prescott hit Cedrick Wilson for 16 and CeeDee Lamb for 14. Mike McCarthy decided to go for it on 4th and 4 from the Philadelphia 34. Prescott hit Amari Cooper for 14. Prescott then went to Wilson for a 14 yard touchdown to finish the 10 play, 75 yard drive and make it 7-7. 

The Cowboys got it back at their own 44 and Prescott went deep to Cooper for 27. Yet offensive holding killed the drive. Greg Zuerlein hit a 48 yard field goal to make it 10-7 Cowboys. The Eagles moved from their own 36 and moved to a 2nd and 9 at the Dallas 13. Yet a sack of Minshew killed that drive. Jake Elliott hit from 38 for a 10-10 tie in the second quarter. The Cowboys took over at their own 26. Prescott went deep to Lamb for 31. On 3rd and 5 from the Philadelphia 24, Prescott went deep to Wilson for the touchdown and the 17-10 Cowboys lead. The Eagles soon faced 3rd and 5 from their own 30. Minshew hit Quez Watkins for 22. Huntley gained 18. On 3rd and 5 from the Dallas 25, Gainwell gained 18 and then ran around the end for the 7 yard touchdown. The 10 play, 75 yard drive tied the game for the third time 17-17 with 3:40 left in the first half. 

After a touchback, Ezekiel Elliott gained 26. Prescott went deep to Cooper for 26 more. Prescott hit Dalton Schultz for the 2 yard touchdown for a 23-17 Cowboys lead with 1:48 left in the half. Greg “The Leg” Zuerlein missed his 6th extra point of the year. The Eagles had moved the ball well in the first half but their last possession went wrong. Minshew was buried on 3rd and 16 to have the Eagles punting on 4th and 29. A shanked punt that may have been partially blocked netted only 22 yards and gave the Cowboys a short field. Prescott was 16 of 21 for 240 yards, 4 touchdowns and 0 interceptions in the first half alone. The Cowboys scored on all 5 possessions of the first half. 

In the third quarter the Eagles moved to a 1st and 10 at the Dallas 22. A pass to the end zone was dropped by Arcega-Whiteside. It went right through his hands on body. On the next play Arcega-Whiteside was called for offensive pass interference. Elliott did hit a 40 yard field goal to get the Eagles within 30-20 with 6 minutes left in the third quarter but it was a missed opportunity. On 3rd and 7 from their own 32, Prescott fired over the middle to Wilson, who split the seam for a 37 yard gain. On 3rd and 1 from the Philly 23, Elliott banged up the gut for 3. On 3rd and 7 from the Philly 17, Prescott hit Corey Clement for only 6 as the fourth quarter ended. The fourth quarter began with Mike McCarthy deciding to go for it on 4th and 1 from the Philly 11. Clement made it up the gut for 3 yards. Prescott then found a wide open Clement in the flat for an easy 8 yard touchdown. It was the first time in Prescott’s career that he has thrown 5 touchdown passes in a game. It also was his 37th touchdown pass of the season, a franchise record. The 14 play, 84 yard, 6 1/2 minute drive had the Cowboys comfortably ahead 37-20. 

Prescott was done for the night as Cooper Rush played most of the fourth quarter. From just past midfield, Clement busted up the middle for a 37 yard gain. On 3rd and 2 from the Philly 4, Ito Smith rammed it straight up the middle into the end zone. A once close game was now a blowout with the Cowboys up 44-20. Minshew then had a pass bounce off of Arcega-Whiteside’s fingertips and get intercepted by Leyton Vander Esch. The Cowboys took over at the Philly 25. JaQuan Hardy took it up the middle for a 22 yard touchdown. For the 2nd time in 3 weeks, the Cowboys topped 50 points as they had the 51-20 lead. The Eagles did get a garbage touchdown just past the 2 minute warning. The Cowboys starters are much better than the Eagles backups. In the Wildcard games, the Cowboys will host San Francisco and the Eagles are at Tampa Bay. 51-26 Cowboys

Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions — The 13-3 Packers clinched the NFC North and home field throughout the playoffs. Matt LaFleur was supposed to give his starters the week off and teach Aaron Rodgers how to hold a clipboard. Yet with nothing to play for, it was stunning to see Rodgers and the starters take the field. The Lions with a loss combined with a Jacksonville win would give the Lions the top pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. The Packers began at their own 26. On the first play from scrimmage, Rodgers hit Allan Lazard for 28 yards.  On 3rd and 4 from the Detroit 40, Rodgers hit Devonta Adams for 5. On 3rd and 10 from the Detroit 35, Rodgers hit Adams for 11. On 3rd and 3 from the Detroit 17, Rodgers hit Lazard for 8. On 3rd and goal at the one, Rodgers hit Lazard for the touchdown. The 13 play, 74 yard, 7 1/2 minute drive made it 7-0 Packers. 

With nothing to lose, Dan Campbell called a fake punt with the Lions facing 4th and 13 from their own 35. Punter Fox threw a perfect pass that went right through the receiver’s hands incomplete. Rodgers came back in the game and on 3rd and 9 was sacked to push the Packers out of field goal range. The Lions took over at their on 7. Jared Goff hit Amon-Ra St. Brown for 17. Dan Campbell then went big into the bag of tricks. A pair of laterals and reverses led to Kennedy throwing deep to a wide open Raymond for a 75 yard touchdown and a 7-7 game. After a touchback, Rodgers was still in the game. The Packers moved to a 2nd and 4 at the Detroit 43 early in the second quarter. Rodgers was tackled for no gain and then threw incomplete. Matt LaFleur went for it on 4th and 4 and a completion gained only one yard. 

Goff hit St. Brown for 9 and 16, Swift for 6, and St. Brown for 21. On 3rd and goal at the one, Reynolds lost a yard. With literally nothing to lose, Dan Campbell went for it. On 4th and goal at the 2, Goff hit St. Brown for the touchdown. The 10 play, 57 yard, 6 minute drive made it 14-7 Lions. After a touchback, Dillon gained 8 and 5. Rodgers hit Adams for 16 and 9. Rodgers went to Lazard for a 29 yard touchdown. Mason Crosby missed the extra point as the Packers trailed 14-13 with 2 1/2 minutes left in the half. After a touchback, the Lions moved to a 2nd and 5 at the Green Bay 16 with 9 seconds left. Goff threw incomplete, leaving 5 seconds. This time Dan Campbell took no chances. Riley Patterson hit the 34 yard field goal to make it 17-13 Lions. Matt LaFleur benched his starters at halftime. Jordan Love played the second half in place of Rodgers.

On the third play of the third quarter on 3rd and 11 from their own 30, Love hit Winfree for 2 but Winfree fumbled and the Lions recovered at the Green Bay 36. One play and 9 seconds later, the Lions led 24-13 as Goff hit Brock Wright for the touchdown. After a touchback, the Packers moved 58 yards in 11 plays and 5 minutes. On 2nd and 7 from the Detroit 17, Love threw incomplete twice. Crosby hit from 36 to get the Packers within 24-16. A shanked 30 yard punt gave the Packers the ball back at their own 43. Taylor ran for 12 and 9. Love hit Winfree for 12. On 3rd and 2 from the Detroit 16, Love threw incomplete. Matt LaFleur went for it. On 4th and 2, Love hit Winfree for just enough. On 3rd and 2 from the Detroit 6, Love hit Taylor for 3. The fourth quarter began with Patrick Taylor running for a one yard touchdown. Matt LaFleur went for 2 to tie the game and Love threw incomplete as the Packers trailed 24-22. 

After a touchback, the Lions moved 57 yards in 14 plays and 7 1/2 minutes. On 2nd and 8 from the Green Bay 18, Goff threw incomplete twice. Patterson hit from 36 to make it 27-22 Lions with 6 1/2 minutes left in regulation. After a touchback, the Packers struck quickly. On 3rd and 1 from their own 34, Love hit St. Brown for 4. On the next play Love went to Josiah Deguara for a 62 yard touchdown. Matt LaFleur went for 2 and Love got in to make it 30-27 Packers with 5 minutes left. After a touchback, Raymond gained 13. Goff then hit St. Brown for 28. On 3rd and 5 from the Green Bay 29, Goff hit Wright for 15. D’Andre Swift ran for a 14 yard touchdown. With 1:54 to play the Lions led 34-30. Two plays after a touchback Love was intercepted by Moore, who returned it 21 yards to the Green Bay 15 with 1:13 left. Yet the Packers had all 3 timeouts. Offensive holding killed the drive. Patterson hit the 27 yard field goal to put the Lions up by 7, but the Packers still had 41 seconds and one timeout from their own 22. From their own 40 with 27 seconds left, Love was intercepted. The Lions will have the 2nd pick in the Draft. The Packers have next week off to get healthy. The Lions starters beat the Packers backups, but they were winning over the Packers starters too. For the Lions, it was a nice way to end the season and have something to build on. 37-30 Lions

 

Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars — The 9-6 Colts with a win would guarantee themselves a playoff spot. A loss would require them to get plenty of help to still get in. The Jaguars with a loss would guarantee themselves the top pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. The Jaguars began the game facing 3rd and 13 from their own 22. Trevor Lawrence then hit Jones for a 17 yard gain. On 3rd and 10 from their own 39 after a false start, Lawrence hit Jones for 12 and again for 16. On 3rd and 1 from the Indianapolis 9, Lawrence hit Jacob Hollister for 7. Lawrence then went to Laquon Treadwell for the 2 yard touchdown. The 12 play, 75 yard, 8 minute drive gave the Jaguars the surprising 7-0 lead. 

The Colts moved from their own 39 to a 3rd and 2 at the Jacksonville 42. Carson Wentz threw incomplete and Frank Reich immediately decided to go for it. On 4th and 2, Jonathan Taylor gained only one yard.  The Colts got it back at their own 20 and moved to a 2nd and 1 at the Jacksonville 11. Taylor then lost 2 yards. On 3rd and 3, Wentz was crushed in the pocket for a 10 yard loss. Mike Badgley hit the 41 yard field goal, but after 12 plays, 57 yards and 8 minutes, the Colts trailed 7-3 in the second quarter. After a touchback, the Jaguars moved to a 3rd and 2 at the Indianapolis 4 yard line. Lawrence threw incomplete and Darrell Bevell decided to play it safe and take the points. Matt Wright hit the 22 yard field goal to cap the 11 play, 71 yard, 6 minute drive and put the Jaguars up 10-3 with 3:10 left in the half. The Jaguars got it back at their own 27 with 1:35 left in the half and moved to a 1st and goal at the 2 with 10 seconds left. Lawrence threw incomplete twice. Darrell Bevell decided not to gamble. Wright kicked the 20 yard field goal to end the half with the Jaguars winning in shocking fashion 13-3. 

The Colts began the third quarter at their own 20. From their own 38, Wentz was sacked and fumbled. The Jaguars recovered at the Indianapolis 23. On 3rd and 8, Lawrence threw incomplete. Wright his his third field goal from 39 to make it 16-3 Jaguars. The Colts took over midway through the third quarter at their own 29. Wentz went deep and had a pass deflected and intercepted by Wilson. The Jaguars had a short field at the Indy 45. Armstead got around the end for 28. on 3rd and goal at the 3, Lawrence hit Marvin Jones for the touchdown as the Jaguars were winning a shocker 23-3 after three quarters. A strong kickoff return had the Colts taking over at their own 45. They moved to a 4th and goal at the one with 13 minutes left in regulation. Frank Reich went for it. Jonathan Taylor got the carry and ran into a Jacksonville brick wall for no gain. The Colts got it back at their own 43. On 4th and 12 Reich went for it again and Wentz threw incomplete with 10 minutes left. Wright hit his fourth field goal to make it 26-3 Jaguars midway through the fourth quarter. The Colts got one garbage touchdown with 4 1/2 minutes left but the onside kick failed. On 4th and 2 from the Indy 41 with 2:06 left, Darrell Bevell went for it and Lawrence gained 3 to end it. The Jaguars even with the win still get the top pick in the Draft because Detroit also won. In an absolute shocker, the Colts went from 9-6 and almost in to 9-8 and out of the playoffs. If ever a game deserved ESPN uber-nnouncer Chris Berman’s maxim, this one was it. “THAT’s why they PLAY the GAMES!” 26-11 Jaguars

Washington I-95 Pileup at New York Giants — Both teams are done for the year. The No-Names began at their own 19 and moved 76 yards in 11 plays and 6 minutes. On 2nd and 3 from the Giants 4 yard line, a run lost a yard. Then Taylor Heinicke on 3rd and 4 threw incomplete. Joey Slye hit the 23 yard field goal to make it 3-0 No-Names. The Giants from their own 20 moved 45 yards in 10 plays and 6 1/2 minutes. Joe Judge went for it on 4th and 1 at the Washington 32. Bachman went laterally and got blown up for a 3 yard loss. On the last play of the half Slye hit from 43 to make it 6-0 No-Names. Late in the third quarter the Giants took over at their 14. From their 26, Jake Fromm was intercepted by Bobby McCain, who returned it for a 30 yard defensive touchdown. The 2 point try failed but the No-Names led 12-0. The Giants took over at their own 31 and moved 69 yards in 14 plays and 7 1/2 minutes. After converting twice on 4th down, on 3rd and 7 from the Washington 22, Fromm hit Darius Slayton for the touchdown. With 11 1/2 minutes left in regulation the Giants were within 12-7. The No-Names took over at their own 28. Antonio Gibson ran for 11, 9, 17 and 2. On 3rd and 3 from the Giants 23, Williams gained 5. Gibson ran for an 18 yard touchdown to make it 19-7 No-Names with 6 1/2 minutes left. On the next play from scrimmage after a touchback, Fromm was sacked and fumbled. The No-Names recovered at the Giants 12. Slye kicked one more field to complete the scoring. Fromm threw a Hail Mary interception on the final play for good measure. Giants General Manager Dave Gettleman retired on Monday after 35 years in football. Joe Judge survived Black Monday but not Black Tuesday, as he was fired. 22-7 I-95 Pileup

Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings — Both teams are done for the year and both coaches Matt Nagy and Mike Zimmer were expected to be fired on Black Monday. Justin Fields was still injured so Red rifle Andy Dalton started for the Bears. The Bears moved from their own 37 to a 3rd and 6 at the Minnesota 24. Dalton threw incomplete. Cairo Santos hit the 43 yard field goal to make it 3-0 Bears. The Bears got it back at their own 47 and moved to a 4th and 5 at the Minnesota 35. Matt Nagy went for it and Dalton was sacked for a 15 yard loss. The Bears got it back at their own 12 and moved 70 yards in 11 plays and 5 1/2 minutes. On 4th and 1 from the Minnesota 13, Nagy gambled again and Dalton was sacked again for a 5 yard loss. The bears got it back at their own 36 and moved to a 3rd and 7 at the Minnesota 28. Dalton threw incomplete. This time Nagy did not gamble. Santos hit the 46 yard field goal to make it 6-0 Bears with 5 minutes left in the half. The bears got it back at their own 33 with 3:10 left in the half. David Montgomery gained 9. From midfield, Dalton hit Byrd for 14 and 5 and Goodwin for 8. On 3rd and 10 from the Minnesota 23, Dalton went to Williams for the touchdown. Nagy went for the 2 point conversion and a shovel pass from Dalton saw Robinson bang it in to make it 14-0 Bears. 

Only 30 seconds remained in the half, in which the Vikings had done nothing. From the Minnesota 24, Cousins went to Justin Jefferson for 25 and deep to Ihmir Smith-Marsette for 40. On 1st and 10 from the Chicago 11, offensive holding killed any chance of a touchdown. Yet Greg Joseph hit the 39 yard field goal to finally get the Vikings on the board. The Vikings began the third quarter facing 3rd and 1 at their own 34. Dalvin Cook got around the end for a 25 yard gain. On 3rd and 13 from the Chicago 44, Cousins went bombs away to Smith-Marsette for the touchdown as the Vikings were right back in it down 14-10. The Bears after a touchback moved to a 3rd and goal at the 8. Dalton scrambled around the right end and dove into the end zone. Yet on further review his knee was down and the call was reversed to 4th and goal at the one. For a 3rd time Nagy went for it and for a 3rd time Dalton was sacked for a 14 yard loss. The Bears got it back at their own 42 and moved to a 3rd and 6 at the Minnesota 24. Dalton threw incomplete. Santos hit his third field goal from 42 as the Bears led 17-10 after three quarters. 

The Vikings soon faced 3rd and 7 from their own 28. Cousins went deep to Smith-Marsette for 19. The Vikings began the fourth quarter at their own 47. On 3rd and 2 from the Chicago 45, Cousins went to Justin Jefferson for the touchdown and a 17-17 tie. The Vikings got it back at their own 13 with 11 minutes left in regulation. On 3rd and 4 from their 19, Cousins hit Jefferson for 26. Cook ran for 29. Cousins hit KJ Osborn for the 21 yard touchdown. Midway through the fourth quarter, the Vikings had their first lead of the game up 24-17. After a touchback, the Bears moved to a 4th and 1 just shy of midfield with 5minutes left. Matt Nagy went for it. Dalton found Patrick Peterson, who plays defense for the Vikings. Defense returned the interception 66 yards for the clinching touchdown as the Vikings fell behind 14-0 and outscored the Bears 31-3 the rest of the way. The Vikings scored 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to end the season with a win. Dalton threw one more interception for good measure and the Bears turned it over on downs one more time as well. Both coaches were fired on Black Monday. So were both general managers Ryan Pace and Rick Spielman in a clean sweep for both organizations. 31-17 Vikings

Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans — The 11-5 Titans already clinched the AFC South. The Titans with a win would clinch home field throughout the playoffs and a first round bye. A loss would force them to host a game on Wildcard weekend. A scoreless first quarter saw Randy Bullock miss a 42 yard field goal for the Titans. The Titans began the second quarter at their own 6 yard line. Ryan Tannehill hit Julio Jones for 9 and 19. On 3rd and 7 from their own 37Tannehill hit Anthony Firkser for 17. Tannehill went to Westbrook-Ikhine for 9 Hilliard ran for 16. Tannehill hit Foreman for 15 down to the one. A touchdown was nullified but on 3rd and goal at the 5, Tannehill hit Firkser for the touchdown that did count. The 11 play, 94 yard, 6 1/2 drive made it 7-0 Titans. The Titans got it back at their own 15. Tannehill hit AJ Brown for 14. Foreman ran for 13. Tannehill went deep to Brown for 24 and again to Brown for a 14 yard touchdown to make it 14-0 Titans. The Titans got it back at their own 36 with 44 seconds left in the half. Tannehill hit Jones for 14. On 3rd and 10 just past midfield, Tannehill was intercepted but defensive pass interference instead meant a 45 yard gain and 1st and goal at the 4 with 11 seconds left. Tannehill hit Westbrook-Ikhine for the touchdown to make it 21-0 Titans at the intermission. The second half was completely different. 

The Texans began the third quarter at their own 28. Davis Mills hit Johnson for 7 and Danny Amendola for 9. On 3rd and 1 just past midfield, Rex Burkhead got around the end for 5. On 2nd and 15 from the Tennessee 48, Mills hit Burkhead deep for 20 and Moore deep for a 28 yard touchdown to get the Texans within 21-7. The Texans got it back at their own 35. They moved all the way to a 1st and 10 at the Tennessee 15. Mills was sacked for a 9 yard loss to kill the drive.Kaimi Fairbairn hit a 31 yard field goal to get the Texans within 21-10. The Texans got it back at their own 18. Mills went deep to Amendola for 37. On the first play of the fourth quarter Mills went deep to Collins for 30. On 3rd and 2 from the Tennessee 7, Burkhead gained 3. Mills hit Amendola for a 7 yard touchdown. David Culley went for 2 and Mills hit Amendola again for the conversion. With 11 1/2 minutes left in regulation the Texans were right back in it down 21-18.

The Titans soon faced 3rd and 5 from their own 30. Tannehill went deep to Westbrook-Ikhine for 36. On 3rd and 6 from the Houston 30, Tannehill went deep to Firkser for 24. Tannehill hit Jones for a 3 yard touchdown to give the Titans breathing room up 28-18 midway through the fourth quarter.  After a touchback, Mills hit Moore for a pair of 5 yard gains sandwiched around a 15 yard run by Johnson. Mills hit Amendola for 21, 5, and finally for the 26 yard touchdown. With 4 minutes left in the game, the Texans were right back in it down a field goal. They needed a defensive stop. The Titans took over at their own 28. Tannehill hit Brown for 16. Hilliard gained 10. On 3rd and 2 from the Houston 48, Hilliard got just enough as the Texans took their final timeout on defense with 3 minutes left. At the 2 minute warning with the Titans facing 2nd and 10 at the Houston 46, Hilliard gained 11 to lock up the win. The Titans clinched home field throughout the playoffs and the first round bye. David Culley temporarily survived Black Monday, but on Thursday he was fired after only one season at the helm. 28-25 Titans 

Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens — The 8-7 Steelers and 8-8 Ravens were in the same position. The winner would need a bunch of help to make the playoffs. The loser was automatically out. A few weeks ago the Steelers won a brutal game 20-19. The Ravens came in having lost 5 straight and would again be without Lamar Jackson due to his injured ankle. Tyler Huntley got the start. So did Ben Roethlisberger, in what was widely expected to be his final regular season game. The cliches stayed true to form. This was an AFC North street fight and a bare-fisted slobberknocker between 2 teams that are mirror images of each other. Add in pouring rain at the Big Crabcake and you had a brutal slog. An early fumble by Tyler Huntley set up the Steelers at the Baltimore 39. The Steelers moved to a 4th and 1 at the Baltimore 5. Mike Tomlin went for it but a false start killed the try. Chris Boswell hit the 28 yard field goal to make it 3-0 Steelers. Huntley was then intercepted but Roethlisberger was intercepted as well. The Ravens began the second quarter with John Harbaugh gambling on a fake punt on 4th and 2 from the Pittsburgh 45. Punter Koch threw a good ball but Wallace dropped it incomplete. A shanked 33 yard punt gave the Ravens the ball at the Pittsburgh 40 with 1:46 left in the half. With 28 seconds left on 1st and goal at the 3, Huntley was sacked. Huntley then threw incomplete twice. Justin Tucker hit from 24 for a 3-3 halftime slugfest.

The Ravens began the third quarter facing 3rd and 6 at their own 36. Huntley scrambled for 8. Latavius Murray ran for 10 and then broke off a 46 yard touchdown run to make it 10-3 Ravens. The Steelers moved from their own 28 to a 3rd and 1 at the Baltimore 21. Bennie Snell got the carry and got blasted for a one yard loss. Mike Tomlin was not in a gambling mood on 4th and 2. Boswell hit from 40 to get the Steelers within 10-6 midway through the third quarter. The Ravens moved from their 25 to 3rd and 1 at the Baltimore 17. Mark Andrews got stopped. John Harbaugh gambled on 4th and 1and huntley gained 2. The Ravens began the fourth quarter facing 2nd and 6 from the Pittsburgh 11. A touchdown would really tighten the screws and even a field goal would give the Ravens some momentum. Huntley went to the end zone into triple coverage and was intercepted for a touchback. It was a brutal missed opportunity. 

The Ravens got it back at their own 14. Murray gained 2, 6, and on 3rd and 2 at their own 22, only one more. John Harbaugh was not going to gamble on 4th and 1 from his own 23. Yet a 23 yard punt return by McCloud had the Steelers taking over at midfield midway through the fourth quarter. Big Ben hit Chase Claypool for 8 and Claypool ran for 2 more. After a false start the Steelers faced 3rd and 9 at the Baltimore 39. Roethlisberger went deep to McCloud for 20. On 3rd and 6 from the Baltimore 15, Roethlisberger hit Pat Freiermuth for 11. Roethlisberger hit Claypool for a 6 yard touchdown. With 3 minutes left in regulation, the Steelers led 13-10. The Ravens took over at their 32. Huntley went to Andrews for 11 and ran for 21 himself. With 90 seconds left on 3rd and 2 from the Pittsburgh 28, Huntley ran for no gain as the Steelers took their 2nd timeout on defense. The greatest kicker in the game came in for a 46 yard field goal to tie the game. Tucker was good and this was a 13-13 game. The Steelers after a touchback had 1:12 to work with and one timeout. On 3rd and 4 from their own 41, Roethlisberger hit Freiermuth for only 3. On 4th and 1 from their own 44 with 43 seconds left and hard rain coming down, Mike Tomlin again was not in a gambling mood. The Ravens got it back at their own 18 with 37 seconds left. Huntley hit Andrews for 12 but then threw 3 straight incompletions. Regulation would not settle this blood feud. it was time for overtime. 

The Ravens won the coin toss and began overtime at their own 24. Murray gained 11 and 4. On 3rd and 2 from their own 43, Murray gained 3. The Ravens were on the move facing 1st and 10 at their own 46. Yet Murray gained one yard and Huntley threw incomplete twice. The Steelers took over at their own 17. Roethlisberger hit Najee Harris for 11. On 3rd and 7 from their own 31, Roethlisberger hit Freiermuth for 14. On 3rd and 9 from their own 46, Roethlisberger hit Johnson for 11. On 3rd and 8 from the Baltimore 41, Roethlisberegr threw incomplete. After torching the Baltimore defense on 3rd down the entire second half and overtime, the defense finally got a stop. With 2 1/2 minutes left in overtime, Mike Tomlin did not want to try a 59 yard field goal in pouring rain. A punt was not an option because a tie game would eliminate both teams. The only call was to go for it. On 4th and 8, Roethlisberger hit McCloud for 10. That took the heart out of the Baltimore defense. Harris ran for 15. Big Ben took a knee to center the ball. At the 2 minute warning, Boswell came in for a 36 yard try to win it. Boswell was good. The Ravens lost their 6th straight to finish with a losing record and miss the playoffs. The Steelers needed to win and get a ton of help, and by the skin of their teeth they got the last of that help Sunday night. Left for dead a couple weeks ago, the 9-7-1 Steelers were in the playoffs as a Wildcard. Roethlisberger’s career will be extended at least one more week as the Steelers will be at Kansas City. 16-13 Steelers, OT

Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns – The Bengals were hoping to have a shot at home field advantage throughout the playoffs, but Kansas City’s win on Saturday put the top seed out of reach. The Bengals had already clinched the AFC North but went from having everything to play for to having nothing to play for. Zac Taylor rested his starters including Joe Burrow. Baker Mayfield was also out with an injured shoulder. Brandon Allen and Case Keenum started. Late in the first quarter the Bengals rook over at their own 21. Case Keenum hit Donovan Peoples-Jones for 22. Nick Chubb ran for 6, 3, and 14. Keenum hit Jarvis Landry for a 26 yard touchdown to make it 7-0 Browns after the first quarter. A short 32 yard punt gave the Browns the ball back at their own 42 to start the second quarter. Keenum hit Peoples-Jones for 10. Johnson gained 8. Schwartz added 3. Keenum went to Landry for 13 with defensive unnecessary roughness adding 12 more. Johnson gained 8 and then the 4 yard touchdown to make it 14-0 Browns. 

The Browns got it back at their own 16 and with 3 1/2 minutes left were at their own 34 in total control of the game. Then came a fumble that was returned by Trayvon Henderson 29 yards for a defensive touchdown to get the Bengals within 14-7. The Browns took over at their own 26 and moved 63 yards in 12 plays. With 16 seconds left in the half, the Browns had 1st and 10 at the Cincinnati 11. A pair of incompletions left 9 seconds. Even a field goal would make it a 2 score game. On 3rd and 10, Keenum went to the end zone and was intercepted. In the third quarter the Bengals took over at their own 30 and moved to a 3rd and 5 at the Cleveland 39. Allen threw incomplete but defensive pass interference meant a 16 yard gain. The Bengals moved to a 1st and 10 at the Cleveland 11. A delay of game penalty and a sack killed the drive. Elliott Fry hit a 36 yard field goal to get the Bengals within 14-10 with 5 minutes left in the third quarter.  The Browns took over at their own 19 and moved 79 yards in 10 plays and 6 minutes. The fourth quarter began with the Browns facing 4th and goal at the 2. Kevin Stefanski went for it and Keenum threw incomplete.

Despite the goal line stand, the Bengals failed to move the ball and punted on 4th and 9 from their own 3. The Browns took over with a short field at the Cincinnati 46. Johnson carried the ball 9 straight times. He  gained 3, 6, and on 3rd and 1 from the Cincy 37, 3 followed by gains of 9, 2, 5, 7, 0 and one. On 3rd and 9 from the 10, Keenum hit Demetric Felton for the touchdown to cap the 10 play, 46 yard, 6 minute drive. Midway through the fourth quarter, the Browns had breathing room up 21-10.  The Bengals soon faced 3rd and 10 from their own 25. Allen hit Taylor for 15. On 3rd and 7 from their own 43, Allen hit Taylor for 26. On 3rd and 2 from the Cleveland 23, Evans gained 10. On 3rd and 10 from the Cleveland 13, Allen hit Evans for 9. With 2 1/2 minutes left, the Bengals took their last timeout before going for it. Allen hit Chris Evans for the touchdown. The 2 point try failed. More importantly, the onside kick also failed. With 1:16 left the Browns faced 3rd and 1 at the Cincy 42. A defensive stop would allow the Bengals to get the ball back with maybe 15 seconds left. It was not to be. Keennum gained 2 as the Browns ended the year on a won. The Bengals backups nearly went on the road and won against plenty of Cleveland starters. The Bengals are the 4 seed and will host the Raiders, who they beat a few weeks ago in Las Vegas, in the Wildcard round. The Bengals last won a playoff game 31 years ago. They beat the Houston Oilers before falling the following week to the Raiders. 21-16 Browns 

San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams — The 9-7 49ers were guaranteed a Wildcard spot with a win. However, a loss and a New Orleans win would knock the 49ers out of the playoffs. The 49ers came in having beaten the Rams 5 straight times. The 12-4 Rams were in the playoffs but still needed one more win or an Arizona loss to clinch the NFC West. A loss and an Arizona win would have the Rams also being a Wildcard and playing their opening playoff game on the road rather than at home. A win would keep the Rams as the two seed, which would give them a 2nd home game if they win the Wildcard. The Rams began at their own 13 and moved 62 yards in 13 plays and taking 9 minutes off the clock. Yet on 3rd and 6 from San Francisco 15, Matthew Stafford was sacked. Matt Gay hit the 43 yard field goal to make it 3-0 Rams. The Rams got it back and soon faced 3rd and 4 at their own 45. Stafford hit Cooper Kupp for 7 as the first quarter ended. In the second quarter Stafford hit Kupp for 16 and Tyler Higbee for 9. On 3rd and 2 from the San Francisco 29, Stafford hit Van Jefferson for 7 with defensive unnecessary roughness adding 11 more. On 3rd and 8 from the Frisco 9, Stafford hit Kupp for 7. Sean McVay gambled on 4th and 1 from the 2. Stafford hit Higbee for the touchdown to make it 10-0 Rams. The 49ers punted on 4th and 28 from their own 7 and Poweel returned the punt 31 yards to the Frisco 19. On 3rd and 6, Stafford threw a 15 yard touchdown to Higbee for a 17-0 Rams lead. Garoppolo was then intercepted as the Rams were winning a laugher. Sean McVay was 45-0 when the Rams led at the half. New Orleans was winning their game big, meaning the 49ers were on their way to being eliminated.

The 49ers got the ball back at their own 15 with only 38 seconds left and 2 timeouts. Garoppolo hit Brandon Aiyuk for 19. Garoppolo then lateraled to Aiyuk, who lateraled it to Deebo Samuel for a 10 yard gain. Garoppolo hit Hasty for 8 and Aiyuk for 26. Garoppolo spiked the bay to stop the clock with 3 seconds left. Robbie Gould hit a 42 yard field goal to get the 49ers within 17-3. The 49ers began the third quarter facing 3rd and 3 from their own 32. Garoppolo hit Hasty for 13. Garoppolo then went deep to Aiyuk for 31. On 3rd and 2 from the Rams 16, Samuel ran for the touchdown to get the 49ers within 17-10. The 49ers got it back and faced 3rd and 1 from their own 35. Hasty gained 4. Samuel gained 8 and 5. Mitchell gained 6 and 3. On 3rd and 1 from the Rams 39, Garoppolo got the yard. Mitchell gained 9 and 5. Mike Shanahan then went to the bag of tricks. Garoppolo lateraled to Samuel, who threw the halfback option pass to Jauan Jennings for a 24 yard touchdown. The Rams soon faced 3rd and 16 from their own 19. Stafford went bombs away and was intercepted at the San Francisco 32. After three quarters, the game was tied 17-17. 

In the fourth quarter the 49ers moved from their own 23 to a 2nd and 9 at the Rams 17. After a false start, Garoppolo went to the end zone and was intercepted by Jalen Ramsey. Ramsey tried to run it out, a mistake. Instead of taking over at their own 20, the Rams took over at their own 8. Kupp took an end around 18 yards. On 3rd and 6 from their own 30, Stafford went deep to Kupp for 30. A defensive facemask on the next play added 15 more. On 3rd and goal at the 4, Stafford hit Kupp for the touchdown. The 92 yard drive took 5 minutes and had the Rams up 24-17 with 2 1/2 minutes left in the game…and possibly the 49ers season. On 3rd and 9 from their own 26, Garoppolo was sacked at the 2 minute warning. Kyle Shanahan decided not to go for it on 4th and 18 from his own 17. The 49ers had all 3 timeouts so he decided to trust his defense. The Rams took over at their own 40. Sean McVay went ultra conservative. He rammed Michel into the line 3 straight times, forcing the 49ers to use all 3 timeouts. A first down would end it but Michel gained 2, one, and on 3rd and 7, only 2 more. McVay punted and Johnny Hekker pinned the 49ers at their own 12 yard line. They would have 90 seconds and 0 timeouts to go 88 yards.

Garoppolo went to Aiyuk for 21, Jennings for 5, and Samuel deep for 43 yards. With 26 seconds left, Garoppolo hit Jennings for the touchdown. Kyle Shanahan was not interested in risking the entire season on a 2 point conversion. The extra point was good. After a touchback, the Rams had 2 timeouts. Stafford hit Higbee for 12 and the Rams took their 2nd timeout with 21 seconds left. Yet on the next play Stafford was sacked as both teams let the clock click down to double zeroes. The 49ers won the overtime coin toss and moved after a touchback 69 yards in 12 plays and nearly 7 1/2 minutes. On 2nd and goal at the 7, Samuel got stopped for no gain. Then on 3rd and goal, Garoppolo hit Kittle for only one yard. Gould hit the 24 yard field goal to give the 49ers the lead, but the Rams would have one chance with the ball, 2:45 on the clock, and 2 timeouts plus the 2 minute warning. The Rams moved from their 18 t their 38 at the 2 minute warning. Stafford went deep and was intercepted. The 49ers were in the playoffs. Despite the loss, the Rams won the NFC West when Arizona also lost. However, the Rams did lose their grip on the two seed and dropped to the four seed. The 49ers have beaten the Rams 6 straight times. The Rams open the playoffs at home against Arizona, and each team won on the road to split the regular season series. The 49ers are at Dallas. 27-24 49ers, OT

Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers — The Panthers are done for the year. The 12-4 Buccaneers clinched the NFC South. They entered the day as the three seed and had a chance to move up or down by one seed. So Bruce Arians played his starters. The Panthers began facing 3rd and 7 from their own 28. Sam Darnold hit DJ Moore for 20. On 3rd and 4 from the Tampa 46, Vita Tea jumped into the neutral zone. Darnold went to Moore for 11. On 3rd and 6 from the Tampa 26, Darnold hit Robby Anderson for 7. Abdullah ran for 3 and 10. Darnold went to Chuba Hubbard for a 2 yard touchdown. The 14 play, 75 yard, 7 1/2 minute drive had the Panthers up 7-0. Panthers got it back and soon faced 4th and 1 at their own 34. With nothing to lose, Matt Rhule went for it. Moore got around the end for 13. On 3rd and 9 at the Tampa 42, a run only gained 3. The clock was running down to end the first quarter but Rhule took a timeout with one second left. A 57 yard field goal was high risk, So Rhule went for it. On 4th and 6, Darnold threw incomplete. The 10 play, 36 yard, 6 minute drive came up empty.

The 49ers began the second quarter at that same spot and soon faced 4th and 2 at the Carolina 42. Bruce Arians went for it and Tom Brady hit Mike Evans for 14. On 3rd and 3 from the Carolina 21, Brady threw incomplete. Ryan Succop hit from 39 as the Buccaneers were within 7-3. After a touchback the Panthers moved 73 yards in 12 plays and 6 minutes. On 3rd and 2 from the Tampa Bay 3, Darnold hit Tommy Tremble for only one yard. With 5 minutes left in the half Matt Rhule went for it on 4th and 1 from the 2. Darnold kept it and got stopped short. Again, the Panthers came up snake eyes. With 1:48 left in the half, the Buccaneers were pinned at their own 8 yard line. A pair of incompletions meant 3rd and 10 and 1:22 left. The Carolina defense had been great the entire first half, but when it mattered most they broke down. Brady hit Mike Evans for 37. Brady hit Rob Gronkowski for 7 and 20 and then went to Brad Perriman for 24. With 15 seconds left in the half from the one, Brady hit LeVeon Bell for the touchdown. The Buccaneers took a 10-7 lead to the locker rooms after the 92 yard drive.

The Buccaneers began the the third quarter at their own 23. Brady went deep to Gronk for 42 and again for 19. On 3rd and 4 from the Carolina 9, Brady hit Johnson for 7. KeShawn Vaughn ran for a 2 yard touchdown to out the Buccaneers up 17-7. The Panthers moved from their own 31 to a 3rd and 6 at the Tampa 21. Darnold only gained 4. Lirim Hajrullahu hit the 35 yard field goal to get the Panthers within 17-10 with 5 minutes left in the third quarter. The Buccaneers took over at their own 38. Brady went to Evans for 10, Perriman for 4, Baughn for 7 and Perriman for 9. On 3rd and 1 from the Carolina 32, Vaughn gained 3. Brady hit Johnson for 7, Gronk for 14, Vaughn for 5, and on the first play of the fourth quarter, Evans for the 3 yard touchdown. The 11 play, 62 yard, nearly 5 minute drive made it 24-10 Buccaneers. A strong kickoff return had the Panthers taking over at their own 44. Darnold hit Moore for 9, Abdullah for 5 and 15, and Moore for 6. On 3rd and 4 from the Tampa 19, Darnold threw incomplete. With 10 1/2 minutes left and needing 2 touchdowns, going for it on 4th and 4 was necessary. Darnold then hit Anderson for the touchdown. The Panthers were only down 24-17.

After a touchback, the Buccaneers turned out the lights. Brady hit gronkowski for 28, Perriman for 7, Miller for 9, and Evans for a 20 yard touchdown to make it 31-17 Buccaneers midway through the fourth quarter. The Panthers soon faced 3rd and 3 from their own 32. Darnold gained one and fumbled. The Buccaneers recovered and took over at the Carolina 27. Brady hit Gronk for 7 and with 6 1/2 minutes left was sent to the bench. Blaine Gabbert came in to finish the game. On 3rd and 5, Gabbert threw incomplete. Succop hit the 40 yard field goal to make it 34-17 Buccaneers. A pair of incompletions had the Panthers down to their last gasp on 4th and 7 from their own 28. Darnold hit Anderson for only 6. One play and 10 seconds later, Scotty Miller ran for a 33 yard touchdown to turn a close game into a blowout. Darnold added one more interception for good measure. After starting 3-0, the Panthers finished 2-12 as Matt Rhule awaited Black Monday. Because the Rams lost, the Buccaneers thanks to 24 fourth quarter points moved up to the 2 seed, meaning if they win their first home playoff game they will get a 2nd playoff game at home. The Buccaneers in their entire history have never had home field throughout the playoffs. However, they were the 2 seed in 2002 and 2020 when they won it all. They will host Philadelphia in the opening round. 41-17 Buccaneers

Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals — The Seahawks are done for the year. The 11-5 Cardinals had already clinched a Wildcard. With a win and a Rams loss, the Cardinals would win the NFC West and have their Wildcard playoff game at home rather than on the road. On the second play from scrimmage after a touchback, the Seahawks fumbled and Zach Allen returned it 16 yards for a defensive touchdown. 12 seconds into the game, the Cardinals led 7-0. After a touchback, Rashaad Penny ran for 4, 20 and 6. On 3rd and 2 from the Arizona 43, Russell Wilson went to Tyler Lockett for the touchdown and the 7-7 game. 

The Cardinals then went on a mind-numbing drive. 19…yes, 19….plays. 66 yards. Nearly 11…yes, 11..minutes. From their own 11, the Cardinals soon faced 3rd and 14 from their own 7. Kyler Murray hit Zach Ertz for 13. Kliff Kingsbury made the insane decision of going for ti on 4th and 1 from his own 20. James Conner gained 2. Kingsbury gambled again on 4th and 4 from the Seattle 46. Seattle jumped into the neutral zone. Yet on 3rd and 1 from the Seattle 21, Conner lost 2 yards. Their longest drive of the year had them settling for a 41 yard Matt Prater field goal and a 10-7 Cardinals lead. 

The Seahawks soon faced 3rd and 8 from their own 27. Wilson hit Homer for 23. On 3rd and 8 from the Arizona 48, Wilson went deep to DK Metcalf for 31. On 3rd and 10 from the Arizona 17, Wilson went to Parkinson for 12 and Lockett for the 5 yard touchdownThe 10 play, 75 yard drive had the Seahawks up 14-10. The Seahawks got it back at their own 29 with 3:40 left in the half and moved 52 yards in 11 plays. Yet on 2nd and 6 from the Arizona 19, Wilson threw incomplete twice. Jason Myers hit the 38 yard field goal to make it 17-10 Seahawks at the half. 

The Cardinals began the third quarter with an offensive holding call that had them facing 1st and 20 from their own 13. Murray hit Wesley for 9, Conner for 8, and on 3rd and 3 form their own 30, Kirk deep for 35. Murray hit Ertz for 14 and Conner for a 20 yard touchdown and a 17-17 game. The seahawks soon faced 3rd and 7 from their own 28. Wilson was intercepted by Thompson, who returned it 33 yards down to the Seattle one. Connner got. in as the Cardinals reclaimed the look 24-17.

The Seahawks took over at their own 28. Wilson hit Metcalf for 9, Penny ran for 7 and 29. Metcalf went to Freddie Swain for a 25 yard touchdown to make it 24-24 with 2 minutes left in the third quarter. After a touchback the Cardinals went backward as Murray was sacked twice for losses of 11 and 12. On the last play of the third quarter the Cardinals had to punt on 4th and 25 at their own 10. Punter Lee knew the punt was about Kobe blocked so he held off punting it and tried to run. He then got hit and fumbled as the Seahawks took over at the Arizona 10. On 3rd and goal at the 4, Wilson got in to make it 31-24 Seahawks with 13 minutes left in regulation. 

The Cardinals took over at their own 21 and mounted another long drive of 14 plays, 67 yards, and 7 minutes. Despite 1st and goal at the 8, a run lost 4 yards. Murray then threw a pair of incompletions. With 6 1/2 minutes left in regulation down by 7, Kliff Kingsbury decided to play it very safe on 4th and goal at the 12. Prater hit the 30 yard field goal but the Cardinals still trailed 31-27. The strategy backfired. After a touchback, Wilson hit Lockett for 11. Penny then ran for 3 and then broke free for a 62 yard touchdown run. The Seahawks led 38-27 with only 4 1/2 minutes left. 

After another touchback, the Cardinals moved 57 yards in 14 plays. They moved to a 1st and goal at the 8. A completion gained nothing and then Murray threw incomplete. On 3rd and goal at the 8, Murray threw incomplete and the Cardinals were called for offensive pass interference. Pete Carroll for some reason accepted the penalty yardage rather than decline the penalty and make it 4th down. Murray threw incomplete again. Needing 2 scores, Kliff Kingsbury went with the field goal. Prater hit the 36 yard field goal to get the Cardinals within 8, but the onside kick failed. Carroll wants to keep coaching in Seattle and wants Wilson to return as well. The Cardinals started 10-2 but went 1-4 down the stretch. The Cardinals could have won the NFC West since the Rams lost. Yet with the loss the 11-6 Cardinals settled for the Wildcard. They play their Wildcard game at…who else? The Rams, of course. These teams each won on the opposing team’s field. 38-30 Seahawks

 

New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins — The Dolphins shocked the Patriots in New England in the season opener 17-16 when the Patriots literally fumbled the game away while in position for the winning field goal. The Patriots frequently have a better record than the Dolphins, yet somehow also frequently lose to them in Miami. On more than one occasion, the Dolphins have pulled out holiday miracles at home against New England. As for this season, the Dolphins are done. The 10-6 Patriots had clinched a playoff spot. They were tied for the AFC East lead with Buffalo but did not hold the tie-breaker. If the Patriots won their finale and Buffalo lost, the Patriots would win the division and have a home playoff game. The Patriots chance for home field throughout the playoffs was put out of reach when Kansas City won on Saturday. 

The Dolphins began the game at their own 23. Tua Tagovailoa hit Jalen waddle for 9 and 4. On 3rd and 1 from their own 45, Tagoviloa gained 2. Tagovailoa hit Mike Gesicki for 13. On 3rd and 3 from the New England 23, Tagovailoa hit myles Gaskin for 7 and Parker for 9. On 3rd and 1 from the New England 7, Tagovailoa hit Waddle for the touchdown to make it 7-0 Dolphins. The Patriots soon faced 3rd and 1 at their own 34. Mac Jones found Xavier Howard, who plays defense for Miami. Howard returned the interception 37 yards for a touchdown to make it 14-0 Dolphins. The Dolphins got it back at their own 11 and moved 77 yards in 15 plays and 7 minutes. On 3rd and 6 from the New England 12, Tagovailoa threw incomplete. Jason Sanders hit the 30 yard field goal to make it 17-0 Dolphins in the second quarter.  

The Patriots took over at their own 26, Jones went deep to Hunter Henry for a 35 yard gain. Jones then went to Harris for 7. Kendrick Bourne ran for 8. On 3rd and 1 from the Miami 15, Brandon Bolden ran for the touchdown to get the Patriots within 17-7. The Patriots began the third quarter facing 3rd and 1 at their own 34. Smith gained 5. On 3rd and 9 from their own 40, Jones threw incomplete but defensive pass interference meant 7 yards and an automatic first down. Rhamondrae Stevenson 7, 12 and 9. Yet on 3rd and 4 from the Miami 17, Jones was sacked. Nick Folk hit the 43 yard field goal to culminate the 13 play, 50 yard, 6 1/2 minute drive and get the Patriots within 17-10.

After a touchback, Johnson ran for 27. Lindsay added gains of 7, 3 and 5. On 3rd and 7 from the New England 25, Tagovailoa went deep incomplete but defensive pass interference meant a 24 yard gain down to the one. Duke Johnson got the last yard to put the Dolphins up 24-10. The Patriots moved from their own 25 to a 1st and 10 at the Miami 22. Jones fumbled and the Dolphins recovered at their own 24. The Dolphins moved 45 yards in 10 plays and 6 1/2 minutes. On 4th and 1 from their own 33, Brian Flores played it safe and punted but an illegal formation penalty on the defense gave the Dolphins a first down. On 3rd and 7 from the New England 31, Tagovailoa threw incomplete. Sanders hit the 49 yard field goal to have the Dolphins comfortably leading 27-10 with 11 minutes left in regulation. 

After a touchback, Jones hit Henry for 6 and again for 32. On 3rd and 1 from the Miami 28, Bolden gained 4. Harris added 6 and 5. On 3rd and 15 from the Miami 18, Jones hit Bolden for the touchdown. With 6 1/2 minutes left, the Patriots were within 27-17. The Patriots got it back at their own 24 with 5 minutes left. Jones went deep to Meyers for 39.. Jones then hit Harris for 11 and Henry for 8. Defensive pass interference added 11 yards down to the one. Harris got the last yard. With 3 minutes left, the Patriots were right back in it down 27-24. 

Rather than try and run down the clock, Brian Flores got aggressive and after a touchback Tagovailoa hit Smythe for 15 yards and a key first down. With 1:56 left, the Dolphins faced 3rd and 8 at their own 42. One defensive stop would give the Patriots the ball back with plenty of time needing only a field goal to tie. Tagovailoa scrambled for 11 yards and another key first down. The Patriots had to use their timeouts on defense. On 3rd and 5 from the New England 42, a run went nowhere. Yet a punt pinned the Patriots at their own 2 yard line with only 14 seconds left. The attempted hook and laterals went backward and Sam Eguavoen recovered a fumble in the New England end zone for a defensive touchdown. 

The Patriots finished 10-7 and would be the six seed Wildcard. They would not have won the AFC East anyway since Buffalo won their game. Yet in the Wildcard round, the Patriots would be at Buffalo. Each team won on the road to split the season series. Midway through the season, the Patriots won a brutal 14-10 game at Buffalo in which Jones threw only 3 passes as the Patriots ran the ball 46 times. Then Buffalo went into New England and won 33-21. The rubber match will tell us if there is an AFC East changing of the guard or a return to regular order. Meanwhile, the Dolphins had one of the craziest seasons in league history. They won the opener at New England, lost 7 straight, then won 7 straight. Last week they were blown out Tennessee to miss the playoffs but winning their regular season finale gave them a 9-8 record. They went 8-1 down the stretch. Yet in a shocking turn of events, owner Stephen Ross fired Brian Flores on Black Monday despite consecutive winning seasons. 33-24 Dolphins

New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons — The Falcons are done for the year. The 8-8 Saints were on the outside looking in. If they won and San Francisco lost, the Saints would sneak into the playoffs as a Wildcard. The Saints began the game at their own 16. Taysom Hill hit Prentice for 2 and Smith for 8. Alvin Kamara ran for 27. Hill hit Vannett for 10. Harris gained 9. Hill hit Adam Trautman for an 18 yard touchdown to complete the 10 play, 84 yard, 6 1/2 minute drive and make it 7-0 Saints. The Falcons after a touchback moved 45 yards in 10 plays and 5 minutes. Yet on 2nd and 9 from the Saints 23, Matt Ryan threw incomplete and was then sacked. Younghoe Koo hit the 48 yard field goal to get the Falcons on the board. The Saints after a touchback moved 59 yards in 10 plays and nearly 5 minutes. On 2nd and 6 from the Atlanta 13, Kamara lost 3 yards and Hill then threw incomplete. Brett Maher’s 34 yard field goal try was no good. The Falcons quickly moved from their own 24 to a 3rd and 3 at the Saints 36. Ryan threw incomplete. Koo nailed a 54 yarder. The Falcons were right back in it down 7-6 with 10 1/2 minutes left in the half.

Yet by halftime, this game was over. On 3rd and 9 from their own 28, Hill hit Smith for 34. On 3rd and 2 from the Atlanta 30, Hill ran for 5. Hill gained one yard on the next play but left the game injured. Trevor Siemian played the rest of the way. On 3rd and 9 from the Atlanta 24 Siemian threw incomplete but defensive pass interference added 11 yards. Siemian then hit Smith for a 13 yard touchdown to make it 14-6 Saints with 6 minutes left in the half. On the first play from scrimmage from his own 36, Ryan went deep and was intercepted by Adebo, who returned it 17 yards to set up the Saints at their own 46. The Saints moved to a 3rd and 3 at the Atlanta 18. Siemian threw incomplete. Maher hit from 37 to make it 17-6 Saints with one minute left in the half. on the first play from scrimmage from their own 11, a short completion was fumbled by the Falcons and the Saints recovered at the Atlanta 11. on 3rd and 4 from th Atlanta 5, Siemian hit Juwan Johnson for the touchdown as the Saints led 24-6 at the break. 

Late in the third quarter the Falcons took over at their own 44. Ryan went deep to Hurst for 33 and to Gage for 5. Ollison ran for a 19 yard touchdown to get the Falcons within 24-13. Yet there would be no comeback. After a touchback the Saints moved 66 yards in 13 plays and 7 minutes. On 1st and goal at the 4 a run lost a yard and on 3rd and goal at the 5 another run lost 4 yards. Yet Maher hit from 27 to make it 27-13 Saints with 11 minutes left in the game. For the third time in the game, the Falcons turned the ball over on their first play from scrimmage. The Saints recovered the fumble at the Atlanta 29. Maher hit a 33 yarder to put the Saints up 30-13 and lock up the win. The Falcons managed one garbage touchdown with 20 seconds left in what may be Matt Ryan’s final game in Atlanta. He is expected to be a salary cap casualty. Meanwhile, the win was bittersweet for the Saints. They finished with a winning record at 9-8 and needed 4 quarterbacks to do it. Yet San Francisco made a stunning second half comeback to get a road win, eliminating the Saints from playoff contention. 30-20 Saints

New York Jets at Buffalo Bills — The Jets are done for the year. The 10-6 Bills were tied for the AFC East lead and they held the tie-breaker. A win or a New England loss would give them the division crown. If the Bills lost and New England won, the Bills would drop down to the Wildcard and have to play their first playoff game on the road. After a touchback, Josh Allen hit Dawson Knox for 17. On 3rd and 2 from midfield, Singletary ran for a 40 yard gain. On 3rd and goal at the 10, Allen hit Stefan Diggs for the touchdown to make it 7-0 Bills. The Bills got the ball back at their own 7 yard line and moved 70 yards in 13 plays and 6 1/2 minutes. On 2nd and 10 from the Buffalo 23 after an incompletion, Allen went to Diggs for the touchdown. Yet on further review the play was reversed to an incompletion. Another incompletion on 3rd and 10 had the Bills settling for a 41 yard Tyler Bass field goal and a 10-0 lead after the first quarter. The Jets punts on 4th and 6 from their own 46. The Bills blocked the punt and began the second quarter at the Jets 35. While the game was on the verge of being a blowout, the Jets proved surprisingly resilient.

On 4th and 4 from the Jets 29, Sean McDermott passed up a 47 yard field goal try and went for it. Allen threw incomplete. Although the Jets offense was going nowhere, the defense and special teams kept them in the game. With 5 1/2 minutes left in the half, the Bills punted on 4th and 4 from their own 24. Under heavy pressure of a punt block, Haack managed only a 21 yard shank. The Jets took over with a short field at the Buffalo 45. On 4th and 5 from the Buffalo 40, Robert Saleh went for it and Zach Wilson found Keelan Cole for the touchdown to get the Jets within 10-7. With 1:40 left in the half the Bills took over at their own 16. The Bills quickly moved 81 yards in 10 plays. With 17 seconds left the Bills had 1st and 10 at the Jets 13. Allen threw 3 straight incompletions. Defensive pass interference gave the Bills 1st and goal at the 3 but with time for only one play. Sean McDermott played it safe and Bass hit the 21 yard field goal to make it 13-7 Bills. With 5 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter the Bills had to punt on 4th and 4 from their own 22. This time the Jets smothered Hauck and were again going to block the punt. Hauck had it dribble off his leg and go 7 yards. The Jets took over at the Buffalo 22 with a chance to take the lead. On 3rd and 9, Wilson was sacked. Eddie Pineiro hit a 49 yard field goal as the Jets only trailed 13-10 with 4 minutes left in the third quarter. 

Early in the fourth quarter the Jets had to punt on 4th and 19 from their own 7. The Bills took over just shy of midfield. Allen scrambled for a 32 yard gain. On 3rd and 6 from the Jets 15, Allen hit McKenzie for 9. On 3rd and goal at the one, Devin Singletary got in to give the Bills breathing room up 20-10 with 8 1/2 minutes left in regulation. The Jets punted on 4th and 15 from their own 20 and this time it was a Jets punt that only went 28 yards. The Bills took over with a short field at the Jets 48. Allen went deep to Davis for 27. Singletary added 12. On 3rd and goal at the 5, Allen hit Singletary for the touchdown with 4 minutes left to put the game on ice. The Jets were game, but the Bills got the win to get to 11-6. They clinched the AFC East and the three seed. They begin the playoffs hosting a Wildcard game against division rival New England. The Bills lost at home to New England but then beat them in New England. The rubber match will see if this time there is a home field advantage. 27-10 Bills

Los Angeles Chargers at Las Vegas Raiders was the Sunday night regular season finale game. This game became an instant classic that will be talked about forever. This was a do-or-die game for both 9-7 AFC West teams. The winner was in the playoffs as a Wildcard. The loser was out. The Raiders could have clinched a playoff spot before the game started had Pittsburgh and Indianapolis both lost. That scenario did not play out. 2-14 Jacksonville shocked the football world and knocked out Indianapolis. Yet Pittsburgh survived in overtime over Baltimore. A bizarre scenario would have both the Raiders and Chargers making the playoffs if the game ended in a tie. A cynic suggested both teams rest their starters and have the backups take a knee for 60 minutes and end in a 0-0 tie. That would be a disgrace to the game of football, a violation of everything the late John Madden believed in, and would most likely trigger sanctions from Commissioner Roger Goodell for violating the integrity of the game. Both teams quickly shot down the 0-0 tie scenario and vowed to try and win the game. Madden’s widow Virginia lit the Al Davis torch. Both teams came in without injuries as the Raiders finally got Darren Waller back. Josh Jacobs played with bruised ribs. 

This game was played with rumors swirling that Mark Davis was going to blow up the entire organization and start over from scratch. 10 years ago the 8-7 Raiders needed a home win against the eliminated 7-8 Chargers to make the playoffs. Chargers coach Norv Turner had previously been fired by the Raiders. The Raiders trailed 31-26 in the fourth quarter but the Chargers were pinned at their own one yard line. The Chargers moved easily on a 99 yard drive to win 38-26, get Turner his revenge, and eliminate the Raiders. Only months after Al Davis died, his son Mark fired coach Hue Jackson after the game. A decade later, the defense still struggles. On a happier note for fans of the Silver and Black, this game was played 45 years to the day John Madden led the Raiders to their first Super Bowl victory, 32-14 over Minnesota. After a ton of buildup that turned out tone totally deserved, the game kicked off with the Raiders and Chargers needing to win and Pittsburgh hoping for anything other than a tie.  

The Raiders began at their own 33. Josh Jacobs ran for 8 and caught a pass from Derek Carr for 8 more. On 3rd and 10 just shy of midfield, A short pass from Carr to Foster Moreau saw Moreau rumble for a 44 yard gain. Moreau got caught from behind and had the ball chopped out of his hand. It almost became another blown opportunity but luckily for Moreau the ball rolled out of bounds. The Raiders had 1st and goal at the 7. Yet as has been the case so often in recent years, the Raiders failed to finish the drive. On 3rd and goal at the 6, Carr threw incomplete. Daniel Carlson hit the 24 yard field goal to make it 3-0 Raiders. The Raiders got another special teams break when they punted and the Chargers fumbled it. The Raiders took over at the Chargers 23. On 3rd and 3, Jalen Richard only gained a yard. It looked like another wasted university. Yet Rich Bisaccia coached like there was no tomorrow, just like Hue Jackson did the day after Al Davis died. Bisaccia gambled on 4th and 2 from the Chargers 15 rather than take the easy field goal. Carr fired a laser to Zee Jones for just enough. Carr then went to Hunter Renfrow for a 12 yard touchdown and a 10-0 Raiders lead. yet the Raiders tend to play well when they are on the verge of extinction. They handle prosperity badly. The Raiders do not finish drives and they do not finish games. Everyone knew 10-0 was not going to lead to a blowout. Far from it.

The Chargers soon faced 3rd and 5 at their own 30. Justin Herbert hit Austin Ekeler for 14. The Chargers then faced 3rd and 17 at their own 37. Herbert threw incomplete but illegal contact on the defense meant 5 yards and an automatic first down. By the time this game was over, the Raiders defense would have set a record for futility on closing out drives and games. Ekeler began the second quarter running for gains of 9 and 2. On 3rd and 2 from the Raiders 19, Herbert threw incomplete. Brandon Staley goes beyond bold and coaches recklessly. He takes calculated risks but also takes stupid risks. This time he made a calculated reasonable risk and passed up a 37 yard field goal try to go for it on 4th and 2. Herbert hit Jalen Guyton for 5. Ekelr then ran for an easy 14 yard touchdown to get the Chargers within 10-7. The Raiders moved from thrown 28 to a 1st and 10 at the Chargers 47. Yet a run went nowhere and Carr was sacked to kill the drive. Rich Bisaccia punted rather than go for it on 4th and 6 from the Chargers 43 or try a 61 yard field goal. The Chargers took over at their own 10. Herbert hit Keenan Allen for 10. On 3rd and 2 from their own 29, Herbert hit Guyton for 6. Ekeler ran for 14. Herbert hit Jared Cook for 13. Justin Jackson gained 11. Jackson gained 8 and Ekeler added 6. Herbert went to Ekeler for a 14 yard touchdown to culminate the 13 play, 90 yard, 7 minute drive and put the Chargers up 14-10 with 1:52 left in the half. 

The Raiders soon faced 3rd and 5 from their own 30. Carr went to Darren Waller for 18. Yet an intentional grounding penalty had the Raiders facing 3rd and 23 from their own 35 with one minute left. Not only were the Raiders losing, but the Chargers were about to get another chance with the ball before the half ended. Then the Chargers would get the ball to start the second half. A nightmare scenario had the Chargers up 28-10. Yet the Raiders caught a very lucky break. Rich Bisaccia called a give up run to set up the punt, and Richard took the punt all the way for the first down. Initially it was called a 22 yard gain and 4th and 1, but on further review officials ruled that Richard was on the bodies of the defenders when he stretched past the first down marker. From the Chargers 42, Car then threw a deep bomb incomplete and drew a controversial defensive pass interference call in the end zone. The pass interference was clear and blatant, but the ball may not have been able to have been caught. Nevertheless, the 41 yard penalty put the ball on the one. Jacobs banged it in. Instead of getting blown out, the Raiders led 17-14 at the half. 

The Chargers began the third quarter at their own 29. Herbert went to Guyton for 7 and then threw a bomb to Cook for 42 yards. Yet a sack of Herbert had the Chargers facing 3rd and 23 at the Raiders 35. A give up completion only gained 2 yards. Brandon Staley did not gamble on 4th and 21. Dustin Hopkins came in for the 51 yard field goal try to tie the game. The kick was wide no good. Despite having excellent field position, the Chargers went 3 and out. A great punt by AJ Cole had the Chargers at their own 9. On 3rd and 1 from their own 18, Ekeler got stopped. Brandon Staley then made a decision that crossed the line from confidence to outright arrogance. This was beyond Barry Switzer insanity. Staley was going for it on 4th and 1 from his own 18 yard line. This was not an attempt to draw the defense offside. Staley was actually going for it. This was more than an insult to the Raiders defense. It was a complete disregard for the Raiders offense. Staley figured that even if the Raiders took over at the Chargers 18, the Raiders offense was too dumb and inefficient to get a touchdown anyway. Staley would deny this, but that was the reasoning. Herbert snapped the ball, handed to Ekeler, and Ekeler ran straight up the gut and got blasted by the defense for a 2 yard loss. The Raiders took over at the Chargers 16, but the offense sadly validated every criticism of them. On 2nd and 6 from the 12, Carr threw incomplete twice. Why offensive coordinator Greg Olson was not trying to run the ball in that situation was a mystery. Carlson hit from 31 to put the Raiders up 20-14 midway through the third quarter. 

The Chargers soon faced 3rd and 3 form their own 32 and the defense again came up big, sacking Herbert. The raiders could have gotten the ball back at their own 32, but a dumb unnecessary roughness penalty on the return pushed them back to their own 17. All the Raiders had to do was go 3 and out, give the Chargers great field position, and fall behind 21-20. Not this time. On 3rd and 6 from their 21, Carr went deep to Bryan Edwards for 30. Jacobs banged out gains of 7 and 5. Defensive holding added 5 more. On 3rd and 1 from the Chargers 23, Marcus Mariota came in and ran for 15. Mariota ran several plays on this day, this one being one of the successful ones. On 3rd and goal at the 6, Carr threw incomplete but another defensive holding penalty meant 1st and goal at the 3. On 3rd and goal at the 2 to start the fourth quarter, Carr hit Renfrow for the touchdown. Rich Bisaccia made the very questionable decision to go for 2 and a terrible play call had Carr throw laterally to Renfrow, who was swarmed. The 2 point try failed, which would loom large later. Yet the Raiders led 26-14. The Chargers soon faced 3rd and 5 at their own 30. Herbert went deep and made his only mistake of the game, an interception that set the Raiders up at their own 36. The Raiders moved to a 2nd and 5 at the Chargers 34. Carr threw incomplete. On 3rd and 5 he hit Renfrow, but for no gain. Carlson leveled the 52 yard field goal and the Raiders had a 29-14 lead with 8 1/2 minutes left in regulation. 

After a touchback, Herbert hit Williams for gains of 5, 9 and 18, Ekeler for one, Joshua Palmer for 6, and on 3rd and 3 from the Raiders 36, Guyton for 14. On 3rd and 6 from the Raiders 18, Herbert threw incomplete. Only 5 minutes remained.  The game was one defensive stop from being over. Yet on this night, the Raiders defense invented something that should forever be known as the FCO: Failure to close out. The sheer number of FCOs defied belief. Every time the Raiders needed one defensive stop, an FCO reared its ugly head. On 4th and 6, Herbert hit Williams for only 5. The Raiders defense erupted in celebration as officials stretched the chain, showing it was inches short of a first down. Brandon Staley challenged the spot, and officials ruled that while Williams was short of the sticks when he caught the ball, he moved forward just enough while both knees were on the ground before the defender tapped him. By inches, the Chargers had a first down. This was FCO1. A sack of Herbert followed by a pair of incompletions had the Chargers facing 4th and 21 at the Raiders 23. One more stop would end the game. Herbert then calmly found Palmer in the end zone, splitting the defense for a touchdown. This was FCO2. Brandon Staley then made the questionable decision to go for 2. A stop would keep it a 9 point game and pretty much finish off the Chargers. Herbert fired to Ekeler for the conversion. The Chargers were within 29-22. This was FCO3. 

While Gus Bradley has drastically improved the defense, his one flaw is that he rarely brings pressure. He does not like to blitz. Herbert had all kinds of time and Bradley stubbornly kept refusing to blitz. Sometimes a Buddy Ryan strategy of bringing the house is necessary. Sending 8 defenders is risky, but a great way of disrupting timing patterns. Sitting back and getting picked apart does not work. As expected, the offense could not give the exhausted defense a rest. On 2nd and 2 from their own 33, an attempted end around by Renfrow was blown up in the backfield for a 4 yard loss. On 3rd and 6 from their own 29, the Raiders almost gave the game away. Carr went back to pass with the pocket collapsing, and was sacked and fumbled. The Raiders got very lucky when offensive lineman Parker stole the ball from the defender at the last moment. The Raiders punted on 4th and 16 from their 19 and the Chargers took over at their own 17. Herbert had 2:05 left and all 3 timeouts plus the 2 minute warning. What followed was insanity that made the Holy Roller seem normal. 

Herbert threw 3 incompletions. With 1:49 left, one defensive stop would end the game. Gus Bradley refused to blitz. On 4th and 10 from their own 17, Herbert hit Keenan Allen for 11. This was FCO4. Another 3 incompletions meant one defensive stop would end the game. Gus Bradley refused to blitz. On 4th and 10 from his own 28, Herbert threw incomplete. The Raiders again celebrated prematurely. Defensive holding meant an automatic first down. This was FCO5. another 2 incompletions meant 3rd and 10 for the Chargers at their own 33. Again, Gus Bradley refused to blitz Herbert hit Allen for 14. This was not FCO6 since an incompletion would have meant 4th and 10 anyway. Herbert then on 2nd and 10 hit Palmer for just enough. 3 more Herbert incompletions meant 4th and 10 for the Chargers at the Raiders 43. Again one defensive stop would end the game. Again Gus Bradley refused to blitz. Only 22 seconds remained. Herbert hit Mike Williams for 14. This was FCO6. after an incompletion, Herbert on 2nd and 10 from the Raiders 29 threw to Guyton, who was ruled out of bounds. The Chargers would have one mini-Hail Mary from the 29. Yet officials huddled, reversed the call, and ruled Guyton inbounds. The 17 yard gain meant the Chargers had 1st and 10 with 5 seconds left. Yet instead of being 29 yards away, the Chargers were only 12 yards away. One defensive stop would end the game. Gus Bradley again refused to blitz. The result was inevitable. Herbert fired to Williams for the touchdown. This was FCO7.

The Chargers trailed 29-28 and Brandon Staley had a major decision to make. The man who gambled on 4th and 1 from his own 18 was not willing to risk the entire season and a trip to the playoffs on a 2 point conversion. Given the wretched state of the Raiders defense at that point, the Chargers probably would have won 30-29. Yet even Staley apparently had his limits on psychotic risk. The extra point was good. The game was going into overtime tied 29-29. The Raiders won the coin toss. As awful as they play when they have prosperity, they respond well when backed into a corner with their playoff lives on the line. After a touchback, Jacobs banged out consecutive runs of 28 and 18. The Raiders now had 3rd and 3 at the Chargers 22. Yet Carr threw incomplete. A touchdown would have ended the game. Instead it was time for a 40 yard Carlson field goal try. The attempt was harrowing but Carlson barely snuck it inside the upright good. The Raiders led 32-29 but a full 7 minutes remained in overtime. The Raiders defense barely had a chance to rest.

After a touchback, Herbert quickly hit Cook for a 31 yard gain. Yet an ineligible man downfield instead meant 1st and 15. A short gain and 2 more Herbert incompletions meant 4th and 9 for the Chargers at their own 26. Again, one defensive stop would end the game. Again, Gus Bradley refused to blitz. Herbert went deep to Mike Williams for a 47 yard gain. This was FCO8. The Chargers had 1st and goal at the Raiders 27.  On 2nd and 6, Herbert threw incomplete. Then on 3rd and 6 Herbert went for it all and had Williams in the end zone. It was a jump ball, and at the very last moment the defender pried it out of Williams’s hands. For a second it appeared the Chargers had won, but the ball fell incomplete. Now it was 4th and 6 for the Chargers at the Raiders 23. With 4 1/2 minutes left in overtime, Brandon Staley again decided not to be crazy. Despite Herbert torching the Raiders on 4th down, the proper call was the field goal. A miss or blocked field goal would end the game. Hopkins came in for the 41 yarder and it was looking no good. Somehow, like Carlson’s overtime kick, it barely snuck inside the upright good. The game was tied 32-32. This was FCO9. 

At this point playing conservatively was a legitimate thought for both teams. Purposely trying not to win would be cheating, but playing for a tie to avoid a loss would be legitimate competition. The Raiders had to run the ball to keep the Chargers from getting the ball back. Yet instead Carr went aggressive. He started with a deep ball to Edwards for 17 yards. Jacobs banged out a 7 yard gain but a swing pass from Carr to Richard was again blown up for a 5 yard loss. With 2:22 left in overtime, the Raiders faced 3rd and 8 at their own 44. An incompletion would stop the clock. Yet both teams still had timeouts. Carr fired to Jones at the sideline for a key 11 yard gain. Brandon Staley let the clock tick down to the 2 minute warning. The Raiders had 1st and 10 at the Chargers 45. They were not in field goal range. Both coaches had big decisions to make. At this time, although they would both vehemently deny it, Staley and Bisaccia both started playing for the tie.

They can protest, but Jacobs ran for a one yard loss. Staley did not call a timeout as the clock ticked down to 1:20. On 2nd and 11, Jacobs gained 7 yards. A field goal try would still be 57 yards. Again both coaches let the clock run. Staley did not even try to get the ball back. Pittsburgh fans were howling, knowing the only thing that could eliminate them was a tie. Yet this was not kneeling for 60 minutes at 0-0. This was nearly 70 minutes of 2 exhausted teams that played to a 32-32 tie with time running out. Neither team wanted to risk losing. The clock ticked down to 38 seconds. Yet at that moment, Staley lost his mind. With 4 seconds left on the play clock and the Raiders showing no sense of urgency, Staley called a timeout. It made no sense. He said it was so he could substitute in the right personnel, but all it did was give the Raiders more time to think things through. If the Chargers were now leaving time to get the ball back, the Raiders had to make sure this didn’t happen. With everything on the line on 3rd and 4 from the Chargers 39, an incomplete pass was not an option. Jacobs got the carry over the left guard and bulldozed his way forward for a 10 yard gain. Now the dynamics of the game had completely changed. A field goal try would only be 47 yards. The Raiders took the clock down to 2 seconds and called timeout. Justin Herbert was not getting the ball back. 

The fate of 3 franchises hinged on Carlson’s kick. If the kick was good, the Raiders and Pittsburgh would be in and the Chargers would be out. If the kick was no good, the game would be a tie. The Raiders and Chargers would both be in and Pittsburgh would be out. Nobody would ever accuse Carlson of missing on purpose. He had no reason to miss. Yet the craziest scenario would be a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown. That would put the Chargers and Pittsburgh in the playoffs and the Raiders would be out. Rich Bisaccia could have taken a knee rather than risk a blocked field goal. Yet as the Raiders said after the game, Al Davis’s mantra was “Just win baby,” not “Just tie baby.” Also, a tie would send the Raiders to Kansas City, who clobbered them 41-14 and 48-9. A win would send the Raiders to Cincinnati. They lost badly there this year, but playing a team with zero playoff experience is better than playing the team with the most playoff experience. The Raiders had to win, not tie. There would be no FCO10. Carlson’s kick started out close but veered inward good. The Raiders at 10-7 were in the playoffs. 9-7-1 Pittsburgh was in. The 9-8 Chargers were out. 

The Chargers loss wasted an epic effort by Herbert, who threw a personal most 64 passes. He completed 34 of them for 383 yards, 3 touchdowns, and one interception. Herbert set a franchise season record with 38 touchdown passes. Keep in mind the Chargers had Dan Fouts, Drew Brees and Philip Rivers. None of them passed for 5,000 yards in a season, not even during the days of Don “Air” Coryell. Herbert topped 5,000 yards. Carr was pedestrian by comparison, going 20 of 36 for 186 yards and 2 touchdowns. Yet Carr did not throw an interception and narrowly avoided losing a fumble. Both Herbert and Carr came in with more than 4,600 yards passing and a chance to reach 5,000. Carr fell short, but his over 4,800 yards was a single season franchise record. For a team that had Darryl Lamonica, Ken Stabler, Jim Plunkett, Rich Gannon and Kerry Collins, that is pretty impressive. 4 weeks ago the Raiders were 6-7 and left for dead. 

They won 4 games in cardiac fashion by margins of 2 on the final play of regulation, 4 late, 3 on the final play of regulation, and 3 on the final playoff overtime. All 4 of those wins were against teams who at the time were in the playoff hunt. For 4 straight weeks, the Raiders effectively knocked another team out of the playoffs. 4 wins by a combined 12 points is pure cardiac style. Yet the Raiders are not about style points. They never have been. Yes, Gus Bradley must blitz more. Yet any talk of Mark Davis blowing up this team and starting over needs to stop now. Carr has tremendous heart, guts and character. Jacobs runs with a purpose while battling bruised ribs. With everything on the line, they both get the job done. Rich Bisaccia deserves to be the full-time coach of this team. He is the first coach in 60 years to take over on an interim bases and get his team to the playoffs. No team had a more turbulent season than the Raiders, not by a long shot. The Raiders overcame adversity that went far beyond football. Bisaccia held the team together. To quote another coach who knows about winning, the Raiders are “on to Cincinnati.” They only have 6 days to prepare. Nothing comes easier for this team. Doing it the hard way is what they know. 

On a separate note, the Raiders won the Super Bowl on my 5th birthday. With their 1993 season on the line, they won a do-or-die game against Denver where they fell behind 30-13 and won 33-30. The following week they defeated Denver again in the Wildcard on my 22nd birthday. Now they ended the 2021 regular season by winning a do-or-die game on my 50th birthday. I will remember this game as long as I exist and as long as football exists. JUST WIN BABY! #RaiderNation! Silver and Black forever. 35-32 Raiders, OT

The 2021 NFL Regular season is now in the history books. The Wildcard matchups are set and will take place from Saturday through Monday, January 15-17. 

Las Vegas Raiders (5)(10-7) at Cincinnati Bengals (4)(10-7) is the Saturday afternoon game.

New England Patriots (6)(10-7) at Buffalo Bills (3)(11-6) is the Saturday night game. 

Philadelphia Eagles (7)(9-8) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2)(13-4) is the Sunday morning game.

San Francisco 49ers (6)(10-7) at Dallas Cowboys (3)(12-5) is the Sunday afternoon game.

Pittsburgh Steelers (7)(9-7-1) at Kansas City Chiefs (2)(12-5) is the Sunday night game.

Arizona Cardinals (5)(11-6) at Los Angeles Rams (4)(12-5) is the Monday night game.

The Tennessee Titans (1)(12-5) and Green Bay Packers (1)(13-4) have the bye week. 

eric