Tom Brady leads Buccaneers past Washington for 1st playoff victory since 2002 season
Bills defeat Colts for 1st post-season win in 25 years; Rams upset Seahawks
New team, same swashbuckling playoff success for Tom Brady.
Brady threw for 381 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers past Washington 31-23 in their NFC wild-card game Saturday night for their first playoff victory since the 2002 season.
"If you could win 100-0, its going to be the same result in the end," Brady said. "It's good to win and advance."
In his 42nd post-season start and first not in a New England Patriots uniform, Brady made the most of a lack of pressure to carve up the NFL's second-ranked defence on 22 of 40 passing.
"He is a fighter, he plays hard, works hard and studies hard, and he is the man for the job," Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette said.
Brady had to outduel Washington's Taylor Heinicke, who had a breakout performance in just his second pro start and first in the playoffs in place of injured starter Alex Smith. Heinicke — signed in early December to the practice squad — ran for 46 yards and a touchdown and threw for 306 yards and a score.
"He almost beat us with his legs," Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians said. "He was very elusive. We knew he was going to scramble around, there was going to be bootlegs and scrambles. We were really hoping for Alex because we knew that part of the game wasn't going to be in there."
But Heinicke wasn't enough to overcome Brady's brilliance. While Bill Belichick and the Patriots watch from home with their playoff streak snapped at 11 following a 7-9 season, Brady has the opportunity to play in another Super Bowl — in his new home stadium.
The Buccaneers await the result of Chicago at New Orleans on Sunday to see if they'll be visiting Drew Brees and the Saints or host the Los Angeles Rams next weekend. They'd need a Bears upset to play at home in the divisional round.
"It doesn't matter," Arians said. "We're playing. That's all that matters."
.<a href="https://twitter.com/TomBrady?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TomBrady</a> ➡️ <a href="https://twitter.com/AB84?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@AB84</a><br><br>📺: <a href="https://t.co/YTsdMJXTRR">https://t.co/YTsdMJXTRR</a> <a href="https://t.co/oUZTs50zeK">pic.twitter.com/oUZTs50zeK</a>—@Buccaneers
Age doesn't seem to matter much to Brady, who at 43 years, 159 days passed George Blanda as the oldest player to throw a TD pass in a playoff game. A 36-yard scoring connection with Antonio Brown was Brady's longest in the playoffs since 2011.
Brady was methodical in the first half with 12 completions for 209 yards and wasn't sacked until the final minute of the second quarter.
Heinicke made things interesting in the third, most notably scrambling for an 8-yard TD by diving at the pylon in the corner of the end zone. The play even got the attention of reigning Super Bowl champion Patrick Mahomes, who tweeted, "Bro what!?!?!"
The series after Heinicke banged up his left shoulder, Brady engineered a 69-yard scoring drive capped by a 3-yard TD run by Fournette. That made it 28-16, which was enough to withstand Heinicke's attempt to be the unlikely hero.
"We're thrilled with the win," Buccaneers receiver Cameron Brate said. "I hate to say that we're relieved, but at this point we're just pumped we got the win. No matter how ugly it was, no matter how many mistakes we made, a win's a win this time of year."
Allen throws 2 TDs as Bills top Colts
Quarterback Josh Allen and safety Micah Hyde teamed up to make the Buffalo Bills' losing past history.
Now do you Bill-ieve?
In a season in which the Bills busted numerous slumps, Allen became Buffalo's first starter in a quarter century to win a playoff game. And Hyde ensured the Bills wouldn't endure another second-half collapse as happened last year in a wild-card loss to Houston, or last-second touchdown.
With Buffalo the AFC East champions for the first time since 1995 and hosting their first playoff game since '96, Allen threw two touchdown passes and scored another rushing in leading the Bills to a 27-24 win over the Indianapolis Colts in a wild-card game Saturday.
Hyde batted down Philip Rivers' desperation pass as time ran out in helping Buffalo snap an 0-6 post-season skid by winning its first playoff game since a 37-22 win over Miami on Dec. 30, 1995.
The past was very much present in Allen's mind when reflecting on how Buffalo squandered a 16-0 third-quarter lead in a 22-19 overtime loss to Houston in his first career playoff appearance.
Hyde's pass defence eased memories of the Bills giving up DeAndre Hopkins' leaping 43-yard touchdown catch in the final seconds of a 32-30 loss at Arizona on Nov. 15. Buffalo has won seven straight since for its longest winning streak since 1990.
And the win came with a limited number of 6,700 fans in attendance for the first time this season.
Allen finished 26 of 35 for 324 yards with a 5-yard touchdown to Dawson Knox and a 35-yarder to Stefon Diggs, which led to the fans chanting "MVP! MVP!" to celebrate the first Buffalo player to lead the NFL in catches and yards receiving.
That Allen to Diggs connection. 👌<br><br>📺 <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/INDvsBUF?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#INDvsBUF</a>: <a href="https://t.co/ca2pAxAtPb">https://t.co/ca2pAxAtPb</a> <a href="https://t.co/ppLx2vY5VI">pic.twitter.com/ppLx2vY5VI</a>—@BuffaloBills
The Colts (11-6) ended a season in which they won 11 games for the first time since 2014, and reached the playoffs for the second time in three years under Frank Reich.
Rivers finished 27 of 46 for 309 yards and had his career playoff record drop to 5-7 in completing his first — and potentially last — season with the Colts as he ponders retirement.
The game wasn't decided until the final play, when Rivers faced fourth-and-11 from Buffalo's 47. Rivers heaved a deep pass for T.Y. Hilton, who was surrounded by defenders in the right side of the end zone. Hyde broke through the crowd of bodies, leaping up and batting the ball to the ground.
Rookie kicker Tyler Bass accounted for the decisive points by hitting a 54-yard field goal to put Buffalo up 27-16 with 8:08 remaining.
The Colts responded with a seven-play, 75-play drive capped by a 9-yard touchdown pass to Pascal. After Bass upped Buffalo's lead to 27-16, the Colts scored less than two-minutes later. Rivers hit a wide-open Jack Doyle for a 27-yard touchdown and Doyle caught a 2-point conversion.
The Bills, however, didn't make it easy. with Allen nearly losing a fumble at midfield when sacked for a 23-yard loss by Denico Autry on first down from the Indianapolis 37. Offensive lineman Daryl Williams, however, recovered, forcing the Bills to punt with 2:30 remaining.
The Colts were limited to a touchdown and field goal in the first half after having all five drives cross midfield and enjoying a nine-plus minute edge in time of possession.
The turning point came when the Colts, up 10-7, were unable to score on four snaps inside Buffalo's 4. Rivers' pass for Michael Pittman glanced off the diving receiver's fingertips on fourth down.
Buffalo responded with a 10-play, 96-yard drive capped by Allen's 5-yard keeper with 14 seconds left in the half.
A Colts miscue also helped extend the drive. Facing fourth-and-3 from the Colts 26, Allen drew defensive end Kemoko Turay offside with a second left on the play clock.
Rams upset Seahawks despite injuries
A lot of Cam Akers churning yards on the ground and mostly a great Rams defence has Los Angeles moving on in the NFC playoffs at the expense of division-foe Seattle.
Akers rushed for 131 yards and a touchdown, Darious Williams returned Russell Wilson's interception 42 yards for a score, and the Rams beat the Seahawks 30-20 in the NFC wild-card playoff game Saturday.
The best defence in the league during the regular season carried its dominance into the playoffs — even while missing unanimous All-Pro tackle Aaron Donald for much of the second half. No team was better at limiting yards or points than the Rams (11-6) and they continued to torment Wilson and the Seahawks (12-5).
Seattle's quarterback was under a siege from the defensive front and a secondary that minus one play never let DK Metcalf or Tyler Lockett break loose. Donald, before leaving with a rib injury, and Jalen Ramsey were superb. But so were other role players such as Troy Reeder, Jordan Fuller and Leonard Floyd.
Floyd had two of the Rams' five sacks. Two of the others belonged to Donald. The Rams allowed just 278 total yards and 11 first downs.
Cam Akers’ 176 scrimmage yards are the 2nd most by a rookie in his playoff debut in NFL history behind Billy Cannon’s 178 in the 1960 AFL Championship game.<br><br>H/T <a href="https://twitter.com/EliasSports?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@EliasSports</a> <a href="https://t.co/qLObbljMYW">pic.twitter.com/qLObbljMYW</a>—@ESPNStatsInfo
It added up to sending the Rams into next week's divisional playoff round, likely at top-seeded Green Bay unless Chicago upsets New Orleans.
Williams' interception was his third of the season against Wilson after picking him off twice in Los Angeles in November. He jumped a wide receiver screen intended for Metcalf and returned it untouched to give the Rams a 13-3 lead midway through the second quarter.
Akers added a 5-yard TD run just before halftime for a 20-10 lead. It proved enough with a Seattle offence that was disjointed and confused nearly from the start.
Wilson had one of his worst playoff performances. He was 11 of 27 for 174 yards. Wilson connected with Metcalf on a pair of TDs: 51 yards in the first half off a broken play, and a 12-yard TD with 2:28 left to make the score more respectable.
Seattle never played with the lead and was 2 of 14 on third downs. It's first home playoff game in four years was a dud without its raucous home crowd, and the Seahawks saw their 10-game home playoff win streak snapped.
Their last home playoff loss came in January 2005 to the St. Louis Rams.
The Rams pulled off the upset without a healthy quarterback for more the three quarters of the game. John Wolford started for the second straight week but suffered a neck injury when he dived head first in the first quarter and was hit in the helmet by Jamal Adams' shoulder. Wolford was taken to a local hospital as a precaution.
"My thumb is fine and I'm not going to make an excuse for anything that didn't go my way today." - Jared Goff<br><br>JG adds that his thumb is not at 100%. He had screws put in it 12 days ago.—@RamsNFL
Jared Goff took over less than two weeks after undergoing surgery on his right thumb; he was injured in the Week 16 loss to Seattle. Goff didn't do anything spectacular but also avoided major mistakes.
Goff was 9 of 19 for 155 yards. He capped the victory with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Robert Woods with 4:46 left after Seattle's D.J. Reed fumbled a punt.
Akers, the Rams' rookie ball carrier, was outstanding after not playing two weeks ago. Akers had the best rushing day by a Rams running back since Marshall Faulk went for 159 against Philadelphia in January 2002.
The Rams finished with 164 yards rushing.