NFL·WILD CARD ROUNDUP

Mahomes, Kelce lead Kansas City to wild-card romp over Steelers

Patrick Mahomes threw for 404 yards and five touchdowns and Kansas City sent Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger into his anticipated retirement with a 42-21 blowout of the Steelers in the wild-card round of the playoffs Sunday night.

49ers survive late Cowboys rally; Buccaneers cruise past Eagles

Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes, centre, throws a pass during the first half of his team's 42-21 wild-card victory over Pittsburgh on Sunday in Kansas City, Mo. (Travis Heying/)

Patrick Mahomes threw for 404 yards and five touchdowns, Travis Kelce caught a TD pass and threw another one, and Kansas City sent Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger into his anticipated retirement with a 42-21 blowout of the Steelers in the wild-card round of the playoffs Sunday night.

Byron Pringle caught touchdown passes from both Mahomes and Kelce, and Jerick McKinnon and Tyreek Hill also reeled in scoring catches as Kansas City (13-5) began their pursuit of a third straight AFC championship in fine style.

They scored on six straight possessions during the middle part of the game, shut down Roethlisberger and the rest of the Pittsburgh offence, and turned next Sunday night's divisional-round game against Buffalo into appointment viewing.

The Bills had a similarly easy time with their 47-17 victory over New England on Saturday. Buffalo and Kansas City met for the AFC title last season.

Roethlisberger, who admitted the Steelers (9-8-1) were "not a very good football team" this week, wasn't very good in his own right. The 39-year-old quarterback was 29 of 44 for 215 yards with two meaningless TD passes late in the game, providing the coda to a career that includes six Pro Bowl trips and two Super Bowl wins.

Judging by the final score, you'd never guess the first quarter was all about defence: The Steelers ran 14 plays and went 12 yards, while Kansas City had more punt return yards (70) than they had from scrimmage (62).

Made sense that the first points would be scored on defence, too.

After the Steelers punted for a fifth straight time, Kansas City inexplicably had wide receiver Mecole Hardman take a snap rather than their four-time Pro Bowl quarterback. Darrel Williams bobbled the exchange, the ball bounced to T.J. Watt, and the Steelers' All-Pro pass rusher returned the fumble 24 yards for a touchdown.

The play must have awakened Mahomes, who earlier had thrown his first pick in six career home playoff games.

Or maybe it just made Mahomes angry.

He responded by completing his next six passes, capping a 76-yard drive with a nifty underhand flick to McKinnon that tied the game. Then the brilliant young quarterback found Pringle in the corner of the end zone for a score, and he put an exclamation mark on the half by hitting Kelce with a 48-yard touchdown strike.

In the span of less than six minutes, Mahomes and Kansas City had turned a seven-point deficit into a 21-7 lead.

It wasn't quite the 23-0 halftime advantage Kansas City had in their December blowout of the Steelers, but it sure felt that way. Roethlisberger was 5 of 14 for 24 yards in the first half and Pittsburgh had 55 yards total offence.

Not much of a retirement party if Roethlisberger indeed calls it quits.

As for Kansas City, their celebration started in earnest after Mahomes led them on a fourth straight TD drive to start the second half. The game was such a laugher by that point that when Tyreek Hill was ruled down just shy of the goal line, Mahomes simply threw his next pass on third-and-goal to offensive tackle Nick Allegretti for the score.

Hill got his TD catch eventually; it came after Steelers rookie Najee Harris lost a fumble for the first time all season.

Kansas City kept scoring, too — Kelce's mom, who began the day watching her other son, centre Jason, and his Eagles lose in Tampa Bay — got to see the younger son throw a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. By that point, Kansas City had scored so often they had to post a message on the Arrowhead Stadium video boards that they had run out of fireworks.

Cowboys' comeback attempt falls short against 49ers

Deebo Samuel and the San Francisco 49ers have started another playoff run after hanging on in a frantic wild-card finish against Dallas.

Dak Prescott and the Cowboys will have to keep waiting for that elusive deep trip in the postseason.

San Francisco's versatile receiver ran 26 yards for a touchdown the play after an interception by Prescott, and the 49ers held on for a 23-17 victory over the Cowboys on Sunday.

The Cowboys had a final chance with 32 seconds remaining and were at the San Francisco 41 with 14 seconds to go when Prescott took off up the middle intending to slide and spike the ball for a final play.

But Dallas didn't get the snap off from the 24 until after the clock hit 0:00. After a brief delay, referee Alex Kemp announced the game was over.

Dallas coach Mike McCarthy suggested the Cowboys were slowed by a collision between Prescott and umpire Ramon George, and that a sideline official assured him the play was being reviewed.

Referee Alex Kemp said in a pool report George was trailing the play at a proper distance and acted appropriately to get the ball spotted correctly. The umpire has to touch the ball before another play can happen.

Kemp said the decision that the snap came after the clock had expired was made on the field, not on a replay assist from New York.

The 49ers overcame an interception by Jimmy Garoppolo when they led by 13 in the fourth quarter. Prescott ran for a touchdown to get within a score, and had a chance to drive Dallas to a go-ahead score. But the 49ers got a stop at midfield when Prescott's desperation fourth-down pass was just out of the receiver Cedrick Wilson's reach.

After a 14th penalty from the NFL's most-penalized team in the regular season that helped San Francisco run out most of the clock — and the frantic final seconds as Dallas tried for the win — the 49ers (11-7) clinched their first playoff victory at the Cowboys in a storied postseason rivalry.

Now they head to Green Bay for a divisional game against the Packers, looking for another trip to the NFC championship game.

The wait for Dallas (12-6) to get that far in the playoffs will reach at least 27 years after another first-game flameout in the postseason for Prescott, the second in three trips over six seasons for the star quarterback. It was his first playoff game since signing a $40-million-a-year US contract in the off-season.

The 49ers were in control in the fourth quarter, but not leaning on the running game they figured could carry them to a win when Garoppolo threw an interception to Anthony Brown that set up Prescott's 7-yard scoring run.

Garoppolo's mistake wasn't long after Prescott was picked off at the Dallas 26 by K'Waun Williams and Samuel ran untouched on a cutback up the middle to the end zone on the next play for a 23-7 lead.

San Francisco lost star pass rusher Nick Bosa to a concussion just before halftime when he was crunched in the head and neck area by teammate D.J. Jones. But the 49ers kept enough pressure on Prescott, finishing with five sacks while holding the NFL's No. 1 offence to 307 yards.

San Francisco scored on its first four possessions, but three times settled for field goals from Robbie Gould to help keep the Cowboys close.

San Francisco rookie Elijah Mitchell ran for 96 yards and the game's first points on a 4-yard run. Samuel had 72 yards on 10 carries and three catches for 38 yards.

Prescott was 23 of 43 for 254 yards. Garoppolo, who doesn't know when his last game with the 49ers will be with rookie Trey Lance waiting his turn, was 16 of 25 for 172 yards.

Brady, Buccaneers dominate Eagles

Tom Brady threw for 271 yards and two touchdowns Sunday, helping the Tampa Bay Buccaneers launch their bid for a return to the Super Bowl with a dominating 31-15 NFC wild-card playoff victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.

The defending champions set the tempo from the start, with Brady leading a pair of long TD drives in the opening quarter and building the lead to 17-0 by halftime.

The seven-time Super Bowl winner finished off the Eagles with TD passes of 2 yards to Rob Gronkowski and 36 yards to Mike Evans, improving his dazzling playoff record to 35-11 in a record 46 postseason starts.

The Bucs defence did its part, too, intercepting Jalen Hurts twice in the Philadelphia quarterback's playoff debut.

Brady completed 29 of 37 passes without an interception while extending his postseason record for TD passes to 85.

But the Bucs (14-4) had matters well in hand before the reigning Super Bowl MVP found Gronkowski wide open in the middle of the end zone to make it 24-0 midway through the third quarter. The 6-foot-5 Evans punctuated his TD catch for a 31-0 lead with a front flip over the goal line.

The Eagles (9-9) scored on Boston Scott's 34-yard run and Hurts' 16-yard TD pass to Kenneth Gainwell in the fourth quarter. A 2-point conversion trimmed Philadelphia's deficit to 16 with 4:45 remaining, but that was as close as it would get.

Giovani Bernard scored on a 2-yard run and Ke'Shawn Vaughn, a second-year pro filling in for injured running backs Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones, covered the final yard of a 70-yard drive that put the Bucs up 14-0.

A Tampa Bay defence fortified by the return of injured linebackers Lavonte David, Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul turned away Hurts' most promising drive of the opening half with Mike Edwards' end zone interception.

Hurts finished his playoff debut 23 of 43 passing for 258 yards. He ran for a team-high 39 yards on eight attempts, with the Eagles finishing with 95 yards rushing overall — well below their season average of 159.7 per game.

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