NFL playoff roundup
Wild Card Weekend had wild results
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The National Football League labels the first round of postseason competition “Wild Card Weekend.” There are mixed reviews about how pro football fans digested this year’s wild results.
Followers of the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles were shocked following their respective teams’ abysmal performances after expectations ran high of deep playoff runs.
The Cowboys, champions of the National Football Conference Eastern Division and the second seed, took a beating of epic proportions from the young and seventh-seeded Green Bay Packers. The 48-32 demolition began with the Cowboys winning the opening coin toss and choosing to kick off to the Packers, who then drove 75 yards for a 7-0 lead before the Cowboys’ offense touched the ball.
With an offense averaging 38 points a game on their home field, why start the game on defense? The young Packers built on their opening-drive momentum to go ahead by 27 points on their way to a record-setting playoff triumph.
Green Bay quarterback Jordan Love, in his first playoff start on the road against what was billed as an excellent defense, was brilliant in shredding the Cowboys’ defense from start to finish. He completed 13 of 16 passes for 185 yards and a touchdown in the first half, and finished with a near-perfect 157.2 passer rating.
Running back Aaron Jones, a Dallas native, rushed for 115 yards and scored three touchdowns for the winners. Meanwhile, the Packers’ defense rattled Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott with multiple blitzes, producing two critical interceptions, including a 64-yard pick six that gave Green Bay a 27-0 lead.
Cowboy fans left the stadium disappointed by another lopsided playoff loss, while Packers rooters left looking forward to an appointment with the top-seeded San Francisco 49ers. Expect changes in Dallas following their recent playoff demise.
In other playoff action, the Philadelphia Eagles, last year’s Super Bowl runner-up, continued their late-season swoon, dropping their sixth game in the previous seven by a 32-9 drubbing at the hands of the fourth-seeded Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
This loss was especially hard for Philly fans, who watched their team race to a 10-1 record this regular season only to collapse down the stretch. Bucs quarterback Baker Mayfield, playing in only his third career NFL playoff game, threw for three touchdowns — tosses of 56, 44, and 23 yards.
But the pressure defense of Bucs coach Todd Bowles ultimately dominated the game, holding the Eagles to 0-9 on third downs and 0-2 on fourth downs. Philly, like Dallas, will most likely see coaching changes following what can only be described as the Eagles’ total meltdown.
The rest of the wild-card playoff picture played out as expected, with the defending Super Bowl champions Kansas City Chiefs pounding the Miami Dolphins 26-7 in frigid Missouri weather. At the same time, the Buffalo Bills did the same to the Pittsburgh Steelers in snowy and windy conditions in Buffalo that forced a one-day postponement of their game.
Bills quarterback Josh Allen threw for two touchdowns and ran for a 5-yard score in the first half to lead his team to a 24-7 advantage. The gritty Steelers cut the deficit to 24-17 only to see Allen take his team on a game-clinching drive for the final 31-17 triumph.
In other AFC playoff action, the Houston Texans advanced with a surprisingly easy 45-14 win over the Cleveland Browns. Rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud continued his miraculous play, throwing for 274 yards and three touchdowns in his team’s dominant win.
The Detroit Lions held off the Los Angeles Rams 24-23 for their first playoff victory in more than 32 years. Jared Goff outdueled Matthew Stafford, the player he was traded for in 2021, throwing for 277 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions to become just the fourth Lions quarterback since 1959 to win a playoff game, joining Bobby Layne (three), Tobin Rote (two), and Erik Kramer (one).
The upcoming AFC playoff games will see the top-seeded Baltimore Ravens hosting the Houston Texans at the M&T Bank Stadium on Saturday, Jan. 20. The Buffalo Bills will play host to the Kansas City Chiefs in what could be another playoff classic.
One the NFC side of the ledger, the top-seeded San Francisco 49ers will play host to the upset-minded Green Bay Packers, with the third-seeded Detroit Lions hosting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.