Seven quarterbacks made their playoff debuts as the NFL kicked off wild card weekend. After 18 weeks of adrenaline rushing through the veins of the NFL community, they could finally exercise their excitement as 12 NFL teams began their journey to Super Bowl LVII.
San Francisco 49ers 41 vs. Seattle Seahawks 23: Purdy Power Persists
These NFC West foes kicked off a well-anticipated wild card weekend. Although the 49ers won 41-23, fans of the NFC West juggernauts did not expect their team to be down 17-16 at halftime to a seventh seed Seattle.
Niners quarterback Brock Purdy finally demonstrated inexperience with a rocky first half in his playoff debut. Adding insult to injury, the fortress of defense in San Francisco was all but dominant, surrendering back-to-back touchdown drives in the second quarter while only forcing two quarterback pressures in the first half. Geno Smith and the Seahawks, bound to be in a rebuilding season following the departure of future hall-of-fame quarterback Rusell Wilson, were now leading the number two seed in the NFC wild-card round. They made it known that they were already built. Smith and company didn’t have a bad game.
The veteran completed 25 passes for 253 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. More than half of those yards were because wide receiver DK Metcalf hauled in ten receptions for 136 yards and two touchdowns. However, San Francisco made it known the foundation they were built on was more robust.
The Niners’ opening defensive possession of the second half resulted in a fumble. The Niners found gold. The team scored 25 straight points in the second half. Purdy was the last pick in the draft, granting him the Mr. Irrelevant moniker. His crucial and clutch third down conversions in the second half kept the San Francisco 49ers relevant in the Super Bowl race.
Purdy finished with 332 passing yards, three passing touchdowns, and a rushing touchdown, becoming the first rookie with four total touchdowns in a playoff game.
LeBron James, who surpassed 38,000 points in his career, acknowledged Purdy after the game.
Lebron tweet: https://twitter.com/KingJames/status/1614409353309851648
Jacksonville Jaguars 31 vs. Los Angeles Chargers 30: No Lead Is Safe In The NFL
After a tumultuous 2021-2022 season for the Jaguars, their little taste of success in 2022-2023 would come to a bitter end.
Or would it?
Though down, the Jags did not settle for defeat and would storm back from a 27-0 first half beat down to defeat the Los Angeles Chargers 31-30.
Before Jacksonville basked in glory, they suffered. Former number one overall pick and national champion at Clemson, Trevor Lawrence, threw three first-quarter interceptions and four total in the first half. Chargers cornerback Asantae Samuel Jr. caught three of the first-half interceptions thrown by Lawrence. Chargers running back Austin Ekeler capitalized on two of those turnovers, rushing for two touchdowns. With a 27-7 lead at halftime, Lawrence’s perfect Saturday night record dating back to high school was at stake. More importantly, Doug Pederson’s Jaguars’ season was at stake.
The former Super Bowl-winning head coach went into his bag of championship pedigree and catapulted his team to a 24-3 run in the second half.
Lawrence threw a touchdown on three consecutive drives in the second half and rushed in for a critical 2-point conversion to cut the deficit to 30-28, a margin that is music to any kicker’s ears. There was no answer for the Jags offense, who would package a 10-play, 61-yard drive that resulted in the Jaguars cashing in a Riley Patterson game-winning field goal.
The Jaguars’ perseverance through trial resulted in their first playoff win since 2017. Winning seven straight, the Jacksonville Jaguars will prowl into ArrowHead stadium and play the Chiefs in the divisional round with utmost confidence.
Robert Hudson, junior at Howard University blames Charger head coach Dawn Staley for their historic loss.
“Football is just as much of a mind game as a physical one,” Hudson said. You need good players to execute the play call, but you also need a coach who mentally knows how to play the game.”
Buffalo Bills 34 vs. Miami Dolphins 31: Miami Nearly Survives The Cold
Losing by close margins to the Bills is common to the Miami Dolphins. After suffering a 19-21 loss in Week 3 and a 28-31 loss to the Bills in Week 15, the fins were craving redemption on wild card weekend. Redemption was not in the cards, as the Buffalo Bills defeated their injury-plagued division rivals 34-31.
Bills Mafia celebration turned to concern after a 14-0 first quarter advantage disintegrated into a 20-17 lead at the end of the first half. Led by a 25-year-old rookie and third-string quarterback Skylar Thompson, the Dolphins were 13-and-half point underdogs against the Bills. Nevertheless, the Dolphins believed.
The Fins came out of the locker room with a trip to Kansas City on their mind. A forced fumble return for a touchdown just over one minute on the defense’s first possession of the second half placed the two-seeded Bills in a deficit.
Despite throwing two interceptions for 11 points in the game, Bills quarterback Josh Allen threw two of his three touchdowns in 3:11, giving the Bills a commanding 34-24 lead entering the fourth. A late push by the Dolphins proved vain as Skylar Thompson, who went 18-of-45 for 220 yards with two touchdowns and a turnover, failed to convert a fourth-down pass to tight end Mike Gesicki.
New York Giants 31 @ Minnesota Vikings 24: New Yorkers Can Rejoice!
A rematch of this nail-biting Week 16 Christmas eve matchup did not disappoint. The Vikings entered the contest with an NFL-best 11-0 record in one score games. They exited the game with an 11-1 record as they would suffer defeat to the New York Giants 31-24.
The Vikings struck first, taking just over six minutes to score on the game’s first drive. The Giants responded with adequate efficiency spearheaded by a combination of the play-action pass with quarterback Daniel Jones and running back Saquon Barkley’s rushing success. A two-touchdown first half gave the Big Blue a 14-7 lead after the first.
Domination persisted into the second quarter for the Giants. The team galvanized an 11-minute drive of 20 plays for 85 yards. The drive ended in an unsatisfactory field goal after an illegal motion penalty on the Giants relinquished a Daniel Jones rushing touchdown. The penalty would cost the Giants.
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousin found wide receiver K.J. Osborn, who scored a 9-yard touchdown to close the half, narrowing the margin to 17-14. However, the disappointment surrounding the penalty did not follow the Giants into the locker room at halftime. Jones, who had 143 pass yards and a franchise playoff record 71 rush yards in the first half, did not slow down.
Upon receiving the second-half kick-off, the Giants wasted no time, notching six more on the board in less than four minutes with a touchdown pass caught by rookie tight end Daniel Bellinger. The Vikings would not go away. A second touchdown for Kirk Cousins would proceed. A 24-21 lead dissolved, and with 12 minutes left, a 24-24 score graced the scoreboard.
Barkley’s two-yard touchdown rush at the 7:52 mark of the fourth secured what would be the Giants’ first playoff win since their 2011 Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots. In real time, the Giants’ defense needed to step up, and it did. They would force a three-and-out on the next drive. Daniel Jones did have 379 total yards and two touchdowns with no turnovers; however, the defense was an impasse to their most dangerous threat, Vikings wideout Justin Jefferson. Although Cousins completed 31 of his 39 passes for 273 yards and two touchdowns, Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale ensured his defense bracketed Jefferson. Jefferson led the league in yards and receptions this season.
The same effort from the Giants’ defense and offense must be present if they wish to secure a trip to the NFC Championship game with a victory over the number one seed Philadelphia Eagles in the divisional round.
Howard University freshman Amani Clark Bey has high hopes for Big Blue.
“The Giants are a force to be reckoned with this postseason, a terrifying team to look out for.”
Cincinnati Bengals 24 vs. Baltimore Ravens 17: Cincinnati Does The Expected…Barely
Tied 17-17 with a little under 12 minutes left in the fourth, Ravens quarterback Tyler Huntley channeled his inner raven and attempted to fly over the Bengals’ defensive line on 3rd-and-goal at the one-yard line. Cincinnati linebacker Logan Wilson disrupted the play, forcing a fumble that would be returned 98 yards for the game-winning touchdown by fifth-year Bengals defensive end and Ohio native Sam Hubbard. The Bengals had a 45 percent chance to win the game before the fumble. After the fumble, their chances spiked to 86 percent, according to NextGen stats.
Baltimore would hold possession with 3:17 left in the fourth; however, questionable clock management and huddling with the clock running into one minute cost the Ravens a chance to tie the ball game at 24-24. What cost the Ravens bought the Bengals a trip to the AFC Divisional round, where they will face off against the Buffalo Bills.
At the surprise of most, the Ravens kept afloat against the reigning AFC champion Bengals. Baltimore started Tyler Huntley amid the absence of their star quarterback, Lamar Jackson. Jackson, who is in a contractual fiasco with the organization, hasn’t played since a knee injury suffered on Dec. 4, sidelined him.
To Huntley’s credit, the Utah alum threw for 226 yards and two touchdowns, giving the Ravens their best offensive output since Nov. 27. The Ravens outdueled their division rivals in passing yards, receiving yards, and rushing yards. Although Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow threw for 70 yards under his season average, his one-pass touchdown and his rushing touchdown kept Cincinnati alive in the game and ultimately in Super Bowl contention. The 24-17 Wild Card victory secured the Bengals a win in two straight postseason appearances, a feat never accomplished in franchise history.
Sophomore journalism major at Howard University and Ravens fan Kyle Alexander expressed his areas of content and contempt.
“The ravens played better than I expected with a backup QB and wide receivers; they were able to move the ball and score, the defense kept the game close and only gave up 17 points,” Alexander said. “My main criticism is the Ravens should’ve given the ball to J.K. Dobbins (running back) instead of doing a quarterback dive with Huntley.”
“This game also proves that the Ravens need to pay Lamar Jackson a big extension,” Alexander added.
Dallas Cowboys 31 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 14: America’s Team Moves On
Dak Prescott threw for over 300 yards on 25 completions with four touchdowns in a statement 31-14 win over Tom Brady’s Buccaneers. Prescott missed the first six weeks of the season yet still managed to throw 15 interceptions on the season. Playoff Prescott was a different creature, throwing no picks against the Bucs on wild card weekend, his first game without an interception since Week 12.
Despite not capitalizing on special teams, as Cowboys kicker Brett Maher missed four extra points, becoming the first player to miss that many in a game, America’s team excelled in the run game. Dallas outrushed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 128-52, with running back Tony Pollard rushing for 77 yards on 15 carries while Ezekiel Elliot managed to garner just 27 yards on 14 carries. Prescott also added a rushing touchdown to his behemoth four passing touchdown night.
The Cowboys showed resilience as their gameplay failed to replicate their horrific performance against the Washington Commanders in the final week of the regular season. Their resilience resulted in their first road postseason win in 30 years and Brady’s first loss against the Cowboys in his 23-year career.
Although he lost, there is no doubting Tom Brady’s status as the greatest of all time. At the age of 45, he has won seven rings in 10 Super Bowl appearances. However, father time reigns supreme over status. Therefore, what remains in doubt is his future with the Buccaneers and in the NFL.
As for Cowboys fan, Philadelphia native, and Howard alumnus Alex Woods, doubt is non-existent entering his team’s matchup against San Francisco in the divisional round.
“I think we have a legit shot at beating San Francisco this Sunday,” Woods said. “We looked excellent in the wild card, and if we can keep playing this way, I’m confident we will get past the divisional round.”
Copy edited by N’dia Webb