In a wild Wild Card weekend, the Browns stunned the Steelers, Tom Brady played like a 28-year-old, and the Rams upset division winner Seattle. Many couldn’t believe what they were seeing.
The NFL Wild Card Playoff games provided tons of suspense and a few upsets, with the two franchises winning their first playoff game in at least a quarter century. Tom Brady defied Father Time and Lamar Jackson banished playoff demons.
- Scoring the most points in the first quarter of a playoff game, the Browns put up 28 points against AFC North divisional foe Pittsburgh Steelers before the Black and Gold made it a nail biter in the second half. The Browns held on for a 48-37 victory in their first playoff appearance since 2002 and their first win since 1994, a year before current quarterback Baker Mayfield was born.
- The Baltimore Ravens beat the Tennessee Titans 20-13 on the legs of star quarterback Lamar Jackson, who earned his first playoff victory after two previous tries. His 48-yard run was the second longest in NFL playoff history.
- The Buffalo Bills ended their 25-year playoff win drought skirting past the Indianapolis Colts 27-24 in a back-and-forth scoring battle. The game was not without controversy as officials called Colts receiver Zach Pascal down on contact on a 4th and 10 reception in the last minute, despite apparent evidence he was up on his feet when Bills Safety Jordan Poyner forced a fumble.
- The Los Angeles Rams’ defense stifled the Russell Wilson and the Seahawks in a 30-20 upset win made even more dramatic after Rams starting quarterback John Wolford was injured in the first quarter. After the Seahawks’ loss, the Seattle Times declared their season “a failure.”
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Tom Brady looked like his 30-year-old self, throwing for nearly 400 yards and 2 touchdowns in a 31-23 win over Washington, whose offense was helmed by QB Taylor Heinicke in his second pro start after being signed to Washington’s practice squad in December. Brady relied on Buccaneers Wide Receiver Mike Evans, who bounced back after an injury last weekend, for the play that ultimately decided the game.
- In what many believe is his last season, New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees led the Saints to a 21-9 victory over the Chicago Bears during a defense-focused matchup. The Bears were stifled as their 3rd down conversion deficiency continued into the playoffs.
- Yahoo Sports’ Dan Wentzel considered the Ravens’ win a return to form of sorts, while gently criticizing Baltimore’s sportsmanship after the win.
- In a rundown of the weekend’s games, the New York Times highlighted the broadcast of the Bears-Saints game on Nickelodeon, the popular children’s channel, with entertaining on-field graphics and child-focused commentary.
- Gary Davenport writes for Bleacher Report that the Browns’ upset of the Steelers is a new chapter for the Cleveland franchise, which has a history of losing so deeply ingrained, it has been called the Factory of Sadness by their own fans.
- The New York Post marveled at Tom Brady’s performance at the age of 43, writing he is not fading at the end of a career as many top-ranked quarterbacks have in the past.
- The Wall Street Journal similarly raved over Brady, who nearly topped his career-best stats his first year after leaving the New England Patriots, for whom he played for twenty years.
- Fox Sports reported on the surreal nature of the Browns’ first half against the Steelers, with commentators, the Fox network, and the Browns themselves having to reiterate that “This is happening. I’m seeing it too.”
© Dallas Gerber, 2021