Unsurprisingly, Wild Card Weekend featured highs and lows in performance, but nevertheless it was an entertaining two days, and I am very much looking forward to next weekend’s matchups.
Marcus Mariota had an insane performance on Saturday as the Titans overcame the Chiefs in a close 22-21 game. The Chiefs came out strong, scoring two touchdowns right off the bat in the first quarter, but by the second half it was obvious that they were offensively fatigued and struggling. They also lost TE Travis Kelce, after he took a brutal hit from Johnathan Cyprien near the end of the first half, who was taken out and put in concussion protocol. Jeff Triplette, a notoriously controversial official, faced criticism after the officials overlooked what appeared to be a pretty obvious fumble by Kelce. Ignoring what should have been a turnover, the Chiefs went on to score another touchdown, putting up 21 points at the half while the Titans only scored a field goal. The Titans came back in full force at the second half, and in an absolutely insane play, Mariota ended up throwing a pass, catching it himself, after it was blocked by Chiefs CB Darrelle Revis, and scoring a touchdown.
After two more touchdowns for the Titans in the fourth by Eric Decker and Derrick Henry, the score was brought up to 22-21 with 6:06 left, and the Titans failed in their attempt to get a two point conversion, leaving the game closer than ever. On the conversion, Mariota fumbled the ball after a sack and Frank Zombo of the Chiefs took possession and ran. In another contentious call, this time favoring the Titans, the refs had already declared the play dead, nullifying the fumble. It was a brutal loss at home for the Chiefs, and emotions are likely running high, considering that Alex Smith’s contract and potential trade was brought up right before the game. After the Jaguars’ win on Sunday, the Titans will go on to play the Patriots on Saturday, January 13th.
It was a sorrowful loss in LA Saturday night for the 75,000 fans in the Coliseum, as the Rams fell to the Falcons 26-13. The Falcons started the tone of the game off early with a 13 point lead after Matt Bryant secured two field goals in the first quarter, and Matt Ryan hit Devonta Freeman for a touchdown at the start of the second. Goff answered with a touchdown after connecting to Cooper Kupp for 14 yards, and Rams kicker Sam Ficken lit the board up with an extra point followed by a 35 yard field goal at :03 left in the second quarter for a halftime score of 13-10, Falcons. Both defenses held tight after the half, and Atlanta was only able to secure two field goals in the third quarter to get the score to 19-10. In the fourth quarter, the Rams answered with a 32-yard drive by Ficken for 3, but were unsuccessful in scoring another touchdown. Ryan connected to Julio Jones for an 8-yard pass and touchdown with 6 minutes left in the game, increasing the spread and killing the hope for the Rams. The Rams were unable to respond, and the Falcons took the win and will advance to play Philadelphia, the top-seed on Saturday, January 13th.
A complete comedy of errors, the Bills faced the Jaguars Sunday morning in what seemed to be the longest score-drought ever. Stephen Hauschka put the first points on the board after a completely scoreless first quarter and only two minutes left in the second quarter. Josh Lambo answered for the Jags at the 44-yard line with a field goal for a halftime score of……3-3. Blake Bortles was running non-stop, with more rushing yards than passing yards at the half, blatantly struggling to connect to his offensive stars. The Jags were finally able to score the first touchdown of the game by Ben Koyack at the end of third quarter, with Blake Bortles’ biggest touchdown pass of his career, followed by a kick by Josh Lambo for a score of 10-3. The fourth quarter was predominantly scoreless, but Tyrod Taylor had a brutal fall when he was ripped to the ground by Dante Fowler Jr, and had to be replaced by Nathan Peterman, backup QB for the Bills. Peterman started off his drive with two consecutive first downs with :44 seconds left in the game, and the score at 10-3, Jaguars. After a costly grounding penalty on the third drive, the Bills were penalized with a 10 second runoff at the 48 on a second down. The game was thought to be ended on Peterman’s final throw when Jalen Ramsey intercepted the throw. As Jags fans went wild, on replay the ball appeared to touch the ground, and the interception was reviewed by officials. The officials upheld the review and Jacksonville was given possession with :26 seconds left, ending the game with a Jacksonville win. The Jaguars will face the Steelers next Sunday, and the Steelers will no doubt be playing with a chip on their shoulder considering their 30-9 loss to Jacksonville earlier this season.
The energy in New Orleans was much different than the day’s preceding game. The two usually electric offenses battled in an incredibly close game, with the Saints ultimately pulling off a win 31-26. The first quarter went scoreless for the majority of its duration, and the Saints were able to secure the first score when Brees connected to Ted Ginn Jr. in a 41-yard pass, with another 39 yards put up by Ginn into the end-zone. Saints placekicker Wil Lutz followed up with the extra point. The second quarter was full of action, with Carolina kicker Graham Gano kicking three field goals, including one at the 58-yard to give Carolina 9 points at the half. Meanwhile, the Saints put up another two touchdowns, one by Josh Hill and another by right guard Zach Line, for a halftime score of 21-9, Saints on top. Gano kicked another FG at the start of the third, and Lutz responded with a huge 57-yard kick. The fourth quarter featured impressive plays by both teams, and Carolina opened it up with a touchdown after Newton connected to tight end Greg Olsen. Olson had a game total of 8 catches for 107 yards, and the score. Rookie Alvin Kamara finally got his moment, scoring with five minutes left in the game for New Orleans for a score of 19-31 after a kick from Lutz. Kamara celebrated in true form by handing out airheads to his teammates.
The game was far from over, however, and Cam put up another touchdown after connecting to Christian McCaffrey in a short pass and 50 yard run into the end zone by McCaffrey for a score of 31-26 with four minutes left in the game. Sean Peyton made the decision to keep his offense out with two minutes left in the game, hoping to run out the clock. The Panthers took complete advantage of this decision when safety Mike Adams intercepted a pass by Brees, giving the Panthers possession with 1:51 left in the game. With no time-outs left, Cam was making monster throws to his offense, including an unsuccessful pass to Marshon Lattimore. A sack from Vonn Bell on the fourth down would end the Panthers’ run. Newton had a rough game, with four sacks and an ugly slam to the ground that landed him in the concussion tent for one play. The Saints will take this victory and move on to play the Vikings next Sunday.