Well, it was almost a dead giveaway, but Wild Card weekend in the NFL Playoffs was exactly that: WILD. Two of the four games went to overtime and there were two massive upsets, one of which was a potential dynasty crumbling loss by the Patriots. Let’s dive into the madness and review one of the most exciting Wild Card weekends in recent memory.
Houston, We Have a Solution
Deshaun Watson is the answer to all of the Houston Texans‘ problems. Down 16-0 late in the third quarter, Watson decided to take matters into his own hands. A 20-yard touchdown and a two-point conversion cut the Bills’ lead in half and from there Houston looked much more composed. Watson settled in and even gave the Texans a 19-16 lead late in the fourth quarter with a flick of the wrist on a five-yard touchdown to a wide-open Carlos Hyde.
To the common fan, this game was a stinker for nearly three quarters, but the fireworks came once the Texans took the lead. Coaching blunders, player bloopers, and a last-second field goal were all part of the fourth quarter. It seemed neither team wanted to win at one point and quarterback Josh Allen let his nerves show in his first-ever crack at playoff football in the NFL. He caught (yes, caught) a touchdown on the Bills’ first drive, but after that, the team only mustered 12 points.
With both teams producing uninspiring overtime drives, Houston found themselves in a score-to-win position with the clock winding under four minutes in overtime. On 2nd & 6 from the Bills 44, Watson took the snap and looked like he was about to be sacked immediately. He pulled off an escape that would make Houdini proud and found reserve running back Taiwan Jones.
The pass itself didn’t even cross the line of scrimmage, but due to Watson’s escape, he found Jones in space and the crafty back gained 35 yards to set up the game-winning field goal. This is definitely the best play of Watson’s young career and can go on to be a massive play in Texans’ history if they can parlay the 22-19 win into a deep playoff run.
End of an Era…Maybe
The shock of the weekend came during Saturday night when the New England Patriots not only played on Wild Card weekend but lost to the Tennessee Titans. Not only did they lose, but they also failed to score a point in the second half! There were numerous red flags throughout the Patriots’ regular season, but a home playoff game is something the Brady-Belichick collaboration rarely fail to capitalize on.
The Pats drew first blood with a Nick Folk field goal and then a great play call on a five-yard touchdown run by Julian Edelman was the perfect reply to a Titans score. Up 10-7 and nearing halftime, the Patriots had the Titans right where they wanted them. With 1st and Goal at the 1-yard line, the scoreboard might as well have read 17-7. However, the Titans’ defense had other ideas. The Patriots were stuffed on three consecutive runs and settled for a field goal. The goal-line stand went a long way in determining the outcome of this game.
Derrick Henry put on a clinic the following drive where he accounted for all 75 yards on offense during the Titans touchdown drive before half. 53 on the ground and 22 receiving, Henry capped the impressive drive off with a one-yard run up the gut. The Titans were up 14-13 at halftime and Gillette Stadium was stunned.
In the second half, the Titans forced Tom Brady to punt four times and then intercepted his final pass of the season and returned it for a touchdown. The final score was 20-13 and the Titans pulled off the upset. Brady only finished with 209 yards passing and a sour taste in his mouth heading into the offseason. The questions began immediately. Will he retire? Will he play again next year? Could he possibly leave New England as a free agent this offseason? Only a few people truly know the answers to these questions but one thing is clear: for the first time in a while the future in New England is cloudy.
The Saints Go Marching Out
For me personally, the shock of the weekend was Brady and the Patriots losing to Tennessee, but Vegas will tell you it was the Vikings upsetting the Saints. New Orleans came into the game as 7.5 point favorites over the sixth-seeded Minnesota Vikings. They did not play like it. Flat, slow, uncharacteristic, the list of adjectives to describe the Saints’ poor play goes on.
The Vikings took away the biggest advantage for the Saints early and often, the crowd. In the 2nd and 3rd quarters, the Vikings took it to the Saints. They outscored the home team 17-7 and found themselves up 20-10 heading to the fourth. Drew Brees mounted a comeback but it never looked like the Saints were comfortable. Brees connected on a touchdown pass to his backup Taysom Hill and Wil Lutz was able to tie the game with a 49-yard field goal as time expired to tie the score at 20. The Saints had played with fire but every fan watching expected them to take hold of this game and win in overtime.
Kirk Cousins had other ideas. The Vikings got the ball first and rendered the new overtime rules useless. If they had to punt or kick a field goal, the Saints would get a rebuttal, but Cousins engineered an impressive drive that stunned the crowd. It took 9 plays and 75 yards and was highlighted by a beautiful Kirk Cousins’ throw to Adam Thielen to set up the game-winning touchdown. Kyle Rudolph’s four-yard touchdown catch will be analyzed for weeks as Saints fans will tell you he committed offensive pass interference. There was no flag thrown on the play, and the Vikings took down the Saints, 26-20.
The Battle of the Birds
Apparently, all it took in the battle between the Seattle Seahawks and the Philadelphia Eagles was who could stay healthier. Carson Wentz came into the game with injured wide receivers and tight ends while Russell Wilson was without the team’s two best options at running back. These two teams were ravaged by injuries throughout the regular season and an injury ended up being the most pivotal play in this contest on Sunday night in Philly. Wentz was escaping the pass rush early in the first quarter and suffered a questionable hit from Seahawks’ defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Wentz was ushered to the locker room and couldn’t return.
Back up journeyman quarterback Josh McCown took over the Eagles offense but experienced little success. The Eagles mustered three field-goal drives and even had a chance to tie it up late. However, McCown’s lack of mobility led to a field day for the defensive line of the Seattle Seahawks. They tallied 7 sacks and stunted any momentum the Eagles tried to conjure.
The breakout star on Sunday was definitely DK Metcalf. He was Russell Wilson’s safety valve on a number of plays and had the play of the game midway through the third quarter. With the Seahawks leading 10-6, the game was still very tense. Against a backup quarterback, Seattle needed to extend their lead to extinguish hope for the Eagles. Metcalf has slowly been emerging as a star and Russell Wilson’s go-to target, but he solidified that position after a 53-yard touchdown catch. Wilson chucked it up allowing his receiver time to get under the ball and the rest was up to Metcalf. With a laser focus, he reeled in the deep ball and barrel-rolled into the endzone as he was being tackled by a defender.
The highlight play silenced the crowd and extended the lead to 17-6. A third and final field goal for the Eagles was the rest of the scoring and Seattle advanced thanks to 17-9 win.