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Here is a recap of Wildcard Weekend of the 2016 NFL Playoffs with a Monday Afternoon QB & thanks again to AP Sports/ Pro 32 for photos & articles.
AFC Wild Card
5 Raiders 14, 4 Texans 27
HOUSTON (AP) — Brock Osweiler redeemed himself after last month’s benching. Jadeveon Clowney established himself as a postseason force.
And the Houston Texans got their first playoff victory since the 2012 season Saturday against the Oakland Raiders.
Osweiler threw for a touchdown and ran for another to lead the Texans to a 27-14 wild-card playoff win over Oakland. Clowney, erasing any doubts he deserved to be the top pick in the 2014 draft, got his first career interception.
Osweiler, benched on Dec. 18, got his job back this week with Tom Savage out with a concussion, played his best game of the season. It was the first career playoff game for Osweiler, who was benched for Peyton Manning before the postseason last season with Denver, and coach Bill O’Brien said he’ll start again next week. Osweiler finished with 168 yards passing.
“It just goes back to having confidence in my teammates,” Osweiler said. “Believing in what you see and just rip it. Cut it loose and don’t have any hesitation. I trust that my teammates, the skill guys, they’re going to be where they’re supposed to be . and they’re going to make me look good in the end.”
Houston (10-7) and its top-ranked defense, led by Clowney and Whitney Mercilus, bounced back after an embarrassing 30-0 wild-card loss to Kansas City last season to advance to face either the Chiefs or New England in the divisional round next weekend. Clowney was roundly criticized in his first two injury-plagued seasons before starring this year to help make up for the loss of J.J. Watt.
“Those guys picked me No. 1; they (saw) something in me,” Clowney said. “Things didn’t go well earlier in my career, but I’m on the right track now. Things are coming together, I’m healthier. I’m playing good ball and we’re all coming together and playing good defense.”
The Raiders’ first trip to the playoffs since the 2002 season, when they went to the Super Bowl, ended with a thud behind the struggles of third-string rookie Connor Cook. He threw for 161 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions.
“It was his first start, on the road, in a playoff game, against the No. 1-ranked defense. It was a tough draw for him,” coach Jack Del Rio said. “We had hopes that we would be able to do enough around him so he wouldn’t have to do as much.”
He became the first quarterback in NFL history to make his first start in a playoff game after MVP contender Derek Carr broke his leg two weeks ago, and Matt McGloin injured his shoulder on Sunday. His performance wasn’t helped by star left tackle Donald Penn missing the game with a knee injury, which ended a streak of 160 straight starts.
“We missed Donald, he had a great year for us, ” Del Rio said. “Losing a Pro Bowl tackle was a blow.”
Houston led by 13 at halftime and made it 27-7 on a 1-yard run by Osweiler early in the fourth quarter.
The Raiders (12-5) cut the lead when Andre Holmes grabbed an 8-yard touchdown reception on their next possession. Oakland got a stop after that, but Corey Moore intercepted Cook on the next possession.
“I was trying to do too much out there, at times,” Cook said.
Oakland cornerback David Amerson believes things would have been different if not for the team’s injuries.
“I’ve got all the faith in Connor or Matt — any backups we’ve got,” he said. “But they know, at full strength, ain’t nobody in the league touching us, man. We’re going to take this loss on the chin, and we’re going to come back, for sure.”
DeAndre Hopkins had a touchdown reception for the Texans and Lamar Miller gave Houston a 10-0 lead in the first quarter on a TD run one play after Clowney’s interception.
Houston took a 3-0 lead with a 50-yard field goal by Nick Novak with about eight minutes left in the first quarter.
Clowney batted a pass by Cook with one hand, then tipped it with his other one before pulling it down for the interception later in the quarter. He probably would have scored on the play, but in the time it took him to grab the ball, Raiders running back Latavius Murray had latched on to one of his ankles and was pulling him down.
Miller scampered untouched on the next play for a 4-yard touchdown to make it 10-7.
The Raiders got a 2-yard TD run by Murray late in the first quarter.
Houston added a field goal in the second quarter before making it 20-7 on a 2-yard reception by Hopkins. That score was set up when Osweiler delivered a 38-yard pass to Hopkins just before the receiver stepped out of bounds two plays earlier.
Oakland had trouble converting third downs Saturday. They failed to get a first down on their first 11 attempts. The Raiders finally converted one early in the fourth quarter and another came later in the drive that ended with the TD by Holmes. They ended 2 of 16 on third downs.
BRING IT BACK
Houston looked to have scored a touchdown on a 57-yard punt return by Tyler Ervin late in the third quarter. But the score was nullified because Mercilus ran into punter Marquette King on the play. He punted again and it almost turned bad for the Texans when Ervin muffed that one. Luckily for Houston, teammate Eddie Pleasant grabbed the ball after it bounced away from Ervin.
Raiders: Oakland is left to ponder what might have been had Carr not been injured.
Texans: Look to win a divisional playoff game for the first time in franchise history after losing in their first two games in that round.
6 Dolphins 12, 3 Steelers 30
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Le’Veon Bell spent the last two Januarys watching helplessly while the Pittsburgh Steelers tried to make a deep postseason run without him. The ever fluid running back made up for lost time Sunday against the Miami Dolphins.
So did Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown, the other members of Pittsburgh’s “Big Three” together in the playoffs for the first time.
Pounding away relentless at a defense that hardly seemed interested in stopping him at frigid Heinz Field, Bell ran for a franchise postseason record 167 yards and two scores . The Steelers overwhelmed the beaten-up and mistake-prone Miami Dolphins 30-12 on Sunday.
“We wanted to go out there and make a statement,” Bell said.
Bell, Brown and Roethlisberger, who wore a walking boot on his right foot afterward, more than wiped away the bitter aftertaste of a 30-15 whipping at the hands of the Dolphins in mid-October. Given a shot at redemption, Pittsburgh didn’t let it go to waste. The Steelers (12-5) led by two touchdowns before the game was 10 minutes old on long touchdown passes from Roethlisberger to Brown. Miami never got closer than 11.
“Le’Veon was beastly,” said Brown, who finished with five receptions for 124 yards and the two scores. “All day, controlling the line of scrimmage, just running guys over and finding a way to put the ball in the end zone. Any time he’s playing like that, we’re going to be a hard team to beat.”
Certainly, at least, teams like the Dolphins (10-7). Given a chance to prove their first playoff berth in eight years wasn’t a fluke despite being outgained and outscored during the regular season, Miami never found a rhythm. The problem wasn’t the single digit wind chill or a vicious hit absorbed by quarterback Matt Moore in the second quarter as much as it was the Steelers.
Pittsburgh sacked Moore five times, forced turnovers on three consecutive possessions in the middle of the game, and never really let the Dolphins up off the deck.
“It’s hard to win when you turn the ball over,” said Moore, completed 29 of 36 passes for 289 yards with a touchdown and an interception. “In the playoffs, you can’t make mistakes and that’s on me.”
Pittsburgh (12-5) ran off its eighth straight victory to set up a visit to AFC West champion Kansas City (12-4) next Sunday. The Steelers rolled by the Chiefs 43-14 on Oct. 2.
“We have to understand the same passion and dedication that we put in this week to beat Miami, that’s how Kansas City is going to try to beat us,” Bell said.
At least Bell will be around for the challenge. He missed the playoffs each of the last two seasons with knee injuries. All he did in his postseason debut was break Hall of Famer Franco Harris’ team mark for yards rushing in a playoff game. Harris ran for 158 yards in a Super Bowl win over Minnesota 42 years ago. Bell reached that total by the end of the third quarter.
The Dolphins tried to hype themselves up by running around in shirt sleeves in the single-digit wind chill during warmups. Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier did them one better, racing around shirtless — as if to send a message that his team is plenty comfortable playing this time of year.
It sure looked like it.
The Steelers scored on their first three possessions, and Miami’s playoff victory drought was well on its way to 17 years and counting. Miami running back Jay Ajayi managed just 33 yards on 16 carries, or 171 yards less than he piled up against Pittsburgh in October.
Roethlisberger completed his first 10 passes and finished 13 of 18 for 189 yards with two scores and two interceptions. He also sported a walking boot on his right foot while talking to the media after the game as a preventative measure. Roethlisberger tweaked the ankle while throwing an interception on Pittsburgh’s penultimate drive. He sprinted off the field afterward and said he will be ready to go against the Chiefs.
Moore appeared to be out of it when Pittsburgh linebacker Bud Dupree launched into him midway through the second quarter just after Moore released a pass. Moore lay on his back for several moments before slowly getting up and making his way to the sideline. Amazingly, he missed only one play after getting cleared by an independent neurologist as well as a team doctor. The 32-year-old stressed it looked worse than it felt. Dupree was hit with a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness.
“I just really needed a second,” Moore said. “With all the protocols now with the NFL, I had to do all that. It was fine. I had to gather myself for a second there. I was able to do that and went back in.”
The Dolphins badly missed cornerback Byron Maxwell (ankle), out a third straight game. Miami held Brown to four receptions for 39 yards in October, but he topped that total before the game was three minutes old.
Pittsburgh avoided any major concerns heading to the divisional round, though tight end Ladarius Green (concussion) was inactive for a third straight week.
Miami: The Dolphins showed signs of progress in coach Adam Gase’s first season and may be the AFC East team best positioned to challenge New England in 2017.
Steelers: Pittsburgh’s only playoff visit to Kansas City came in 1993, a loss to the Joe Montana-led Chiefs 27-24 in overtime.
NFC Wild Card
6 Lions 6, 3 Seahawks 26
SEATTLE (AP) — The formula that has led the Seattle Seahawks to unmatched success over the past five seasons returned.
A healthy dose of Thomas Rawls rumbling on the ground. A few timely throws by Russell Wilson helped by some remarkable catches. And a defense that never allowed Detroit a sniff of the end zone.
“This felt like old times. This felt great,” Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman said.
Rawls rushed for a franchise playoff-record 161 yards, Paul Richardson made one of the catches of the year for his first career postseason touchdown, and the Seahawks beat the Lions 26-6 on Saturday night in an NFC wild-card game.
“It kept the chains going,” Rawls said. “We want to end like this. We want to end with a great mark running the football, which is our identity, playing tough hard-nosed Seahawks football, and that’s exactly what we did.”
Seattle won its 10th straight home playoff game, continuing Detroit’s miserable conclusion to the season that finished with four straight losses. Detroit’s long playoff history without postseason success continued: no playoff wins since 1992. No road playoff wins since 1957.
“We’re walking away with nothing,” Detroit cornerback Darius Slay said.
Rawls was the workhorse as the run game the Seahawks became known for when Marshawn Lynch was in the backfield finally found consistency that was missing all season. Rawls bettered Lynch’s 157 yards in the 2014 NFC championship game against Green Bay. Rawls had runs of 12, 14, 26 and a 32-yarder late in the third quarter, when Wilson ended up being his lead blocker.
Rawls capped his night with a 4-yard touchdown run that gave Seattle a 19-6 lead. He was the first player with at least 150 yards rushing in a playoff game since Lynch’s performance against the Packers.
While Rawls did the grunt work, Richardson filled the highlight reel with a trio of catches. None was better than his 2-yard touchdown in the second quarter to give Seattle a 7-0 lead.
“I didn’t know that I had it until I got it, honestly,” Richardson said.
Richardson went horizontal reaching out with his left hand to cradle the pass as he was being interfered with by Tavon Wilson. What wasn’t called on the play was Richardson’s right hand yanking on the facemask of Wilson as he reached to make the catch.
Richardson had another one-handed catch in the fourth quarter, and Doug Baldwin got into the act of amazing catches, pinning a 10-yard reception to the back of his leg late in the fourth quarter to continue a Seattle drive. Two plays later, Baldwin’s 13-yard touchdown reception put it away.
Baldwin ran the wrong route and the pass was actually intended for teammate Jermaine Kearse.
“I wasn’t where I was supposed to be,” said Baldwin, who was remorseful for taking away the TD from his teammate. “Fortunately it worked out.”
Wilson finished 23 of 30 for 224 yards, while Baldwin had 11 catches for 104 yards.
Overshadowed by the offensive performance was Seattle’s defense shutting down the Lions. Hampered by a handful of dropped passes and some untimely penalties, the Lions could only manage a pair of long Matt Prater field goals.
Matthew Stafford was 18 of 32 for 205 yards. He was sacked three times and Detroit never ran a play inside the Seattle 33-yard line.
“We definitely knew if we came in and focused, we’d be fine,” All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner said. “We knew they got some great players on the other end, but we were just locked in all week and we prepared very well. We knew were going to play well.”
Seattle was 4 of 11 on fourth downs during the regular season, but got two big conversions on its first touchdown drive. On fourth-and-1 at the Detroit 39, Rawls bounced for 4 yards; the drive was capped by Richardson’s catch on fourth-and-goal from the 2.
Detroit wasn’t so successful. On its third possession, it went on fourth-and-2 from the Seattle 38. The oddly designed play had Stafford throwing behind the line of scrimmage to Matthew Mulligan. The play was blown up by Wagner and K.J. Wright for a 2-yard loss.
Prater became the first kicker with multiple 50-yard field goals made in the same playoff game, and Seattle’s Steven Hauschka was true on both of his field goal attempts. But Hauschka missed his seventh extra point of the season after Rawls’ touchdown with 8:43 remaining.
Detroit: The Lions will lament the end of their season. After getting its record to 9-4, Detroit lost its final four games.
Seattle: The Seahawks will face the No. 2 seed Atlanta Falcons next Saturday. Seattle beat Atlanta 26-22 in October.
“We’re expecting a fight,” Wagner said. “They’re going to come in rested. They’re going to be hungry, but we’re hungry, too. We’re going to come out and give ’em everything we got.”
5 Giants 13, 3 Packers 38
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers, master of the Hail Mary pass, struck again in another big moment.
Rodgers overcame a sluggish start and finished with four touchdown passes, including a momentum-swinging 42-yard heave to Randall Cobb at the end of the second quarter, to lead the Green Bay Packers to a 38-13 win Sunday over the New York Giants in an NFC wild-card game.
The Packers move on to face the Dallas Cowboys in the divisional round next week.
Rodgers was 25 of 40 for 362 yards, continuing a remarkable run of quarterback play that helped the Packers win their final six games of the regular season to take the NFC North. Cobb finished with five receptions for 116 yards and three scores.
For much of the first half, the Giants’ defense flustered the two-time NFL MVP. They got pressure on Rodgers and the secondary blanketed the Packers’ talented receiving corps , and a few boos even rained down from the stands after New York built a 6-0 lead on two field goals by Robbie Gould.
As it turned out, Rodgers was just getting started.
“We hit a Hail Mary. That got us going,” Rodgers said.
Green Bay scored two touchdowns in the final 2:20 of the second quarter, punctuated by another remarkable desperation pass by Rodgers.
With the ball on the Giants 42, Rodgers took the snap with 6 seconds left. He rolled to his right before heaving a throw from about the Packers 47. Cobb somehow got behind three defensive backs near the back of the end zone to haul in the pass, getting both feet down before falling out of bounds.
“They boxed us out better than we played it,” Giants coach Ben McAdoo said. “It was a heck of a throw, heck of a catch.”
The Giants looked stunned, just like how the Detroit Lions and Arizona Cardinals looked last season after Rodgers pulled off similar feats.
“Davante (Adams) made a bunch of plays,” Rodgers said. “And Randall Cobb, who this offense has been missing for a long time. We’re better with 18 on the field and he showed it tonight.”
Rodgers and Cobb weren’t done.
They connected again on a 30-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter for a 21-13 lead. That score answered a Giants scoring drive that briefly cut the deficit to one.
“Second half we got back to some rhythm throws and I was getting better on my timing, getting the ball out of my hand quickly,” Rodgers said. “No negative-yard plays, the offensive line blocked really well, regardless of the stats.”
A Packers defense ranked 21st in points allowed (24.3) coming into the game limited the production of Odell Beckham Jr., and the Giants’ receiving corps in spite of a battered secondary.
Beckham finished with four catches for 28 yards. Eli Manning was 23 of 44 for 299 yards, including the 41-yard touchdown pass to Tavarres King in the third quarter.
But the Giants were plagued by a series of drops by their receivers .
“It’s a game inches, and we were just inches short on some of these plays, inches away from big plays,” Beckham said.
Rodgers began dissecting the secondary after coach Mike McCarthy had his quarterback roll more outside the pocket, and the Packers started working the middle of the field.
Cobb had a big night after missing the last two games of the regular season with an ankle injury. Adams had eight receptions for 125 yards and a score.
Top receiver Jordy Nelson was knocked out of the game with 11 minutes left in the second quarter with a rib injury.
“It’s unbelievable … (Rodgers) makes the throw guys are misjudging it and one of us is able to come up with it,” — Cobb on his Hail Mary catch.
Giants: Manning was 7 of 11 for 85 yards in the first quarter, when New York had a 105-7 edge in total yardage. … RB Paul Perkins finished with just 30 yards on 10 carries.
Packers: Rodgers was 3 of 7 for 19 yards in the first quarter. He was sacked five times in the game … Damarious Randall had an interception late in the fourth quarter.
Giants: CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie limped off after the first defensive series with a thigh injury. He returned in the second half, but appeared to play mostly on special teams.
Packers: Nelson looked stunned as he rode back to the locker room on the front seat of a cart after getting hurt, hunched forward with his hands on his face. … RB Ty Montgomery limped off the field early in the fourth quarter with an apparent left leg injury, but returned. He finished with 27 yards on 11 carries, and 41 yards on three receptions. … LB Blake Martinez departed in the second half with a knee injury.
Giants: New York will try to build on its first postseason trip since 2011.
Packers: Green Bay will play at Dallas on Jan. 15 in a rematch of a Week 6 game at Lambeau Field. The Cowboys won 30-16. The divisional round will feature four rematches from the regular season for the first time in six years.