From Buffalo’s 25-year-old victory in the making to the Rams’ stifling defensive performance to Tom Brady’s first non-Patriots playoff win, here are our lessons to be learned from Saturday’s NFL playoff action.
INVOICES MAKE A BIG STEP BUT CAN GET BETTER
As the ball hit the turf after Philip Rivers’ fourth stroke with the clock hitting three zeros in Buffalo, Bills Mafia’s collective expiration could be heard across the continent.
The Bills survived a massive scare on Saturday afternoon to win their first postseason game in a quarter of a century. It’s an accomplishment the Bills and their fans should appreciate – especially against a good Indianapolis Colts team that were set to play – but the team will need to improve as the competition stiffens in the coming rounds.
Although historic, Saturday’s win was a mixed bag for Buffalo.
Josh Allen carried the Bills offense and showed exactly why he was in the MVP conversation, but that attack sometimes struggled to find its rhythm – especially in the first half – and although the defense made some big saves when needed, she was also constantly burned. in the air and on the ground as a 24-10 lead in the fourth quarter evaporated.
The hype with which the Bills entered the playoffs is well deserved after a stellar run to wrap up the regular season. But a team with Buffalo’s expectations now needs to play better – the issues that will get the Colts back into Saturday’s game won’t fly in a busy AFC that will likely require a road win in Kansas City to get to the Super Bowl .
MISSED OPPORTUNITIES COST OF COLTS
Give credit to Frank Reich, Philip Rivers and the Colts.
Down 14 points early in the fourth quarter after releasing a 35-yard touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs, Indianapolis looked down. But rather than collapse under the pressure, the Colts rebounded to score a pair of quick touchdowns and push the Bills to the edge.
But it was missed opportunities that ultimately lost the game to the Colts, who left too many points on the field.
A questionable call for a fourth and a near-goal-line goal inside the two-minute first-half warning gave the ball back to Buffalo with enough time on the clock for Josh Allen to lead the Bills 96 yards for a touchdown to take a driving halftime. This streak changed the momentum of the game.
And then, after a grueling 14-game, 60-yard try that took up almost half of the third quarter, rookie kicker Rodrigo Blankenship hit a 33-yard field goal attempt off the studs.
In the end, the Colts still had a chance to win the game on the Hail Mary attempt, but converting just one of those missed opportunities could have saved Indy’s season and given Rivers one more football week.
– CBS Sports Headquarters (@CBSSportsHQ) January 9, 2021
RAMS DEFENSE IS CHAMPIONSHIP-CALIBER
If you’ve seen the Rams beat the Seahawks on Saturday, you’ve seen the “defense wins championships” cliché come to life.
The Rams’ defense, led by first-year coordinator Brandon Staley, has completely overtaken Russell Wilson and the Seattle offense, wanting Los Angeles to claim a road victory despite the worst-case scenario unfolding in the quarterback.
Jared Goff, who underwent right thumb surgery just 12 days ago, was forced to return to duty under center in the first quarter after his replacement and starter joker John Wolford left the game with a frightening injury.
Goff was clearly hit with the thumb injury, making just nine of 19 assists as the Rams’ offense struggled throughout the game. But that didn’t matter much as Staley’s defense kept the Seahawks’ offense to just 278 yards, allowed just 11 first downs, racked up five sacks and scored on a ridiculous Darious Williams pick-6.
Even more impressive, the Rams were able to continue this dominant performance without their best player in the second half after All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald left with a rib injury.
The condition of the two-time defensive player of the year is a concern with a road game in the division round looming. But, at full strength, the Los Angeles defense has the talent to pick up games and has made those Rams a factor in this playoff … even with their QB situation.
SEAHAWKS OFFENSE SPUTTERS ONCE PROLIFIC
It wasn’t that long ago the Seahawks were scoring over 30 points per game and Russell Wilson was an MVP favorite, but it was like long ago on Saturday.
There’s no other way to say it: Seattle’s attack was brutal in its loss to the Rams.
Wilson had one of her worst playoff performances, the offense had 14 practices but had over 30 yards in just two of them, and she converted just two of 14 third-bet chances. . Tack on all five sacks allowed and terrible penalties, and you get a season that once had so much promise that ends without ceremony.
The Seahawks’ offensive struggles are nothing new – Seattle has averaged just 22 points and under 300 yards in its last three games – but the wildcard loss will lead to plenty of off-season questions for Pete Carroll and Company , who seemed to have unlocked the best of what this offense had to offer only to make it all end with the group falling flat.
AGELESS BRADY MAKES MORE PLAYOFF HISTORY
It wouldn’t be a Tom Brady playoff game without another broken postseason record.
On Saturday night, Brady became the oldest player in NFL history to throw a postseason touchdown at 43 years and 159 days.
The future Hall of Famer overtook the current Hall of Famer George Blanda to set the record and was even able to show the impact of the TB12 regime …
Brady had a solid game in Tampa’s tighter-than-expected win over Washington, completing 22 of 40 passes for 381 yards and two touchdowns. The victory gives Brady his 31st career playoff victory, extending a record, and his first postseason victory as a member of a team other than the New England Patriots.
Soon for the Bucs? A potential rematch against their division rivals, the New Orleans Saints, who have already beaten Tampa twice this season.
HEINICKE HANGS WITH THE GOAT
The pre-game news that Alex Smith would be inactive for the Washington playoff game was a shock and a disappointment. Not only have Washington’s chances of upset seemingly taken a hit, one of the best stories of the NFL season wouldn’t end with a postseason appearance.
Entrez Taylor Heinicke.
The 27-year-old, who served as an XFL replacement before joining the Washington practice squad in early December, not only filled Smith admirably for Smith, but took part in a wild game with Tom Brady. , the greatest of all time.
Heinicke played all night, with his arms and legs, but none were more impressive than a ridiculous eight-yard run at the end of the third quarter he capped off with a diving touchdown.
Adding to his legend, Heinicke then left the game with an apparent shoulder injury, his night seemingly over, to return triumphantly and throw an all-time penny from a touchdown.
In the end, Washington wasn’t able to deliver the shock to football fans, but Heinicke’s startling performance made the game so much more fun to watch than we all expected.