Tom Brady
Image: Wikimedia Commons/Keith Allison

NFL Wild Card Round: Jaguars’ incredible comeback and is Brady hanging up his cleats?

Six teams made it one step closer to achieving the ultimate prize in football over the weekend with others seeing their hard work and determination fail to carry them over the finish line. Heartbreak stood so close to triumph for many teams as in the cutthroat play-offs a simple mistake could cost your season.

“You couldn’t write a crazier script”: Jaguars 31-30 Chargers
When a team goes up 27-0 in a game of American Football, most opposition teams would want to forfeit the game. It’s a score that we have rarely seen overcome, especially within the world of the NFL Play-offs, but one of the pre-season’s least fancied teams have continued their miracle resurgence with an incredible performance in Jacksonville. Only the ’92 Bills and the 2013 Colts have come back from a bigger margin leading to Chargers’ offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and quarterbacks coach Shane Day both being dismissed from the organisation post-game.

The game started well, however. Austin Ekeler had two touchdowns in the first quarter with the man who had the most regular-season touchdowns making some impressive runs. Cameron Dicker also made two 22-yard field goals sandwiching a touchdown from Everett after he was found by a Justin Herbert in seemingly red-hot form. However, Dicker would be the only point scorer for the Chargers in the second half as the Chargers seemed to collapse. Coming out from half-time down 27-7, Trevor Lawrence put on the level of performance expected of him since he was in his early teenage years, the number one draft pick threw four interceptions in the first half but was an entirely different player in the second half.

Evan Engram scored Jacksonville’s first points of the game just before half time and the tight-end who joined as an unrestricted free agent in March last year demonstrated what a great addition he was. He wasn’t the only Jaguar to score in the comeback as Marvin Jones Jr. caught a six-yard pass to get the game to 14-27 at the start of the third. When Dicker made it 30-14, Lawrence responded with one of the throws of the game, 39-yards to Zay Jones which completely carved open the Chargers’ defence and meant that the fourth quarter started with just 10 points splitting the sides.

In the fourth Christian Kirk was found from 17 yards and after a great run from Engram, Kirk was found again to make the score 26-30. With just five and a half minutes to go before the Jaguars would be eliminated, Lawrence succeeded in the two-point conversion as he stuck his arm over the helpless defence and into the end zone. They needed a defence stop though and they managed it as Herbert failed from three and 13. This meant that with time slowly slipping through their fingers, the Jaguars only needed three points to win the game and complete the comeback. Etienne had been an incredible threat all game and managed to set up a 33-yard field goal for Patterson who converted leading to rapturous celebrations and one of the most shocking results of the season. The Jaguars continue their fairy-tale rags to riches story whilst the Chargers rue missed opportunities.

It was another sobering moment for the league, as many call for greater safety precautions for the players

“No one gave us a chance at all, and we had a chance to win it”: Bills 34-31 Dolphins
There was almost another upset in the Wild Card round as the unfancied Dolphins faced off against the Bills. The Bills continued their streak of turnovers leading to a closer game than many expected with Josh Allen causing all sorts of harm for the Bills’ defence. The young quarterback led to more than 17 points going the other way and will have to seriously improve on this area if the Bills are to capture the Lombardi trophy.

The Bills coasted to a big 17-0 first-quarter lead but with these errors, the Dolphins entered the third quarter up 24-17. However, the Dolphins weren’t without faults and if they hadn’t had made mistakes of their own, they could potentially have joined Lawrence and the Jaguars in the next round. Their lack of offensive execution meant that they often lost crucial yards in decisive moments, with false start penalties proving costly. This is not to say that backup quarterback Skylar Thompson didn’t play well or that Tua Tagovailoa would have carried the Dolphins to victory, but it seems as though the Dolphins may need to work on this cohesion during the off-season. This lack of experience and the question marks over Tua may be why many believe a certain Tampa Bay quarterback may be the perfect addition…

“I am going to get home and get a good night’s sleep”: has the sun set on Tom Brady’s career? Buccaneers 14- 31 Cowboys
Tom Brady and his Buccaneers finished their disappointing season with a disappointing result against a strong Cowboys side. Brady, who finished the regular season with a losing record for the first time, will be a free agent in the summer and after retiring briefly last off-season, could hang up his boots after 23 seasons in the league. There have been rumours of a move to Miami and Las Vegas, but Brady says he is taking things one day at a time.

In a game that hardly mirrored the performances of Brady’s illustrious past, the Cowboys eased to victory going up 24-0 at the start of the third quarter and Dalton Schultz scoring three touchdowns. Tampa Bay never really looked a threat but managed to save their blushes as their attack slowly juddered to life after half-time. Two touchdowns resulted in a final score of 31-14, but it could have been closer if Brady hadn’t thrown an uncharacteristic interception when there were only six points separating the two sides.

The Cowboys defence looked strong and Dak Prescott had a turnover-free game as ‘America’s team’ caused Tampa Bay to capitulate. This wasn’t the only bad news for the Buccaneers, as receiver Russell Gage had to be stretchered off in the fourth quarter and had to go to the hospital with a neck injury. He has now been confirmed to be in good spirits and has movement in all extremities. After multiple terrifying injuries on the field so far this season, it was another sobering moment for the league, as many call for greater safety precautions for the players.

The stakes increase on the stairway to the Superbowl

Won and not done!: Vikings 24-31 Giants
It has been 11 years since the Giants last won a play-off game. Eli Manning defeating Tom Brady’s Patriots in the Superbowl Final seemed a long way away for Giants fans at the start of the season but the miracle of this season keeps continuing. A game tied at the fourth quarter many would have expected the Vikings to have won this game even up to its dying moments, but Saquon Barkley put in an exceptional performance to get his team over the line. Whilst attacking threats such as Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley had career-defining performances in order to accomplish this shock, the Giants’ defence deserves the most plaudits. Justin Jefferson, who had proved so crucial for Minnesota throughout the season and in the first half, was silenced in the second. Minnesota’s great record in grinding out close games came to an end when it mattered the most, while a jubilant Giants set their sights on further success.

Elsewhere in the league the 49ers came out decisive victors in a 41-23 over the Seahawks and the Bengals made their first step in avenging their Superbowl loss last season with a 24-17 victory over the Ravens. The Bengals will come up against the Bills in the next round, with Patrick Mahomes’ Chiefs facing the Jaguars, the Eagles facing the Cowboys and the 49ers facing the Cowboys, as the stakes increase on the stairway to the Superbowl.


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