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WILDCARD GAME RECAP: Jaguars Outlast Bills, Panthers Fall Short

Jaguars 10, Bills 3

Football isn’t always pretty. This game was a testament to that.

The Jacksonville Jaguars did enough to edge the Buffalo Bills, emerging with a 10-3 victory and getting their first playoff win since 2007 in the process. Buffalo ended their 18-year playoff drought but still haven’t won in the postseason since 1995.

As the final score indicates, this was a defensive showcase, as both units largely stifled the opposition’s offense. There were a combined total of 17 punts by the end.

The two teams traded field goals in the second quarter to go to halftime at 3 all. The Jaguars pulled ahead with a 1-yard touchdown pass to Ben Koyack from Blake Bortles, which ended up being the deciding score.

Bortles was shaky all day through the air, only getting 87 yards and the TD on 12 for 23 passing. The Bills defense had a number of interceptions they failed to hold on to. Bortles made an impact with his legs, however, scrambling 10 times for 88 yards, which led the team.

Leonard Fournette was mostly held in check, gaining 57 yards on the ground with 21 carries. Most of Bortles’ passing yardage went to rookie Dede Westbrook (5 catches, 48 yards).

Tyrod Taylor was equally as anemic in the passing game as Bortles; while he had more yardage (134 yards), he didn’t complete 50% of his passes, going 17 for 37. The one interception he threw to Aaron Colvin was the result of a dropped pass, however.

Taylor had a chance to lead the team on a game-tying drive with less than two minutes left but got knocked out of the game with a head injury. Backup Nathan Peterman was able to convert on fourth-down during the next play, only to throw an INT of his own to Jalen Ramsey, who appeared to lose control of the ball as he went to the ground. Replay upheld the turnover, something that’ll surely contribute to the ongoing discussion about what a catch is.

The Bills offense leaned heavily on LeSean McCoy, who was playing with a sprained ankle. He did as much as he could, rushing 19 times for 75 yards and leading the team in receiving with 6 grabs for 44 yards.

The third-seeded Jaguars will go on the road next Sunday to take on the two-seeded Pittsburgh Steelers. The Tennessee Titans, who upset the Kansas City Chiefs yesterday, will play the top-seeded New England Patriots on Saturday night.

Saints 31, Panthers 26

The Carolina Panthers refused to die. They kept themselves alive through three quarters of average football and had a chance to win at the end. But they couldn’t finish the job.

As a result, the New Orleans Saints came away with a 31-26 over their division rivals to advance to the next round of the playoffs. They’ll play the Minnesota Vikings this coming Sunday.

Until the final period, it was a Saints dominated affair, with Graham Gano‘s four field goals serving as the Panthers only offense. Gano actually missed a chip shot early in the first quarter that would’ve allowed his team to play for a game-winning kick on their final drive instead of a touchdown.

In the fourth, however, the Panthers came alive, in spite of a brief injury to Cam Newton after a Tyeler Davison sack. They got the game to within 5 points and had a prime opportunity to win following a questionable decision by the Saints to go for it on 4th-and-2 after the two-minute warning. That play resulted in a Mike Adams interception.

Alas, the Panthers failed to get in the end-zone despite moving the ball inside the Saints 20-yard line. A close intentional grounding penalty on Newton set them back, and Vonn Bell close things out with a sack on 4th down.

Newton should be commended for hanging in there when things were dire. He finished with 349 yards and 2 TDs on 24 for 40 passing, with 37 additional yards on 8 rushes. The scores went to Greg Olsen (8 catches, 107 yards) and Christian McCaffrey (6 catches, 101 yards). Devin Funchess (4 catches, 79 yards) also played a factor down the stretch. Jonathan Stewart had just 51 yards on 11 carries.

His last throw wasn’t a great one, but Drew Brees was outstanding otherwise. The 38-year old gunslinger threw for 376 yards and 2 TDs on 23 for 33 passing. Both Michael Thomas (8 catches, 131 yards) and Ted Ginn (4 catches, 115 yards and a TD) broke the century mark. Josh Hill (3 catches, 49 yards) had the other score.

The Panthers defense was able to limit the two-headed monster of Alvin Kamara (10 carries, 23 yards) and Mark Ingram (9 carries, 22 yards), though the former scored from one-yard out. Fullback Zach Line also had a short TD.

All in all, the wildcard round gave us some entertaining football, though the officiating was up-and-down for the most part. Here’s hoping the divisional round does the same.

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