The NFL’s 2023 Wild Card Weekend has entered the record books alongside, possibly, Tom Brady’s final entry into same. More on that in a bit. First, recaps of the Sunday, January 15th, and Monday, January 16th games.
Kicking things off on Sunday was the Miami Dolphins giving a sloppy Buffalo Bills squad all it could handle before coming out on the wrong end of a 34-31 score. The Dolphins, down to third-string quarterback Skylar Thompson who, while not embarrassing himself, was not Brock Purdy’s doppelgänger, kept things tight to where Miami had a legitimate shot at tying, if not outright winning until “The Team That Can’t Tell When Their Quarterback Has a Concussion“ did its thing and couldn’t figure out which down it was. Apparently, they thought that number four on the sideline down marker strictly referenced the quarter. Oops. Anyway, Bills Mafia fights on, albeit almost despite itself.
Next, we had the “Oh, they’re in the playoffs?” matchup between the New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings. In something of a surprise, the Giants won 31-24 in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the score suggested. Oft-maligned Giants quarterback Daniel Jones had a sweet day, completing 24 of 35 passes for 301 yards and two touchdowns. He also showed some sweet steps by rushing for 78 yards. As to the Vikings, while they didn’t embarrass themselves, they did show why they may be the worst team to lose only four regular season games in NFL history. When they needed to step up, they stepped in it.
The final Sunday game was Tweety versus Sylvester … er, the Baltimore Ravens versus Cincinnati Bengals. Given Baltimore’s offensive woes when quarterback Lamar Jackson is injured, which is pretty much every postseason, the game figured on paper to be a mismatch. It wasn’t. Not that the Ravens turned the Bengals into paper tigers, but Cincinnati’s offensive line played like five of them as Baltimore hit Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow more often than a model gets hit on at a biker bar. Nevertheless, with a massive assist from Ravens head coach John Harbaugh’s desire to draw attention away from his brother Jim’s “Will he or won’t he leave Michigan?” headline-grabbing by first some peculiar play-calling — no, really, you tried to dive over the pile into the end zone from two yards out, letting the Bengals snatch the ball and run it back 98 yards for a touchdown? — and then even more curious clock management at the game’s end, making an already difficult task for the offense well nigh impossible, Cincinnati won 24-17.
Finally, we had the Monday night affair between the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. From the outset, kicker Brett Maher’s inability to do his one job notwithstanding — how do you miss four straight extra point attempts? — the Cowboys played like they wanted to move on to the next round, while the Buccaneers played like they wanted to move into the nearest retirement home. The 31-14 final accurately reflected the game. Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott was on top of things, with four touchdown passes and one rushing touchdown to boot. Tom Brady looked his age for much of the game, leading one to wonder if he will call it a day after this dismal season’s end. If so, this game will hardly tarnish his status as the greatest quarterback ever. Period.
On to the divisional round.
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