by Senji Torrey
Media Production Editor
In the second week of the New Year, the 2020-2021 NFL playoffs kicked off with an unprecedented “Super Wildcard Weekend,” establishing a new playoff system that includes twelve teams facing off against each other.
The weekend began on Jan. 9 with a morning matchup against the seventh-seeded Indianapolis Colts and the second-seeded Buffalo Bills. Despite the obvious seeding mismatch, the Colts found themselves competing extremely well with their opponents. In fact, Indianapolis was able to keep the score within seven points for the entirety of the game. However, the Bills’ offensive ability ultimately allowed them to edge out their counterparts with a final score of 27-24.
The next game on the docket consisted of an NFC West matchup between the third-seeded Seattle Seahawks and the sixth-seeded Los Angeles Rams. During the game, both teams relied heavily on their elite defenses to carry their teams to victory. Rams’ cornerback Darious Williams even scored a touchdown for LA after intercepting a pass in the second quarter. The Seahawks defense was solid as well, preventing third and fourth down conversions 14 times. Middle-linebacker Bobby Wagner—who posted a game-leading 11 tackles, as well as one sack— proved to be one of Seattle’s only bright-spots, as the Rams came out comfortably on top with a score of 30-20.
The final Saturday game pitted the fifth-seed Tampa Bay Buccaneers against the fourth-seed Washington Football Team. The Buccaneers commanded the scoreboard for the entire game, although both teams worked well against each other’s defenses. Washington’s defense did step up significantly in the final third of their territory, forcing the Buccaneers to opt for four field goals within thirty yards of the endzone. These field goals, and a few clinical throwing touchdowns, proved to be enough for Tampa Bay, as they prevailed past Washington 31-23.
The first game on Sunday saw the fifth-seeded Baltimore Ravens take on the fourth-seeded Tennessee Titans. While both teams were tied at the end of the first half, Tennessee had the momentum coming into the second half. However, the Titans were unable to capitalize on this advantage and quickly saw their grip slip away as they fell to the Ravens by a score of 20-13.
The second-seeded New Orleans Saints faced off against the seventh-seeded Chicago Bears in a “South meets North” matchup just an hour after the previous game. The Saints were decisive favorites to win this game, and they played that way all game. Through all four quarters, New Orleans was always leading the game and left the game with their 13th win on the season with a 21-9 victory over Chicago. The Bears gave a valiant effort, with a posterizing touchdown catch by former Saint tight-end Jimmy Graham in the final seconds of the game served as a harrowing reminder of what the Southern side had traded away.
The final wildcard game of the season put the second-seeded Pittsburgh Steelers against the sixth-seeded Cleveland Browns. Contrary to the seed placement, this game never leaned in favor of Pittsburgh. From the first play, a muffled snap that resulted in a Browns’ touchdown, the Steelers’ fate was written. Though the Steelers eventually steadied themselves and even led the game in total yards, Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s four interceptions practically handed the game to Cleveland. By the end of the game, the Browns had pulled through with a 48-37 win over the Steelers.
Be sure to stay tuned for the divisional round analysis piece coming next week! Here is the schedule for the next round:
- Rams Packers → 1/16 → 1:35 PM
- Ravens Bills → 1/16 → 5:15 PM
- Browns Chiefs → 1/17 → 12:05 PM
- Buccaneers Saints → 1/17 → 3:40 PM