By Anthony McClean, Editor-In-Chief Emeritus
A look back at how the Field Generals fared during Super Wild Card Weekend.
Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia (Loss at Tampa Bay)
This one was ugly from the first snap to the last snap. Tampa Bay (14-4) set the tempo from the start, with Tom Brady leading a pair of long TD drives in the opening quarter and building the lead to 17-0 by halftime. The Bucs defense did its part, too, intercepting Hurts twice in the Philadelphia quarterback’s playoff debut. The Bucs ran 25 plays to Philadelphia’s eight in the first quarter, outgaining the Eagles 137 yards to 17 and compiling an 11-1 edge in first downs. The youngest quarterback to start a playoff game for the Eagles at 23, No. 1 finished his playoff debut 23 of 43 passing for 258 yards. He ran for a team-high 39 yards on eight attempts, with the Eagles finishing with 95 yards rushing overall — well below their season average of 159.7 per game.
Dak Prescott, Dallas (Loss vs. San Francisco)
The long wait for Dallas (12-6) to reach even an NFC championship game will tick up to 27 years after another first-game flameout in the postseason. Nursing a lead late, San Francisco attempted to run out most of the clock, and the 49ers intended to go for the win on fourth down when a run from Deebo Samuel ended up short — by inches after the ball was nudged upon review. Instead, San Francisco punted after a false start, giving Dallas one more chance. The Cowboys started at their 20 with 32 seconds to go. Following a pair of completions with 14 seconds left, Dak shockingly took off on a designed run and slid at the end of a 17-yard run, with about eight seconds to go. Umpire Ramon George bumped Prescott trying to set the spot. The snap from the San Francisco 24 came after the clock expired. Dallas coach Mike McCarthy suggested Prescott was slowed by the collision with George, and that a sideline official assured him the play was being reviewed. Players from both teams streamed onto the field immediately after Prescott took the snap and spiked the ball, and many did a U-turn as officials discussed the play. Then, referee, Alex Kemp announced the game was over. A franchise postseason record of 14 penalties did not help the boys from Arlington, but the bizarre ending is what this game will be remembered for. On the day, No. 4 was 23 of 43 for 254 yards and was sacked five times. Defensively, the Niners also held Ezekiel Elliott to 31 yards on 12 carries as the Cowboys were outgained 169-77 on the ground.
Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City (Win vs. Pittsburgh)
It took a misplay on offense that lead the Steelers to an early score that opened up the inner beast in Mr. Mahomes. No. 15 proceeded to throw for 404 yards and five scores, leading Kansas City to the end zone on six straight possessions after the turnover, and the Chiefs cruised through the second half for a wild-card victory. In the span of fewer than six minutes, Mahomes and the Chiefs had turned a seven-point deficit into a 21-7 lead. The performance not only sent Kansas City into the divisional round of the playoffs, but it also turned Sunday night’s game against Buffalo — a rematch of last year’s AFC title game — into appointment viewing. Ironically, the Bills had a similarly easy time with their 47-17 victory over New England the previous evening. Judging by the final score, you’d never guess the first quarter was all about defense: The Steelers ran 14 plays and went 12 yards, while the Chiefs had more punt return yards (70) than they had from scrimmage (62). It wasn’t quite the 23-0 halftime advantage the Chiefs had in their December blowout of the Steelers, but it sure felt that way. Roethlisberger was 5 of 14 for 24 yards in the first half and Pittsburgh had 55 yards total offense.
Kyler Murray, Arizona (Loss at L.A. Rams)
In a game that mirrored Arizona’s late-season collapse, the Rams jumped on the Cardinals early and cruised into the divisional round. At one point, the Rams had 163 yards of offense and the Cardinals minus-3. Murray, in his first playoff game, played arguably the poorest game of his career. At halftime, he had completed just 7-of-17 passes for 28 yards, two interceptions, and a passer rating of only 9.3 as the Rams piled up a 21-0 lead. Of the Cardinals’ seven first-half possessions, five were three-and-outs and the other two were the picks. Overall, No. 1 finished 19 for 34 for 137 yards. But the damage had long been done. But the troubles that plagued the Cardinals down the stretch – taking a team that was once 7-0 and 10-2 to a final 11-6 regular-season record – seemed to follow.
Anthony McClean can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.