NFL Wild Card Weekend

The Plays That Changed the Games


Tennessee Titans at Kansas City Chiefs

They used to talk about the home-field advantage of the Kansas City Chiefs, like it was a mortal lock that if you walked into Arrowhead Stadium needing a win, you would be disappointed.

That aura, that mystique, is gone. Even this year they lost two home games during the regular season, something that, for a long time, was unfamiliar territory for the Chiefs.

That being said, the Titans weren't expected to do much at Kansas City as they went there for a first-round game against the Chiefs.

The Chiefs were seen as too good on offense, with too many weapons. With players like TE Travis Kelce, WR Tyreek Hill, and rookie sensation Kareem Hunt running the ball, they were in the top ten in the league for most major offensive stats.

That's why they play the games, right?

I could have chosen a number of plays that decided this game, but the one I went with was the loss of Travis Kelce with 1:17 left in the first half.

On a short pass to the right that fell incomplete, Kelce was hit in the head and left the game. Not long later, viewers were told he would miss the rest of the game with a concussion.

At first, it looked like Kansas City would be fine without him. They marched down the field in a little more than a minute and scored a touchdown to take a 17-7 lead, but that would be all their offense would do for the rest of the day.

In fact, they wouldn't score another point, and this was the number six scoring offense in the NFL during the regular season, averaging nearly 26 points per game.

You don't want to think one player can make that much of a difference, but it sure can.

Kelce was 11th in the league in receiving yards overall and second only to New England's Rob Gronkowski for tight ends in that category.

And, he had eight touchdowns on the season which put him tied for second most for tight ends.

Losing a security blanket like that, someone whom quarterback Alex Smith relies on, made a huge difference in the game and allowed Tennessee to advance to play New England next week.

Atlanta Falcons at Los Angeles Rams

I have to admit I had high hopes for the Rams. I thought they would go deep into the playoffs and maybe even win the Super Bowl.

In the fourth quarter, this was still a game. The Rams picked up a first down on a 3rd and 15 and went on to pull within six points of the Falcons, 19-13.

All the Rams needed was to stop the Falcons from scoring and they would have a real chance to take the lead.

On a 2nd and 13 from their own 38, the Falcons executed a perfect screen pass that went for 52 yards. From the Rams' 10-yard-line, easily in field goal range, Atlanta scored a touchdown that for all intents and purposes put the game out of reach.

With only 5:48 left in the game and needing two touchdowns, Los Angeles got within five yards of a touchdown on their next possession but didn't score.

They wouldn't even come close to scoring again.

That screen pass was clearly the play that iced the game for Atlanta and sent them to Philly next week to take on the Eagles.

Buffalo Bills at Jacksonville Jaguars

If you don't like defensive football, this wasn't the game for you.

For a long time, it looked like this game might go to overtime. No one seemed to be able to do much of anything.

In my opinion, that favored the Buffalo Bills. You cannot fall behind Jacksonville and expect to come back to win. You need to score every point you can.

I thought long and hard about this, but for me, the play that changed this game was Buffalo throwing on 1st and goal from Jacksonville's 1-yard-line in the 2nd quarter.

The Bills' best player all year has been LeSean McCoy. Their offense runs through him. That's no secret.

When it was thought he might miss this game, I gave the Bills no chance. When I found out he was playing, I called it about a 25 percent chance they might win.

So, on 1st and goal from the 1 why you don't give the ball to your best offensive player is a complete mystery to me.

The pass the Bills attempted not only fell incomplete, but they were called for a penalty which pushed them out to the 11-yard line.

They would lose a couple more yards on the next play and then tried another pass that was incomplete.

For me, it was a message to Jacksonville that the Bills didn't believe they could win by running the ball, so they had to try to outthink the Jaguars or make tricky plays.

Sometimes, you just have to line up and make a smash-mouth play. In this instance, throwing the ball played into the strength of the Jags defense. The Bills never really had a reasonable chance to score any more points after they kicked a field goal at the end of that series.

Next week, the Pittsburgh Steelers will try to avenge the week five shellacking they took at the hands of the Jaguars during the regular season.

Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints

This was a very fun game to watch, especially at the end.

To be fair, this game probably wasn't as close as the final score indicated. New Orleans held a 15-point lead late in the first half and Carolina never got within five points of the lead.

The play that really made the difference came with 6:43 left in the game when Saints QB Drew Brees connected on a 46-yard pass down the right sideline.

Only behind by five at the time, if Carolina could have held the Saints to no points or a field goal at worst, it still would have been a one-possession game. Two plays after that pass, however, New Orleans scored a touchdown to extend the lead to 12 points.

That meant the Panthers would have to score touchdowns to win.

They did get one of those touchdowns, but couldn't find a way to score after the Saints ate some clock and all of Carolina's timeouts.

On their last offensive play of the season, Carolina couldn't protect QB Cam Newton so he could heave a Hail Mary. Instead, rushing only four guys, Newton was sacked.

One kneel-down gave the Saints the win and booked them on a flight to Minnesota to face the Vikings.

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