By Steve Kelly
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, led by Tom Brady, held on to beat the WFT, 31-23.
Tampa Bay built a comfortable lead after Buccaneers defenders hit WFT QB Taylor Heinicke twice on a drive to start the fourth quarter, sending him to the locker room to have his left, non-throwing shoulder, evaluated.
Brady then took the game over. He hit receiver Mike Evans with passes of 20 and 19 yards the ensuing drive that ended in a touchdown score when Fournette ran for a touchdown to push the Buccaneers’ lead to 28-16. Overall, Brady completed 22 of 40 passes for 381 yards and two touchdown scores. His first, a 36-yard dart to receiver Antonio Brown, put Brady in the record books yet again. At 43 years and 159 days old, he passed George Blanda to become the oldest quarterback to throw for a touchdown in the postseason.
Heinicke wasn’t through, though. He sprinted out of the locker room in time to push Washington back down the field again without missing a Washington offensive play. He hit tight end Logan Thomas and several other receivers before finding receiver Cam Sims in the corner of the end zone with an 11-yard scoring pass, the culmination of an 11-play, 75-yard drive.
In Los Angeles, where the Rams beat the Seahawks 30-20, complemented quarterback Jared Goff, who played with a broken thumb on his throwing hand, and held the Seahawks’ offense to 278 yards, their fewest all season.
Los Angeles forced five three-and-outs, sacked Russell Wilson five times and returned an interception for a touchdown. The Rams’ fearsome defensive tackle Aaron Donald, long Wilson’s nemesis, had two of those sacks on the same first-quarter drive before hurting his ribs and leaving in the third quarter.
But Goff didn’t commit a turnover in the game and threw a victory-sealing touchdown to Robert Woods with less than five minutes remaining after the Rams recovered a fumble on a kickoff. Even as the Rams advanced to next weekend’s divisional round with an uncertain quarterback situation, McVay was comforted by Los Angeles’s dominance on the other side of the ball.
And in Buffalo, the Bills won a playoff game for the first time in more than 24 years. They fell behind, went ahead and fended off Indianapolis’s spirited fourth-quarter comeback to win, 27-24, for their first postseason victory since Dec. 30, 1995.
After getting intervention from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, and an elaborate coronavirus testing program, the Bills hosted fans for the first time this season, about 6,700 of them. The festivities began Saturday morning, when the Zubaz-clad crowd banged the bleachers, played catch with the receiver Stefon Diggs and unfurled banners with glee. One read, “Bundle Up America: We’re Back.”
The party was sure to rage deep into the night in Western New York after Philip Rivers’s Hail Mary attempt from the Buffalo 47-yard line was knocked down, and the Bills, who had lost their last six playoff games, streamed onto the field to celebrate.
Led by the quarterback Josh Allen, who had a role in all three Bills touchdowns on Saturday, Buffalo scored 17 consecutive points, turning a 10-7 first-half deficit into a 24-10 fourth-quarter lead. But as Rivers fired touchdown passes on the Colts’ first two drives of the final period, the Bills managed only a field goal on theirs, giving Indianapolis a final chance to tie or take the lead.
Facing fourth-and-10 from his team’s 37-yard line, Rivers connected with Zach Pascal, who made a diving catch for 17 yards but was stripped after getting up. The reception was upheld on instant replay, giving the Colts first-and-10 at the Buffalo 46, but they lost a yard on their next three plays, failed to reach the kicker Rodrigo Blankenship’s field-goal range and forced Rivers into making a desperate, but incomplete heave.