The Saints, and their followers, had a easy want on Sunday: no surprises.
After three successive years of painful, freakish, even unfair, exits from the N.F.L. postseason, what the New Orleans Saints sought most of their wild-card playoff recreation on Sunday was nothing really memorable in any respect. An ordinary victory, even a humdrum one, would suffice, thanks.
The second seed within the N.F.C., and the most important favourite of the league’s opening postseason weekend, the Saints nonetheless obtained a little bit of a scare after they led by solely 4 factors after a jagged first half towards the lowly Chicago Bears. However New Orleans, the winner of 11 of its ultimate 13 regular-season video games, imposed its will on the seventh-seeded Bears with prolonged, methodical second-half drives to drag away for a tidy, predictable 21-9 victory.
The Saints’ subsequent recreation, nevertheless, will draw a far larger highlight and the stress of a marquee matchup of soccer royalty. It might even be the ultimate recreation between Saints quarterback Drew Brees and Tom Brady, whose fifth-seeded Tampa Bay Buccaneers will go to New Orleans in subsequent weekend’s divisional spherical.
The 2 have by no means met within the playoffs, and will probably be the primary recreation in N.F.L. historical past that includes two beginning quarterbacks over age 40. And whereas Brady, 43, has not prompt he’ll retire after this season, there’s appreciable hypothesis that Brees, who turns 42 on Friday, is taking part in in his ultimate N.FL. season.
After Sunday’s recreation, Brees stated that as quickly as Brady joined the Buccaneers he knew they’d be an N.F.C. crew “with playoff aspirations and past.”
Of the approaching showdown, Brees added, “I suppose it was inevitable.”
The Saints defeated Tampa Bay twice throughout the common season, outscoring the Buccaneers, 72-26.
Nursing an uncomfortable 7-3 halftime lead towards Chicago, the Saints used their first possession of the second half to mount a 12-play, 85-yard scoring drive that took seven minutes 29 seconds. There was just one essential play within the march downfield. On a third-and-4, Saints broad receiver Michael Thomas caught a 38-yard cross from Brees. 9 performs later, on second-and-goal on the Chicago 6-yard line, the Bears’ defensive entrance pressured Brees, who scrambled backward and appeared with out choices for safely eliminating the ball.
Only a few ft from Brees, operating again Latavius Murray rose from the turf alone after a blocking try. Separating Murray from Brees was Chicago’s fearsome linebacker Khalil Mack, who was bearing down on the quarterback. With a little bit of ingenuity, Brees, who accomplished 28 of 39 passes for 265 yards, lobbed a nifty, excessive, fluttering cross over Mack’s head that landed within the arms of Murray, who sprinted into the tip zone for a rating that put New Orleans forward, 14-3.
Though New Orleans tacked on a 3-yard landing run by Alvin Kamara, a stellar Saints protection took care of the remaining. Chicago gained simply 48 speeding yards. When Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky ran for 7 yards late within the recreation, it represented Chicago’s longest operating play of the sport. With no floor assault, the Bears threw the soccer repeatedly and netted solely 199 yards by means of the air.
“We pressured them to be one dimensional,” Saints Coach Sean Payton stated. “Whenever you try this, you’re going to win lots of video games.”
The full of 9 factors yielded by New Orleans — Chicago tight finish Jimmy Graham scored on a 19-yard landing cross on the sport’s ultimate play — was the bottom rating for a playoff opponent within the crew’s historical past.
Lamar Jackson and the Ravens obtained the win, and revenge, towards the Titans.
The dangerous blood between the Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans simmered after Tennessee routed the top-seeded Ravens in final season’s playoffs and the manifest animus was on full show throughout a pregame spat on the Ravens’ midfield emblem in Baltimore earlier than an everyday season recreation two months in the past. The Titans surprisingly received that recreation, too.
Sunday, in a chippy, spirited recreation, the Ravens obtained their revenge — and rubbed it in — with a 20-13 wild-card recreation victory in Tennessee. When Baltimore defensive again Marcus Peters intercepted a cross from Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill with lower than two minutes remaining within the fourth quarter, he and several other of his teammates stomped and danced on the Titans’ midfield emblem as they turned to face the Tennessee bench.
The gesture drew a taunting penalty however a 33-yard run by Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson two performs later doomed any probability the Titans had for a rally. It was becoming that Jackson was on the heart of the sport’s pivotal ultimate second because the victory was his first within the postseason in three appearances. For the final two years, promising Baltimore seasons have abruptly ended after dwelling playoff upsets with Jackson on the helm.
“It was in my thoughts,” Jackson stated afterward about his 0-2 postseason file coming into the sport. “I’m glad to get it carried out. It wasn’t going to be the identical outcomes. We lastly completed.”
Jackson, whose 48-yard landing run tied the sport at 10-10 late within the first half, had 136 speeding yards on 16 carries and accomplished 17 of 24 passes for 179 yards. However as dominant as Jackson was, Baltimore’s protection could have had the most important affect on the sport’s final result because it held Titans operating again Derrick Henry to solely 40 yards speeding on 18 makes an attempt. The longest run from scrimmage for Henry, who led the N.F.L. in speeding for a second consecutive 12 months with 2,027 yards, was 8 yards.
“Our protection was uninterested in listening to the noise,” Jackson stated of reminders that Henry had gashed the Ravens protection of their two most up-to-date conferences.
The sport remained tied till a 4-yard landing run by Baltimore operating again J.Ok. Dobbins within the third quarter. A tense wrestle ensued for the remainder of the sport and the groups traded discipline objectives within the fourth quarter. Trailing, 20-13, Tennessee took possession of the soccer at their 21-yard line with a little bit greater than 4 minutes remaining within the recreation.
5 performs later, the Titans had superior solely 11 yards, and simply after the two-minute warning, Tannehill threw towards broad receiver Kalif Raymond, who slipped — or was pushed — to the bottom as he was making a break for the cross. With Raymond at his ft, Peters intercepted Tannehill’s throw. On the finish of the play, Ravens gamers gathered on the Titans midfield emblem.
After the sport, many Ravens, together with Jackson, left the sector with out collaborating within the conventional postgame shaking of palms. Jackson later known as the Titans “disrespectful” for his or her habits previous the November common season recreation. He added: “There wasn’t no motive for us to shake palms.”
Baltimore was set to play both in Kansas Metropolis or Buffalo subsequent week, relying on the end result of the Cleveland Browns-Pittsburgh Steelers recreation scheduled for Sunday night time.