The first round of the 2019 playoffs kicked off in electrifying fashion, with two overtime nail-biters, three road team victories, and the possible end to a dynasty. Here are four takeaways from Wild Card weekend as we look ahead to the Divisional round on Saturday.
Deshaun Watson can carry his team on his back
In Saturday’s overtime thriller in Houston, Deshaun Watson almost single-handedly slashed a 16-point deficit and led the Texans to a first-round victory over the fifth-seeded Buffalo Bills.
Before the end of the third quarter, Watson completed a 20-yard run to the end zone, then rushed for a two-point conversion to bring Houston within striking distance. In the fourth quarter he reeled off a five-yard touchdown pass to Carlos Hyde and another two-point conversion to put Houston up 19-16 with nearly four minutes remaining.
His most impressive play may have come in the closing minutes of overtime. On 2nd-and-6 from the Buffalo 44, Watson escaped a near sack and connected with Taiwan Jones on a 34-yard reception that set up Houston’s game-clinching field goal.
DESHAUN WATSON TO TAIWAN JONES 🔥🔥🔥🔥
TEXANS WIN!!! pic.twitter.com/P1bMpcHFSk
— Abdul Memon (@abdulamemon) January 5, 2020
Watson finished the night with 247 yards on 20-of-25 passing, a team-high 55 rushing yards and two total TDs. He and the No. 4 Texans next head to Kansas City to face the Chiefs, a team Houston already defeated in the regular season, 31-24.
Tom Brady’s future is in doubt after loss against Titans
The defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots found themselves in an unfamiliar position Saturday—in the Wild Card round of the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
At home inside Gillette Stadium, the Pats seemed to hum at first and built a 13-7 lead against the No. 6 seed Tennessee Titans. It all came crashing down, though, as Derrick Henry rolled through the Pats defense for a Titans playoff record 182 yards and added a touchdown in the second quarter.
Tom Brady looked shaky in the passing game and completed 20 of 37 passes for 209 yards. Worst of all, on his final throw of the season, he coughed up an interception returned for a touchdown.
As a result of Saturday’s defeat, the Pats suffered consecutive home losses for the first time since 2006 and halted their run of eight straight AFC Championship Game appearances.
The conclusion to Brady’s 20th year in the league was far from a fairy tale, and it’s unlikely the six-time Super Bowl winner will retire on such a down note. Whether he’ll return in a New England uniform in 2020 is another question, and speculation is bubbling that head coach Bill Belichick and Brady will see an end to their dynasty in the coming season.
Tom Brady to Peter King of NBC Sports after the Wild Card loss.
“If it’s the Patriots, great. If that doesn’t work, I don’t know.” pic.twitter.com/eu85ovpJ3x
— Raul Martinez (@RaulNBCBoston) January 6, 2020
Kirk Cousins has a clutch gene
It’s a good thing the Minnesota Vikings’ matchup with the New Orleans Saints didn’t take place Monday night, considering Kirk Cousins is 0-9 in that time slot. Instead, the Vikings marched into the Superdome on Sunday afternoon, and Minnesota’s oft-criticized quarterback rose to the occasion against No. 3 seed New Orleans.
In overtime Minnesota got the first possession and needed a touchdown to secure a win. On third-and-10 Cousins completed a 10-yard pass to Stefon Diggs to extend the team’s drive, before he launched a 43-yard pass to Adam Thielen to put the Vikings on the Saints’ 2-yard line. After Dalvin Cook failed to score from the goal line and lost yardage on his second attempt, Cousins put the ball in the air one final time and found Kyle Rudolph in the end zone for the game-winning touchdown.
— Christopher Reiss (@NFL_ChrisReiss) January 5, 2020
Cousins completed 19 of 31 passes for 242 yards and managed to outperform Saints legend Drew Brees (26 of 33 for 208 yards, one touchdown and one interception).
The Vikes will now travel to No. 1 seed San Francisco and need more of the same from Cousins, along with Cook, who tallied 94 yards on the ground and two touchdowns against New Orleans’ No. 4-ranked rushing defense.
Metcalf is a future star
The Seattle Seahawks’ road test against the Philadelphia Eagles played out almost exactly as their previous meeting in Philly, during the second half of the season. Seattle worked up a 10-3 lead heading into halftime (the same halftime score from Week 12) and held off the Eagles for a 17-9 win (again the same final score from last time out).
This time around, however, Carson Wentz lasted just two series before he suffered a head injury, and 40-year-old Josh McCown stepped in, becoming the oldest quarterback to make his playoff debut.
The other difference on Sunday was the performance of Seahawks rookie receiver DK Metcalf. In Week 12 Metcalf collected three passes for 35 yards and played less of a factor in a game dominated by now-injured Seattle running back Rashaad Penny.
On Sunday, Metcalf stole the show and accomplished both a rookie and franchise record for receiving yards in a playoff game, with 160 on seven catches. The second-round draft pick out of Ole Miss also scored a touchdown and pulled in a 36-yard reception on third-and-10 with 1:47 left that allowed Seattle to kneel and run out the clock.
The ultimate amount of disrespect from DK Metcalf waving bye to Eagles fans ✌️😭 pic.twitter.com/80H58vQ3xg
— Kyle ⚾️ (@KyleNYY) January 6, 2020
The Seahawks became the third road team to win in the first-round of the 2019 playoffs and get Green Bay at Lambeau Field on Sunday.