Here’s what happened in Saturday’s NFL wild-card games
Trevor Lawrence led Jacksonville to 24 second-half points to complete the third biggest playoff comeback in N.F.L. history.
By JOE DRAPE and KRIS RHIM
This was not the kind of history Trevor Lawrence wanted to make in his first playoff appearance: The Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback became the first player in the Super Bowl era to throw three interceptions in the first quarter of a playoff game.
It got worse.
Lawrence threw a fourth interception in the second quarter, and by the time 30 minutes of football was in the books, Jacksonville was in a 27-7 hole.
Three of the interceptions went to Asante Samuel Jr., who became the first player with three defensive interceptions in a playoff game since New England’s Ty Law and Carolina’s Ricky Manning both did it on Jan. 18, 2004.
No worries. Lawrence led Jacksonville to 24 second-half points to complete the third biggest playoff comeback in NFL history to defeat the Los Angeles Chargers 31-30.
Instead of quitting, Lawrence and the Jaguars forgot about their first-half yips and mounted a determined effort to advance to the divisional round of the AFC playoffs.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Lawrence, who finished 28 for 47 for 288 yards and four touchdowns. “You couldn’t write a crazier script.”
Lawrence, in his second year in Jacksonville, had led the Jaguars to their fourth division championship since the franchise’s inception in 1995. Despite the awful first half, the Jaguars regrouped at halftime.
They had been down and out before — starting the season 4-8 before winning their last five games and earning their place in the playoffs. At halftime, Lawrence reminded his teammates of their penchant for finding success when their backs were against the wall.
“We said in the locker room that’s kind of how our season’s going. We’re never out of the fight. I’m kind of speechless, honestly, just to see what belief can do and to see when a team believes in each other what you can accomplish,” Lawrence said.
In the second half, Lawrence guided Jacksonville down the field with three sustained and efficient drives. He threw touchdown passes to Zay Jones, Christian Kirk and Marvin Jones.
Lawrence then added a 2-point conversion leap over the pile to make it 30-28 with 5:25 to go. When the Jaguars’ defense forced a punt, Lawrence had 3:09 left in the game and the ball at his own 21-yard line.
It did not take long for Jacksonville to find their way into Chargers’ territory. With 1:28 left in the game and facing fourth-and-1 from the Chargers’ 41-yard line, Jacksonville coach Doug Pederson decided his team was too far out for a game-winning field-goal attempt.
Instead, he called for Jacksonville’s workhorse, running back Travis Etienne Jr., to carry his team closer to a victory.
“I feel like the running back, when it gets to that point of the game, you’re supposed to be the closer,” Etienne said. “Coach believed in me on that fourth-and-1, to give me the ball. I had to make something happen for my teammates.”
Etienne did. He took the handoff from Lawrence and bounced outside to the right sideline for a 25-yard scamper that made for easy work for field-goal kicker Riley Patterson.
With three seconds on the clock, Patterson booted a 36-yard field goal for the victory that finished the season for the Chargers.
The Jaguars? They can forget a dismal first half. They are playing on, advancing to the AFC divisional round for the first time since the 2017 season.
After tight first half, 49ers roll over Seahawks to advance to divisional round
The storms that have battered California for two weeks and knocked out power for thousands of residents, including San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle, were supposed to significantly affect Saturday’s early wild-card game between the 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks. But just before kickoff, the rain paused, and as the sun shined, the 49ers went on to dominate the Seahawks 41-23 to advance to the divisional round.
Brock Purdy, the 49ers’ rookie quarterback, also shined in his playoff debut. Purdy, who was selected with the last pick of the 2022 NFL draft and began the season as the team’s third-string quarterback, threw for 332 yards and three touchdowns. Running back Christian McCaffrey added 119 yards on the ground, and receiver Deebo Samuel collected 165 total yards and a touchdown.
Seattle led 17-16 after the first half, but San Francisco responded with 25 unanswered points to start the second.
Purdy’s best play of the game came in the fourth quarter when he spun out of what looked like a surefire sack and found 49ers running back Elijah Mitchell for a touchdown. Purdy then threw a pass to Kittle on a successful 2-point conversion to put the 49ers up by 14. Later in the quarter, Samuel caught a short pass and ran for a 74-yard touchdown.
The game effectively ended after that drive. Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith threw an interception on the Seahawks’ next possession. Smith threw for 253 yards and two touchdowns, and receiver DK Metcalf caught 10 passes for 136 yards and two touchdowns.
SUNDAY’S EARLY NFL WILD-CARD GAME
Bills 34, Dolphins 31