The NFL’s wild-card weekend sent four teams to the Divisional Round and four others home for the winter as some stars shined while others faded to black.
The Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans punched their tickets to the next round with victories on Saturday over the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots, respectively. On Sunday, the Minnesota Vikings advanced by stunning the New Orleans Saints. Then, the Seattle Seahawks moved on by taking down the Eagles in Philly.
These are the biggest studs and duds from the action during NFL’s wild-card weekend.
Stud: Derrick Henry was a runaway freight train
Ryan Tannehill passed for 67 net yards Saturday night, and normally that type of production is not a winning formula in the playoffs. Normal isn’t a word we can use to describe the pounding Derrick Henry and the Titans offensive line put on the vaunted New England Patriots defense.
The former Heisman winner was a machine. He touched the ball 35 times — well over half of the 56 total plays the Titans ran Saturday — racking up 204 yards and a touchdown. Henry also tallied all 75 yards and a score on the team’s seven-play touchdown-scoring drive to end the first half and take the lead for good.
Dud: Tom Brady couldn’t conjure the magic
There is a real possibility that Tom Brady has played his last game as a member of the New England Patriots. What the 42-year-old did Saturday night certainly did not help his cause as the Patriots carefully consider their best move into the future.
Due partly to the Patriots’ distinct lack of potent playmakers, Brady managed just 207 yards on 20-of-37 passing with zero touchdowns and a game-sealing pick-six in the fourth quarter. In the process, the Patriots experienced their earliest playoff exit in a decade.
Stud: Deshaun Watson was sublime
Here’s what makes Deshaun Watson so damn special. In a game that saw him get no support from a bad offensive line up front — a line that gave up seven sacks — he found a way to come back and win with one of the most spectacular plays we’ve seen all season long.
Watson attempted 25 passes. He was hit 12 times. Most quarterbacks would wilt under that kind of pressure. Watson, instead, transformed into a sparkling diamond.
He completed 20-of-25 passes for 247 yards with a touchdown. He also put his team on his back for the first score of the game, a 20-yard run that saw him drag multiple defenders the final five yards into the end zone.
Dud: Josh Allen melted down
Second-year quarterback Josh Allen was razor sharp during the first half of Saturday’s wild-card game against Houston. He completed 13-of-20 passes for 131 yards, rushed for 52 yards, and had an electrifying 16-yard touchdown catch on a trick-play toss from John Brown.
Then, Allen made mistakes in the second half and overtime, melting down at the worst possible time for his team.
After halftime, Allen competed just 11-of-26 passes for 133 yards with a lost fumble, a few bad sacks taken, along with a brutal penalty that doomed Buffalo’s offense.
Stud: Kirk Cousins with a breakout performance
We’d be remiss if we didn’t give a mention to Dalvin Cook and the Minnesota offensive line for a dominant performance on the ground. But when the Vikings needed him the most, quarterback Kirk Cousins delivered excellence.
Out-playing future Hall of Famer Drew Brees, Cousins completed 19-of-31 passes for 242 yards. It wasn’t a spectacular performance overall, but when the Vikings got to overtime, Cousins shined the brightest with two of the best throws of his career, including the game-winning touchdown to tight end Kyle Rudolph (watch here).
Dud: Drew Brees turnovers killed the Saints
The Minnesota defensive line dominated Sunday’s game in New Orleans, and Drew Brees suffered through a miserable performance because of it. The future Hall of Famer did complete all but seven of his 33 attempts Sunday, but the Saints managed just 177 net passing yards on those attempts.
Even worse, Brees turned the ball over twice, both times hurting his team in a big way. The first was the interception he threw to Anthony Harris near the end of the second quarter. That turnover led to Minnesota’s go-ahead touchdown right before halftime. Then, with just over four minutes left in the fourth quarter, his lost fumble deep in enemy territory cost the Saints points.
Stud: D.K. Metcalf with a legendary postseason debut
Rookie Seattle Seahawks receiver D.K. Metcalf made a stunning playoff debut Sunday night against the Philadelphia Eagles. Setting the record for most receiving yards by a rookie in his first postseason game, the second-round pick out of Ole Miss hauled in seven passes for 160 yards.
In addition to the yardage, Metcalf hauled in an incredible touchdown in the third quarter that proved to be the game-winning score. He laid out for a deep pass, took a tumble then popped back up to get into the end zone before he was tackled (watch here). On top of all that, it was Metcalf’s leaping catch late in the fourth quarter that sealed the win.
Tremendous stuff from the rookie.
Dud: Philly’s offensive line was a train wreck
We get it. It would have been absolutely stunning if the Eagles were able to dominate the line of scrimmage due to their injuries on the offensive line. On Sunday, Philly was without starting guard Brandon Brooks and starting tackle Lane Johnson.
Seattle took full advantage of the lack of cohesion and talent, racking up seven sacks and nine quarterback hits. Without any time to let longer-developing plays open up downfield, Philly’s offense was extremely limited and just never could find consistent rhythm.