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(Sports Illustrated)
(Sports Illustrated)

Wild Card Saturday Recap

The NFL playoffs, the cream of the crop, the biggest sporting tournament at the time started on January 13th, 2024. While there were supposed to be three games today, the Bills and Steelers had to postpone. The Buffalo area had crazy snow weather. Over half a foot of snow in the field. The New York Governor Kathy Hochul from a statement put on the Buffalo Bills X account said it was in the interest of public safety. The primary concern for the fans was travel. Nearly 50-mile-per-hour winds and snowfall would make it a risk. So, the new date for the game is Monday at 2:30 p.m. Arizona time, according to CBS Sports.

Now, for the first game of the day. Two cursed franchises both had a shot to earn a trip to the divisional round. The AFC South Houston Texans will take on the AFC North Cleveland Browns. Both teams beat preseason expectations but went about it in different ways. For the Texans, their rise came from a youth movement. Rookie QB C.J. Stroud broke records and looked like one of the most poised rookie signal-callers to ever play. With 23 touchdowns to only five picks, with well over 4000 total yards, the 22-year-old from Ohio State, along with rookie head coach DeMeco Ryans, became the first rookie head coach, quarterback duo to win their division, per the broadcast on NBC. As for the Browns, their roster had the pieces. A game wrecker and potential Defensive Player of the Year candidate in Myles Garrett, a top-flight running back, an improved and borderline elite defense, and a good offensive line. Those pieces, however, had issues staying on the field.

Their starting QB, Deshaun Watson, got hurt for the year with a shoulder injury, and key injuries left on the offense, and defense left them reeling in a tough division. However, through it all, they rallied. Signing an old veteran Joe Flacco gave them a better pass game than any other option. The two teams met and from kickoff, the game seemed like it was going to be a shootout. C.J. Stroud and wide receiver Nico Collins connected all day. The Browns scored two touchdowns courtesy of Kareem Hunt, and the Texans answered with a touchdown pass to Nico Collins, along with a game-breaking, 76-yard touchdown to tight end Brevin Jordan according to Yahoo Sports. This game had the makings of a shootout, but quickly, things turned south for Cleveland. The Texans had another 38-yard touchdown pass from Stroud to Dalton Schultz near the halt. C.J. Stroud tied the record for most touchdown passes by a rookie in a playoff game according to the NBC broadcast and X user PFF, and while the Browns drove the ball, Flacco threw back-to-back pick sixes to cornerback Steven Nelson and linebacker Christian Harris. The Texans would tack on another late-game rushing touchdown from Devin Singletary and the Texans completed a rout of the Cleveland Browns, winning 45 to 14.

Onto the Kansas City Chiefs hosting the Miami Dolphins, this game had crazy cold weather going into the game. The peak temperature for this game was only ten degrees and was dropping to zero before game time. Just the fifth time that a game would be played in sub-zero weather in NFL history.

As for storylines, the Chiefs, reigning Superbowl champs came into this game after a mixed regular season. On one hand, the defense for the Chiefs ranked second in points per game, yards per game, and total points from The Football Database, and their offensive line and running game were strong, but their receivers were one of the worst in the league. Dropping crucial passes from Patrick Mahomes and not playing up to standard the whole year. They go into this game looking to pick up momentum from an unusually pedestrian offense. For the Dolphins, they also had a roller coaster of a season. From being one of the best offenses in football, putting up 70 in a game against the Denver Broncos, to skidding and losing their division title in the last game to the Buffalo Bills. Tyreek Hill, one of the best pass catchers in the sport, finally makes a return to Arrowhead to play his former team. Setting up a revenge match if the Dolphins were to win. This would also be the first game broadcast on the streaming service Peacock, which fans were questioning the decision going into the game.

The game started with a good drive by Kansas City, capped off by a 12-yard strike from Patrick Mahomes to rookie Rashee Rice, who was one of the most reliable players for Kansas City all year. Then, on a pivotal third down and six, Tua Tagovailoa threw an interception to safety Mike Edwards. Not a good start for the Dolphins. The Chiefs were able to capitalize with a field goal to make it ten to nothing. Then, Tua threw a ball deep, and Tyreek came down with it even while underthrown and being interfered with to get Miami on the board. A brilliant play by Hill.

Kelce was uncharacteristically off. He had three drops only a few minutes into the second quarter. Even through all that, Kansas City’s offense was still able to find the rhythm, as Mahomes on a crucial fourth and four takes it and runs for thirty yards. Shortly after, the Chiefs had a touchdown taken away for a block in the back by Jawaan Taylor and had to settle for another field goal. before halftime, Mahomes connects with Rice again for a huge gain, setting up a third Harrison Butker field goal to go up 16 to 7. Out of the half, the Chiefs extended their lead with yet another field goal, continuing to stall.

The fourth quarter starts with an Isiah Pacheco touchdown, effectively ending the game. Pacheco himself had a great day on the ground. Accruing 89 yards and a score. The Chiefs move on and Miami goes home with the final score of   26 to seven. A somewhat sloppy game ending the first day of the playoffs.

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