NFL Playoffs review: Buffalo Bills fall flat on return

NFL
Jacksonville fans celebrate
Jacksonville fans celebrate

The Buffalo Bills fell at the first hurdle as they ended their long post-season drought with a 10-3 defeat to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the Wild Card Round of the play-offs.

Buffalo - who suffered the longest barren spell without post-season action across all four major sports in the US before this season - had not featured in the play-offs since losing 22-16 at this stage in 1999, and had not reached the Divisional Round since 1995.

Both quarterbacks struggled in the tight affair at EverBank Field, with the Jaguars' Blake Bortles only throwing for 87 yards while Bills counterpart Tyrod Taylor completed just 17 of his 38 attempted passes as Buffalo failed to score a touchdown for the third time this season.

A drab first quarter finished scoreless and the second quarter nearly followed suit as both sides started nervously before a fantastic interception by Jaguars cornerback Aaron Colvin gave the match some spark.

The Bills broke the deadlock when Stephen Hauschka kicked a 31-yard field goal following a mammoth 18-play drive that lasted eight minutes and six seconds, but Jacksonville levelled the scores with a 44-yard field goal from Josh Lambo with two seconds of the first half remaining.

The Jaguars - who were playing in their first post-season match since 2007 - took the lead for the first time in the match after Bortles found tightend Ben Koyack to complete a 15-play for 86 yards in the third quarter.

The final quarter failed to bring much excitement for fans and any chance of a late Bills score was denied when Taylor was picked off by Jalen Ramsey with 32 seconds left on the clock as Jacksonville held on for their place in the Divisional Round.

Titans produce turnaround

The Tennessee Titans were 21-3 down at the half but scored 19 unanswered points as they booked their ticket in the Divisional Round of the play-offs.

Marcus Mariota threw for two touchdowns - including one to himself - as the Titans saw off the Kansas City Chiefs 22-21 at the Arrowhead Stadium.

Sky Bet had quoted the Titans at 1,000/1 when seemingly in dire trouble and though no bets were taken, four were at 500/1 before the turnaround began.

A one-yard touchdown run from Kareem Hunt and 13-yard pass for six from Alex Smith to Travis Kelce had got the home side off to a dream start in the first quarter, with Demarcus Robinson finding the endzone just before half time.

But Mariota - 19 out of 31 for 205 yards - helped the Titans to their first playoff win for 14 years when he scored a touchdown in unlikely circumstances, having a pass deflected back into his hands and diving into the end zone.

The Atlanta Falcons toiled less in their 26-13 win over the Los Angeles Rams, racing to a 13-0 lead and sealing the deal with an eight-yard touchdown for Julio Jones with 5:48 left in the game.

Matt Ryan completed 21 of 30 for 218 yards as the Falcons look to emulate last season's play-off run which saw them make the Super Bowl.

Saints hold Panthers at bay

The Carolina Panthers had to wait until the fourth quarter to find the endzone as the New Orleans Saints defence held strong in a 31-26 win.

The NFC South rivals both went 11-5 in the regular season, with the Saints getting home advantage in the Wild Card round owing to a better head-to-head record.

New Orleans booked their place in the Divisional Round with their eighth win of the 2017-18 season at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome - with a pair of touchdowns in the second period helping them to a 21-9 lead which they did not relinquish.

Drew Brees - who completed 23 of 33 for 376 yards - aired the ball out late in the first, with Ted Ginn Junior picking it up on the Panthers' 40 and sprinting into the corner for an 80-yard touchdown, with Brees also finding Josh Hill on a nine-yard pass in the second to put the Saints up 14-3.

Graham Gano was true with the boot for the Panthers - striking field goals from 27, 39 and 58 yards in the first half.

When he split the uprights for the fourth time - with 11:01 left in the third - the Panthers had gained 254 yards without scoring a touchdown.

Cam Newton - who completed 24 of 40 for 349 yards - helped set up a tense finish, connecting with Greg Olsen for a 14-yard touchdown early in the fourth and then finding Christian McCaffrey for 56 yards with 4:09 left in the game.

As the Saints attempted to preserve their five-point lead late in the game, Drew Brees threw a pick on fourth and two, giving the Panthers a final chance to progress.

Cam Newton - starting a drive on his own 31 with 1:51 remaining - quickly picked up 43 yards on three plays, but threw a trio of incomplete passes as the drive stalled and Newton was sacked on fourth and 23, a Brees knee seeing the Saints win.

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