32 things we learned from NFL’s ‘Super Wild Card Weekend’: After 49ers roll, close games highlight slate
Written by B87FM on January 16, 2023
The 32 things we learned from “Super Wild Card Weekend” of the 2022 NFL season:
1. The average margin of victory in a game during the 2022 regular season was 9.7 points, the league’s lowest in 90 years. But things were even tighter at the outset of the playoffs, the first five games decided by an average of 7.2 points.
1a. Throw out the San Francisco 49ers’ 41-23 runaway from the Seattle Seahawks in the weekend’s opener, an 18-point gap, and the next four games were decided by a total of 18 points (4.5-point average).
2. Seven of the teams that were in action on Saturday and Sunday – the Baltimore Ravens, Jacksonville Jaguars, Los Angeles Chargers, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, New York Giants and Seattle – didn’t qualify for postseason last year. Of that group, only the Jags and G-Men advanced.
3. This was the first time in 23 years that all three Florida NFL teams – Jaguars, Fins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers – all made it to the Super Bowl tournament.
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4. How quickly can a playoff game’s script flip? As long as it takes to force a fumble at the goal line of a 17-17 contest and for a 6-5, 265-pound defensive end to return it 98 yards the other way for the go-ahead TD. Salute to the Cincinnati Bengals’ Sam Hubbard, who now owns the longest fumble recovery return in NFL playoff history and longest TD in Cincy’s postseason log.
5. … As in the number of head coaches who reached these playoffs in their first season with their current team: Tampa Bay’s Todd Bowles, the Giants’ Brian Daboll, Miami’s Mike McDaniel, Minnesota’s Kevin O’Connell and Jacksonville’s Doug Pederson.
5a. It establishes a new high-water mark, besting the four coaches who debuted with postseason crews in 1997.
5b. Daboll and O’Connell became the first rookie HCs to square off since 2009.
5c. McDaniel is also a first-time NFL head coach. The only other times the playoffs featured three of them were 1992 and 2008.
5d. The quintet’s record going into Bowles’ game Monday night is 2-2.
6. … As in the number of matchups, i.e. all of them, on wild-card weekend that were rematches from the regular season, the most in any playoff round in league history.
6a. It was also the fifth time since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger that all the opening-round postseason games were replays from the regular season.
6b. Of the rematches, only two (Niners-Seahawks and Jaguars-Chargers) were season sweeps going into Monday.
7. … As in the number of quarterbacks who made their playoff debuts during the wild-card round: the Chargers’ Justin Herbert, Baltimore’s Tyler Huntley, the Giants’ Daniel Jones, Jacksonville’s Trevor Lawrence, San Francisco’s Brock Purdy, Seattle’s Geno Smith and Miami’s Skylar Thompson.
7a. The only other time that many QBs made their maiden postseason voyage together was 1999.
7b. Purdy and Thompson were the first rookies drafted in the seventh round to start in postseason.
7c. It was the first time in a decade when multiple rookie passers started in the same playoff round. In the opening weekend of the 2012 postseason, Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson were all in their first season.
7d. The newbies went 3-4.
7e. Purdy became the first rookie to notch a playoff victory since Wilson.
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8. Sunday’s 31-24 loss to the Giants dropped Vikings QB Kirk Cousins’ playoff record to … 1-4. The stat line (31-for-39 for 273 yards and 2 TDs) looked good – but the 3-yard checkdown to TE T.J. Hockenson on the Vikes’ final play, which was run on fourth-and-8, had to be infuriating if you’re a Minnesota fan … or player.
9. Meanwhile, Jones looked every bit the player poised to cash a hefty signing bonus following the season. A pending free agent after the Giants declined his fifth-year option, he passed for 301 yards and a pair of scores and ran for 78 more as the centerpiece of an offense that repeatedly gashed the Vikings despite a relative lack of playmakers aside from Jones and RB Saquon Barkley (109 total yards, 2 TDs). But given what this duo has proven in 2022, gonna be hard for GM Joe Schoen to move on from either.
9a. And Jones’ performance also led the Giants’ social media team to have some fun at Cousins’ expense.
10. Did you know the 49ers’ 10-game win streak entering the playoffs was the longest regular season-ending heater since the NFC was formed in 1970?
10a. The Niners were one of five teams – Bengals (8), Bills (7), Chiefs (5) and Jaguars (5) – to begin the postseason riding a win streak of at least five games, the most in league history.
10b. All five of those streaks remain intact heading into divisional weekend, when at least two will be snapped given Buffalo will host Cincinnati, and the Jags will head to Kansas City.
11. Buffalo Bills QB Josh Allen certainly didn’t submit his greatest playoff performance in Sunday’s 34-31 escape from the Dolphins, but – despite three turnovers – he did join Matt Ryan as the only players with at least 300 passing yards and three TD passes in three straight postseason games.
12. In 12 games, including Saturday’s win, this season with San Francisco, RB Christian McCaffrey has 1,346 yards and 11 TDs from scrimmage.
13. If you thought the Buffalo-Miami game took forever, even though it didn’t require overtime … yep. Three hours and 53 minutes – but them’s the breaks when teams combine for 141 plays, 31 drives, nine penalties … and 43 incompletions.
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14. San Francisco’s sweep of Seattle was the first time the 49ers had beaten the same opponent three times in one season. Their failure to achieve that against the Los Angeles Rams last year cost them a berth in Super Bowl 56.
15. Philadelphia will go for its first-ever three-game sweep of the Giants in next weekend’s divisional around. The bitter NFC East rivals have split four previous playoff meetings, Big Blue sweeping the Eagles in 2000.
16. For anyone comparing the 2020 draft class’ quarterbacks to 1983, let’s pump the brakes a touch. Herbert’s Bolts couldn’t hold a 27-0 lead, Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa (concussion) couldn’t post, and the Eagles’ Jalen Hurts (throwing shoulder) may still not be the player we saw for the first three months of the regular season
17. But that Joe Burrow sure is sweet, even when he’s getting pummeled while operating behind three backup O-linemen. Joey Brrrr’s playoff record is now an anti-Cousins 4-1.
18. … As in the number of seasons without a repeat Super Bowl champion. The longest streak in league history was extended weeks ago when the Rams, whose 12 losses were the most ever by a defending Super Bowl champion, were officially cooked.
18a. The 2003 and ’04 New England Patriots remain the most recent back-to-back champions.
19. The Jags became the first team ever to win a playoff game the season after they owned the NFL’s worst record. Their 2021 edition, mostly coached by Urban Meyer, finished 3-14.
20. The Bosa brothers seem to be ships passing in the night.
20a. Niners DE Nick Bosa is 5-2 all-time in playoff games. He was 1-1 in bowl games at Ohio State.
20b. Chargers OLB Joey Bosa is 1-2 all-time in playoff games. He was 3-1 in postseason games at Ohio State and part of the Buckeyes’ 2014 national champions.
21. The Dolphins’ Mike Gesicki became the first (and only) tight end to catch a touchdown pass on the Bills this season.
22. Shoutout to Dean Marlowe, the Bills’ third-string safety after injured Micah Hyde and Damar Hamlin. It would be easy to think of Marlowe as a weak link in Buffalo’s defense, but he made four tackles and picked off a pass Sunday.
23. As for Hamlin, though he visited his teammates Saturday, he wasn’t ready to appear at Buffalo’s Highmark Stadium on Sunday and cheered on the Bills while continuing his recovery from home.
24. Were Melissa Stark’s questions really that invasive, Harbs?
25. The Ravens were the first team in 13 years to open the playoffs on the road in the same venue (Cincinnati’s Paycor Stadium) where they ended the regular season.
26. Of course, “Super Wild Card Weekend” isn’t over, for the second year rolling into Monday, when the Bucs will host the Dallas Cowboys.
27. Tampa Bay QB Tom Brady seeks to run his career record against Dallas to 8-0.
28. The Cowboys have lost eight consecutive playoff road games, their last victory occurring in the 1992 NFC title game at San Francisco’s old Candlestick Park.
29. Dallas’ Dak Prescott is the fifth quarterback since postseason expanded to 12 teams in 1990 to begin postseason with at least one interception in seven consecutive games. His four predecessors were all one and done.
30. The Buccaneers-Cowboys winner will head to Northern California to face the 49ers, who – aside from their scalding streak – are also 3-0 in playoff games at Levi’s Stadium.
31. With the one game left, six teams have scored at least 30 points this weekend, tied for the most in any playoff round during the Super Bowl era (since 1966).
32. One last bit of “Super Wild Card” context? Teams playing on wild-card weekend have won the Super Bowl 11 times, seven of those clubs true wild cards. A year ago, both the Bengals and Rams advanced from the wild-card round to Super Bowl 56. The season prior, the Buccaneers took the wild-card path – three road playoff wins – to victory in Super Bowl 55.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.