NFL Playoff Wrap: Packers, Steelers advance with wild-card routs

NFL Playoff Wrap: Packers, Steelers advance with wild-card routs

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Aaron Rodgers, master of the Hail Mary pass, struck again in another big moment.

Rodgers overcame a sluggish start and finished with four touchdown passes, including a momentum-swinging 42-yard heave to Randall Cobb at the end of the second quarter, to lead the Green Bay Packers to a 38-13 win Sunday over the New York Giants in an NFC wild-card game.

The Packers move on to face the Dallas Cowboys in the divisional round next week.

Rodgers was 25 of 40 for 362 yards, continuing a remarkable run of quarterback play that helped the Packers win their final six games of the regular season to take the NFC North. Cobb finished with five receptions for 116 yards and three scores.

For much of the first half, the Giants' defense flustered the two-time NFL MVP. They got pressure on Rodgers and the secondary blanketed the Packers' talented receiving corps , and a few boos even rained down from the stands after New York built a 6-0 lead on two field goals by Robbie Gould.

As it turned out, Rodgers was just getting started.

Green Bay scored two touchdowns in the final 2:20 of the second quarter, punctuated by another remarkable desperation pass by Rodgers.

With the ball on the Giants 42, Rodgers took the snap with 6 seconds left. He rolled to his right before heaving a throw from about the Packers 47. Cobb somehow got behind three defensive backs near the back of the end zone to haul in the pass, getting both feet down before falling out of bounds.

The Giants looked stunned, just like how the Detroit Lions and Arizona Cardinals looked last season after Rodgers pulled off similar feats.

Rodgers and Cobb weren't done.

They connected again on a 30-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter for a 21-13 lead. That score answered a Giants scoring drive that briefly cut the deficit to one.

A Packers defense ranked 21st in points allowed (24.3) coming into the game limited the production of Odell Beckham Jr., and the Giants' receiving corps in spite of a battered secondary.

Beckham finished with four catches for 28 yards. Eli Manning was 23 of 44 for 299 yards, including the 41-yard touchdown pass to Tavarres King in the third quarter.

But the Giants were plagued by a series of drops by their receivers .

Rodgers began dissecting the secondary after coach Mike McCarthy had his quarterback roll more outside the pocket, and the Packers started working the middle of the field.

Cobb had a big night after missing the last two games of the regular season with an ankle injury. Davante Adams had eight receptions for 125 yards and a score.

Top receiver Jordy Nelson was knocked out of the game with 11 minutes left in the second quarter with a rib injury (see full recap).

Bell, Brown lead Steelers' rout of Dolphins
PITTSBURGH -- Injuries forced Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell to wait three seasons for the chance to run onto the field together in the playoffs. The wait for the Pittsburgh Steelers' "Big Three" to do it again won't be nearly as long.

Bell ran for a franchise postseason record 167 yards and two scores, Brown caught five passes for 124 yards and a pair of first-quarter touchdowns from Roethlisberger as the Steelers overwhelmed the beaten-up and mistake-prone Miami Dolphins, 30-12, on Sunday.

Pittsburgh (12-5) ran off its eighth straight victory by avenging a whipping by the Dolphins (10-7) in mid-October to set up a visit to AFC West champion Kansas City (12-4) next Sunday. The Steelers rolled by the Chiefs 43-14 on Oct. 2.

The Dolphins tried to hype themselves up by running around in shirt sleeves in the single-digit wind chill during warmups. Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier did them one better, racing around shirtless -- as if to send a message that his team is plenty comfortable playing this time of year.

It sure looked like it.

The Steelers scored on their first three possessions, and Miami's playoff victory drought was wall on its way to 17 years and counting.

Brown turned a pair of short passes into long scores. The first, a 50-yard sprint down the left sideline, came after Brown patiently waited for tight end Jesse James to provide the one block he needed. The second, a crossing pattern Brown turned into a 62-yard touchdown, ended with the All-Pro receiver pointing at a Miami defender as he crossed the goal line to put the Steelers up 14-0 before the game was 10 minutes old.

Matt Moore, making the first playoff start of his decade-long career with Ryan Tannehill still sidelined by a sprained knee, played on despite taking a helmet-to-chin shot from Pittsburgh linebacker Bud Dupree in the second quarter. Moore returned just minutes after sitting dazed on the turf and completed 29 of 36 passes for 289 yards with a touchdown and an interception. But he fumbled twice with the ball in Steelers territory and the game still in doubt.

The first fumble, caused by an unblocked James Harrison, ended a Miami drive at the Pittsburgh 13. The second, when Moore collided with running back Jay Ajayi, set up a Chris Boswell field goal that pushed Pittsburgh's lead to 23-6 midway through the third quarter.

Shazier stepped in front of Moore's pass on Miami's next possession, and when Bell darted it from eight yards, the Steelers were up 30-6 (see full recap).

10 random Mike Wallace stats

10 random Mike Wallace stats

In Mike Wallace, the Eagles are getting a veteran wide receiver who’s now playing for his fifth team in the last seven years.
Wallace has put up fairly consistent numbers since the Steelers drafted him out of Mississippi in the third round in 2009.
And we all know what a veteran wide receiver means. Lots of stats!
So let’s get to know Mike Wallace with 10 Random Mike Wallace Stats That You Didn’t Know (And I Didn’t Either Until I Looked them Up!):
• Since entering the NFL in 2009, Wallace ranks ninth in the NFL with 8,072 receiving yards, behind only former teammate Antonio Brown (9,910), Larry Fitzgerald (9,570), Calvin Johnson (9,532), Brandon Marshall (9,316), Julio Jones (9,054), Demaryius Thomas (8,653), DeSean Jackson (8,575) and A.J. Green (8,213).
• Wallace’s 57 touchdown catches since 2009 are seventh-most in the NFL during that span by a wide receiver.

• With a 95-yard touchdown catch from Ben Roethlisberger against the Cardinals in 2011 and a 95-yarder from Joe Flacco against the Steelers in 2016, Wallace is one of just three players in NFL history with two career TD receptions of 95 or more yards.

The others are Gaynell Tinsley of the Chicago Cardinals, who caught a 97-yarder from Pat Coffee in 1937 and a 98-yarder from Doug Russell in 1938, and Pennsauken’s John Taylor, who caught a 95-yarder from Joe Montana in 1989 and a 97-yarder from Steve Young in 1991.
• Similarly, Wallace’s four career TDs of 80 yards or more — the two listed above plus catches of 81 and 82 from Roethlisberger in 2011 and 2012 — are fifth-most in NFL history behind Derrick Alexander, Lance Alworth, Bobby Hayes and Jerry Rice, who all have five.
• Wallace has had at least 725 receiving yards in eight of his nine seasons in the NFL. Since 2009, only Fitzgerald has had 725 or more yards more often than Wallace.
• Wallace’s career rushing average of 7.1 yards per carry is fifth-highest among active players (with 32 or more attempts), behind Cordarrelle Patterson (10.3), Tyreek Hill (8.0), Deshaun Watson (7.5) and Ted Ginn (7.1).
• Wallace had nine catches for the Steelers in Super Bowl XLV against the Packers after the 2010 season. That’s tied with several players (including Nelson Agholor) for eighth-most in Super Bowl history by a wide receiver.
• Since he entered the league in 2009, Wallace has 43 receptions of 40 yards or more, second-most in the NFL during that span behind only former Eagle DeSean Jackson, who has 56. Those 43 passes were thrown by five quarterbacks (Roethlisberger 23, Flacco 9, Ryan Tannehill 7, Charlie Batch 3 and former Eagle Dennis Dixon 1).
• During the same span, Wallace has 19 TD catches of 40 yards or more, again second-most in the league during that span to Jackson’s 26.
• In 2010, Wallace caught 60 passes for 1,257 yards, and his 20.95 average was sixth-highest in NFL history and highest in the last 33 years by a player with 60 or more receptions. Since 1965, only Hall of Famer and one-time Eagle James Lofton has had a higher average (21.95 in 1984).

2017 film shows Mike Wallace is still a burner

2017 film shows Mike Wallace is still a burner

Remember the offseason before the 2016 season?

Howie Roseman was making major moves, among them moving up to pick Carson Wentz, but he was also trying to find some cheap speed at the receiver position. The Eagles drafted Nelson Agholor the year before, but Agholor had a disappointing rookie season and the Eagles simply needed to get faster at the position. They really missed DeSean Jackson after Chip Kelly released him. 

So Roseman went out that offseason and signed T.J. Graham and Chris Givens. Two cheap and fast veterans. But neither had anything to give. Neither made the team. Then Roseman traded for Dorial Green-Beckham and claimed Bryce Treggs. Both spent the 2016 season on the roster but never really gave the Eagles that deep threat. It appeared the Eagles would have to pay a little more for their speed. 

Last offseason, Roseman did that, when he signed Torrey Smith to a little heftier contract (the Eagles also signed Alshon Jeffery, who offered more than speed). Smith was just alright and certainly wasn’t worth a $5 million cap hit in 2018, so he’s gone. The good news for the Eagles is that Agholor has grown into an important player who offers speed from the slot, but they still wanted some more outside, which explains the signing of Mike Wallace. Wallace is 31 but might still have something left in the tank. 

Since he entered the NFL, Wallace has 26 catches of 50-plus yards, second during that span to the 36 put up by DeSean, whose absence sent the Eagles looking for speed this whole time (see 10 random Wallace stats).

And if you’re worried that Wallace will be 32 by the start of the season, it’s a valid fear. But in 2017 with the Ravens, he still had the burners working. Wallace had three catches of 50-plus yards; the Eagles as a team had seven. 

Here’s a look at Wallace’s speed with Baltimore last year. We’ll look at all three 50-yard catches: 

There really isn’t much to this. This is the first play of the game from the Ravens-Raiders game in Oakland on Oct. 8. This is the first play from scrimmage; Doug Pederson isn’t the only coach who likes to take his shots. 

Just after the snap, Wallace uses a little stutter step. All he needs is for the corner to hesitate for a split second or get off balance and then he has him where he wants him. Now it’s off to the races. 

After 12 yards, Wallace has more than a step on the DB and Joe Flacco is letting it rip. The safety notices this, but he’s going to be too late getting over. This one goes for a gain of 52 yards down the sideline. 

-- -- --  

This next play actually happens later in the Raiders game. Wallace is circled. He’s not going to do anything fancy on this; just gonna turn on the burners. 

At this point, the Raiders’ DB picks up Wallace after he bursts off the line. But the corner gets turned sideways and Wallace goes right past him. The defender thought he had help, but the safety gets caught looking upfield, ready to drive on a short play. Not much help. 

By the time the safety realizes he needs to help, he's caught flat-footed and looking upfield. Wallace burns both defensive backs on this play for a 54-yarder. 

If Flacco hits Wallace in stride, this is an easy touchdown. But the ball is a tad underthrown and Wallace has to wait for it. 

This next play came in early December against the Lions. It’s a little different from the other two because Wallace is lined up in the slot. The Eagles probably won’t ask him to go in the slot a ton because that’s Nelson Agholor’s spot, but Pederson isn’t averse to moving his receivers around. So if Wallace ever finds himself in the slot, we know what he can do. 


The Ravens use a play action, which freezes the linebacker nearest Wallace. The safety doesn't seem to bite, but it doesn’t matter. Wallace simply splits the center of the field, which leaves the deep safety as the only man to beat. He doesn’t have much trouble. 

This play doesn’t finish in the end zone, but it is a 66-yard gain that gets the Ravens down to the 1-yard line. They punch it in on the next play. 

Wallace might have been 31 last year, but he still had his speed. He averaged 14.4 yards per catch and still was a threat to catch the deep ball. This signing works if he can still do that in 2018.