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Installment #39: Super Wildcard Weekend 2023 Recap

It is a new year, 2023 to be exact, and I am glad to be alive for another one. Last year, 2022, was a great one and pretty eventful. On the assistive technology front, I received assistive technology certifications in screen readers like JAWS and NVDA, and in screen magnification programs like ZoomText and learned extensively about Zoom, the magnification app for low-vision users of iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad, and Windows Magnifier, the built-in screen magnification software on any Windows computer. I am also certified to teach Microsoft Word, Outlook, Excel, and PowerPoint, and as of October 12, 2022, I became a certified Assistive Technology Instructor. This is something that I thought I would never be able to say about myself, but sure as it is now January, it is so. So, there have been a lot of changes in my life over the last fifteen months, and this year looks to be an even bigger one!


One thing that has remained the same over these last months though, is that I never stopped being a hardcore sports fanatic. Even though I have been incredibly busy, I still found time to keep up with my favorite teams and with sports in general. What is life if you don’t have some kind of entertainment to relax with at night time? Absolutely nothing!


The big thing in sports right now, just as with any other January, is the NFL Playoffs. This past weekend, twelve teams played in six games over a three-day period in what is now called Super Wildcard Weekend. No, my Carolina Panthers did not make it this year, but it was still a very entertaining set of games which took me through Saturday, Sunday, and Monday night, the last Monday Night Football game of the season. Except for a couple of the contests, I was pleased to be able to enjoy some very close exciting matchups.


The action got started on Saturday afternoon around 4:30 PM Eastern Time, when the Seattle Seahawks traveled to Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA to take on the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers won the game 41-23, but the Seahawks kept it close until late in the fourth quarter. After going down 10-0, the Seahawks scored on a 50-yard touchdown pass from Geno Smith to DK Metcalf. Seattle took the lead 17-16 on a 56-yard Jason Myers field goal before halftime.


But then in the second half, the 49ers scored the next twenty-five points. San Francisco quarterback Brock Purdy, who threw for three touchdowns and ran for one, capped off a career day on a TD pass to Elijah Mitchell in the fourth quarter, which put the 49ers up for good. The Seahawks (9-9) ended a surprisingly good season after trading away star quarterback Russell Wilson in the offseason, but still managing to make the playoffs on the last day of the season. The San Francisco 49ers (14-4) will play the Dallas Cowboys this coming weekend.


As far as the nightcap on Saturday goes, all I can say is “Wow!” This game between the Los Angeles Chargers and Jacksonville Jaguars put the “wild” in wildcard weekend. As a result of four interceptions thrown by Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the Chargers went up 27-0 and led 27-7 at halftime, stunning the Jaguars players and the fans in Jacksonville into complete silence. I actually stopped watching the game and started doing something else because I was sure that it was over.


But not so fast. The Jaguars came storming back as Trevor Lawrence followed up those four interceptions with four touchdown passes to Evan Engram, Marvin Jones, Zay Jones, and Christian Kirk. Then Lawrence himself added a huge play when he jumped for a 2-point conversion with 5:25 to play that made the score 30-28 Chargers. On the next possession, Jacksonville’s defense sacked Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert and then forced a punt. Trevor Lawrence engineered a final drive, highlighted by a twenty-five-yard run by running back Travis Etienne on fourth-and-one. On the game’s final play, Riley Patterson made good on a 36-yard field goal, and the Jaguars walked off the Chargers 31-28. The comeback win was the third-largest comeback win in NFL playoff history, behind only the Buffalo Bills rally on January 3, 1993 from 32 points to beat the Houston Oilers and the Indianapolis Colts comeback win on January 4, 2014 from 28 points against the Kansas City Chiefs.


On Sunday, there were three games played. In the first game, the Buffalo Bills, one of the favorites to win it all this year, snuck by the Miami Dolphins 34-31. These two teams are division rivals and this third meeting between the teams this year was just as crazy as most of the games are between these two opponents that know each other so well. The Bills jumped on the injury-depleted Miami Dolphins 17-0 in the first and second quarter. But three turnovers let the Dolphins back in the game to tie things up at 17-17 and only be down 20-17 at the half.


After halftime, things remained close. Bills quarterback Josh Allen’s fumble was returned five yards to put the Dolphins up 24-20 61 seconds in to the third quarter. Then, Josh Allen threw two touchdown passes in a span of three minutes and eleven seconds. Cole Beasley scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 6-yard catch. After that, Gabe Davis extended the Buffalo lead to 34-24 with a 23-yard TD reception. The Dolphins would score one more time, but the Bills defense stopped the Dolphins on fourth-down on its final possession. Buffalo was able to run out the clock when Devin Singletary gained seven yards on a third-and-seven. The game lasted nearly four hours and the score was similar to the two prior games between these teams this year. The Dolphins beat the Bills 21-19 at Miami in September, and the Bills rallied to beat the Dolphins 32-29 in Buffalo in December. Absolute wild and craziness!


Next up was the 9-7-1 New York Giants traveling to Minneapolis to face the 13-4 Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings were 8-1 at home and based on their record, looked to be one of the teams that would emerge from the NFC to play in the Super Bowl in February. But sometimes, team’s records can be deceiving.


This proved to be true in the case of the 2022 Minnesota Vikings, as the Giants went into a very loud stadium and converted 7 of 13 third downs and did pretty much whatever they pleased against a Vikings defense that has been vulnerable all season. The Giants offense averaged 8.31 yards per play in the first half and the Vikings faced 10-point deficits in both the second and third quarter. Giants quarterback Daniel Jones had a career-day in his first career playoff game, passing for 301 yards and two touchdowns and running for 78 yards. Running back Saquon Barkley rushed for two scores and 109 total yards in fourteen touches and the New York Giants outlasted the Minnesota Vikings 31-24 to get their first playoff win since 2012, when Eli Manning and company knocked off Tom Brady and the mighty New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.


The nightcap on Sunday saw the Baltimore Ravens facing off against the AFC North-division champion Cincinnati Bengals in Cincinnati. These are two division rivals and it was a pretty close game the whole way. The Ravens, who were without their starting quarterback Lamar Jackson due to a knee injury, were using their second-stringer Tyler Huntley. The Cincinnati Bengals are coming off a season where they made a surprising run to the Super Bowl before losing to the Los Angeles Rams.


So, the score was tied at 17 with about twelve minutes left, and the Ravens were facing third-and-goal at the Baltimore 1-yard line. Tyler Huntley tried to go over everyone for the go-ahead score, but he was stood up by Bengals linebacker Germaine Pratt and fellow linebacker Logan Wilson stripped the ball away. The ball went right to defensive end Sam Hubbard, and he went right down the field, helped by a convoy of teammates for a 98-yard fumble return for a tiebreaking touchdown, the longest fumble return for a score in NFL playoff history. This proved to be the winning score as the Bengals beat the Ravens 24-17. Next up for the Bengals is a trip to Buffalo, where they will face the Bills in the next round of the playoffs. The regular season game between these two teams was canceled the day after New Year’s Day after Bills safety Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest on the field.


The final matchup of super wildcard weekend was a game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This game was a joke and I hate that it was the final game of an entertaining wildcard round. The Buccs had Tom Brady, who is still arguably the greatest quarterback of all time, but at age 45, he may be passed his prime. They won the NFC South at 8-10, which granted them the right to host a playoff game against the 13-4 Dallas Cowboys. But Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott had his best game in weeks, completing 25 out of 33 passes for 305 yards, four passing touchdowns, one rushing touchdown, and no interceptions, and the Cowboys unceremoniously ousted the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from the NFL playoffs 31-14. Will this finally be it for Tom Brady? If he leaves Tampa Bay after one of his worst seasons, will he go to another team? Some of the questions that will be asked and answered during this offseason.


So, the next round, also called the Divisional Round, of the NFL playoffs is set for this coming weekend. On Saturday the Jacksonville Jaguars will travel to Kansas City to play the Chiefs, and the New York Giants will play the Philadelphia Eagles in Philly. On Sunday, the Bengals travel to Buffalo to face the Bills, and the Cowboys will play the 49ers in San Francisco. Once again, I have no dog in the fight, but looking to enjoy some great games. Even more than that, it is almost the end of football. I feel that I need to just listen to the games, no matter how they turn out, because after the Super Bowl on February 12, no more football for about seven months! So, there you have it!


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