I have to share here that I am having more fun with this year’s tournament than I have ever had! We’ve seen some amazing upsets and some great performances so far! Sixteen games in the book . . . . . .39 to go!!
Houston 24, Pittsburgh 23
Every now and then you play a game that is so fun and so memorable that it becomes an “instant classic!” This was one of those games. The #15 seeded team in the AFC (Houston) faced up against the #2 seed, the big, bad Steelers . . . and came away with an improbable one point victory! Texan quarterback, Tom Savage, only completed 11 passes in the game, but averaged over 22 yards per completion. Pittsburgh truly dominated the statistical battle, rolling up 465 yards to Houston’s 298, but two costly interceptions thrown by Roethlisberger and four critical sacks recorded by the Texans led to the surprising outcome. Pittsburgh held a two-point lead with 2:00 left to play, but Savage connected on a 54 yard pass to Will Fuller and a 20 yard pass to DeAndre Hopkins setting up Ka’imi Fairbairn’s game winning Field Goal with only 53 seconds left in the game!
Buffalo 31, Oakland 16
Great defense and a pounding running game was the difference in the Bills 15-point victory over the Raiders. Buffalo runningback, LeSean McCoy ran for two scores and Mike Tolbert added another, as Buffalo piled up 185 rushing yards on 41 carries. Bills QB Tyrod Taylor, who played hurt most of the second half, was steady, connecting on 18 of 31 passes for 183 yards, and Buffalo’s tough defense held Derrick Carr and the Raiders to only 246 yards of total offense and forced three turnovers.
Atlanta 31, Green Bay 7
The Packers, playing without injured quarterback Aaron Rogers, really struggled against Atlanta in a 31-7 loss. Brett Hundley, Rogers’ replacement, connected on 20 passes, but for only 150 yards, and the Green Bay finished the day with seven starters injured and only 194 yards of offense. Meanwhile, Matt Ryan did NOT have a very good game for the Falcons, hitting on only 16-30 for 203 yards. But, Atlanta’s “1-2” punch at runningback, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman each ran for two TD’s, and Julio Jones hauled in 6 passes for 90 yards in the victory.
Jacksonville 19, Indianapolis 15
This was truly an odd game. Jacksonville scored a touchdown on their very first drive, when Chris Ivory hauled in a 25 yard pass from Blake Bortles and then ran 46 yards for a touchdown. And that would be their only touchdown! Three field goals by Josh Lambo and a punishing defense that held the Colts to only 214 yards of offense, including five sacks of Indianapolis quarterback Jacoby Brissett, was the story of this game as the Jaguars barely move into the winner’s bracket for round two. Amazingly, there were 14 punts in the game for a remarkable 609 yards!!
Tampa Bay 37, LA Rams 30
In a game that saw six lead changes, it was Jameis Winston and the Bucs holding on for a seven point upset victory in Los Angeles against the Rams. Winston was terrific, completing 22 of 32 for 355 yards and three touchdowns. Ram’s QB, Jared Goff, had almost identical stats, however, connecting on 22 of 31 for 331 yards and three scores. Tampa Bay wideout, Mike Evans was sensational in the victory, rolling up 208 receiving yards on 8 catches. And the Bucs’ defense was able to frustrate All-Pro runningback, Todd Gurley all day long, holding him to only 35 yards on 14 carries.
Baltimore 24, Miami 12
The Ravens and Joe Flacco had a relatively easy time of it at home against the Dolphins, doubling them up 24-12. Flacco completed 20 of 29 passes for 229 yards and two fourth quarter touchdowns. Miami struggled in their running game all afternoon, picking up just 54 yards on 22 carries, and quarterback Jay Cutler connected on less than 50% of his passes. In fact, we saw something I’ve never seen before in over 50 years of playing APBA Football. In the third quarter, through a combination of a sack, rushing loss and three penalties, the Dolphins ended up with a 4th and 52 from their own 31 yard line! And, on their punt, they still ended up short of first down yardage!
Arizona 16, Seattle 10
In a mild upset, Carson Palmer and the Cardinals held off a furious rally by the Seahawks to win by six in Seattle. Palmer had 18 completions on 30 attempts for 279 yards, including 10 passes hauled in by Larry Fitzgerald for 124 yards. Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, Seattle signal-caller, Russell Wilson, connected on 16 of 33 passes for 202, but threw two picks, including one to Tyrann Mathieu in the Cardinal end zone with only 2:45 left in the game, effectively ending the Seahawks comeback.
Minnesota 20, Chicago 13
The Bears came so close to pulling off a major first round upset! Late in the third quarter this game was tied 6-6, when Viking rusher, Latavius Murray, scored from 2 yards out to give Minnesota a 7 point lead. But, on their very next possession, Bears’ runningback, Jordan Howard, scampered 49 yards to tie it up with 14:00 left to play in the game. Vikings QB, Case Keenum, led his team on a 75 yard TD drive, scrambling in from ten yards out. But, Bears QB, Mitch Trubisky, seemed undaunted, driving Chicago the length of the field, helped out by a 26 yard defensive pass interference penalty on 4th and 13 from the Vikings 31 yard line, giving him a first and goal from the Minnesota 5 with only 2:00 left to play. But, three incompletions and a sack by Everson Griffen on fourth down sealed the victory for the Vikings.