NEW ORLEANS — Drew Brees passed for 376 yards and two touchdowns, and the New Orleans Saints held off Carolina’s late comeback bid to seal a 31-26 victory in their NFC wild-card game on Sunday.
The Panthers had a first down on the Saints 26-yard line with 58 seconds left, but heavy pressure by All-Pro defensive end Cameron Jordan a couple plays later induced an intentional grounding penalty on Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, making it third-and-25 on the Saints 34 and a required 10-second runoff left 22 seconds on the clock.
After an incompletion in the end zone on third down, Vonn Bell sacked Newton on a safety blitz, ensuring the Saints (12-5) swept all three meetings with Carolina (11-6) this season, in addition to winning their first playoff game in four seasons.
Brees’ touchdowns went for 80-yards to Ted Ginn and 9 yards to tight end Josh Hill. Fullback Zach line and running back Alvin Kamara each ran for short touchdowns, the latter set up by Michael Thomas 46-yard reception.
Thomas caught eight passes for 131 yards on a day when the Saints needed the passing game to compensate for a ground game that struggled to get going.
JAGUARS 10, BILLS 3
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Blake Bortles put together one decent drive all day, doing as much with his legs as his arm, and the defensive-minded Jacksonville Jaguars eked out an ugly and sometimes unwatchable victory against the Buffalo Bills in an AFC wild-card game.
In the postseason for the first time since January 2008, the third-seeded Jaguars (11-6) advanced to play at No. 2 seed Pittsburgh next week.
The sixth-seeded Bills (9-8) will head home after ending the longest, current playoff drought in North American professional sports.
Bortles was a big reason Jacksonville won the game and a big reason it was so close. He was off most of the day, misfiring short and long, but made up for it with 88 yards rushing — becoming the second starting quarterback in the past 25 years to win a playoff game with more rushing yards than passing (87). Atlanta’s Michael Vick also did it against the St. Louis Rams in the 2004 playoffs.
Bortles’ TD pass to backup tight end Ben Koyack late in the third quarter was his best throw of the game, helping Jacksonville win its first playoff game at home since the 1997 season.
The Bills finished with 263 yards, with 119 of those coming from hobbled running back LeSean McCoy (ankle). Quarterback Tyrod Taylor left the game after being thrown to the ground by Dante Fowler Jr. and hitting his head hard. Nathan Peterman entered the game with 1:27 remaining. All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey tipped and then intercepted Peterman’s third pass, and the Jaguars ran out the clock.