The San Francisco 49ers prevailed in the Wild Card round as they renewed a storied rivalry with the Dallas Cowboys. Now, they will be underdogs again as they lock horns with a postseason foe more familiar to them in recent years.

While the Niners' 23-17 upset win over the Cowboys was the first postseason meeting between the two teams since the 1994 campaign, playoff clashes between San Francisco and the Green Bay Packers have been more habitual of late.

Green Bay and the 49ers have faced off in the postseason in every decade since their first playoff meeting in the 1995 campaign, last doing so on January 19, 2020 when San Francisco won a 37-20 rout in the NFC Championship Game.

That scoreline carried on a trend in this matchup. The 49ers and Packers have split their eight all-time meetings in the postseason, but the Niners have won each of the last three. In those three games, they have outscored Green Bay by an average of 11.3 points (35.0-23.7). 

Saturday's game at Lambeau Field is expected to be much closer, with most backing the top-seeded Packers to turn the tide.

Green Bay won the Week 3 matchup at Levi's Stadium, though the Packers needed a last-gasp field goal from Mason Crosby, following some vintage Aaron Rodgers heroics, to avoid defeat.

Rodgers is the favourite to retain the NFL's MVP award and enters this game in blistering form. 

He has thrown for multiple touchdowns and no interceptions in each of his last seven games, the second-longest such streak in NFL history (Tom Brady, nine straight in 2010).

The three-time MVP threw 37 touchdowns and just four picks this season, the most passing touchdowns with four interceptions or fewer in a single season all-time. 

Yet Rodgers is going against a Niners defense playing its best football of the season. San Francisco held the Cowboys' number one-ranked offense (407 yards per game) to 307 total yards, with Dak Prescott completing only 53.5 per cent of his passes as he was pressured more than any other quarterback in the Wild Card round, coming under duress 25 times.

San Francisco's deep defensive front would appear to have the edge this weekend, too. The 49ers' finished the regular season ranked first in Stats Perform's pass rush win rate metric - boasting a win rate of 32.6 per cent - while the Packers were 23rd with a pass protection win rate of 72.6 per cent.

The Packers will hope the potential return of left tackle David Bakhtiari can redress the balance but if it does not then the contest could tilt in the favour of San Francisco. When under pressure this season, Rodgers completed 49.6 per cent of his passes. Among quarterbacks with at least 100 attempts under duress, the only two to fare worse were rookies Zach Wilson (41.7 per cent) and Trevor Lawrence (45.7 per cent).

If the Niners pressure Rodgers and get the Packers behind the chains and playing catchup on the scoreboard, then they will look to control the clock by keeping the ball on the ground with All-Pro wide receiver Deebo Samuel and rookie running back Elijah Mitchell.

Samuel scored the first rushing touchdown by a 49ers receiver in postseason history to put San Francisco 23-7 ahead against the Cowboys, while his 72 yards on the ground were the most in the playoffs by any wideout in the Super Bowl era.

Mitchell rushed for 96 yards last weekend, a 49ers rookie playoff record. The Niners are 7-1 when Mitchell rushes for at least 75 yards this season and 1-3 when he plays and does not.

A long night may be in store for the 49ers and their secondary should Rodgers stay on schedule, and that could mean history for his favourite target, Davante Adams.

Adams has had exactly nine receptions in each of his last three playoff games. That is tied for the longest streak of postseason games with nine-plus catches in NFL history (Julian Edelman, 2015-2016).

With at least nine catches in four of his five games against San Francisco (regular and postseason), he is a strong bet to break that record. Adams failing to do so would be a major indicator of Green Bay suffering another nightmare against a team that has continually haunted them in the playoffs.

Baker Mayfield has undergone surgery to repair a torn labrum, which the Cleveland Browns quarterback labelled a "complete success".

After helping the Browns to the Divisional Round of the playoffs in the 2020 season, Mayfield struggled badly in 2021 as he battled the injury to his left shoulder.

Mayfield finished with career-lows in passing yards (3,010) and touchdowns (17) while throwing 13 interceptions in 14 games having been picked only eight times in 16 games in 2020.

His decline in performance has led to increased scrutiny over his long-term viability as the Browns' starting quarterback. The 2018 first overall pick is a free agent after next season.

However, speaking in a video on Instagram, Mayfield was upbeat about his prospects of returning to his best.

"Surgery went great, it was a complete success, now it's on the road to recovery, this is one of the steps to get back to my true self," he said. 

"This is not the end of my story, it's gonna be one of those little things that I'll look back and I'll remember that it's one of those challenges and adversity that I'm going to try take advantage of."

The Browns expect Mayfield to make a full recovery in four to six months and begin light throwing in April. It is anticipated he will be ready for the start of training camp ahead of the 2022 season.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott has taken to social media to apologise for comments he made about the officials following their last-gasp 23-17 playoffs defeat to the San Francisco 49ers.

Prescott felt he had spiked the ball in time to get one more shot at a game-winning touchdown in a bizarre ending to their Wild Card round loss.

The officials ruled that Prescott had not spiked the ball in time, as NFL rules state the ball must be spotted by an official which umpire Ramon George attempted to do, colliding with Prescott and Tyler Biadasz causing a delay that prevented the QB from getting a Hail Mary away.

Prescott was asked after the game about fans throwing objects at the officials, to which he replied: "Credit to them, credit to them."

However, the Cowboys quarterback apologized for those comments on Tuesday via a Twitter post.

"I deeply regret the comments I made regarding the officials after the game on Sunday. I was caught up in the emotion of a disappointing loss and my words were uncalled for and unfair," Prescott said.

"I hold the NFL Officials in the highest regard and have always respected their professionalism and the difficulty of their jobs. The safety of everyone who attends a game or participates on the field of a sporting event is a very serious matter.

"That was a mistake on my behalf, and I am sorry."

In his pool report after the game, referee Alex Kemp insisted umpire George had done everything correctly in spotting the ball.

The referees association posted on Tuesday via their official Twitter account: "The NBRA condemns the comments by Dak Prescott condoning violence against game officials.

"As an NFL leader, he should know better. We encourage the NFL to take action to discourage this deplorable behavior in the future."

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin says "all options are on the table" as he searches for the franchise's next quarterback with Ben Roethlisberger's expected exit.

Veteran two-time Super Bowl winner Roethlisberger is yet to fully declare his intentions but it is widely anticipated he will depart the Steelers.

Mason Rudolph and 2019 first round pick Dwayne Haskins were QBs on the Steelers 2021 roster while they could explore their trade or free agency options with Russell Wilson and Jameis Winston potentially available.

"All options are on the table," Tomlin told reporters on Tuesday. "I enjoy working with [general manager] Kevin [Colbert] this time of year because we speak plain English.

"We have to improve our football team. There's two major ways you do it. You do it to free agency, and you do it through the draft.

"We have to look at what's available to us in the draft positionally. And we have to look at what's available to us, potentially, in free agency, positionally, and then we kind of bring those two discussions together.

"It kind of gives us a path in which to go about addressing our needs."

Tomlin added: "Quarterback mobility is valued not only by me but everyone. It's just a component of today's game and increasingly so."

Contracted QB Rudolph and Haskins, who joined the Steelers from Washington in 2021, were used sparingly in 2021 and would need to make a major step-up to be starters.

"Mason and Dwayne have had their moments, but they'll have to prove that," Tomlin said. "And not only in the team development process but through playing itself.

"They're guys that start that I wouldn't characterize as every-day starters. And so they'll be given an opportunity to establish themselves, and there's going to be competition. There always is.

"I think that both guys have positioned themselves to fight that fight with what they've done from a work standpoint and a professionalism standpoint in 2021."

The Seattle Seahawks have fired defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.

Norton's exit comes following the Seahawks' first losing season since 2011, one in which the defense was particularly culpable.

Seattle allowed 379.1 yards per game in 2021, the fifth-most in the NFL.

Significant changes were expected after the Seahawks finished with a 7-10 record, but it is Norton who has been relieved of his duties rather than head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider.

Defensive passing game coordinator Andre Curtis has also been let go.

Only the Baltimore Ravens (278.9) gave up more passing yards per game than the Seahawks (265.5).

J.J. Watt reflected on the Arizona Cardinals' 34-11 playoff defeat to the Los Angeles Rams as "a massive failure".

The Cardinals ended their season with a whimper at SoFi Stadium on Monday as the Rams dominated the Wild Card round clash between the NFC West rivals.

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford ended his wait for a first playoff win, throwing touchdown passes for Odell Beckham Jr. and Cooper Kupp while running in another.

Los Angeles will face defending champions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Florida next Sunday in the divisional round. 

The Cardinals, on the other hand, are left to lick their wounds following a fifth defeat in seven games that brought their campaign to a juddering halt.

Watt returned from a shoulder injury to face the Rams and the defensive end pulled no punches with his verdict on the Cardinals' performance.

He said: "It was a massive failure from what we were capable of doing and from what we showed we can do [up until the game Monday], there's no other way to describe it than as a failure.

Quarterback Kyler Murray endured a game to forget, passing for 137 yards and throwing two interceptions in the Cardinals' first playoff game since 2015.

He said: "I play to win the Super Bowl. That's the goal, that's the mission, is to win the Super Bowl not to make the playoffs or go to the second round. We fell short."

He added: "It's disappointing that we didn't make it a game and come out and play the football we know we're capable of playing, that's really the most disappointing part.

"Losing is one thing, but when you don't even make it competitive, it's another thing.

"I put a lot on my shoulders, put a lot on myself and to dream of this moment and then be in the playoffs, the first game of the playoffs and then to play the way I did, to play the way we did, it's, like I said, disappointing."

Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury: "When you're dropping back against that that group, it's not a good recipe.

"And that's what we've found ourselves in. So, we just made it a tough night."

Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay is thrilled that quarterback Matthew Stafford will no longer have to face questions about never winning a game in the NFL playoffs.

NFC West rivals the Arizona Cardinals were convincingly swatted aside by the Rams in the Wild Card round on Monday, the hosts triumphing 34-11.

The Rams will now move on to face Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a huge Divisional Round game with a place in the NFC Championship up for grabs.

Stafford had only previously reached the playoffs three times in 12 years with the Detroit Lions before his trade to LA ahead of the 2021 campaign and had been winless in each of those postseason appearances.

"I thought he did a great job leading the way," McVay said, per ESPN, after Stafford threw touchdown passes to Odell Beckham Jr. and Cooper Kupp.

"He's still the same great player to me, and he always was before this game.

"So I think it's good so you guys don't have to talk about [him not having a playoff win] anymore. So he can get that one out of the way. 

"I am really proud of him. Just so lucky to be able to do this with him. He's our leader. We wouldn't be here without him."

Stafford only had to throw a season-low 17 pass attempts, but he was impressive in completing 13 of them, with three of his four incompletions being dropped passes.

The Rams' defense played a big part in the win too. The Cardinals were 21-0 behind before they were even able to record a first down, while cornerback David Long had a three-yard pick six on Kyler Murray, the shortest in playoff history.

"I'm just excited for our team to get the win," said Stafford. 

"What a team effort. Our defense played outstanding, special teams basically set up a score with [punter] Johnny [Hekker] pinning them down there, we did a great job on field goals. 

"And we were good enough on offense to score some points and come away with the win. Just happy to be moving on."

The Rams must now beat the defending NFL champions on the road to progress further in a postseason schedule which will culminate with the Super Bowl being hosted at their own SoFi Stadium.

LA were one of only three teams who beat the Bucs in the regular season but Stafford is under no illusions over the size of the task facing them.

He added: "It is a huge challenge. Obviously, a fantastic quarterback, great defense, a really good football team.

"I think their team is different than when we played them last [in Week 3], and I think we are, too, both [in] personnel and scheme a little bit. You always evolve throughout the season. 

"So it'll be interesting to see what they look like here as of late, and we'll go out there, attack and see what happens."

Matthew Stafford celebrated the end of his long wait for an NFL playoff win as the Los Angeles Rams sealed a stress-free victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Monday.

The quarterback produced an immaculate performance as the Rams won 34-11 at SoFi Stadium, the venue for this year's Super Bowl, in the first match to be played on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Stafford was 0-3 in playoff games over 12 years with the Detroit Lions but threw touchdown passes for Odell Beckham Jr. and Cooper Kupp while running for another to ensure there would be no disappointment this time.

His reward is a showdown with Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Florida next Sunday in the divisional round. The Rams were one of just three teams to beat the reigning champions in the regular season – a 34-24 win back in Week 3.

A 52-yard drive in the first quarter ended with Stafford finding OBJ with a four-yard pass for the opening TD of the game, the latter's first in the postseason.

It marked what would prove to be a display of efficiency from Stafford, who threw 13 of 17 passes – his lowest of the season – for 202 yards but did not commit a single turnover.

Von Miller – playing in his first postseason game since being MVP of Super Bowl 50 – sacked Kyler Murray as the Cardinals failed to respond, and in the first drive of the second quarter, Stafford found Beckham again for a 31-yard gain that led to his chance to run in touchdown number two.

Things went from bad to worse for the Cardinals as a Rams punt ended on the Arizona 1, and Murray thought he finally had a first down when he threw to AJ Green, but Nick Scott tackled the ball away from him to what was eventually called an incomplete pass. On the next play, Murray was panicked into rushing his throw from his own endzone, leading to a pick six as David Long intercepted and ran in for the TD.

It took until more than halfway through the second quarter for the Cardinals to get a first down as they fell 21-0 behind at halftime, and they were not back on the scoreboard until a little over four minutes remained in the third quarter.

Having surrendered a 17-0 lead over the San Francisco 49ers last week, the Rams were determined to avoid a repeat, Beckham making NFL history as the first player in the postseason to finish with 30-yard receptions and completions in the same game.

Stafford's seven-yard pass let Kupp, who finished with a team-high five catches for 61 yards, quell any fears of a late Arizona response.

The Las Vegas Raiders have fired general manager Mike Maycock in the wake of the playoff defeat to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Las Vegas lost 19-26 in the AFC Wild Card game on Saturday, though NFL media have reported that the Raiders had already made their decision on Maycock.

He was appointed as GM in 2019 and leaves with a 25-24 record.

The Raiders are now searching for both a GM and a head coach, after they passed up the chance to keep on interim Rich Bisaccia.

Las Vegas won their last four games to secure an unlikely wildcard spot.

Jon Gruden resigned from his post in 2021 after it was revealed that he had written racist, misogynistic, and homophobic emails between 2011 and 2018.

The Arizona Cardinals have activated J.J. Watt from injured reserve in time for him to make an unexpected return for their Wild Card round clash with the Los Angeles Rams.

Watt was placed on injured reserve in November having undergone what was thought to be season-ending shoulder surgery in October.

However, the three-time Defensive Player of the Year has expedited his recovery and will line up for the Cardinals on Monday as they look to upset their NFC West rivals at SoFi Stadium.

Despite playing only seven games, Watt ended the regular season with the third-most quarterback pressures among Cardinals defenders with 32.

The Cardinals are looking to claim their first playoff win since the 2015 campaign when they lost the NFC Championship Game to the Carolina Panthers.

Patrick Mahomes revealed the Kansas City Chiefs were motivated by being "p****d off" by a slow start to the Wild Card round against the Pittsburgh Steelers in their 42-21 blowout win.

The Chiefs were shut out in the first quarter by a Steelers team that snuck into the playoffs as the seven seed and then fell behind when T.J. Watt returned a Mecole Hardman fumble for a touchdown.

But Mahomes took over thereafter, throwing for 404 yards and five touchdowns, a sole interception in the first quarter the only blemish on a blistering performance.

Tight end Travis Kelce also threw a touchdown on a trick play as the Chiefs turned on the style in setting up a rematch of last year's AFC Championship Game with the Buffalo Bills in the Divisional Round.

"I think we were all p****d off at ourselves," Mahomes said in his media conference. "We felt like we weren't playing with enough energy, we felt like we weren't executing at a high enough level and not playing with enough urgency.

"So, I feel like guys really motivated themselves. We all kind of talked, it wasn't like one person talking, it was everybody talking to each other, and we came with a different urgency starting in the second quarter and carried it the rest of the game.

"Playing in the postseason games, we have young dudes who hadn't played yet, so they got to get that experience this week.

"And we have those vets that have been in here before and showed that with how Tyreek [Hill] and Trav [Kelce] stepped up in big ways to kind of get us sparked and get us rolling again."

On the matchup with the Bills, who crushed the New England Patriots on Saturday behind a sensational five-touchdown performance from quarterback Josh Allen, Mahomes said: "Yeah I mean you expect a really good football team that's going to play really hard. We're expecting a fight, we're expecting a battle. 

"They have a great offense, great defense, great special teams, and we played them in the AFC Championship last year, and we know that it's going to be another fight for us if we want to try to move on to the AFC Championship Game this year."

Ben Roethlisberger reflected with pride on an 18-year career with the Pittsburgh Steelers as he looks ahead to the next chapter.

There was to be no magical ending for Roethlisberger as Pittsburgh fell to a 42-21 reverse against the Kansas City Chiefs in the Wild Card round on Sunday.

The Steelers quarterback threw for 215 yards and two touchdowns on 29-of-44 passing, but he also had to watch Patrick Mahomes' brilliance cut open his side and end their postseason bid.

While Roethlisberger has not specifically said he is retiring, he hinted at as much after bidding a tearful farewell to Heinz Field following a Week 17 win over the Cleveland Browns.

On Sunday, the two-time Super Bowl winner, who has donned the Steelers' black and gold for his entire career, spoke glowingly of his time in Pittsburgh as he looked back on his time with the franchise.

He said post-game: "Yeah it's tough, but I'm proud to play with these guys. God has blessed me with an ability to throw a football and has blessed me to play in the greatest city, in Pittsburgh, with the greatest fans and the greatest football team and players. 

"And it has just been truly a blessing, and I'm so thankful to him for the opportunity that he's given me.

"Just a bunch of guys that fought for each other, that fought their butts off and just competed. It wasn't always pretty, but there are a lot of games that we found a way. 

"I'm so proud of this group of men and the way they fight for each other, for the black and gold, for our fans. It's just been an honour to play with them."

Roethlisberger's opposite number Mahomes finished with 404 passing yards and five touchdowns, and the veteran heaped praise on his fellow quarterback, who will next face the Buffalo Bills.

Mahomes responded in kind as he congratulated Roethlisberger on his Hall of Fame career.

"[He is] a tremendous player that I have a ton of respect for – the way he plays the game, the competitor that he is," Mahomes said. 

"He's won Super Bowls. He's a guy that I've watched growing up, and I have a ton of respect for him. That's what I told him, that if this is his last game, he did it the right way."

Roethlisberger is now hoping this Steelers team can carry on the legacy he has left behind.

"I've been here a long time, and it's been a lot of fun," Roethlisberger added. 

"Like I said, God has blessed me. We joke about the Browns and going there [in the NFL Draft], but it was meant to be that I was going to wear black and gold. Draft day I had a black suit on with a gold tie.

"I'm just so thankful. I hope that I'm able to pass the legacy of what it is to be a Steeler from Dan Rooney. We all miss him, anyone that knew him misses him. 

"Hopefully I can pass some of that on to some of the guys and they can continue the tradition of what it means to be a Steeler and get passed down.

"Whenever you get a bunch of new guys, once you start to lose some of the old regime if you will, you've got to find ways to pass it down. 

"And we've got some guys in there that will continue to do that. I gave Cam [Heyward] a big hug and told him it's on him now. It's his job to pass it down and to keep teaching and holding guys to the Pittsburgh standard."

As Roethlisberger prepares for whatever the next challenge is that is thrown his way, he remains thankful for the opportunities he has had, including the Steelers' improbable progression to the playoffs following a dramatic end to the regular season.

"We thought last week was going to be the end," he continued. "We didn't know what was going to happen and God blessed me to play another football game. 

"It didn't end the way we wanted it to. But it's a blessing to be able to play this game. I try and tell those guys how lucky we are that we get to play football for a living. We need to count our blessings and understand how lucky we are. 

"We're out there getting beat up and this and that, but we get to entertain millions of fans and throw, catch, run, do what we've all done as kids. That's our job and when we say our prayers thank God for that.

"I don't know if it's emotional because it's the end of the season. I mean, this would be emotional no matter what. We never like to lose and go out and I'll miss these guys. It'll probably really hit me come training camp time."

Confusion reigned at the end of the San Francisco 49ers' dramatic Wild Card victory over the Dallas Cowboys, but Kyle Shanahan only had a brief doubt his team would have to face a Hail Mary in a bizarre finish.

The Niners controlled the game and held a Dallas offense that had averaged over 400 yards per game in the regular season to just 307 in their 23-17 success.

Yet San Francisco gave the Cowboys a chance to complete a remarkable comeback with 32 seconds left after their failure to execute a quarterback sneak on fourth and inches turned possession back to Dallas.

The Cowboys promptly drove to San Francisco's 41-yard line in just three plays, before a bemusing play call from Dallas to run the ball with quarterback Dak Prescott despite having no timeouts sealed the game for the Niners.

Prescott and the Dallas offense frantically tried to get set up to spike the ball to stop the clock and prevent time from expiring. However, Prescott handed the ball to center Tyler Biadasz to spot the ball.

NFL rules state the ball must be spotted by an official and umpire Ramon George ran in to do just that, colliding with Prescott and Biadasz in the process and leading to a delay that prevented Prescott from spiking it before the clock hit triple zeros, meaning the 49ers never had to face a Hail Mary from the 24-yard line that could have settled a thrilling contest in the Cowboys' favour.

Shanahan and the Niners strode onto the field in celebration after time ran out, with the Niners head coach admitting to brief concern time would be put back on the clock.

"I thought it was over because I saw it live," Shanahan said. "I was very confident it was done. I was just nervous.

"Sometimes when you're real confident you think you see it right. Sometimes it changes. So you're never fully sure until they let you know."

Explaining the false start from tackle Trent Williams that kept the game alive and negated a successful quarterback sneak from Jimmy Garoppolo, Shanahan added: "We just shifted to an unbalanced [line].

"It was on the silent count and it was quarterback sneak all the way, but Jimmy got really excited because of the look. Didn't let Trent get set. He's got to let him get set.

"It ended up not being a problem, though it would have been a struggle to answer that one if it was."

The Niners will next face the top-seeded Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on Saturday in a rematch of a Week 3 encounter in which the Packers prevailed on a last-second field goal after some late Aaron Rodgers heroics.

"I'm sure I'll be thinking a lot about it here on the plane," Shanahan said. "But they've had a hell of a year. I'm glad we get an opportunity to go up against them again.

"They've been unbelievable. So, we'll rest up here. We'll enjoy this plane ride, and we'll get back to work right when we land."

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