Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie denied Carson Wentz was the reason for Doug Pederson's departure, though he did not commit to the embattled quarterback returning next season.

The Eagles sacked Super Bowl-winning head coach Pederson on Monday following a tumultuous 2020 NFL campaign.

Pederson, who was appointed in 2016, led the Eagles to their first Super Bowl title in his second season at the helm but Philadelphia struggled this term after a 4-11-1 finish.

Wentz's form resulted in the franchise quarterback – who signed a lucrative four-year, $128million contract extension in 2019 – being benched in favour of rookie Jalen Hurts in Week 13, while it raised serious questions over his future in Philadelphia.

While doubts remain over Wentz, Lurie insisted the 28-year-old was not behind Pederson's exit.

"My first allegiance is, what will be best for the Philadelphia Eagles and our fans for the next three, four, five years. It's not based on does someone deserve to hold their job or deserve to get fired; that's a different bar," Lurie told reporters on Monday.

"It's not about, 'Did Doug deserve to be let go?' No, he did not deserve to be let go. That's not where I'm coming from, and that's not the bar in the evaluation process."

"I don't think any owner should decide that [whether Wentz returns in 2021]. Carson, to me and to I think virtually everyone in our organisation, is a quarterback that in his first four years was in many ways elite, comparable to some of the great quarterbacks the first four years in the league," Lurie added on Wentz. "The fifth year, obviously not satisfactory for whatever reasons, there are probably multiple reasons for that.

"I think the way I look at it is, we have an asset and we have a talent. He's a great guy. He wants nothing but to win big and win Lombardi trophies for Philadelphia. This guy is tireless. He has his heart in the right place. He is really dedicated offseason, on-season. He's just what you want. And it behoves us as a team with a new coach and new coaching staff to be able to really get him back to that elite progression where he was capable of, and understand at the same time that there have been many quarterbacks in their fourth and fifth year, if you trace this, you can come up with many, many quarterbacks that have a single year where it's just, 'Whoa, the touchdown-to-interception ratio is not what you want.' And we're talking some great ones like Peyton [Manning] and Ben [Roethlisberger] and guys like that."

Wentz ranked 23rd for completions (251), 34th for passing percentage (57.4), 25th for yards (2,620) and tied for 20th for touchdowns (16), while he was equal first for interceptions thrown in 2020.

"So I take more of a longer view of this was not the best season for our offense," Lurie continued. "It was a poor season. And we also had a poor season from Carson, in terms of what he's been able to show in the past; very fixable, and I fully expect him to realise his potential."

Pederson compiled an overall 46-39-1 record over five seasons with the Eagles, including four playoff victories.

The 52-year-old, who oversaw three consecutive postseason appearances from 2017 to 2019 before dropping to the bottom of the NFC East this year, had not won 10-plus games since Philadelphia's run to Super Bowl LII.

"It has been an absolute honour serving as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. As difficult as it is to say goodbye, I will always look back on my time here with appreciation and respect," Pederson said.

"Thank you to Jeffrey Lurie for the opportunity, and to Howie Roseman and Don Smolenski for their partnership and support over the last five seasons. To all of our coaches, players, and staff, thank you for believing in me and allowing me to lead us on this journey. The memories we made here, together, will always have a special place in my heart.

"To the City of Philadelphia, thank you for embracing me and this team. I truly appreciate that passion you bring every single day – at home, on the road, and in the community. No matter what, you were always right there with us.

"Although I am disappointed that this chapter of my career has come to an end, I am extremely proud of what we accomplished together. Through all the ups and downs, one thing remained constant about our team – an unwavering commitment to battle through adversity and to achieve our goals not as individuals, but as a collective unit. There is no better example of that than when we celebrated the first Super Bowl Championship in Eagles history together with our city. That is a memory we will all cherish forever."

For all the concerns about the potential dilution of the playoff field following the addition of two extra teams, the NFL's first 'super' Wild Card weekend delivered, and it saved its most stunning result for last as the Cleveland Browns trounced the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field.

The Browns, playing in the postseason for the first time since the 2002 season, led 28-0 after an astonishing first quarter and went on to prevail 48-37 to claim a first playoff win since the 1994 season.

That they did so following a COVID-19 outbreak that left head coach Kevin Stefanski watching from home served to make the first playoff success following their 1999 rebirth all the more extraordinary.

Cleveland's next hurdle is a substantial one: the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.

However, their victory keeps alive the possibility of a meeting with the team that was spawned from the Browns' original franchise when owner Art Modell made the controversial decision to move from Cleveland to Baltimore.

The Browns and the Ravens meet twice a year as AFC North rivals, but a game for a place in the Super Bowl would carry an entirely different level of significance for a Cleveland fanbase that still harbours contempt for Baltimore over that relocation a quarter of a century ago.

Like the Browns, the Ravens seemingly face an uphill climb against the second-seeded Buffalo Bills in the Divisional Round. But, after getting revenge over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, there is clearly as much confidence in Baltimore as there is in Cleveland.

The self-belief in both camps is well-founded, with each having come through their Wild Card matchups using formulas that could make them extremely difficult opponents for the Chiefs and Bills.

Cleveland's brilliant backfield

Their defeat of the Steelers saw the Browns become the first team in the Super Bowl era to score at least 45 points, allow no sacks, commit no turnovers, have five or more takeaways, score a defensive touchdown and have fewer than five penalties in the same game, regular season or postseason.

The lack of sacks or turnovers is in part a result of Cleveland possessing one of the most dominant running games in the NFL.

Though quarterback Baker Mayfield still attempted 34 passes, the strain was taken off of his shoulders by running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, who combined for 124 of the Browns' 127 rushing yards.

Hunt found the endzone twice, while Chubb also contributed significantly as a receiver out of the backfield, catching four passes for 69 yards, most of which was made up by a 40-yard touchdown reception.

According to the NFL's NextGen Stats, Hunt finished the game with 28 rush yards over expected. Chubb had only three yards over expected but 73 of his receiving yards came after the catch, markedly outperforming his expected yards after catch total of 41.

Hunt and Chubb demonstrated that they and an offensive line that has a claim for being the best in the league are the Browns' best route to keeping pace with the Chiefs in the Divisional Round.

Run defense is not an area of strength for the Chiefs, whose 122.1 rushing yards per game allowed in the regular season ranked 21st in the NFL. Having gashed a Steelers defense that ranked 10th in the same category, the Browns can afford to be very hopeful of the ground game putting up points at Arrowhead Stadium.

Lamar's speed fuels Ravens surge

The Ravens also did much of their damage against the Titans with the running game, but in a considerably different way as the dual-threat talents of Lamar Jackson came to the fore.

Jackson, the reigning MVP of the league had 136 of the Ravens' 236 rushing yards, his speed in the open field proving too much for Tennessee to handle.

Per NextGen Stats, his 48-yard touchdown run saw him reach a top speed of 20.52 miles per hour, the seventh fastest speed by a quarterback this season.

Few teams consistently succeed in containing Jackson as a runner, and there is evidence to suggest the Bills may struggle to do so.

They were 16th in the NFL in rushing yards per game allowed in the regular season. While they are superior to the Chiefs in that regard, Buffalo proved vulnerable to a speedy runner in their dramatic Wild Card win over the Indianapolis Colts.

Indianapolis had 163 rushing yards, with 75 of them coming on six carries from diminutive speedster Nyheim Hines.

Having allowed over five yards per carry to a Colts team that did not employ a mobile quarterback, the Bills defense is one Jackson should successfully exploit.

But the Ravens won't be able to rely solely on Jackson's heroics to get them to the title game. Both Baltimore and Cleveland will need their opportunistic defenses to deliver in order to prevent the top two seeds from facing off for a trip to Tampa Bay.

No pressure, no problem?

The Browns defense produced five turnovers despite failing to consistently pressure Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who did not suffer a sack.

They were instead able to pounce on costly errors from Roethlisberger, who missed high on several occasions and had a completion percentage over expected of minus 1.7, per NextGen Stats.

Though he threw four interceptions in his final three games of the regular season, Chiefs superstar Patrick Mahomes is unlikely to produce a similar display if he is not pressured.

Mahomes' interception percentage of 1.0 was the best in the NFL, with Josh Allen (1.7) also excelling in that area for Buffalo.

As with the Browns' defense against the Steelers, the Ravens shut down the Titans' run game, keeping 2,000-yard back Derrick Henry to 40 yards on 18 carries.

Their success in nullifying Henry put the game on the shoulders of Titans' quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who could not deliver as he threw a fourth-quarter interception to Marcus Peters.

But stopping the Bills' rushing attack is unlikely to directly lead to joy against Allen. Buffalo's offense does not go through the ground game, Allen throwing for 324 yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Colts despite his running backs contributing only 42 rushing yards.

Baltimore will hope for more from their front in Buffalo, having sacked Tannehill just once, and may have to rely on Peters replicating Sunday's stellar display if a pass rush does not materialise.

NextGen Stats records Peters as being targeted six times as the nearest defender. He allowed three catches on those targets for 29 yards but doing the same against Allen will be a much more difficult ask.

The Browns and Ravens emerged triumphant in large part thanks to dynamic rushing attacks and defenses that grasped key turnover opportunities, though they were more plentiful for Cleveland.

Yet Mahomes and Allen are a clear step up from the quarterbacks they faced in the Wild Card round and the odds of prevailing again without creating pressure appear slim.

The franchise histories of the Browns and Ravens will forever be intertwined. It is fitting, therefore, that they are on the cusp of a historic playoff meeting through extremely similar approaches that can succeed again in Divisional Round. Though they will likely only do so if they are boosted by more fearsome play up front.

The Philadelphia Eagles have fired head coach Doug Pederson, according to reports.

Pederson had been said to be meeting with owner Jeffrey Lurie to outline his plans for the future, with his position thought to hinge on that discussion.

It seems he failed to convince Lurie and the franchise hierarchy to keep him in the post, with NFL Media's Tom Pelissero first reporting his firing.

Pederson, who took over in 2016, led the Eagles to their first Super Bowl title in his second season at the helm.

Philadelphia's first Lombardi Trophy came at the end of a storied playoff run, in which unheralded backup Nick Foles led them to glory after then-MVP candidate Carson Wentz suffered a serious knee injury.

The Eagles overcame the New England Patriots 41-33 in Super Bowl LII but Wentz's struggles to recapture his 2017 form following his comeback from injury played a significant role in Philadelphia's failure to scale the same heights in Pederson's subsequent three seasons.

Pederson oversaw playoff campaigns in 2018 and 2019, the latter despite a roster decimated by injury.

However, he attracted increased criticism amid a dismal 2020 season that saw a sharp decline from Wentz, who was eventually benched and forced to watch the final few weeks of a 4-11-1 year from the sideline.

His replacement, rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts, was one of the few bright spots for Philadelphia. The controversial in-game benching of Hurts in favour of Nate Sudfeld for the Week 17 loss to the Washington Football Team saw Pederson placed under further scrutiny as he faced accusations of overt tanking for draft position.

Pederson had claimed he made the move to evaluate Sudfeld, but the future at quarterback in Philadelphia is now a matter for his successor and general manager Howie Roseman.

In five seasons with the Eagles, Pederson compiled a 42-37-1 record in the regular season. He went 4-2 in the playoffs.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have activated linebacker Devin White from the reserve/COVID-19 list.

It is a move that sets White up to return for the Bucs' Divisional Round playoff meeting with their NFC South rivals the New Orleans Saints.

White missed the Buccaneers win over the Washington Football Team in the Wild Card round on Saturday having been placed on the list, used for players who have caught the virus or who have come into close contact with an infected person.

Defensive tackle Steve McLendon was also activated from the list on Monday.

It is the return of White, however, that is more likely to be key to the Tampa defense against a Saints team that swept the regular-season series with the Bucs.

A first-round pick in 2019, White is pivotal to the Buccaneers as a pass-rushing threat from the middle of the defense.

His nine regular-season sacks were second on the team behind Jason Pierre-Paul (9.5), who was one of only four Bucs defenders to have more pressures than White's 19.

The Buccaneers visit the Saints on Sunday, looking to progress to the NFC Championship game for the first time since the 2002 season, when they beat the Philadelphia Eagles en route to glory in Super Bowl XXXVII.

Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield insisted "nobody here is satisfied yet" after they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers to record a first playoff win since 1994.

The Browns jumped to a 28-0 first-quarter lead on Sunday at Heinz Field, where they had been enduring a 17-game losing streak, the third-longest on the road at a single opponent in NFL history.

That first-quarter points tally, a joint record in the playoffs, was followed by some resolute second-half defense as they secured a 48-37 victory.

The triumph was made more remarkable by the fact a coronavirus outbreak meant practice sessions on Wednesday and Thursday were cancelled and coach Kevin Stefanski was forced to watch the action from home.

Mayfield, who completed 21 of 34 passes for 263 yards and three touchdowns, is already looking ahead to next Sunday's showdown with top seeds the Kansas City Chiefs.

"We're a team, we stick together, and to have those guys there in our celebration was great," he said. "But the best thing about it was the mentality of everybody saying, we didn't want to just win this game.

"It's a stepping stone to where we want to go. Nobody here is satisfied yet."

Before the game, Mayfield posted a video to Instagram with the caption 'Browns is the Browns', referencing comments made by Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, who had proclaimed himself happy to be facing "the same Browns teams I play every year".

"We believe in the people in this room no matter what is going on," said Mayfield afterwards. "We knew that everybody was counting us out. We knew what mentality we were going to have, and it's just to cut it loose, because no one believed in us besides us."

The result drew astonished reactions from the sporting world on Twitter, including from Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James and five-time NBA champion Magic Johnson.

Browns special teams coordinator Mike Priefer, who stood in as acting head coach in Stefanski's absence, said: "I want to congratulate our fans – I grew up one of them. I know what this means."

Ben Roethlisberger was not ready to discuss his future after the Pittsburgh Steelers lost 48-37 to the Cleveland Browns in the Wild Card round on Sunday.

The Steelers were the last team to be unbeaten in the regular season before finishing 12-4 but committed three turnovers in the first quarter at Heinz Field, Karl Joseph returning Maurkice Pouncey's fumble for a touchdown on the opening drive and Roethlisberger throwing two interceptions.

It was the first time Pittsburgh committed three turnovers in the first quarter under Roethlisberger across his 17 seasons with the team, with the Browns taking full advantage to surge into a 28-0 lead.

The 38-year-old finished the game 47-of-68 passing for 501 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions, but the damage had already been down.

Roethlisberger has one year remaining on his contract worth $41.2million and is yet to make a decision on whether he will return next season.

"It's going to start between me and God, a lot of praying. A lot of talking with my family, discussions, decisions," said Roethlisberger.

"I still have a year left on my contract. I hope the Steelers want me back, if that's the way we go. There will be a lot of discussions. But now is not the time for that.

"This loss is fresh. It's just sitting on our hearts and our minds right now. It will for a while."

On his performance, he added: "It wasn't good enough. When you lose a game like this, you can look back and evaluate all you want on the season, how you did during this game, that game, runs, stretches. I mean, at some point we'll look back on the whole thing.

"But when it doesn't end the way you want it to, you're always going to feel some kind of way, like you came up short or it's your fault."

The Steelers have not won a playoff game since 2016, with their past three appearances in the postseason ending in defeat. For the Browns, it was a first playoff victory since 1994.

Asked if he was accountable for Pittsburgh's recent failures, head coach Mike Tomlin replied: "It is what it is. Our record is our record. Our performances are our performances. Don't run away from that.

"We didn't perform well enough. Not coaching, not playing. You can chalk it up to the turnover game. But we weren't good enough in a lot of other areas, communication, in terms of detail. Just not a good night for us.

"In the single elimination tournaments, when you don't have a good night, you go home."

The Cleveland Browns claimed their first playoff win since 1994 with a 48-37 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.

An incredible 28-point first quarter set up the Browns' victory at Heinz Field in their first playoff game since 2002.

Baker Mayfield completed 21 of 34 passes for 263 yards and three touchdowns, while Kareem Hunt rushed for two TDs.

Meanwhile, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was intercepted four times, throwing four TDs after completing 47 of 68 for 501 yards. The 47 completions were the most in a game in NFL history.

It was a series of early errors that cost the Steelers, the third seeds giving up 28 points in the opening quarter of the Wild Card round.

A bad snap led to Karl Joseph's touchdown after just 14 seconds and the Browns – without Kevin Stefanski after the head coach tested positive for coronavirus amid an outbreak at the organisation – piled on the points to begin the contest.

Roethlisberger, making his 22nd postseason start to break a tie with John Elway for the fifth most all-time, was intercepted by MJ Stewart Jr. and the Browns capitalised immediately, Mayfield finding Jarvis Landry with a 40-yard TD pass.

Hunt would rush for two scores to finish the quarter, either side of another Roethlisberger interception, as the Browns opened up a 28-0 lead.

The Steelers reduced the deficit in the second quarter before Roethlisberger connected with Eric Ebron and JuJu Smith-Schuster in the third, closing the gap to 35-23.

But Mayfield and Nick Chubb connected for a 40-yard TD early in the fourth quarter, all but ending the contest despite the Steelers' late push.

Turning point – Browns gifted dream start

Cleveland could not have dreamt of a better start to their first playoff game since 2002.

A bad snap went over Roethlisberger's head just seconds into the game and the Browns capitalised through Joseph.

It set the scene for the Browns and the rattled Steelers conceded a defining 28 points in the opening quarter. It was the most scored by any team in the first quarter of a playoff game since the 1970 NFL merger, as per NFL Research.

Browns get rolling

The Browns' 48 points marked the second time in franchise history they have scored 40-plus points in an NFL playoff game, according to NFL Research.

Cleveland's offense was allowed to get rolling early and they made the most of it.

What's next?

The Browns face the difficult task of a trip to Arrowhead Stadium to face defending champions the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Divisional Round on January 17.

Pittsburgh fell away after making an 11-0 start to the season and much of the talk about the Steelers is set to focus on the future of 38-year-old QB Roethlisberger.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees said it was "inevitable" that he would meet Tampa Bay Buccaneers superstar Tom Brady in the NFL playoffs.

It will be a clash of the titans when Brees and the Saints host Brady's Buccaneers in the NFC Divisional Round on January 17.

The second-seeded Saints earned a showdown with the Buccaneers after easing past the Chicago Bears 21-9 in Sunday's Wild Card clash in New Orleans.

Six-time Super Bowl champion Brady – who swapped the New England Patriots for the Buccaneers at the start of the season – and Brees are the top two passers in terms of yards and touchdowns in NFL history.

It will be the first playoff game since at least 1950 between the top two players in career passing TDs, while it will be the second postseason encounter since 1950 between the top two players in career passing yards.

"The minute that he signed with the Bucs and came to the division, you felt like that was going to be a team to contend with, that was going to be a team that would have playoff aspirations and beyond, just like us," Brees told reporters after being asked about the upcoming blockbuster.

"So, I guess it was inevitable."

Brees fuelled the Saints with two touchdowns against the Bears, finishing 28-of-39 passing for 265 yards, no interceptions and no sacks.

The veteran – who is reportedly set to retire at the end of the season – also became the sixth player in NFL history with 35-plus passing touchdowns in the playoffs, per NFL Research. Brees joins Brady (75), Joe Montana (45), Brett Favre (44), Peyton Manning (40) and Aaron Rodgers (40).

The Saints allowed nine points and 239 total yards at home to Chicago – each the fewest allowed by New Orleans in a playoff game in team history, per NFL Research.

"Our defense played outstanding," Saints head coach Sean Payton said. "We tackled well in space ... Ultimately we forced them to become one-dimensional, and when you do that you're going to win a lot of games."

The New Orleans Saints cruised through to the Divisional Round after Drew Brees inspired a 21-9 victory over the Chicago Bears in the Wild Card round.

Brees fuelled the second-seeded Saints with two touchdowns as the Saints made light work of Mitch Trubisky and the Bears in New Orleans on Sunday.

Saints star Brees was 28-of-39 passing for 265 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and no sacks, while Bears counterpart Trubisky finished 19 of 29 for 199 yards, one TD and no interceptions.

The Saints stormed out of the blocks against the seventh-seeded Bears in the NFC clash – an 11-yard touchdown pass from Brees to Michael Thomas on the second possession setting the tone.

It was Thomas' first touchdown reception of the season amid a 2020 campaign ravaged by injuries, with an ankle problem sidelining the receiver for the past three weeks.

A 36-yard field goal from Cairo Santos reduced the deficit for the Bears, who trailed 7-3 at half-time at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome where Chicago were making just their second playoff appearance in the past 10 seasons.

Brees weaved his magic again as he connected with Latavius Murray on a six-yard pass to move the Saints 14-3 clear with just over four minutes remaining in the third quarter.

Alvin Kamara's short rushing TD less than nine minutes from the end put the result beyond doubt, while the Bears finally entered the endzone when Trubisky threw a 19-yard pass to Jimmy Graham at the death.


Turning point - Saints defense

It was a dominant display from New Orleans' defensive unit at home to the Bears.

While sack leader Trey Hendrickson missed the game due to injury, defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins stepped up and wreaked havoc – recording one sack, while C.J. Gardner-Johnson tallied eight total tackles.

Chicago's cause was not helped by Anthony Miller's ejection in the third quarter after the wideout shoved Gardner-Johnson.

Brees flexes muscles

The veteran quarterback became the sixth player in NFL history with 35-plus passing touchdowns in the playoffs, per NFL Research. Brees joins Tom Brady (75), Joe Montana (45), Brett Favre (44), Peyton Manning (40) and Aaron Rodgers (40).

What's next?

Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers await the Saints in a blockbuster Divisional Round showdown. It will be the first playoff game since at least 1950 between the top two players in career passing touchdowns.

After a second Wild Card loss in three years, questions again will be asked of quarterback Trubisky – who is no guarantee to return to Chicago – and the Bears heading into the offseason.

John Harbaugh ranked Baltimore's win over the Tennessee Titans as his best ever after the Ravens rallied to record their first postseason triumph since 2014.

Baltimore trailed 10-0 after the first quarter but scored 20 of the next 23 points in the playoff contest, including rushing touchdowns from Lamar Jackson and J.K. Dobbins.

The 20-13 result was particularly sweet for quarterback Jackson, as the reigning NFL MVP had suffered defeats in his previous two playoff appearances with the franchise.

Having recovered from a 6-5 record just to seal a Wild Card spot, Harbaugh reflected on a memorable result that keeps alive hopes of a Super Bowl appearance this year.

"I'm going to tell you right now this is the best win. In perspective, it's going to be top five for sure, but right now, for me, this is the best win ever," the Ravens head coach told the media.

"Not just because of what was at stake, but because of the guys, because of what it meant to the team. What it meant to all of our guys.

"This may be the best win I've ever been associated with. Defensive effort - it was disciplined, it was eyes on your luggage, it was finishing, it was running to the ball, it was tackling.

"I thought our defensive line did a phenomenal job against their very good offensive line. We got them stopped a lot of times before they got started.

"It's a team effort across the board, it always is."

Harbaugh revealed the Ravens had given a game ball to Jackson, who finished the game with 179 yards passing and a further 136 on the ground.

He threw an interception early in the game that set up a Titans field goal but recovered from the setback, including producing a stunning 48-yard touchdown run in the second quarter that helped make it 10-10 at the half.

"It's the best run I've seen by a quarterback," Harbaugh said. "It just got us back in the game. We needed points at that point."

Baltimore outrushed their opponents by 236 yards to 51 - the 185-yard differential is the fourth biggest by a road team in a playoff game.

"It feels good. I knew we had the capability of doing that," Jackson - whose touchdown was the second-longest rushing score by a quarterback in NFL playoff history - told the media.

"There will always be naysayers, no matter what. It's one game at a time - I appreciate the win, a hard-fought team victory, because they played great as well."

Lamar Jackson ended his wait for a playoff win as he helped the Baltimore Ravens rally from an early deficit to beat the Tennessee Titans 20-13 in the Wild Card round. 

Tennessee had won three of the previous four meetings between the teams – including a 28-12 triumph in the postseason last year – and looked on course to prevail again when they moved 10-0 ahead in the first quarter. 

Ryan Tannehill capped a 10-play, 70-yard drive with a touchdown pass to A.J. Brown that opened the scoring, with the Titans adding a Stephen Gostkowski field goal that came after a Jackson interception. 

However, the Ravens regrouped after a sluggish start and, crucially, shut down the threat of Titans running back Derrick Henry. 

A Justin Tucker field goal provided their first points before Jackson made amends for his earlier turnover with a stunning 48-yard touchdown run. 

J.K. Dobbins went in from close range to give Baltimore the lead for the first time and while a Gostkowski field goal cut the deficit to four points, the Titans were simply never able to get closer. 

Baltimore restricted Henry – the NFL's leading rusher in the 2020 season – to a mere 40 yards on 18 carries, while Tennessee managed only 12 first downs in total on offense. 

Tucker's second field goal of the contest opened up a seven-point cushion and the Ravens emphatically ended a late drive from their opponents when Marcus Peters intercepted a tipped Tannehill pass.

Turning point – Jackson shows his value

Baltimore's quarterback could no doubt feel the pressure when he was picked off early, considering his 0-2 career record in the postseason.

Yet Jackson displayed just why he is the reigning NFL MVP with his touchdown before half-time, the second-longest rushing score by a QB in playoff history. 

Henry stifled, Ravens run free 

'King' Henry had 2,027 yards in the regular season, including three games where he topped 200 yards or more, yet was completely locked up here. Such was his lack of impact, Tennessee opted not to even go for it in a fourth-and-short situation in the fourth quarter when trailing. 

In contrast, the Ravens had 236 yards on the ground as a team. Dobbins scored for the seventh game in a row but it was Jackson who contributed the most, going for 136 yards on 16 carries. 

What's next? 

The Ravens - who were 6-5 at one stage in early December - will wait to see where they travel next, depending on the result of the game between Pittsburgh and Cleveland later on Sunday. Still, they will face a daunting trip no matter what, either taking on the Kansas City Chiefs or the Buffalo Bills in the next round.  

As for Tennessee, there will be a horrible feeling of history repeating. They had won the AFC South for the first time since 2008 – a campaign that ended with a 13-10 defeat to Baltimore in the playoffs. 

Taylor Heinicke was not able to draw up a famous win for Washington on Saturday, but the quarterback studying for an engineering degree may have laid the foundations for his future in the NFL.

Heinicke threw for 306 yards and a touchdown, as well as rushing for 46 yards and a further score, in a 31-23 playoff defeat for the NFC East champions to Tampa Bay.

Those stack up as impressive numbers for someone who was not even meant to be playing in the Wild Card game in the first place.

Alex Smith had steered Washington to the divisional title in Week 17, yet he failed to overcome a calf injury in time to start against the Buccaneers.

With their first-choice option ruled out, Washington turned to a 27-year-old they had only signed to their practice squad in early December, an undrafted quarterback who had spent time with four other teams in the league and who had previously thrown a grand total of 58 pass attempts in his NFL career.

The new addition did catch the eye when coming in to replace the underperforming Dwayne Haskins, Washington's first-round pick in 2019, in the fourth quarter of a Week 16 defeat to the Carolina Panthers. Still, this was different. This was the playoffs. This was a game against Tom Brady. This was in primetime.

While there was no fairytale result for the underdog in the end, Heinicke emerged as the headline story from the opening day of the postseason.

His performance made him just the third quarterback to have at least 300 passing yards and 40 rushing yards in a playoff debut, a feat previously achieved by Daunte Culpepper and Tim Tebow (who both won, by the way).

"I have nothing but respect for number four," Washington receiver Terry McLaurin said of his quarterback after the loss.

"The way he came in and handled his business on a moment's notice when we found out that Alex wasn't going to be able to go. He was just prepared for the moment. That's what this league is about, being prepared for your moment."

So, what's next for the new hero? Heinicke is set to become a free agent but made clear in the aftermath that he would like to be back with Washington. The franchise ended the Haskins experiment considerably early by releasing him last month and while Smith is still under contract, he will be 37 by the time the next regular season begins.

Head coach Ron Rivera - who described his quarterback's display as "gutsy" - would not be drawn over the team's plans for the future in the immediate aftermath.

"We'll see what happens. I was just very proud of what he did, coming out and competing the way he did and helping us get where we are today," Rivera, who had previously worked with Heinicke at the Carolina Panthers, told the media.

There may be alternative options elsewhere too, considering plenty will have seen what Heinicke produced against the Bucs. At the very least, he profiles as a solid back-up in a sport where they are coveted – teams are willing to pay to have a reliable understudy waiting in the wings.

"I'm proud of myself and I'm happy that coaches believed in me and gave me the opportunity. Hopefully I can do it again next year," Heinicke said.

"I want to be in the NFL, I want to keep playing ball. It's a dream of mine and [I will] keep working towards it."

Heinicke should get his wish to keep playing, whether that be in Washington again or somewhere else.

Tom Brady wants the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to show a greater killer instinct after missing chances in their road win at the Washington Football Team.

The Bucs won their first postseason match since the 2002 campaign on Saturday, beating Washington 31-23 in their first playoff game in 14 years.

Brady threw for 381 yards and recorded his 75th career postseason touchdown after setting up Antonio Brown and Chris Godwin.

The 43-year-old, now the oldest player in history to throw a touchdown pass in an NFL playoff match, dropped deeper to pick his targets and frustrate a Washington pass rush that recorded 47 sacks in the regular season.

Brady, who led the regular-season standings for downfield passes of 20 yards or more, threw for two touchdowns over the same distance in a postseason game for the first time in his remarkable career.

Still, he was frustrated at certain missed opportunities, notably when he was sacked by Daron Payne and when Godwin made three drops, which allowed Washington nine unanswered points in a third quarter that threatened to derail the Bucs' endeavours.

"We hit some big plays, made some chunks," Brady said. "I think just not scoring enough in the red [zone] was probably the thing that bothers us, [we] missed a two-point play, had other opportunities to score but just didn't quite take advantage of it.

"We moved the ball okay. I think we had decent yardage. But at the end of the day, it comes down to points, and we've got to do a better job scoring more points - and we'll work on that next week."

Brady was full of praise for wide receiver Mike Evans, who recorded a team-high six catches on 10 targets for 119 receiving yards, all after recovering from a hyperextended knee in Week 17.

"Mike played his butt off," Brady said. "He got hurt last week. We weren't sure if he was going to go or not. [He] just did an incredible job fighting through it and made a bunch of big plays when we needed it."

The match mostly belonged to Brady, though, the six-time Super Bowl winner making history as he became the oldest player to throw a touchdown pass in the playoffs, overtaking George Blanda in the 1970 AFC Championship game.

"Come on, that's Tom Brady," said team-mate Leonard Fournette said. "I haven't got to think too much about that. That's the boy. We've got faith in him. We're going to protect our butts off for him to make sure he gets that throw. That's our job."

Los Angeles Rams quarterback John Wolford returned from hospital to celebrate with his team-mates after they defeated the Seattle Seahawks 30-20 in the NFL playoffs on Saturday.

Wolford was in a neck brace when he was taken away from Lumen Field in an ambulance having been struck on the head by the shoulder of Seahawks safety Jamal Adams in the first quarter.

Asked for an update on the 25-year-old, Rams head coach Sean McVay told the media he had been released from hospital.

"He must be good because he was in the locker room smiling, looking good," said McVay.

"I think it was just a stinger, but he definitely seemed good. We wanted to be as cautious as we could with something like that. It looks like it's trending in a positive direction."

Wolford was selected to start the Wild Card game after completing 22 of 38 throws for 231 yards passing as the Rams clinched their playoff spot by defeating the Arizona Cardinals in Week 17.

The fact starting quarterback Jared Goff underwent thumb surgery less than two weeks ago played a part in McVay's decision.

However, Goff came off the bench to replace Wolford and passed for 155 yards - the most by any player off the bench since Jay Fielder's 172 for the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 1999 Divisional Round.

He connected on a 15-yard touchdown pass to Robert Woods, while Cam Akers had 176 scrimmage yards - the second-most by a rookie in his playoff debut - and Darious Williams scored a 42-yard interception return.

"For [Goff] to be able to throw the football is pretty impressive," McVay said.

"There were a couple limitations which led to the decision to go with John. I was real pleased with Jared, and I think it was a real credit to him to be able to handle this week the right way and have himself mentally ready to go."

Asked for his opinion on McVay's decision, Goff said: "It was tough. It was some long conversations we had, but ultimately, I respect his decision.

"He's the coach. He had to make a decision that he needed to make early in the week to get out in front of some stuff, and I get it, but as a competitor of course I wanted to play."

Goff suggested there was added motivation for the Rams after seeing the Seahawks celebrate clinching the NFC West division title by beating them 20-9 in Week 16.

"Two weeks ago, you saw them smoking cigars and getting all excited about beating us and winning the division, and we're able to come up here and beat them in their own place. It feels good," he said.

Tom Brady posted a vintage post-season performance as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers held off the Washington Football Team, 31-23, in the Wild Card round to advance in the NFL playoffs.

The 43-year-old showed his class at FedExField and clinched his 31st post-season victory, his first for the fifth-seed Bucs, while throwing for 381 yards and recording his 75th career post-season touchdown with scoring passes to Antonio Brown and Chris Godwin.

Led by rookie revelation Chase Young, Washington’s defense kept the NFC East champions in contention and stand-in quarterback Taylor Heinicke led an impressive comeback attempt but was unable to force Ron Rivera’s side back into the Wild Card contest.

Brady, 43, became the oldest player to throw a pass in an NFL playoff game as he led the Bucs on a 55-yard opening drive for a field goal before Heinicke, replacing starter Alex Smith who was sidelined with a calf injury, raced into Tampa Bay territory but his tipped pass ended up in the hands of Sean Murphy-Bunting for an interception.

Ex-Patriots signal caller, Brady, took advantage of the strong field position to find wide receiver Brown with a 36-yard play-action pass to extend the lead to nine, as kicker Ryan Succop’s extra point was blocked.

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