NFL Wild Card Saturday Recap: 49ers run over Seahawks, Jaguars stage epic comeback to advance over Chargers

Jan 14, 2023; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) celebrates with tight end Evan Engram (17) after a touchdown during the second quarter of a wild card game against the Los Angeles Chargers at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Wild Card Saturday Recap: 49ers run over Seahawks, Jaguars stage epic comeback to advance over Chargers

49ers 41, Seahawks 23

The San Francisco 49ers used a dominant second half to rout the Seattle Seahawks 41-23 in the opening game of wild-card weekend. Brock Purdy passed for 332 yards and accounted for four touchdowns, while Christian McCaffrey finished with 136 all-purpose yards. Seahawks’ quarterback Geno Smith was sacked four times and turned the football over twice – once via fumble, and once via interception.

The 49ers’ defense picked up as the game began right where it left off during the regular season, stuffing the Seahawks’ offense for negative yardage and forcing a quick punt. San Francisco quickly jumped ahead 3-0 on the ensuing possession after Robbie Gould’s field goal sailed through the uprights. Another punt followed for Seattle on its next possession, and Christian McCaffrey took off 66 yards downfield on the first play of the 49ers’ second drive. Quarterback Brock Purdy found McCaffrey on a short touchdown throw moments later, and the 49ers quickly led 10-0 with 5:11 to go in the first quarter.

Seattle’s offense began to find its way as the game moved into the second quarter. First, a 14-play drive led to Kenneth Walker III’s 7-yard touchdown run to pull within a field goal. Then, after Robbie Gould’s second field goal of the game made it 13-7 San Francisco, the Seahawks struck again. Geno Smith found DK Metcalf down the sideline for a 50-yard touchdown, taking a 14-13 lead and sending shock waves through the Levi’s Stadium crowd.

San Francisco appeared to have the last word in a back-and-forth first half, kicking a field goal with 13 seconds left in the second quarter to go ahead 16-14. But after a personal foul penalty on Jimmie Ward helped Seattle advance the football beyond midfield, Seahawks’ kicker Jason Myers drilled a 56-yarder to move his team ahead 17-16 at halftime.

The 49ers’ offense came out firing to start the second half, quickly pushing their way into Seahawks’ territory. Big pass plays to George Kittle and Deebo Samuel helped San Francisco set up Brock Purdy’s short sneak into the end zone, giving the 49ers back the lead at 23-17. Seattle appeared to have a scoring drive going on the ensuing possession, but Nick Bosa’s sack of Geno Smith led to a fumble that Bosa also recovered to end the threat. San Francisco marched downfield again, quickly covering 70 yards over seven plays. This time, Brock Purdy threw a touchdown pass to Elijah Mitchell – and after a successful two point conversion, the 49ers led 31-17 early in the fourth quarter.

San Francisco put the game away quickly on its next drive. Brock Purdy connected with Deebo Samuel over the middle of the field, and Samuel sprinted 74 yards down the left sideline into the end zone to extend the lead to three touchdowns. Geno Smith was then intercepted by Deommodore Lenoir shortly after Seattle took back possession, setting the 49ers up with another opportunity to extend the lead. Robbie Gould added his fourth field goal of the afternoon, putting the 49ers up 41-17 with five minutes left.

Seahawks’ quarterback Geno Smith found DK Metcalf for a second touchdown after the two-minute warning, capping off a solid season with one final highlight. The loss brings Seattle’s season to an end, but doesn’t take the shine off a season that exceeded all expectations.

San Francisco will host a divisional round playoff game next weekend against an opponent to be determined.

Jaguars 31, Chargers 30 

The Jacksonville Jaguars staged a historic comeback from behind 27-0 to topple the Chargers, 31-30, in the AFC wild card round Saturday night. The 27-point comeback was the third largest in NFL playoff history, and sent the Jacksonville Jaguars to their first playoff win since 2017. Trevor Lawrence managed four touchdown passes to complete the comeback after throwing four first-half interceptions.

The evening got off to an awful start for Jaguars’ quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Jacksonville’s signal caller was intercepted by Drue Tranquill on a tipped pass on Jacksonville’s first play from scrimmage. Two plays later, Chargers’ running back Austin Ekeler scampered into the end zone to give Los Angeles a 7-0 lead just 90 seconds into the proceedings. The Jaguars’ next possession wound up equally disastrous – a strange decision by Doug Pederson to try and convert a fourth-and-7 led to Trevor Lawrence’s second interception of the night, this time picked off when Chargers’ defensive back Asante Samuel Jr. stepped in front of Jaguars’ wide receiver Zay Jones. Cameron Dicker connected on a field goal to cap off the 12-play drive that followed, pushing the Chargers’ lead to 10-0. 

Lawrence’s third interception would come before the end of the first quarter, once again picked off by Asante Samuel – this time deep in Jacksonville territory. Austin Ekeler’s second rushing touchdown of the game followed moments later, and Los Angeles was ahead 17-0 with time still left in the opening quarter.

The Chargers continued their dominant effort in the second quarter, capping off an 11-play, 62-yard drive with Justin Herbert’s 9-yard touchdown pass to tight end Gerald Everett.

Somehow, Trevor Lawrence’s nightmare – and Asante Samuel Jr.’s dream half – weren’t over yet. Samuel picked off Lawrence for a third time, setting Los Angeles up with excellent field position once again. Jacksonville’s defense forced a punt, but botched catching it to give the Chargers the football inside the Jaguars 10-yard line again. Cameron Dicker converted his second field goal of the night three plays later to extend L.A.’s lead to 27-0. 

Jacksonville finally found the scoreboard in the first half’s final seconds on Trevor Lawrence’s 9-yard pass to Evan Engram, narrowing the deficit to 27-7 at the break.

The Jaguars continued to build momentum early in the second half. After forcing a Chargers punt, Jacksonville’s offense steadily worked its way down inside the Chargers 10-yard line. Trevor Lawrence connected with Marvin Jones Jr. on a 6-yard touchdown pass to complete the drive, and suddenly the Jaguars trailed just 27-14. After a 50-yard field goal by Cameron Dicker extended L.A.’s lead to 30-14, Lawrence and the Jaguars struck again. Lawrence delivered an accurate 39-yard deep ball to Zay Jones for a touchdown, and Jacksonville trailed 30-20 after a failed 2-point conversion attempt with 44 seconds left in the third quarter.

Jacksonville took the football back with just under nine minutes remaining in the game after Cameron Dicker missed a field goal for Los Angeles. This time, the Jaguars covered 70 yards over 9 plays and pulled within four on Trevor Lawrence’s 9-yard touchdown pass to Christian Kirk. After a Joey Bosa unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for slamming his helmet on the turf as he was walking to the sidelines gave the Jaguars the ball at the 1-yard line for the PAT try, Doug Pederson decided to take the calculated risk and go for 2. Lawrence then reached the football over the goal line to convert the 2-point conversion, and Jacksonville trailed just 30-28 with 5:25 to go.

The Jaguars’ defense came up big once again by forcing yet another Los Angeles punt on the ensuing possession, and Jacksonville earned itself possession once again with just over three minutes remaining and all of its timeouts in hand. After a massive fourth down conversion moved the Jaguars’ deep into Los Angeles territory, it would all come down to a last-second, 36-yard field goal attempt. Riley Patterson sneaked the kick just inside the right upright, and Jacksonville earned the incredibly unlikely 31-30 win.

The Jaguars will move onto the divisional round next weekend against an opponent to be determined Sunday. For Los Angeles, the voices calling for head coach Brandon Staley’s job will only become louder as Chargers’ fans wonder what could have been.

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