NFL Wild Card Sunday Recap: Bills, Bengals survive home scares while Giants upset Vikings in Minnesota

Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) runs with the ball against Minnesota Vikings cornerback Patrick Peterson (7) during the first quarter of a wild card game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Wild Card Sunday Recap: Bills, Bengals survive home scares while Giants upset Vikings in Minnesota

Bills 34, Dolphins 31 

The Buffalo Bills held on to defeat the Miami Dolphins 34-31 in Sunday afternoon’s AFC wild-card matchup. Buffalo turned the football over three times in the win, a game that finished with a much closer final score than most pundits predicted. Miami played without starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and couldn’t overcome his absence despite the best efforts of rookie Skylar Thompson.

Miami overcame a 17-point first-half deficit to eventually take the lead, but could not keep pace late as Buffalo’s offense rediscovered its footing.

Each team punted to start the day in front of a capacity crowd at Highmark Stadium before Bills’ quarterback Josh Allen and wide receiver Stefon Diggs connected on a 52-yard pass down to the Dolphins 6-yard line. Tight end Dawson Knox caught the game’s first touchdown on the next play, putting the Bills ahead 7-0. On the second play of the ensuing drive, Bills’ safety Dean Marlowe picked off Dolphins’ quarterback Skylar Thompson to set his team up with another scoring opportunity. Running back James Cook took a handoff 12 yards into the end zone to score just two minutes later, putting Buffalo ahead 14-0 with five minutes to play in the first quarter. When the first quarter expired, Dolphins’ quarterback Skylar Thompson had only completed one pass.

Buffalo continued its first half onslaught early in the second quarter, going ahead 17-0 with a Tyler Bass field goal. Miami finally made some progress offensively in the second quarter, but stalled out after gaining 38 yards over 10 plays and settled for a Jason Sanders field goal with 7:34 left in the half. The Dolphins would add a second field goal after intercepting Josh Allen later in the second quarter, and added a third with 1:15 to go in the half as their defense continued to keep them within striking distance.

Miami safety Javon Holland created another turnover in the half’s final minute, intercepting Josh Allen to set up a scoring opportunity. This time, the Dolphins finally found the end zone on Skylar Thompson’s 7-yard pass to Mike Gesicki – and after a successful 2-point conversion, the Dolphins and Bills were tied at 17. Still, Buffalo got the ball back with 33 seconds remaining and managed a field goal to take a 20-17 lead into halftime.

Miami continued to build momentum in the third quarter, but could only keep Buffalo down for so long. Bills’ quarterback Josh Allen fumbled on the first Buffalo possession of the second half, and Dolphins’ defensive lineman Zach Sieler recovered the ball for a touchdown to give his team the lead, 24-20. But after Bills’ defensive back Kaiir Elam intercepted Skylar Thompson on Miami’s next possession, Buffalo took back the lead 27-24 on Cole Beasley’s 6-yard touchdown reception. The Bills would extend their lead once again before the end of the third quarter, this time on a 23-yard touchdown pass from Josh Allen to Gabe Davis that made it 34-24. 

The Dolphins’ offense continued to fight admirably as the game moved into the fourth quarter. An 11-play, 75-yard drive finished with Jeff Wilson Jr’s 1-yard touchdown run, and suddenly Miami trailed by just three with 10 minutes to go. After two key stops by its defense, Miami took back over with less than five minutes remaining, hoping to tie the game or take a lead. Ultimately, the Dolphins would come up short on fourth down near midfield, allowing the Bills to run out the clock on a too-close-for-comfort win.

Buffalo will now host Cincinnati in the AFC divisional round next weekend, while Miami’s season comes to an end.

Giants 31, Vikings 24

The New York Giants started fast and never looked back in a 31-24 win over the Minnesota Vikings in Sunday’s AFC wild-card matchup on the road at U.S. Bank Stadium. New York finished just one drive all evening without points, consistently moving the football at will against a Vikings’ defense on its heels. Giants’ quarterback Daniel Jones finished the game 24-for-35, passing for 301 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 78 yards.

The Vikings began the afternoon with an impressive, steady drive, marching 75 yards over 12 plays en route to Kirk Cousins’ 1-yard touchdown plunge. Cousins went 7-for-7 passing to lead the Minnesota march, creating 53 yards of offense through the air. New York responded quickly, covering 75 yards over three minutes and tying the game on Saquon Barkley’s 28-yard touchdown sprint with 5:11 left in the first quarter.

After forcing a Minnesota punt, the Giants’ offense quickly continued to cut through the Vikings’ defense like a hot knife through butter on their second possession. Daniel Jones hit Darius Slayton on a 47-yard completion into Minnesota territory and found Isaiah Hodgins for a touchdown just three plays later to make it 14-7 New York with a minute left in the first quarter.

The Giants’ offense continued to sizzle in the second quarter. New York drove 85 yards over 20 plays while possessing the football for almost 11 minutes in the second quarter, as quarterback Daniel Jones gashed the Vikings’ defense in the run game. Eventually, the Giants settled for Graham Gano’s 25-yard field goal with 3:25 remaining in the half.

Down 17-7, Minnesota’s offense responded with its second 75-yard touchdown drive of the evening. This time, Kirk Cousins capped off the trip with a 9-yard touchdown pass to K.J. Osborn to pull the Vikings within three.

New York outgained Minnesota by 92 yards in the first half, led by Daniel Jones’ 71 rushing yards and 143 passing yards.

The Giants struck first in the second half, extending their lead to 24-14 on Jones’ short touchdown pass to Daniel Bellinger – but Minnesota answered in short order. Kirk Cousins’ second touchdown pass of the game connected with Irv Smith Jr., making it 24-21 midway through the third quarter.

Minnesota tied the game with a 38-yard field goal by Greg Joseph early in the fourth quarter, setting the stage for a potentially exciting finish.

New York drove the football deep into Minnesota territory hoping to break the tie, and converted a short fourth down to set up a first-and-goal opportunity. Saquon Barkley made the most of the opportunity with a 2-yard touchdown run, putting the Giants ahead 31-24 with 7:47 left in the game. After forcing a Vikings’ punt, New York had a potentially game-clinching drive in the works with less than four minutes left. But after Darius Slayton dropped a potential first-down reception, New York was forced to punt back to Minnesota with three minutes left.

The Giants’ defense was up to the task, stopping the Vikings on fourth down to seal the New York win. The Giants will move on to the divisional round, heading to Philadelphia for a divisional battle with the Eagles.

Bengals 24, Ravens 17 

The Cincinnati Bengals used a fourth-quarter fumble return touchdown to topple the Baltimore Ravens 24-17 in the AFC wild-card round at Paycor Stadium. Baltimore outgained the Bengals 364 to 234 but was undone by two turnovers.

Cincinnati dominated possession in the early going. The Bengals’ offense was on the field for 22 of the 27 plays from scrimmage that occurred in the first quarter, managing a field goal by Evan McPherson and then threatening to score again as the quarter ended. Ja’Marr Chase was a huge part of the Cincinnati game plan early, and his fifth catch of the night put the Bengals ahead 9-0 on the first play of the second quarter.

The Ravens finally answered with a solid drive of their own after Cincinnati extended its lead, running the football repeatedly as they advanced deep into Bengals’ territory. The 17-play, 75-yard journey ended with J.K. Dobbins’ 2-yard touchdown catch to pull the Ravens within two with 4:53 to go in the half. Baltimore continued to build momentum by forcing a fumble from Hayden Hurst on the ensuing Bengals’ drive, and took over in Cincinnati territory hoping to take the lead. The Ravens did just that, going ahead 10-9 on Justin Tucker’s chip shot field goal in the first half’s final seconds.

After Baltimore punted on its first drive of the second half, Cincinnati quickly retook the lead. The Bengals drove 83 yards over 12 plays on their first possession after halftime, eventually going ahead on Joe Burrow’s short run into the end zone. After a successful 2-point conversion, Cincinnati led 17-10 with 5:02 remaining in the third quarter.

Baltimore responded in an unlikely way, as Tyler Huntley tossed a deep ball downfield to Demarcus Robinson for a 41-yard touchdown – tying the game at 17 with 2:13 to go in the third quarter. After the Ravens forced a Bengals’ punt on the drive that followed, tension was palpable at Paycor Stadium among the Cincinnati faithful.

The Ravens led a bruising drive into Bengals’ territory again, catalyzed by Mark Andrews’ 25-yard reception and quarterback Tyler Huntley’s 35-yard run. But when the Ravens tried to sneak the football into the end zone with Tyler Huntley from the 1-yard line, Huntley’s fumble proved disastrous. Bengals’ defensive end Sam Hubbard – an Ohio native – recovered the football and ran it back 99 yards for a Cincinnati touchdown that sent the crowd into chaos. The Bengals led 24-17 with 11:39 to go.

Cincinnati’s defense forced punts from the Ravens on their next two possessions, but Baltimore would get one more chance to equalize the score when they took the football back with just over three minutes to go. Tyler Huntley led the Ravens into the red zone, but Baltimore eventually failed to convert a fourth down as the clock ran out.

The loss sends Baltimore into an offseason full of questions. Lamar Jackson becomes an unrestricted free agent when the new league year begins on March 15, calling into question everything about Baltimore’s offensive strategy moving forward. For Cincinnati, the win sends them onto the AFC divisional round next weekend, when they’ll head to Buffalo for a date with the Bills.

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