49ers, Bucs and Chiefs advance with wild-card victories
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Versatile receiver Deebo Samuel ran 26 yards for a touchdown the play after an interception by Dak Prescott, and the San Francisco 49ers held on for a 23-17 wild-card victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.
The Cowboys had a final chance with 32 seconds remaining and were at the San Francisco 41 with 14 seconds to go when Prescott took off up the middle intending to slide and spike the ball for a final play.
But Dallas didn’t get the snap off from the 24 until after the clock hit 0:00. After a brief delay, referee Alex Kemp announced the game was over.
The 49ers overcame an interception by Jimmy Garoppolo when they led by 13 in the fourth quarter. Prescott ran for a touchdown to get within a score, and had a chance to drive Dallas to a go-ahead score. But the 49ers got a stop at midfield when Prescott’s desperation fourth-down pass was just out of the receiver Cedrick Wilson’s reach.
After a 14th penalty from the NFL’s most-penalized team in the regular season that helped San Francisco run out most of the clock — and the frantic final seconds as Dallas tried for the win — the 49ers (11-7) clinched their first playoff victory at the Cowboys in a storied postseason rivalry.
Now they head to Green Bay for a divisional game, looking for another trip to the NFC championship game.
The wait for Dallas (12-6) to get that far in the playoffs will reach at least 27 years after another first-game flameout in the postseason for Prescott, the second in three trips for the star quarterback. It was his first playoff game since signing a $40-million-a-year contract in the offseason.
BUCCANEERS 31, EAGLES 15
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Tom Brady threw for 271 yards and two touchdowns, helping the Buccaneers launch their bid for a return to the Super Bowl.
The defending champions set the tempo from the start, with Brady leading a pair of long TD drives in the opening quarter and building the lead to 17-0 by halftime.
The seven-time Super Bowl winner finished off the Eagles with TD passes of 2 yards to Rob Gronkowski and 36 yards to Mike Evans, improving his dazzling playoff record to 35-11 in a record 46 postseason starts.
The Bucs’ defense did its part, too, intercepting Jalen Hurts twice in the Philadelphia quarterback’s playoff debut.
Brady completed 29 of 37 passes without an interception while extending his postseason record for TD passes to 85.
But the Bucs (14-4) had matters well in hand before the reigning Super Bowl MVP found Gronkowski wide open in the middle of the end zone to make it 24-0 midway through the third quarter. The 6-foot-5 Evans punctuated his TD catch for a 31-0 lead with a front flip over the goal line.
The Eagles (9-9) scored on Boston Scott’s 34-yard run and Hurts’ 16-yard TD pass to Kenneth Gainwell in the fourth quarter. A 2-point conversion trimmed Philadelphia’s deficit to 16 with 4:45 remaining, but that was as close as it would get.
CHIEFS 42, STEELERS 21
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Patrick Mahomes threw for 404 yards and five touchdowns, Travis Kelce caught a TD pass and threw another one, and Kansas City sent Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger into his anticipated retirement with a blowout of the Steelers.
Byron Pringle caught touchdown passes from both Mahomes and Kelce, and Jerick McKinnon and Tyreek Hill also had scoring catches — as did offensive tackle Nick Allegretti — as the Chiefs (13-5) began their pursuit of a third straight AFC championship in fine style.
They scored on six straight possessions during the middle part of the game, shut down Roethlisberger and the rest of the Pittsburgh offense, and turned next Sunday night’s divisional-round game against Buffalo into appointment viewing.
Roethlisberger, who admitted the Steelers (9-8-1) were “not a very good football team” this week, wasn’t very good in his own right. The 39-year-old quarterback was 29 of 44 for 215 yards with two meaningless TD passes late in the game, providing the coda to a career that includes six Pro Bowl trips and two Super Bowl wins.
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