The Tennessee Titans defeated the New England Patriots, the defending champions. The Houston Texans knocked off the Buffalo Bills. Both advance to this weekend’s AFC Divisional Round of post season football.
The Titans play the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday and the Texans face the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. Both the Ravens and the Chiefs are bye teams, the two AFC teams with the conference’s best record which allowed them the first playoff weekend off and home field advantage, a reward for their regular season success.
This will be the first time that these teams will face each other this season. The winners from each game will meet in the AFC Championship. The winner of the AFC Championship will face the NFC Champions in the Super Bowl on Sunday, February 2.
The Ravens-Chiefs game also matches the extraordinary talents of two of the NFL’s best quarterbacks, Lamar Jackson (Ravens) and Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs) who are both Black. The Texans also have a Black QB, Deshaun Watson. One or two of them will advance to the AFC Championship next weekend.
New England, whose loss ended the season of veteran Tom Brady, now an unrestricted free agent, was strategically outplayed by the Titans on Saturday night, but was let down by one of their most dependable players, Julius Edelman, who dropped a short pass from Brady on second down and four with 3:26 left on the game clock. It would’ve given them a first down and extended the Patriots’ drive, potentially giving them the chance to win the game.
Just as Edelman’s blunder ended New England’s opportunity to advance, Texans’ quarterback Deshaun Watson’s overtime play helped Houston win the game.
Watson’s miraculous play eluding linebacker Matt Milano and safety Siran Neal’s tackle bouncing off of both like a pin ball resulted in a 34-yard completion to running back Taiwan Jones putting Houston at Buffalo’s 10-yard line.
“I told myself to stay up,” said Watson, who threw for 247 yards and ran for 55. “It’s do-or-die now. I just had to make the play.”
Both Milano and Neal had Watson in their grasps simultaneously for a joint sack, but Watson was able to escape them both, scrambling away. Ka’imi Fairbairn kicked a 28-yard field goal on the next play to win the game 22-19. Buffalo had held Houston scoreless during the first half of the game, 13-zip Buffalo while sacking Watson seven times during the game.
“The play he made at the end of the game, nobody makes that play,” said Watson’s best receiver, DeAndre Hopkins, who logged 90 yards on the day.
“The guy’s unbelievable,” Hopkins said. “I’m very thankful and lucky to have him as my quarterback.”