While it was impressive to watch a quarterback in his mid-40s march up and down the field in the postseason, Sunday’s wild-card win didn’t provide any tangible answers as to whether Tampa Bay is equipped to defend its throne against the N.F.L.’s better teams, only that the team is wily enough to try.
Rob Gronkowski still has some of the best hands in football, but he has lost a step and a half, making Godwin’s injury and Brown’s exit stand out in obvious passing situations. Jonathan Gannon, the Eagles’ defensive coordinator, brought a few blitzes in the second half and played zone coverage behind it, and Tampa Bay’s backup receivers couldn’t find the open windows downfield on which this vertical passing game thrives.
Darius Slay and Steven Nelson couldn’t guard Mike Evans (117 yards, one touchdown) without help over the top, but the few times Philadelphia ran man coverage, there weren’t many other outlets available for Brady.
By then, though, Philadelphia had already been buried.
Around the N.F.L. Playoffs
49ers 23, Cowboys 17: San Francisco ran out to an 13-point lead and managed it handily until Jimmy Garoppolo’s fourth-quarter interception allowed Dallas to pull within a score. The Cowboys’ final drive featured a frantic 47-yard scurry that ended when Dak Prescott botched spiking the ball, with one second remaining to hurl a Hail Mary touchdown pass, and time expired.
Buccaneers 31, Eagles 15: The Eagles fell into a 17-0 hole early, and their vaunted running game was not equipped to shovel them out. Four players, including quarterback Jalen Hurts, combined for 95 rushing yards that mostly came in garbage time. Tampa Bay relied on rushing touchdowns to open up the field for Tom Brady, who threw for 271 yards on 29 of 37 passing, with two touchdowns.
Bills 47, Patriots 17: Buffalo scored touchdowns on all seven of its offensive possessions to dismantle New England in as decisive a playoff margin as there has been in Patriots Coach Bill Belichick’s tenure. Bills quarterback Josh Allen completed 21 of 25 passes for 308 yards and threw five scores. He also ran for 66 yards.
Bengals 26, Raiders 19: Quarterback Joe Burrow led the Bengals’ high-powered offense on scoring drives in their four possessions in the first half, connecting for touchdowns with receiver Tyler Boyd and tight end C.J. Uzomah as Cincinnati secured its first playoff win in 31 years. On the Raiders’ final drive, a controversial roughing the passer call gave Las Vegas a chance to score but linebacker Germaine Pratt intercepted a Derek Carr pass at the 2-yard line to end the threat.