The Buffalo Bills, the New York Giants and the Cincinnati Bengals all advanced from the wildcard round of the NFL playoffs after thrilling battles on Sunday.
Josh Allen shrugged off an error-strewn display to lead the Bills to a 34-31 victory over the Miami Dolphins in the NFL playoffs while the New York Giants upset the Vikings 31-24 in Minnesota.
The Bengals met some stern resistance from AFC North rivals the Baltimore Ravens but emerged victorious thanks to a 98-year fumble return from Sam Hubbard — the longest fumble return in playoff history.
With only Monday’s mouth-watering clash between the Dallas Cowboys and Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers remaining, the field is almost set for next weekend’s divisional round games.
The Giants will travel to AFC East rivals the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday while the Bills and Bengals will meet again after their regular season game earlier this month was canceled following the on-field cardiac arrest for Bills safety Damar Hamlin.
The Jacksonville Jaguars travel to Kansas City to face the Chiefs while the San Francisco 49ers will host the winners of the Dallas-Tampa Bay contest.
Bills quarterback Allen threw two interceptions and gave up a fumble touchdown to effectively gift underdogs Miami 24 points before finally leading Buffalo to victory at Highmark Stadium.
The heavily favored Bills looked to be motoring towards a comprehensive win after a dominant start.
Allen connected with Dawson Knox from six yards for the opening score and then James Cook rushed over from 12 yards to put the Bills ahead before a Tyler Bass field goal made it 17-0.
But Miami, with third choice Skylar Thompson at quarterback, got back into the game with three field goals from Jason Sanders to trim the Bills’ lead to 17-9.
An Allen interception then handed Miami good field position at the Buffalo 18-yard line and Thompson found tight end Mike Gesicki for a touchdown.
A two-point conversion leveled the score at 17-17 before another Bass field goal allowed Buffalo to regain the lead at 20-17 at the break.
But Miami came roaring back at the start of the third quarter, with Eric Rowe flattening Allen to force a fumble.
Dolphins defensive tackle Zach Sieler scooped up the loose ball and gleefully scampered into the end zone to help Miami take a 24-20 lead.
Art of survival
Allen steadied the ship however with back-to-back touchdown drives to put Buffalo 10 points clear at 34-24.
Miami set up a tense finale when Jeff Wilson rushed over from close range early in the fourth quarter to put the Dolphins within a field goal at 34-31 but Buffalo’s defense held firm.
Quarterback Dan Jones led the Giants to their first playoff victory since 2011, delivering a near immaculate display, throwing for 301 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 78 yards.
Jones, allied with the powerful rushing of running-back Saquon Barkley, who had two touchdowns, triumphed in a game where both offenses dominated.
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins opened the scoring with a one-yard run but the Giants responded strongly with Barkley bursting 28 yards down the left to score and then put themselves 14-7 up with Jones finding Isaiah Hodgins with a 14-yard pass.
New York extended their lead with a field goal before the Vikings reduced the deficit before half-time with Cousins connecting with K.J. Osborn on a nine yard touchdown pass.
Jones led the Giants to a 10-point lead with a nine-yard pass to Daniel Bellinger but the Vikings kept themselves in contention with an Irv Smith reception on a three-yard pass from Cousins after an eight-play drive.
The Vikings pulled level with a field goal from Greg Joseph before Barkley ran in his second touchdown and the Giants defense delivered in the final stages.
A bruising encounter in Cincinnati was tied at 17-17 after the third quarter but was decided by local born Hubbard’s superb run after collecting a fumble.
At third and goal at the Cincinnati one yard line, Ravens quarterback Tyler Huntley tried a quarterback sneak, going over the top but the ball was pushed out of his hands and was snaffled up by Hubbard, the defensive end powering his way all the way down the field for the game-winning touchdown.