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Eagles ousted by Bucs

NFL playoffs

TAMPA, Fla. — Tom Brady threw for 271 yards and two touchdowns Sunday, helping the Tampa Bay Buccaneers launch their bid for a return to the Super Bowl with a dominating 31-15 NFC wild-card playoff victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.

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.

Giovani Bernard scored on a 2-yard run and Ke’Shawn Vaughn, a second-year pro filling in for injured running backs Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones, covered the final yard of a 70-yard drive that put the Bucs up 14-0.

Brady led the NFL in passing yards, touchdowns, attempts and completions this season, but Tampa Bay gained the upper hand in this one by running the ball and keeping it away from Hurts and the league’s leading rushing attack.

The Bucs ran 25 plays to Philadelphia’s eight in the first quarter, outgaining the Eagles 137 yards to 17 and compiling an 11-1 edge in first downs.

Bengals 26, Raiders 19

CINCINNATI — Paul Brown Stadium nearly shook in triumph. The city of Cincinnati might have, too.

Its latest hero, Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, merely seemed to shrug after leading his team to its first playoff victory in 31 years, over Las Vegas on Saturday in an AFC wild-card game.

“It’s exciting for the city, for the state, but we are not going to dwell on that, we are moving forward,” said Burrow, who threw two touchdown passes. “This is expected, this isn’t like the icing on top of the cake, this is the cake. So we are moving on.”

Burrow led an efficient offense that scored on six drives, Evan McPherson became the first rookie to make four field goals without a miss in a postseason debut, and Germaine Pratt sealed it with a fourth-down interception in the dying seconds.

It was a victory three decades in the making for the Bengals (11-7). After going from worst to first in the AFC North with a generally young roster, they ended that embarrassingly long postseason drought that included eight consecutive defeats.

“Who Dey” indeed.

Coach Zac Taylor said game balls were going to team owner Mike Brown and to the city itself.

“Some of them might not understand the significance of what happened today,” he said of his players. “The city can finally enjoy … this team and take the pressure off of the last 31 years. Today was significant for a lot of people.”

Their next opponent will depend on results in the other two AFC wild-card games this weekend.

“It’s going to be fun tomorrow to watch the games knowing we have the win,” said Burrow, the top overall selection in the 2020 draft who led the NFL in completion percentage this season. He went 24 for 34 for 244 yards Saturday.

Helped by some problematic officiating by Jerome Boger’s crew that might have allowed Burrow’s touchdown pass to Tyler Boyd to count when it shouldn’t have, the Bengals also extended a lengthy postseason drought for the Raiders (10-8). Las Vegas, which won its final four games to squeeze into the playoffs, last won in the postseason in the 2002 AFC championship game.

Cincinnati made it 4 for 4 on scoring drives late in the first half, though with some controversy. Burrow rolled right to avoid pressure and threw from close to the sideline. Play continued despite an erroneous whistle by an official, who thought Burrow stepped out of bounds. Boyd caught the 10-yard pass in the back of the end zone for a 20-6 lead. The play counted, to protests from the Raiders, who cited the rule that the ball should be returned to the previous spot.

And Las Vegas lost by seven points.

“We just ran out of time today,” said interim coach Rich Bisaccia. “We did some uncharacteristic things with some penalties and gave up some drives and didn’t capitalize when we had it in the red zone at times. So it just didn’t go our way today.”

Bills 47, Patriots 17

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The lingering sting of being embarrassed on home turf by the New England Patriots didn’t sit well with defensive end Jerry Hughes and the Buffalo Bills.

On Saturday night, the Bills did something about it by erasing any doubt of who now rules the AFC East.

Josh Allen set a team playoff record with five touchdown passes, including two to Dawson Knox, and Devin Singletary ran for two scores in the first half of a throttling of the division-rival Patriots in a wild-card playoff game.

Meanwhile, Hughes was part of a defense that ended Mac Jones’ rookie season by intercepting him twice, sacking him three times and limiting him to throwing two mean-nothing touchdown passes in the second half with the game well out of reach.

In defeating the Patriots for the second time in three weeks, Hughes noted he was motivated by how reporters specifically questioned safeties Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde as being embarrassed following a 14-10 loss on Dec. 6. It was a game in which the Patriots attempted just three passes while trampling Buffalo’s defense with 222 yards rushing to counter wind gusts of 30-plus mph.

“There was a lot of disrespect coming toward our defense. And so we felt like the only way to shut people up is to go out there and play football and let you guys sit and watch and talk,” Hughes said. “And that’s what we’re doing right now, playing football.”

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