The trend of young arms taking over the NFL was put on hold, at least temporarily, over the weekend as a trio of the NFL’s fastest-rising stars — Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson, Houston’s Deshaun Watson and Chicago’s Mitch Trubisky — all fell in their first playoff starts.
Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott, the four-year veteran who took the Cowboys to the playoffs his second season, was the only younger quarterback to prevail in the opening wild card round of the playoffs, leading the Cowboys to a 24-22 win over Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday.
In Baltimore on Sunday, the Los Angeles Chargers neutralized Jackson for three quarters and staved off a late comeback to eliminate the Ravens with a 23-17 win.
The 21-year-old Jackson, the youngest quarterback to start an NFL playoff game, had a postseason debut he’d rather forget — with fans clamoring for backup Joe Flacco at halftime and fumbling the ball on Baltimore’s last-chance drive.
But Jackson almost pulled off a remarkable rally. Down 23-3 in the fourth, the rookie threw two clutch touchdowns to cut Los Angeles’ lead to six. The former Heisman winner, who led the Ravens to win the AFC North with his legs, threw for 194 yards and was sacked seven times.
Los Angeles now moves on to play at the New England Patriots on Sunday in a meeting of two of the oldest quarterbacks in the playoffs — Tom Brady (41) and Philip Rivers (37).
Later in the afternoon, Trubisky, the second overall pick in 2017, was largely held in check by the Eagles, but had the Bears in position to win on a last-second field goal. The kick instead bounced off an upright, then the crossbar before falling into the end zone to give the Eagles the win.
Nick Foles, last year’s Super Bowl MVP, had taken the Eagles down the field for the go-ahead score, keeping the reigning champs’ hopes of a repeat alive.
The least-competitive game of the weekend took place in Houston on Saturday, when the Indianapolis Colts smacked the Texans in a 21-7 win. Watson was under duress consistently and underthrew his receivers.
Watson, who is regarded as one of the league’s most promising quarterbacks, went 29-of-49 for 235 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He was sacked three times. It didn’t help that star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins had just five catches for 37 yards and became injured. Hopkins told reporters he suffered a shoulder sprain in the first half, though kept playing through the pain.
For the Colts, who now play the Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday, the win marked an incredible turnaround after they had started this season just 1-5 and were 4-12 in 2017.
How it is possible that the Colts are so much better? General manager Chris Ballard nailed the team’s 2018 draft — taking guard Quenton Nelson with the sixth overall pick and linebacker Darius Leonard in the second round. Both players were recently named to the first-team All-Pro team, despite being rookies. The team also hit on hiring first-year coach Frank Reich.
Elsewhere, the Cowboys made a statement in their win over the Seahawks. Behind Ezekiel Elliott’s 137 rushing yards, Dallas recorded its first playoff victory in four years. Elliott’s rushing helped Prescott excel in the passing game. Prescott, 25, had 226 yards and completed 66 percent of his passes. His goal-line sneak helped give Dallas enough breathing room that Seattle’s late fourth-quarter touchdown didn’t matter.
Dallas will travel to face the Los Angeles Rams on Saturday while the Eagles visit the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.
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