LANDOVER: Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers passes during the game against the Washington Football Team at FedExField on Saturday in Landover, Maryland. – AFP

LOS ANGELES: Six-time Super Bowl champ Tom Brady padded his postseason resume as both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Buffalo Bills snapped long playoff win droughts with a pair of NFL wild-card victories on Saturday. Brady completed 22 of 40 passes for 381 yards and two touchdowns as the Buccaneers won their first playoff contest in 18 years with a 31-23 victory over Washington. The Bills’ Josh Allen threw for two touchdowns and rushed for another as the Bills bagged their first playoff victory in a quarter-century with a nail-biting 27-24 wild-card defeat of the Indianapolis Colts.

“If you could win 100-0, it’s going to be the same result in the end,” Brady said. “It’s good to win and advance.” Brady showed why the fifth-seeded Buccaneers brought him to Tampa as he got his new team to the playoffs for the first time since 2007 and their first win since the 2002 season Super Bowl. Brady, whose nine Super Bowl starts are the most by any player in history, earned his NFL all-time leading 31st playoff victory. “He is a fighter. He plays hard and studies hard and he is the man for the job,” said Buccaneers back Leonard Fournette, who had 19 carries for 93 yards.

Fournette added 39 receiving yards and a three-yard touchdown run. “It has been trying times for me this season. I got cut and now I am back in the playoffs,” Fournette said. Washington’s emergency quarterback Taylor Heinicke performed admirably in his first career playoff start. He threw for 306 yards with a touchdown and added an eight-yard scoring run while starting in place of injured Alex Smith.

In Buffalo, Allen finished with 324 yards from 26 of 35 attempts to send the Bills into next week’s AFC divisional round while the Colts were left ruing a decision not to kick an easy first-half field goal that ultimately proved the difference. It was the second-seeded Bills’ first win in the postseason since December 1995, ending a run of five straight playoff losses.

The Colts, meanwhile, rallied from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter to come within a field goal of tying the game with two minutes remaining, only to come up agonizingly short. The Colts had one last chance to mount a game-winning drive, but the game ended when a desperate Hail Mary attempt from quarterback Philip Rivers was batted away by Bills safety Micah Hyde. “It doesn’t matter how it looks, it’s the playoffs, it’s win or go home,” a relieved Allen said afterwards. Veteran Colts quarterback Rivers, who turned 39 last month, was uncertain over whether he would extend his career into an 18th season.

“If it’s God’s will that I’m in Indy with the Colts next year, then I’ll be here,” said Rivers, who made 27-of-46 for 309 yards and two touchdowns. “If not, I’ll be on the sideline with a ballcap on my head, coaching football.” The Bills’ victory was one of three games on Saturday in an expanded wild card round.

Rams defense downs Seahawks
In the day’s second game, the Los Angeles Rams powered to a 30-20 road victory over the Seattle Seahawks in a bruising battle between the two NFC West rivals. Defenses dominated throughout, with the Rams stifling the threat of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and receiver DK Metcalf. The Seahawks defense was similarly aggressive, and knocked Rams quarterback John Wolford — chosen to start ahead of Jared Goff — out of the game with a brutal hit by Jamal Adams early in the first quarter. The Rams defense engineered the game’s opening touchdown, Darious Williams picking off Wilson’s pass for Metcalf for a 42-yard pick six and a 13-3 lead.

The Seahawks responded immediately when Wilson hit Metcalf for a 51-yard touchdown but the Rams restored their 10-point cushion with a touchdown from running back Cam Akers that made it 20-10 at half-time. The Seahawks were always chasing the game from that point as Wilson was bottled up by the rampant Rams defense.

The knockout blow came in the fourth quarter, Samson Ebukam forcing a fumble from a D.J. Reed punt return to give the Rams possession at the Seattle 36-yard line. On the following drive, Goff picked out a wide-open Robert Woods for a 15-yard score with the extra-point making it 30-13. The Seahawks made it a 10-point game when Wilson picked out Metcalf with 2min 28sec remaining. But it was too little too late, and the Rams defense effectively sealed victory by sacking Wilson for the fifth time on the Seahawks’ final possession. – AFP