Sunday's NFL Playoff Roundup
Dec. 29, 1997
Pete Carroll and Tony Dungy made it a sweep: all four winning coaches in this weekend's wild-card games got their first playoff victories.
On Sunday, Carroll's New England Patriots shut down Miami 17-3, turning two interceptions into 14 points. Then Dungy's Bucs won their first playoff game since 1979 and second in the team's 22-season history with a 20-10 win over Detroit.
They joined Dennis Green of Minnesota and Mike Shanahan of Denver, who won their first games on Saturday.
Green did it after four losses when his Minnesota Vikings rallied to beat the New York Giants 23-22. Shanahan's Broncos avenged a postseason loss to Jacksonville last season with a 42-17 win.
Todd Collins returned a pass by Dan Marino 40 yards for a touchdown and Chris Slade set up another TD with an interception as New England hounded the NFL's career passing leader in its win over Miami.
It was the third win this season by the Patriots over the Dolphins, the second in six days and the third time the Pats have shackled Marino.
``The defense made big plays all day,'' said Collins, who noted the Patriots were able to read some of the hand signals Marino used for audibles in noisy Foxboro Stadium. ``You play a team three times, you learn some of the tendencies. He throws the ball to you, you try to catch it.''
The Patriots (11-6) intercepted Marino six times in their three victories over the Dolphins (9-8) this season.
They had three in a 27-24 victory Nov. 23 at Foxboro, two returned for touchdowns. Last Monday night, in a 14-12 win at Miami, they had an interception and recovered a fumbled snap.
On Sunday, they sacked Marino four times, and their blitzing defense harried him on nearly every play. Marino was 17-for-43 for 141 yards and the Dolphins gained only 162 yards, their lowest total ever in a playoff game.
But despite Marino's troubles, Miami coach Jimmy Johnson said he wants him back next season.
``Dan's under contract. Dan's a competitor. Dan can win football games,'' Johnson said of his 36-year-old quarterback. ``Yes, I want Dan back.''
Slade's second-quarter interception on a deflection set up a 24-yard touchdown pass from Drew Bledsoe to Troy Brown. Collins' third-quarter interception, which he caught in the flat and took untouched to the end zone, gave New England a 14-0 lead.
New England plays at Pittsburgh on Saturday. They met three weeks ago at Foxboro and Pittsburgh won 24-21 in overtime. That was a game in which an interception, a touchdown and a 2-point conversion helped the Steelers overcome a 21-13 New England lead in the final 2:10.
Next weekend opens with the Patriots-Steelers game, followed by Minnesota at San Francisco. On Sunday, it's Tampa Bay at Green Bay and Denver at Kansas City.
Bucs 20, Lions 10
The Tampa Bay defense held Barry Sanders to 65 yards on 18 carries, although it didn't officially stop the co-MVP's streak of 14 straight 100-yard games _ that applies only to the regular season. The last time Sanders was held to less than 100 was also by Tampa Bay, which limited him to 20 in the second game of the regular season.
``We felt if we could out-physical the other team we could beat them,'' said quarterback Trent Dilfer, who had a 9-yard touchdown pass to Horace Copeland as the Bucs jumped to a 20-0 lead over the Lions (9-8) and held on. Mike Alstott scored the other Bucs touchdown on a 31-yard run early in the third quarter.
The Bucs (11-6) before this season had lost 10 or more games in 13 of the past 14 seasons. They lost twice to the Packers this year, 21-16 in Green Bay and 17-6 in Tampa.
``It feels great,'' Dungy said. ``From starting 0-5 last season to this has been quite a trip.''
The game was delayed late in the third quarter when Detroit quarterback Scott Mitchell lay on the field with a concussion _ evoking memories of last week, when Lions linebacker Reggie Brown suffered a serious neck injury against the Jets.
Broncos 42, Jaguars 17
Denver (13-4), upset by the Jaguars 30-27 in last season's playoffs, avenged that loss. The Broncos play Kansas City (13-3) Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium, where they lost 24-22 Nov. 16 on Pete Stoyanovich's 54-yard field goal on the final play of the game.
The Broncos took a 21-0 lead over Jacksonville (11-6), but the Jaguars closed to 21-17.
Denver's ground game then took over, finishing with 310 yards, 184 by Terrell Davis and 103 by Derek Loville, who replaced Davis when he went out with bruised ribs.
``This was a payback,'' said Loville, who carried only 25 times for 124 yards during the regular season. ``I wasn't even on the team last year, but I know the emotion that surrounded this game.
For the game, the Broncos outgained the Jaguars 511-237.
``It was somewhat of a pathetic showing for our defense,'' Jacksonville linebacker Bryan Schwartz said. ``We'll never forget this.''
Vikings 23, Giants 22
The Vikings won their first playoff game in nine years by scoring 10 points in the final 90 seconds to overtake the Giants. First, Randall Cunningham hit Jake Reed with a 30-yard touchdown pass, then Minnesota recovered an onside kick that led to Eddie Murray's game-winning 24-yard field goal with 10 seconds to play.
It was Dennis Green's first playoff win in five tries, broke a six-game playoff losing streak by the Vikings (10-7) and sent them on to San Francisco to meet the 49ers (14-2) Saturday.
The Giants (10-6-1) led 16-0 and 19-3 and Minnesota's comeback marked the first time since Dallas did it in 1972 that a road team came back from 16 points down in the playoffs.
``It was amazing how things unfolded for us at the end. I've never been in a game where we've come back like this,'' said John Randle, Minnesota's All-Pro defensive lineman.
``Not in high school, not in college, not in the pros. That's why games are 60 minutes. They aren't over in the first half.''