NFL Divisional Round Plays That Left Football Fans Stunned

John Tondora ‘20

If there is one certainty about all sports across the globe, it is that the NFL Playoffs establish stars and cement legacies. This past week of the NFL Divisional Round served to perpetuate this idea, as, in the words of Jacksonville Jaguars Cornerback Jalen Ramsey, “Big time players make big time plays in big time games”. Of the eight teams who played last weekend, four moved on, as the New England Patriots beat the Tennessee Titans 35-14, the Jacksonville Jaguars beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 45-42, while the Philadelphia Eagles edged out a 15-10 win over the Atlanta Falcons, and the Minnesota Vikings beat the New Orleans Saints 29-24 in a wild thriller. Jackson Uhrig ‘20, voiced his opinion from the perspective of someone whose team did not make the playoffs this year, “Even though I am a Giants fan, having to watch the Patriots and Eagles in the playoffs, was one of the more entertaining NFL Divisional rounds of my lifetime. From the Jaguars’ upset over the Steelers to the Minneapolis Miracle, it was great.”

Since the previous weekend was an intense one, even by NFL standards, determining the five top plays was difficult, and so it came down to skill and timing of the play.


  1. Philadelphia’s Last Stand.

The first of the top five plays of the NFL Divisional Round goes to Jalen Mills. A second-year cornerback, in the final minute of the game, was called onto the field to guard Julio Jones, an electric wide-receiver. In what surely comforted Eagles fans to sleep that night, Mills shoved Jones to the ground and then proceeded to deflect Matt Ryan’s desperate pass to Jones. After the play, an outraged Jones argued that Mills committed a penalty against him, but his plea fell on deaf ears. With this play, Mills secured the Eagles a trip to the NFC Championship.


  1. Antonio Brown and Ben Roethlisberger Connect for Six.

In a stunning underdog story, the Jacksonville Jaguars found themselves up 21-0 against a veteran Steelers team. However, that would not last forever, as the Steelers refused to give up. After marching down the field, the Steelers ran a passing play on 1st and 10 on the 23 yard line. What happened next could only be described as magic; Ben Roethlisberger floated a 30 yard pass to Antonio Brown for the touchdown. Heavily guarded, Brown reached out his arms and snagged a touchdown that would spark a Steelers comeback. Sadly for the Steelers’ fans, it would be too little too late, as the Jaguars never looked back, and secured a 45-42 victory, sending them to the AFC Championship.


  1. Leonard Fournette runs over the Steelers’ Defense.

The third top play on this list is not specific to one play, as it is moreso one player who stood out. The fourth overall pick in the NFL Draft this year, Leonard Fournette was and has been the spark for a once dormant Jaguars offense. Standing at 6’1”, 228 lbs. Fournette is not the biggest Running Back to ever play the game, but his speed and agility combined with incredible strength make up for any doubts one might have about him. Fournette’s 119 total yards this game was amazing, especially for an NFL Playoff game, but it was his scoring ability that set him apart. Fournette found the endzone three times against the Steelers and was an absolute menace to play against. Games such as these are why Fournette has been a breakout star and one of the top five running backs in the NFL this year.


  1. The Jaguars’ Defense Stands Tall.

Although the Steelers amassed a staggering 42 points in their final game this year, the Jaguars defense was consistently astute. Two big plays in particular contributed to the Jaguars’ eventual victory. First, linebacker Myles Jack’s tip-toe interception inches from the out-of-bounds marker allowed for a crucial touchdown the very next drive, scored by none other than Leonard Fournette, which gave the Jaguars a commanding lead. Second, linebacker Telvin Smith’s 50 yard fumble return for a touchdown allowed the Jaguars to regain their 21 point lead, and the Jaguars tightened their grip on the suffocating Steelers.


  1. The Minnesota Miracle.

For a team that has never won a Superbowl, this single catch may be one of the most important playoff moments in Vikings history. The Vikings have won one NFL Championship, it was pre-merger in 1969, and so it was not a Superbowl. In the final seconds of the Vikings game, Case Keenum threw a desperation pass deep to wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who avoided Saints safety Marcus Williams and tiptoed inches from the sideline to run it in for a touchdown with zero seconds left on the clock as Minnesota fans erupted around him.


One student who watched the catch live on his television, Kyle Watkins ‘18, had this to say about the catch: “Though some Vikings fans may disagree, it was not the most clutch nor the most important catch in NFL history. It was less of a spectacular catch by Diggs, but more so an unnecessary risk by the Saints defender.” Kyle’s observation makes a good point, as Saints safety Marcus Williams chose to dive toward Diggs in a risky fashion, rather than playing it safe and waiting for Diggs to try and run past him. This crucial dive allowed for Diggs to have a wide-open lane for the touchdown and secure the win for the Minnesota Vikings.