NFL: The heroes and zeros of the first playoff round

NFL: The heroes and zeros of the first playoff round

UPGRADE DAY

The first round of the NFL playoffs did not disappoint fans of unexpected comebacks, spectacular offensive plays and high-scoring games. 

Here three players who gave brilliant performances and as many footballers who did not deliver the goods:

Heroes

Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys

The 29-year-old quarterback was simply dominant in the 31-14 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Dak Prescott completed 25 of 33 passes he attempted for 305 yards and four touchdowns. He also amassed 24 yards and a major with his legs.

The pivot started his matchup in good form, which put a lot of pressure on his opponents. Indeed, the Dallas Cowboys offense has scored four touchdowns in its first six appearances on the field.

Saqon Barkley, New York Giants

Saquon Barkley was the spark plug that helped the Giants beat the Minnesota Vikings 31-24 to reach the second round of the playoffs for the first time since the 2011 campaign. The running back scored the first major of his own, in addition to crossing the goal line in the fourth quarter. His second touchdown is also the one that made the difference in scoring. Barkley has been a constant threat, rushing for 53 yards and passing another 56 through the air.

Brock Purdy, San Francisco 49ers

It was hard to pick the hero from the Niners offensive unit who drove in 41 points in a win over the Seattle Seahawks. The honor, however, went to quarterback Brock Purdy. The Hollywood story of the final pick in the 2022 NFL Draft continued with rushing for 332 yards and three touchdowns in a one-shot game. Sent into the fray since the 14th week of activities, Purdy distributes the ball very well to his talented teammates and gives himself the air of a veteran.

The zeros

Brandon Staley, Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Chargers head coach Brandon Staley is singled out and harshly criticized for his horrific loss. Leading by 27 points in the second quarter, the California team was finally beaten 31-30 by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Staley's play choices and strategies have been called poor across the NFL planet and there have been many calls for him to be fired. Chargers leaders, including quarterback Justin Herbert, however, have publicly said they want him back in 2023.

Tyler Huntley, Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens seemed in full control of their duel against the Cincinnati Bengals before quarterback Tyler Huntley's huge blunder. In the fourth quarter, when the score was 17-17, Baltimore's offense crossed the field and settled deep into the opposing zone. On a sneak for a touchdown, Huntley jumped over the line of scrimmage instead of dashing forward. The center fumbled the ball and the precious object was brought back 98 yards for a major by defensive tackle Sam Hubbard. That touchdown ultimately made the difference for the Bengals.

Brett Maher, Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys kicker Brett Maher is likely the man most relieved by Tom Brady's inability to orchestrate one of his famous comebacks. The 33-year-old veteran left valuable points on the table as he missed four of the five one-point converts he attempted. It was the first time in NFL history that a kicker had so many failures in a playoff game. Luckily for Maher, his teammates took over. It remains to be seen if he will be in uniform for the Cowboys' next one-night game.