The first day of the NFL postseason didn't seem like it would provide many fireworks. After trailing by a point at halftime, the San Francisco 49ers ran away from the Seattle Seahawks after intermission to earn a convincing win. Up next for the 49ers is a trip to the divisional round, with the opponent to be determined after the New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings square off Sunday.
The nightcap, however, proved to be bonkers. The Chargers bolted out to a 27-0 lead over the Jaguars, only for Jacksonville to mount an incredible rally to secure the 31-30 victory, the third-largest comeback in NFL postseason history. Jacksonville will learn if it plays the Kansas City Chiefs at the conclusion of Sunday's games (two more games in the AFC have yet to be played).
With Saturday's wild-card games in the rearview, here's what we learned from both contests and how that will carry over to the divisional round and next season.
Trevor Lawrence shows comeback moxie
Lawrence was historically bad in the first 28 minutes of his playoff debut, throwing three interceptions in the first quarter and becoming the first player with three-plus interceptions in a quarter of a playoff game since Carson Palmer had three in the fourth quarter of the 2015 NFC Championship game against the Carolina Panthers. He threw an interception on his first playoff attempt, the first player to do so since Aaron Rodgers in 2009.
Lawrence was 5 of 18 passing for 35 yards with no touchdowns and four interceptions as the Jaguars trailed, 27-0, with two minutes left in the first half (his passer rating was 0.0). Soon as that two-minute mark hit, Lawrence turned a corner.
Lawrence went 23 of 29 for 253 yards with four touchdowns to no interceptions and a 142.9 passer rating as the jaguars outscored the Chargers, 31-3, in the final 32 minutes. Jacksonville scored touchdowns on four consecutive possessions -- all via Lawrence touchdown passes -- before Lawrence led the Jaguars to the game-winning field goal with no time left on the clock.
The Jaguars don't win that game without Lawrence playing like a top-five quarterback, and he showed that he can take over a game facing the biggest adversity possible.
Chargers inability to run the ball results in collapse
An anatomy of a comeback goes two ways, especially when the team that had the 27-point lead saw it evaporate to a loss. The Chargers actually had a dropback percentage of 75% after building the 27-0 lead, higher than the Jaguars at 70%. Which team had the 27-point lead again?
Los Angeles had just 19 rush yards after building its 27-0 lead, rushing seven times for 20 yards (2.5 yards per carry) in the second half -- and 13 yards of that came on a run by Justin Herbert. Austin Ekeler had five carries for zero yards in the second half and six total touches for four yards.
Brandon Staley's team throwing the ball as much as it did is hard to defend, but the Chargers offense got nothing out of the run game after being up 27-0. Put those two together, and you get one of the worst playoff losses in NFL history.
Doug Pederson's aggressiveness still paying off
The man who once called the "Philly Special" in the Super Bowl was up to his old tricks again. Pederson went for two when the Jaguars were getting within striking distance of the Chargers, cutting the score to 30-20 in the third quarter. The Jaguars didn't get the conversion on a Lawrence pass, but that didn't stop their head coach from being aggressive.
On the Jaguars' next touchdown, Pederson decided to go for two again instead of kicking the extra point and making it 30-27. Thanks to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Joey Bosa, Pederson had Lawrence sneak it in from the one-yard line to cut the lead to 30-28.
Jacksonville then forced a three-and-out to get the ball back, and after it drove into Chargers territory in the final minutes, Pederson had one more trick up his sleeve. On fourth-and-1 from the 41-yard line with 1:27 left and the game on the line, Pederson had Travis Etienne line up in the T-formation and gave his best running back the ball. Etienne gained 25 yards and set up Riley Patterson for the game-winning kick with no time left.
The Jaguars are in good hands with Pederson, as his aggressiveness in games are why he has a 5-2 postseason record in the first place.
What a call on 4th and 1! #DUUUVAL #SuperWildCard— NFL (@NFL) January 15, 2023
📺: #LACvsJAX on NBC
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Brock Purdy has historic playoff debut despite slow start
Purdy looked like the last player taken in the NFL draft in the first half of his first career playoff start (and first game against a team that had already faced him). The seventh-round rookie was just 9 of 19 for 147 yards in the first half with a touchdown and a 91.3 passer rating, missing throws to several receivers and getting away with non-interceptions as the 49ers trailed 17-16 at the half.
Then came the second half, where Purdy went 9 of 11 for 183 yards with two passing touchdowns and a perfect 158.3 rating. Purdy also added a rushing touchdown as the 49ers scored 25 unanswered points against the Seahawks for the victory.
Purdy finished with 332 passing yards, three passing touchdowns, and a rushing touchdown. He surpassed Dan Marino as the youngest quarterback in the Super Bowl era with three passing touchdowns in a playoff game and was the lowest drafted quarterback since Tom Brady to win his first career playoff start. Purdy is the youngest quarterback (23) with 300 passing yards, three passing touchdowns and no interceptions in a playoff game.
The 49ers quarterback turned things around in the second half -- and made history in the process.
Kyle Shanahan and 49ers skill players deserve credit
Shanahan is the architect behind Purdy's historic start with the 49ers, which clearly showed throughout Saturday's victory. When Purdy struggled early, Shanahan used the run with Christian McCaffrey (15 carries, 119 yards) and Deebo Samuel (three carries, 32 yards) to set up play action. Purdy went 8 of 13 for 172 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions off play action, finishing with a 145.0 rating.
All of Purdy's touchdown passes were thrown outside the pocket, and the 49ers pass catchers averaged 10.3 yards after the catch -- the fourth-highest in a game since YAC was first tracked in 2006. Purdy was also 9 of 10 for 179 yards and three touchdowns when a receiver had separation of five-plus yards, showcasing the scheme had plenty to do with his impressive performance.
Purdy was just 9 of 20 for 153 yards and a 71.5 passer rating when his targets didn't get five-plus yards of separation. That's something to monitor as the 49ers go deeper into the playoffs.
Seahawks offensive line showed its youth
Seattle had Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas start together for 16 of 17 regular season games, yet the rookie tackles struggled against the 49ers defensive front again. Lucas allowed a sack and was beat on 4.9% of his pass-blocking snaps, including the Charles Omenihu strip-sack on Geno Smith that was the turning point of the game.
Cross allowed three pressures and went up against Nick Bosa most of the night. Bosa got the initial pressure on Smith that forced him to step up in the pocket and set up Omenihu for the forced fumble (Bosa had the recovery). Bosa had five tackles in the game and was finding the football even if he wasn't getting to the quarterback.
Cross and Lucas had to play a near-perfect game for the Seahawks to have a chance. They were solid, but both have plenty of room to grow over the next few years. The interior of the offensive line -- veterans Gabe Jackson and Austin Blythe -- didn't no the bookend rookie tackles any favors either with all the pressure coming through the A and B-gaps.