NFL Week 18 Review: Deonte Hardy Punt Return Saves Bills from Disaster

Josh Allen couldn’t control his urges to make mistakes. The Buffalo Bills quarterback turned the ball over three times, including throwing two interceptions in the endzone. While the Bills were already guaranteed a spot in the playoffs, things didn’t look good for Buffalo’s winning the AFC East Division for the fourth straight season.

Being desperate isn’t something the Bills have been entirely unaccustomed to this season. After losing to Denver on Nov. 13 at home, the Bills were 5-5, and their playoff hopes looked dim. But Buffalo found its mojo and rallied to win its last five games to finish 11-6. 

Against the Dolphins Sunday night, Buffalo was trailing 14-7 after halftime, and the offense looked lost. Veteran punt returner Deonte Hardy saved the Bills’ hopes of winning the division. Black sports news shows that Hardy fielded a punt at his own 4-yard line and returned it 96 yards for a score to tie the game.

It was the first time Hardy had returned a punt for a touchdown since his rookie season with the New Orleans Saints in 2019. Buffalo ended up winning 21-14 after Allen threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Dawson Knox with 7 minutes, 16 seconds remaining. In a little over a month, Buffalo went from being out of the playoffs to hosting Pittsburgh as the No. 2 seed this Sunday.

The final weekend of the NFL season produced plenty of drama. Much of the tension was taken away by the result of one game early Sunday afternoon.

 

Titans Take Drama Out of Sunday

 

 

How the Jacksonville Jaguars did Sunday was the key to which teams would make the AFC playoffs. But the Jaguars’ opponents, the Tennessee Titans, had a say over what would happen. Long-time running back Derrick Henry turned in a performance to remember and helped Tennessee pick up a 28-20 win.

The win was the end of an era for the Titans. Henry, who isn’t expected to be re-signed by the team, compiled 9,349 yards during his time with Tennessee. Henry’s best year was in 2020, when he led the league with 2,027 rushing yards.

Henry left Tennessee’s fanbase with something to remember. The Titans’ running back finished with 153 rushing yards to help Tennessee pull off the upset. Winning set off a chain of events in the conference, including:

  • Allowed the Houston Texans to win the AFC South for the first time since 2019.
  • Guaranteed the Pittsburgh Steelers the final Wild Card spot.
  • Put the Buffalo Bills in the playoffs, but they would have made it either way.

Pittsburgh Wins in A Monsoon

 

 

The Steelers and Ravens tend to play ugly football games against each other. When the two teams played last Saturday in Baltimore, a driving rainstorm rolled in. Pittsburgh decided to start backup quarterback Mason Rudolph, and he did just enough to win the game.

The Steelers are now faced with a tough decision with who they will start at quarterback this weekend in Buffalo. Mason Rudolph only threw for 150 yards against Baltimore, but his 75-yard touchdown pass to Diontae Johnson kept their season alive. Rudolph is 3-0 as a starter, according to recent sports updates. Rudolph was forced into action after incumbent starter Kenny Pickett suffered an ankle injury.

 

Buccaneers Do Enough to Survive Final Season

 

Tampa Bay quarterback Baker Mayfield had a nice season. Mayfield still isn’t on track to be in the Hall of Fame, but he showed this year that he is capable of being a reliable NFL starter. But Mayfield’s performance in the Buccaneers’ must-win game against Carolina isn’t one he would want to put on his resume.

Mayfield only passed for 137 yards and was sacked three times in a 9-0 Tampa Bay win. The Buccaneers’ defense has been excellent all season. Tampa Bay was able to lean on them to win the division. The Buccaneers never let Carolina rookie quarterback Bryce Young get comfortable.

Young finished with 94 passing yards and was also sacked three times. This was the second straight year Tampa Bay won the NFC South Division.

 

Green Bay Squashed Everyone’s Hope

 

The Seattle Seahawks and New Orleans Saints held out hope that the Packers would lose their season finale to the Chicago Bears. But Green Bay held on for a 17-9 win, and the organization took a collective sigh of relief.

There was some anxiety from the Packers all season after they traded star quarterback Aaron Rodgers after relationships between the sides soured. Green Bay didn’t inspire optimism early in the year, either. Jordan Love looked uncomfortable being the team’s starting quarterback.

Following a 2-5 start, rumors whispered that Love’s time in the role might be short, and Green Bay may be looking to move on from coach Matt LaFleur. But the Packers were able to get back on solid footing. Green Bay rallied to win its final three games to steal the final playoff spot according to top sports news today.

 

Stroud Puts Exclamation Point on Rookie of Year Campaign

 

C.J. Stroud has a long way to go before he can plan to get a bust in Canton, Ohio, as a Hall of Fame quarterback. But Stroud led a drive during a 23-19 win over the Indianapolis Colts that showed he was playing well above a typical rookie. Stroud threw a 75-yard touchdown pass to Nico Collins on the first play from scrimmage.

He would also lead a long drive in the fourth quarter that ended with a touchdown pass that would put the Texans ahead 23-17. On that drive, Stroud completed seven passes in a row to keep the ball moving. Houston had been an organization that was in the dumps for several years because of the Deshaun Watson scandal.

In one year, Stroud has erased all the bad feelings. The Texans are back in the playoffs for the first time in four seasons. Stroud is a major reason for Houston winning the AFC South Division title.

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