NFL Wild Card Weekend: A slugfest, a whitewash and nerves of steel

The Cincinnati Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers are sperated by officials during the AFC Wild Card playoff game. © Christopher Hanewinckel
The bitter rivalry between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals spilled over into their NFL Wild Card play-off game on Saturday, with the league likely to hit both teams in the pocket once again after a brutally physical contest.

Their regular season meeting saw almost $140,000 dished out in fines as the NFL tried to stamp out violence and dangerous play, but neither the Steelers nor the Bengals appeared to have learned their lesson.

Nine officials lined the field ahead of the clash between the AFC North rivals, who had scuffled before the start of last month's game.

The tactic initially appear to work until the game, eventually won by Pittsburgh 18-16, exploded with a series of head-high hits, unsportsmanlike conduct calls and personal fouls.

Ill-discipline cost the Bengals dearly, as two fouls on the same play handed the Steelers a crucial 35-yard field goal to win the game with 14 seconds remaining.

While the majority of people would agree the NFL needs to eradicate excessive violence from the field of play, presidential candidate Donald Trump took a rather different view at a campaign rally in Reno, Nevada on Sunday.

"Football has become soft like our country has become soft - we're going soft, just like the NFL, we're going soft," said Trump.

"You used to see these tackles and it was incredible to watch. Now, tackle - head-on-head tackle - 15-yard penalty."

The Seattle Seahawks came from 9-0 down to win 10-9 at the Minnesota Vikings, but the home team missed a golden opportunity to pull off an upset.

Doug Baldwin’s 3-yard touchdown and a 46-yard field goal by Steven Hauschka edged the Seahawks ahead in the fourth quarter, and when their defense took the field with 1 minute 42 seconds remaining they seemed well placed to secure the victory.

The Vikings quickly drew a 19-yard pass interference penalty on Kam Chancellor and when tight end Kyle Rudolph beat the same player for a 24-yard gain, they were suddenly in field goal range.

Up stepped Blair Walsh for a 27-yard attempt which he hooked left of the upright to send the Seahawks through.

The play-offs have long been a source of heartbreak for the Kansas City Chiefs, but their 30-0 whitewash of the Houston Texans went a long way towards easing their pain.

The Chiefs hadn't won a play-off game since 1994, but when Knile Davis returned the opening kick-off 106 yards for a touchdown after just 11 seconds the outcome never seemed in doubt.

The Chiefs added a further touchdown in the third quarter and another on the first play of the fourth, on their way to registering the NFL's first play-off shut-out since the Carolina Panthers beat the New York Giants in 2005.

The Green Bay Packers and quarterback Aaron Rodgers overcame a slow start to secure a comfortable 35-18 victory over the Washington Redskins.

The Packers trailed 11-0 early in the second quarter, before Rodgers kicked into gear. By half-time the Packers led 17-11 and although the Redskins regained the lead early in the third, Rodgers was in unstoppable form.

He directed Green Bay on a pair of touchdown drives, capping the second a with two-point pass conversion to put the Packers 32-18 in front.

Green Bay added a field goal, before their defense stopped Washington on fourth-down conversion attempts three times to claim victory.

AFC top seeds the Denver Broncos host Pittsburgh in the divisional round, while the New England Patriots entertain Kansas. In the NFC, Seattle travel to top-seeded Carolina, with the Arizona Cardinals against Green Bay completing the line-up.

Away from the play-offs, the race to be awarded an NFL franchise in Los Angeles has intensified, with three teams applying to relocate – the St Louis Rams, San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders.

READ MORE: Kroenke still keen on moving Rams to LA, open to stadium share

The owners are set to approve at least one relocation this week, with another also on the cards. The Los Angeles proposals are largely expected to be financed privately and will open up greater revenue streams from naming rights, television and possible future hosting of the Super Bowl.

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