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Texans’ C.J. Stroud and Packers’ Jordan Love have dazzling, nearly identical playoff debuts

Texans’ C.J. Stroud and Packers’ Jordan Love have dazzling, nearly identical playoff debuts


C.J. Stroud set the bar high for playoff debuts and Jordan Love matched it — almost exactly.

One day after Stroud went 16 for 21 for 274 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions to lead Houston past Cleveland in the best playoff performance ever for a rookie quarterback, Love put up almost the exact same line.

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Love went 16 for 21 for 272 yards — 2 fewer than Stroud — three TDs and no interceptions to lead Green Bay over Dallas on Sunday.

Both quarterbacks posted passer ratings of 157.2 that are tied for the third-best ever for a quarterback with at least 20 attempts in a playoff game. Peyton Manning had a perfect rating of 158.3 in the Colts’ wild-card win against Denver in the 2003 season and Josh Allen had a 157.6 mark in a wild-card game two years ago for Buffalo against New England.

They both broke Lynn Dickey’s record for the best passer rating in a first postseason. Dickey had a 150.4 rating for the Packers in the 1982 wild-card round against the Cardinals.

While Love is in his fourth season, Stroud did it as a rookie. He became the eighth rookie quarterback to win a playoff start in the Super Bowl era and can join Brock Purdy (2022), Mark Sanchez (2009) and Joe Flacco (2008) as the only rookies with two in a season with a win on Saturday at Baltimore.

Stroud and first-year head coach DeMeco Ryans joined Rex Ryan and Sanchez and John Harbaugh and Flacco as the only rookie coach-QB combos to win a playoff game since the merger.

Stroud wasn’t the only rookie who excelled in a playoff debut, with a pair of receivers also having big performances.

Puka Nacua of the Rams followed up a record-breaking regular season, in which he set rookie marks for most catches and yards, by having nine catches for 181 yards and a TD in a loss to Detroit. Nacua broke DK Metcalf’s rookie record of 160 yards receiving for Seattle in a playoff game in the 2019 wild-card round against Philadelphia.

That came a day after Kansas City’s Rashee Rice had 130 yards receiving in a win over Miami for what is now the seventh-best mark for a rookie in the playoffs.

For the first time since the merger, the team with the second-best record in a conference won’t take part in the divisional round.

Dallas became the first No. 2 seed to lose the wild-card game since the playoffs expanded to seven teams per conference in 2020, losing 48-32 to Green Bay on Sunday.

The other No. 2 seeds have gone 7-0, outscoring the opposition by 12.4 points per game.

The only other time the No. 2 seed didn’t go straight to the divisional round came in the strike-shortened 1982 season when eight teams per conference made the playoffs. Dallas and Miami won their wild-card round games that season.

Dallas was the 13th team to win at least 12 games in three straight seasons but the only one not to make it to the conference title game in that span.

Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes showed they are almost as dangerous with their legs as their arms come playoff time.

Allen scored on 52-yard run against Pittsburgh on Monday for the second-longest touchdown run for a quarterback in playoff history, behind only Colin Kaepernick’s 56-yarder for San Francisco in the 2012 divisional round against Green Bay.

Allen now has 491 yards rushing in his playoff career for the fourth most of any quarterback in the playoffs and second most behind Derrick Henry’s 548 since Allen made his playoff debut in the 2019 season.

Mahomes isn’t far behind after rushing for 41 more yards in a win on Saturday night against Miami. That gave him 424 yards rushing in his playoff career — fifth best of any player since he made his playoff debut in 2018. He trails only Henry (548), Allen, Sony Michel (477) and Joe Mixon (425).

Wild-card weekend was a good one for defenders looking to score.

Houston’s Steven Nelson and Christian Harris returned interceptions from Joe Flacco for touchdowns on back-to-back possessions in the Texans’ 45-14 win over Cleveland on Saturday.

That marked the second time in NFL history a quarterback threw pick-6s on consecutive drives, with Rich Gannon doing it for the Raiders against Tampa Bay in Super Bowl 37.

Flacco became the fifth quarterback ever to throw multiple pick-6s in a playoff game. Gannon had three in that Super Bowl, and Brett Favre had three against the Rams in the 2001 NFC divisional round.

Jim Hart of the Cardinals threw two against the Rams in 1975 and Washington’s Todd Collins threw two against Seattle in a 2007 wild-card game.

The three pick-6s on wild-card weekend are the most for an entire playoffs since there were three in 2012.

The Philadelphia Eagles’ fall from a 10-1 start ended with a lopsided wild-card loss to Tampa Bay.

The Eagles were the 55th team since the merger to win at least 10 of their first 11 games of a season but just the third of those that failed to make it to the divisional round.

Philadelphia joined the 2020 Steelers, who lost to Cleveland in the wild-card round, and the 2019 Patriots, who lost to Tennessee in the wild-card round.

TOP PHOTO: FILE – Green Bay Packers’ Jordan Love reacts as he walks off the field after a preseason NFL football game against the Houston Texans Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Matt Ludtke, File)

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