Two plays after Graham Gano surprisingly missed a 25-yard field-goal attempt for only his second miss this season, the Saints used a big play to take a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter of New Orleans’ playoff matchup with Carolina.
Drew Brees found former Panther Ted Ginn deep down the middle for an 80-yard touchdown. Ginn had gotten behind cornerback James Bradberry and Brees unloaded the ball moments before the pocket collapsed behind him.
Once the speedy Ginn had the ball in his hands, he was able to sprint away from Bradberry.
It was a tough turn of events for Carolina, which had converted three third downs and nearly capped a 63-yard drive with a touchdown before Gano’s missed kick.
Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles had more rushing yards than passing, but it was enough to help them advance from the wild-card round with a 10-3 victory over Buffalo.
Bortles, who directed the Jaguars to their first postseason appearance since 2007, had 88 yards rushing on 10 attempts and was 12 of 23 passing for 87 yards.
The game was tied 3-3 at halftime, but Jacksonville took the lead late in the third quarter with a 15-play drive covering 86 yards in 8:52. The drive culminated in Bortles’ 1-yard touchdown pass to Ben Koyack with 49 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Buffalo, which was making its first postseason appearance since 1999, had one final chance after the two-minute warning, Quarterback Tyrod Taylor was injured with 1:27 remaining when his head hit the turf after being tackled by Dante Fowler following a 2-yard gain on third-and-5 at the Bills 42.
Nathan Peterman came in and scrambled for 4 yards to keep the drive alive. Three plays later, Peterman was intercepted by Ramsey at the Jaguars 47.
The Jaguars advanced to face the second-seeded Steelers on Jan. 14 in Pittsburgh.
Jacksonville’s longest drive in its postseason history has given it a 10-3 lead over Buffalo after three quarters in an AFC wild-card game.
The Jaguars took the lead with a 15-play drive covering 86 yards in 8:52. The drive culminated in Blake Bortles’ 1-yard touchdown pass to Ben Koyack with 49 seconds remaining in the quarter.
Jacksonville had seven first downs on that drive after having six on its first seven possessions. Leonard Fournette had eight carries for 35 yards on the drive while Bortles was 3 of 3 for 29 yards.
Bortles is 11 of 21 for 85 yards while Fournette has 55 yards on 14 carries.
Buffalo’s Tyrod Taylor is 13 of 26 for 98 yards while LeSean McCoy has 15 carries for 66 yards.
Jacksonville, which had the ball for just 9:49 in the first half, had it for 10:43 in the third quarter.
Buffalo and Jacksonville traded field goals over the final 1:49 of the second quarter and are tied 3-3 at halftime in an AFC wild-card game.
Stephen Hauschka’s 31-yard field goal gave the Bills a 3-0 lead. The kick came at the end of an 18-play, 71-yard drive that took 8:06.
Buffalo had first-and-goal at the Jaguars 1 after Telvin Smith was called for a neutral zone infraction on Hauschka’s 21-yard field-goal attempt, but squandered it when Kelvin Benjamin was called for offensive pass interference in the end zone.
The Jaguars were finally able to move the ball on the final drive of the half. They took over at their 47 with 40 seconds remaining and got into field-goal range on Blake Bortles’ scrambles of 20 and 12 yards. Josh Lambo tied it with 2 seconds remaining on a 44-yard field goal.
Bortles, who was 6 of 15 for 33 yards in the first half, also was Jacksonville’s leading rusher with three carries for 35 yards.
Tyrod Taylor was 11 of 21 for 90 yards along with six carries for 25 yards. LeSean McCoy has 12 carries for 36 yards.
The Bills had the ball for 20:09 in the first half.
Buffalo and Jacksonville are scoreless after the first quarter.
Bills running back LeSean McCoy has 12 yards on seven carries while playing with a sprained right ankle. He could be without one of his starting offensive linemen the rest of the way. Guard Richie Incognito left the game with a shoulder injury and is questionable to return.
Buffalo tight end Charles Clay also is questionable to return with a hamstring injury.
Tyrod Taylor has completed 7 of 10 passes for 55 yards, hitting seven different receivers.
The Jaguars managed just 27 yards in the first quarter.
Commissioner Roger Goodell says it is good for the league that eight of the 12 teams in this year’s playoffs are new.
Goodell was in Jacksonville for Sunday’s AFC wild-card game between the Jaguars and Buffalo Bills after being in Los Angeles on Saturday night.
“The competition is great,” Goodell said. “Two of those teams came from last to first (Jacksonville and Philadelphia). I think it brings hope for our fans and communities that their teams can turn it around.”
Four teams that weren’t in the playoffs last season are assured of playing next weekend — Tennessee, Philadelphia and the winners of Jacksonville-Buffalo and Carolina-New Orleans.
The NFL playoffs continue Sunday with a doubleheader starting in Jacksonville, Florida, where the Jaguars and Buffalo Bills ended lengthy postseason droughts to make a wild-card game.
The third-seeded Jaguars (10-6) won the AFC South and earned their first home playoff game since January 2008. The sixth-seeded Bills (9-7) won three of their final four in the regular season and sneaked in when Cincinnati stunned Baltimore last Sunday.
The nightcap features the fourth-seeded New Orleans Saints (11-5) and the No. 5 seed Carolina Panthers (11-5) at the Superdome. It’s the third time they’ve met this season.
If Jacksonville wins, it will play at No. 2 seed Pittsburgh next weekend. If Buffalo wins, it will play at top-seeded New England.
The Panthers-Saints winner will play at Minnesota next week.