The Wild Card Round of the 2015 NFL playoffs was undoubtedly wild, with two blowouts bookending a weekend featuring two incredible games decided in the final seconds.
The first four games of the postseason provided great theatre. However, much of that drama derived from players making huge, game-changing mistakes. The big stage of the playoffs is a pressure-cooker, and sometimes that extra duress can create unthinkable turns in a game.
Here’s a look at the biggest mistakes of the Wild Card Weekend:
1. Brian Hoyer intercepted by Josh Mauga
The Texans effectively lost their home playoff game against the Chiefs during a two-play sequence late in the first half. Down 13-0, Houston tried to run defensive end J.J. Watt behind nose tackle Vince Wilwork on 1st-and-goal form Kansas City’s 2-yard line. It was stuffed for a 1-yard loss. A play later, quarterback Brian Hoyer was intercepted under pressure by Chiefs linebacker Josh Mauga on a terrible throw over the middle. Houston never sniffed the red zone again in a 30-0 loss.
2. Jeremy Hill fumbles
The Bengals looked like they were going to complete their comeback and secure a first playoff win in 25 years after Vontaze Burfict intercepted Landry Jones deep in Pittsburgh territory with 1:43 left in the fourth quarter. Three runs and a field goal likely would have ended the Steelers’ season. Instead, Bengals running back Jeremy Hill was stripped of the football on the very first play following the interception, giving Pittsburgh another chance to drive the field for the game-winning field goal. Ben Roethlisberger re-entered the game, and the rest is history.
3. Vontaze Burfict and Adam Jones penalties
There was exactly 18 seconds left when Ben Roethlisberger’s pass to Antonio Brown sailed over No. 84’s head for an incompletion. And the Steelers were still 10-15 yards away from field goal range with no timeouts left. Who knows how the game would have ended without Vontaze Burfict’s personal foul penalty against Brown, who was left motionless on the field after taking a dangerous hit to the head from Burfict. Adam Jones compounded the mistake with another 15-yard penalty as he was lured into an argument with Steelers coach Joey Porter on the field. Two huge discipline errors turned a desperation situation into Pittsburgh’s game-winning field goal from just 35 yards out.
4. Adrian Peterson fumbles
Clinging to a 9-7 lead, the Vikings needed to stem the tide after Russell Wilson created some magic and got the Seahawks back in the game on the previous drive. Adrian Peterson did the opposite, fumbling on Minnesota’s second play following Seattle’s touchdown. Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor stripped the ball at the end of Peterson’s 8-yard catch-and-run. Seattle recovered and took over at the Vikings’ 40-yard line, and later kicked the go-ahead field goal with just under 11 minutes left.
5. Blair Walsh missed field goal
Down one point late in the fourth quarter, the Vikings drove 52 yards in six plays to set up what should have been a game-winning field goal. Blair Walsh—who led the NFL in made field goals in 2015 and who was already 3-for-3 on the day—came on for a chip shot, 27-yard kick from the left hash. Minnesota advancing suddenly felt like a foregone conclusion. Fate had other plans. Walsh hooked his kick wide left with only 22 seconds left. The Seahawks kneeled down once and left Minnesota with a wacky, 10-9 win.
6. DeSean Jackson fails to score TD
After forcing a Packers safety in the first quarter, the Redskins looked like they had scored a huge touchdown when DeSean Jackson caught a pass over the middle and raced toward the right pylon. Initially called a touchdown, officials rightfully deemed Jackson out at the half-yard line upon review. A man with a history at the goal line, Jackson kept the football in his right hand and made no effort to stretch out and break the plane of the goal line. He absolutely should have scored. After three straight stopped plays, Washington was eventually forced to kick a field goal. Four lost points.
All four of the teams mentioned above lost. There’s no big secret why. Make game-changing mistakes against good teams in the postseason and you’re going home.