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Drew Brees will face Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Divisional Round of the NFL play-offs after the New Orleans Saints beat the Chicago Bears on Sunday.
Veteran quarterback Brees threw two touchdown passes as the Saints eased to a 21-9 win on day two of the super wildcard weekend to secure a home game against the Bucs next Sunday.
The Cleveland Browns will visit defending champions the Kansas City Chiefs after upsetting the Pittsburgh Steelers, while the Baltimore Ravens won against Tennessee to secure a trip to the Buffalo Bills.
Brees, who turns 42 on Friday, and six-time Super Bowl winner Brady, 43, are sure to be future Hall of Famers as they are the NFL’s all-time top two for career passing yards and touchdown passes.
The pair have already faced each other twice this season as Brady left the New England Patriots in the off-season for New Orleans’ divisional rivals Tampa Bay.
The Saints won each game before finishing the regular season with a 12-4 record to win the NFC South ahead of the Bucs (11-5). Brees has a 5-2 head-to-head record against Brady before they meet for possibly the last time next week.
“It’s going to be a heck of a game, I know that,” said Brees, who has one Super Bowl win. “They’re a great football team, they’re playing very well right now.
“I think we know what type of game that’s going to be. They’re divisional opponents so we’ve played them twice this year, but I’d say they’re a different team right now – and so are we.”
The Saints welcomed back their top two offensive weapons against Chicago, wide receiver Michael Thomas and running back Alvin Kamara, and each had a touchdown while Brees passed for 265 yards.
Browns win in Pittsburgh after stunning first quarter
The Cleveland Browns scored defensive touchdown on the very first play of the game against an out-of-sorts Pittsburgh – and never looked back from there, going on to pile on 28 unanswered points in an astonishing first quarter en route to a 48-37 win.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, in what could be his final career appearance, made life hard for himself with four interceptions, although a late rally saw him finish with 501 yards passing and four touchdowns.
Roethlisberger, 38, appeared to have tears in his eyes as contemplated defeat on the sidelines after the game, as a season that began so promisingly for the Steelers – not tasting defeat until 12 games into the campaign – ended with a fifth defeat in their last six outings.
Kareem Hunt ran for two touchdowns for the Browns, who were playing their first play-off game since 2002, while quarterback Baker Mayfield threw for 263 yards and three touchdowns, to Jarvis Landry, Austin Hooper and Nick Chubb.
Cleveland’s first post-season triumph since the 1994 season – achieved without head coach Kevin Stefanski on the sidelines after he tested positive for Covid-19 – is rewarded with a trip to face Super Bowl champions the Kansas City Chiefs next weekend.
2019 MVP earns first play-off win
Quarterback Lamar Jackson earned the first play-off win of his career – at the third time of asking – as the Baltimore Ravens won 20-13 at the Tennessee Titans.
In the last two seasons the Ravens have lost at the first hurdle in the play-offs but they avenged their defeat by Titans in last year’s Divisional Round.
Jackson recovered from an early interception and a 10-0 deficit to make a 48-yard touchdown run, the second-longest for a score by a quarterback in play-off history.
The 24-year-old was 2019’s Most Valuable Player and last week became the first quarterback in NFL history to rush for at least 1,000 yards in multiple seasons.
He finished Sunday’s game with 136 rushing yards and now holds two of the top three rushing performances by a quarterback in the play-offs, having posted 143 in last year’s loss to the Titans.
Colin Kaepernick has the most with 181 in the San Francisco 49ers’ game against the Green Bay Packers in 2013, which included a 56-yard TD run.
Asked what he thought after his interception, Jackson said: “It’s not going to be the same result as last year, that was on my mind.
“I’m still ticked off about it [the interception]. But we stayed focused and didn’t get rattled. We finished, we finally finished.”
NFL play-off schedule
Divisional Round – Saturday, 16 January
Los Angeles Rams @ Green Bay Packers – 21:35 GMT
Baltimore Ravens@ Buffalo Bills – 01:15 GMT on Sunday
Sunday, 17 January
Cleveland Browns@ Kansas City Chiefs – 20:05 GMT
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ New Orleans Saints – 23:40 GMT
AFC and NFC Championship games – 24 January
Super Bowl 55 – 7 February