J.J. Watt reflected on the Arizona Cardinals' 34-11 playoff defeat to the Los Angeles Rams as "a massive failure".

The Cardinals ended their season with a whimper at SoFi Stadium on Monday as the Rams dominated the Wild Card round clash between the NFC West rivals.

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford ended his wait for a first playoff win, throwing touchdown passes for Odell Beckham Jr. and Cooper Kupp while running in another.

Los Angeles will face defending champions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Florida next Sunday in the divisional round. 

The Cardinals, on the other hand, are left to lick their wounds following a fifth defeat in seven games that brought their campaign to a juddering halt.

Watt returned from a shoulder injury to face the Rams and the defensive end pulled no punches with his verdict on the Cardinals' performance.

He said: "It was a massive failure from what we were capable of doing and from what we showed we can do [up until the game Monday], there's no other way to describe it than as a failure.

Quarterback Kyler Murray endured a game to forget, passing for 137 yards and throwing two interceptions in the Cardinals' first playoff game since 2015.

He said: "I play to win the Super Bowl. That's the goal, that's the mission, is to win the Super Bowl not to make the playoffs or go to the second round. We fell short."

He added: "It's disappointing that we didn't make it a game and come out and play the football we know we're capable of playing, that's really the most disappointing part.

"Losing is one thing, but when you don't even make it competitive, it's another thing.

"I put a lot on my shoulders, put a lot on myself and to dream of this moment and then be in the playoffs, the first game of the playoffs and then to play the way I did, to play the way we did, it's, like I said, disappointing."

Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury: "When you're dropping back against that that group, it's not a good recipe.

"And that's what we've found ourselves in. So, we just made it a tough night."

Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay is thrilled that quarterback Matthew Stafford will no longer have to face questions about never winning a game in the NFL playoffs.

NFC West rivals the Arizona Cardinals were convincingly swatted aside by the Rams in the Wild Card round on Monday, the hosts triumphing 34-11.

The Rams will now move on to face Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a huge Divisional Round game with a place in the NFC Championship up for grabs.

Stafford had only previously reached the playoffs three times in 12 years with the Detroit Lions before his trade to LA ahead of the 2021 campaign and had been winless in each of those postseason appearances.

"I thought he did a great job leading the way," McVay said, per ESPN, after Stafford threw touchdown passes to Odell Beckham Jr. and Cooper Kupp.

"He's still the same great player to me, and he always was before this game.

"So I think it's good so you guys don't have to talk about [him not having a playoff win] anymore. So he can get that one out of the way. 

"I am really proud of him. Just so lucky to be able to do this with him. He's our leader. We wouldn't be here without him."

Stafford only had to throw a season-low 17 pass attempts, but he was impressive in completing 13 of them, with three of his four incompletions being dropped passes.

The Rams' defense played a big part in the win too. The Cardinals were 21-0 behind before they were even able to record a first down, while cornerback David Long had a three-yard pick six on Kyler Murray, the shortest in playoff history.

"I'm just excited for our team to get the win," said Stafford. 

"What a team effort. Our defense played outstanding, special teams basically set up a score with [punter] Johnny [Hekker] pinning them down there, we did a great job on field goals. 

"And we were good enough on offense to score some points and come away with the win. Just happy to be moving on."

The Rams must now beat the defending NFL champions on the road to progress further in a postseason schedule which will culminate with the Super Bowl being hosted at their own SoFi Stadium.

LA were one of only three teams who beat the Bucs in the regular season but Stafford is under no illusions over the size of the task facing them.

He added: "It is a huge challenge. Obviously, a fantastic quarterback, great defense, a really good football team.

"I think their team is different than when we played them last [in Week 3], and I think we are, too, both [in] personnel and scheme a little bit. You always evolve throughout the season. 

"So it'll be interesting to see what they look like here as of late, and we'll go out there, attack and see what happens."

Matthew Stafford celebrated the end of his long wait for an NFL playoff win as the Los Angeles Rams sealed a stress-free victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Monday.

The quarterback produced an immaculate performance as the Rams won 34-11 at SoFi Stadium, the venue for this year's Super Bowl, in the first match to be played on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Stafford was 0-3 in playoff games over 12 years with the Detroit Lions but threw touchdown passes for Odell Beckham Jr. and Cooper Kupp while running for another to ensure there would be no disappointment this time.

His reward is a showdown with Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Florida next Sunday in the divisional round. The Rams were one of just three teams to beat the reigning champions in the regular season – a 34-24 win back in Week 3.

A 52-yard drive in the first quarter ended with Stafford finding OBJ with a four-yard pass for the opening TD of the game, the latter's first in the postseason.

It marked what would prove to be a display of efficiency from Stafford, who threw 13 of 17 passes – his lowest of the season – for 202 yards but did not commit a single turnover.

Von Miller – playing in his first postseason game since being MVP of Super Bowl 50 – sacked Kyler Murray as the Cardinals failed to respond, and in the first drive of the second quarter, Stafford found Beckham again for a 31-yard gain that led to his chance to run in touchdown number two.

Things went from bad to worse for the Cardinals as a Rams punt ended on the Arizona 1, and Murray thought he finally had a first down when he threw to AJ Green, but Nick Scott tackled the ball away from him to what was eventually called an incomplete pass. On the next play, Murray was panicked into rushing his throw from his own endzone, leading to a pick six as David Long intercepted and ran in for the TD.

It took until more than halfway through the second quarter for the Cardinals to get a first down as they fell 21-0 behind at halftime, and they were not back on the scoreboard until a little over four minutes remained in the third quarter.

Having surrendered a 17-0 lead over the San Francisco 49ers last week, the Rams were determined to avoid a repeat, Beckham making NFL history as the first player in the postseason to finish with 30-yard receptions and completions in the same game.

Stafford's seven-yard pass let Kupp, who finished with a team-high five catches for 61 yards, quell any fears of a late Arizona response.

The Las Vegas Raiders have fired general manager Mike Maycock in the wake of the playoff defeat to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Las Vegas lost 19-26 in the AFC Wild Card game on Saturday, though NFL media have reported that the Raiders had already made their decision on Maycock.

He was appointed as GM in 2019 and leaves with a 25-24 record.

The Raiders are now searching for both a GM and a head coach, after they passed up the chance to keep on interim Rich Bisaccia.

Las Vegas won their last four games to secure an unlikely wildcard spot.

Jon Gruden resigned from his post in 2021 after it was revealed that he had written racist, misogynistic, and homophobic emails between 2011 and 2018.

The Arizona Cardinals have activated J.J. Watt from injured reserve in time for him to make an unexpected return for their Wild Card round clash with the Los Angeles Rams.

Watt was placed on injured reserve in November having undergone what was thought to be season-ending shoulder surgery in October.

However, the three-time Defensive Player of the Year has expedited his recovery and will line up for the Cardinals on Monday as they look to upset their NFC West rivals at SoFi Stadium.

Despite playing only seven games, Watt ended the regular season with the third-most quarterback pressures among Cardinals defenders with 32.

The Cardinals are looking to claim their first playoff win since the 2015 campaign when they lost the NFC Championship Game to the Carolina Panthers.

Patrick Mahomes revealed the Kansas City Chiefs were motivated by being "p****d off" by a slow start to the Wild Card round against the Pittsburgh Steelers in their 42-21 blowout win.

The Chiefs were shut out in the first quarter by a Steelers team that snuck into the playoffs as the seven seed and then fell behind when T.J. Watt returned a Mecole Hardman fumble for a touchdown.

But Mahomes took over thereafter, throwing for 404 yards and five touchdowns, a sole interception in the first quarter the only blemish on a blistering performance.

Tight end Travis Kelce also threw a touchdown on a trick play as the Chiefs turned on the style in setting up a rematch of last year's AFC Championship Game with the Buffalo Bills in the Divisional Round.

"I think we were all p****d off at ourselves," Mahomes said in his media conference. "We felt like we weren't playing with enough energy, we felt like we weren't executing at a high enough level and not playing with enough urgency.

"So, I feel like guys really motivated themselves. We all kind of talked, it wasn't like one person talking, it was everybody talking to each other, and we came with a different urgency starting in the second quarter and carried it the rest of the game.

"Playing in the postseason games, we have young dudes who hadn't played yet, so they got to get that experience this week.

"And we have those vets that have been in here before and showed that with how Tyreek [Hill] and Trav [Kelce] stepped up in big ways to kind of get us sparked and get us rolling again."

On the matchup with the Bills, who crushed the New England Patriots on Saturday behind a sensational five-touchdown performance from quarterback Josh Allen, Mahomes said: "Yeah I mean you expect a really good football team that's going to play really hard. We're expecting a fight, we're expecting a battle. 

"They have a great offense, great defense, great special teams, and we played them in the AFC Championship last year, and we know that it's going to be another fight for us if we want to try to move on to the AFC Championship Game this year."

Ben Roethlisberger reflected with pride on an 18-year career with the Pittsburgh Steelers as he looks ahead to the next chapter.

There was to be no magical ending for Roethlisberger as Pittsburgh fell to a 42-21 reverse against the Kansas City Chiefs in the Wild Card round on Sunday.

The Steelers quarterback threw for 215 yards and two touchdowns on 29-of-44 passing, but he also had to watch Patrick Mahomes' brilliance cut open his side and end their postseason bid.

While Roethlisberger has not specifically said he is retiring, he hinted at as much after bidding a tearful farewell to Heinz Field following a Week 17 win over the Cleveland Browns.

On Sunday, the two-time Super Bowl winner, who has donned the Steelers' black and gold for his entire career, spoke glowingly of his time in Pittsburgh as he looked back on his time with the franchise.

He said post-game: "Yeah it's tough, but I'm proud to play with these guys. God has blessed me with an ability to throw a football and has blessed me to play in the greatest city, in Pittsburgh, with the greatest fans and the greatest football team and players. 

"And it has just been truly a blessing, and I'm so thankful to him for the opportunity that he's given me.

"Just a bunch of guys that fought for each other, that fought their butts off and just competed. It wasn't always pretty, but there are a lot of games that we found a way. 

"I'm so proud of this group of men and the way they fight for each other, for the black and gold, for our fans. It's just been an honour to play with them."

Roethlisberger's opposite number Mahomes finished with 404 passing yards and five touchdowns, and the veteran heaped praise on his fellow quarterback, who will next face the Buffalo Bills.

Mahomes responded in kind as he congratulated Roethlisberger on his Hall of Fame career.

"[He is] a tremendous player that I have a ton of respect for – the way he plays the game, the competitor that he is," Mahomes said. 

"He's won Super Bowls. He's a guy that I've watched growing up, and I have a ton of respect for him. That's what I told him, that if this is his last game, he did it the right way."

Roethlisberger is now hoping this Steelers team can carry on the legacy he has left behind.

"I've been here a long time, and it's been a lot of fun," Roethlisberger added. 

"Like I said, God has blessed me. We joke about the Browns and going there [in the NFL Draft], but it was meant to be that I was going to wear black and gold. Draft day I had a black suit on with a gold tie.

"I'm just so thankful. I hope that I'm able to pass the legacy of what it is to be a Steeler from Dan Rooney. We all miss him, anyone that knew him misses him. 

"Hopefully I can pass some of that on to some of the guys and they can continue the tradition of what it means to be a Steeler and get passed down.

"Whenever you get a bunch of new guys, once you start to lose some of the old regime if you will, you've got to find ways to pass it down. 

"And we've got some guys in there that will continue to do that. I gave Cam [Heyward] a big hug and told him it's on him now. It's his job to pass it down and to keep teaching and holding guys to the Pittsburgh standard."

As Roethlisberger prepares for whatever the next challenge is that is thrown his way, he remains thankful for the opportunities he has had, including the Steelers' improbable progression to the playoffs following a dramatic end to the regular season.

"We thought last week was going to be the end," he continued. "We didn't know what was going to happen and God blessed me to play another football game. 

"It didn't end the way we wanted it to. But it's a blessing to be able to play this game. I try and tell those guys how lucky we are that we get to play football for a living. We need to count our blessings and understand how lucky we are. 

"We're out there getting beat up and this and that, but we get to entertain millions of fans and throw, catch, run, do what we've all done as kids. That's our job and when we say our prayers thank God for that.

"I don't know if it's emotional because it's the end of the season. I mean, this would be emotional no matter what. We never like to lose and go out and I'll miss these guys. It'll probably really hit me come training camp time."

Confusion reigned at the end of the San Francisco 49ers' dramatic Wild Card victory over the Dallas Cowboys, but Kyle Shanahan only had a brief doubt his team would have to face a Hail Mary in a bizarre finish.

The Niners controlled the game and held a Dallas offense that had averaged over 400 yards per game in the regular season to just 307 in their 23-17 success.

Yet San Francisco gave the Cowboys a chance to complete a remarkable comeback with 32 seconds left after their failure to execute a quarterback sneak on fourth and inches turned possession back to Dallas.

The Cowboys promptly drove to San Francisco's 41-yard line in just three plays, before a bemusing play call from Dallas to run the ball with quarterback Dak Prescott despite having no timeouts sealed the game for the Niners.

Prescott and the Dallas offense frantically tried to get set up to spike the ball to stop the clock and prevent time from expiring. However, Prescott handed the ball to center Tyler Biadasz to spot the ball.

NFL rules state the ball must be spotted by an official and umpire Ramon George ran in to do just that, colliding with Prescott and Biadasz in the process and leading to a delay that prevented Prescott from spiking it before the clock hit triple zeros, meaning the 49ers never had to face a Hail Mary from the 24-yard line that could have settled a thrilling contest in the Cowboys' favour.

Shanahan and the Niners strode onto the field in celebration after time ran out, with the Niners head coach admitting to brief concern time would be put back on the clock.

"I thought it was over because I saw it live," Shanahan said. "I was very confident it was done. I was just nervous.

"Sometimes when you're real confident you think you see it right. Sometimes it changes. So you're never fully sure until they let you know."

Explaining the false start from tackle Trent Williams that kept the game alive and negated a successful quarterback sneak from Jimmy Garoppolo, Shanahan added: "We just shifted to an unbalanced [line].

"It was on the silent count and it was quarterback sneak all the way, but Jimmy got really excited because of the look. Didn't let Trent get set. He's got to let him get set.

"It ended up not being a problem, though it would have been a struggle to answer that one if it was."

The Niners will next face the top-seeded Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on Saturday in a rematch of a Week 3 encounter in which the Packers prevailed on a last-second field goal after some late Aaron Rodgers heroics.

"I'm sure I'll be thinking a lot about it here on the plane," Shanahan said. "But they've had a hell of a year. I'm glad we get an opportunity to go up against them again.

"They've been unbelievable. So, we'll rest up here. We'll enjoy this plane ride, and we'll get back to work right when we land."

Dak Prescott felt he had spiked the ball in time to get one more shot at a game-winning touchdown in a bizarre ending to their Wild Card round defeat to the San Francisco 49ers.

Prescott and a Cowboys offense that led the NFL in yards per game was frustrated by an excellent performance from San Francisco's defense as Dallas suffered a 23-17 upset loss.

In a rollercoaster finish, the 49ers appeared to have clinched the game with a fourth-down quarterback sneak from Jimmy Garoppolo, however, a false start penalty negated that play and allowed the Cowboys to gain possession with 32 seconds left. 

They efficiently moved down to San Francisco's 41-yard line in three plays but the Cowboys then inexplicably called a quarterback run play with Prescott despite having no timeouts.

That set up a mad dash to spike the ball and prevent time from expiring, however, Prescott handed the ball to center Tyler Biadasz to spot the ball. NFL rules state the ball must be spotted by an official and umpire Ramon George ran in to do just that, colliding with Prescott and Biadasz in the process and leading to a delay that prevented Prescott from spiking it before the clock hit triple zeros, meaning a potential game-winning Hail Mary never came to fruition.

"I thought I did [spike the ball in time],” Prescott said. "I didn't hear what the ref said, what their announcement was. I just saw them running off the field and the Niners running on the field and celebrating, so understood what had happened.

"We were going to get some yards and get down and clock it. It's something we've practiced over and over again. Ran. Went and got some yards. Went down. As I was getting behind Tyler, saw four seconds left. I thought there was obviously time to make sure everybody was set, and then honestly, just got hit from behind. Still, when I got up [under center], I saw two seconds. I thought I could get the snap and get it down before time expired. I'm not sure what happened other than that."

In his pool report after the game, referee Alex Kemp insisted umpire George had done everything correctly in spotting the ball.

Prescott added: "We've practiced it. You hand it to the center. The umpire, all he has to do is usually come in and tap the ball. Yeah, I mean, don't necessarily know exactly why the hit happened, I guess. I knew he was going to come in and touch the ball. You can say, yeah, he needs to be closer to the ball or whatever. In hindsight, just tough. Yeah, tough to accept.”

"I'd like to get a play off, knowing everything that happened, thinking that I spiked the ball in time,” Prescott said. "I mean with the official getting in the way of the play as well. Tough. Tough. Just tough."

The Kansas City Chiefs set up a mouth-watering AFC Divisional Round matchup with the Buffalo Bills with a 42-21 blowout Wild Card round win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Pittsburgh snuck into the playoffs as the seventh seed and, when T.J. Watt returned Mecole Hardman's fumble for a touchdown to open the scoring after a hugely impressive defensive performance in the first quarter, the Steelers would have been forgiven for thinking about a monumental upset.

Yet any such thoughts were quickly proven to be pipe dreams as the Chiefs took over, with Patrick Mahomes in blistering form as he threw for 404 yards and five touchdowns, a sole interception in the first quarter the only blemish on an otherwise sensational showing.

It means Mahomes will face off with Bills quarterback Josh Allen, himself fresh off a remarkable performance against the New England Patriots, in a repeat of last year's AFC Championship Game, while Ben Roethlisberger's career is likely over, the Steelers quarterback having said a tearful farewell to Heinz Field after their Week 17 win over the Clevaland Browns.

Roethlisberger will call it a career with two Super Bowl titles to his name, and Mahomes appears excellently positioned to tie that tally this season after dicing up the Steelers after the first-quarter shutout.

Touchdown throws to Jerick McKinnon and Byron Pringle restored order for the Chiefs after the Steelers' strong start and Mahomes capped the first half with a 48-yard toss to Travis Kelce, the tight end rumbling into the endzone after his former MVP quarterback executed a deep pass while rolling to his right with a degree of nonchalance.

A short scoring toss to offensive lineman Nick Allegretti and a 31-yard teardrop to Tyreek Hill ended any doubt over the final outcome, the final flourish coming when Kelce connected with Pringle on a two-yard trick play.

That touchdown sandwiched by two for Roethlisberger on passes to Diontae Johnson and James Washington before the seconds ticked down on a Hall of Fame career.

Bruce Arians is hoping the Tampa Bay Buccaneers can keep an offensive line he believes is the best in football together after Tristan Wirfs suffered an ankle injury in their Wild Card round win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

An ankle injury to right tackle Wirfs, which he unsuccessfully tried to return from, was one of the few blots on a routine 31-15 victory for the Buccaneers.

Center Ryan Jensen also suffered an injury but returned to the game, with Tampa Bay's win and the San Francisco 49ers' upset triumph over the Dallas Cowboys meaning the Bucs will face either the Los Angeles Rams or Arizona Cardinals in the Divisional Round.

Asked about the injury to Wirfs, Arians told a media conference: "He's got a sprained ankle, we'll see.

"Hopefully they're [the injuries] not super serious, Jensen came back in, Tristan tried it, other than that we came out pretty clean.

"Hopefully we can keep our offensive line intact because I think they're the best in football, Tristan especially, they'll be working on that ankle non-stop."

Running back Leonard Fournette, whose performance in the postseason last year was key to the Buccaneers winning Super Bowl LV, was not activated for this game as he tries to return from a hamstring injury.

On Fournette, Arians said: "Until he's top speed we're not going to use him."

While Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts struggled and threw a pair of interceptions in his first playoff start, Tom Brady was faultless in his record 46th postseason start.

He completed 29 of 37 passes for 271 yards and two touchdowns including a 36-yard strike to Mike Evans.

"Once Tom figures you out, you're in trouble," Arians added. "That was a dime he threw to Mike for that long touchdown, he's a surgeon, man, once he figures you out and we can put him in a position and protect him, he's gonna eat you up."

The San Francisco 49ers survived a fourth-quarter comeback from the Dallas Cowboys to claim a dramatic 23-17 upset win in the Wild Card round.

Despite losing Nick Bosa to a concussion and linebacker Fred Warner to an ankle injury, the 49ers' defense held a Cowboys offense that led the NFL in yards per game with 407 to just 17 points, and it was the resistance of that group that ultimately proved decisive.

Yet such a summation does a disservice to a wild finish in which the Niners looked to have won the game several times, only to give the Cowboys hope as this historic rivalry delivered another classic in the first playoff meeting between the two teams since the 1994 season.

Dallas got the ball back with 32 seconds left and needing a touchdown to win and moved to San Francisco's 41-yard line in three plays, but an inexplicable decision to run the ball with quarterback Dak Prescott saw time expire on the game and the Cowboys' season as the 49ers progressed to a Divisional Round meeting with the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.

The 49ers set their stall out with a dominant seven-play, 75-yard drive to start the game that ended with a four-yard touchdown scamper by rookie running back Elijah Mitchell.

San Francisco tacked on two field goals to make it 13-0 before Prescott hit back with a superb 20-yard touchdown pass to Amari Cooper.

Another three-pointer gave San Francisco a 16-7 half-time lead and their defense continued to hold Prescott in check after the break even with star edge rusher Bosa ruled out. 

Prescott was sacked five times and when he was intercepted by K'Waun Williams and versatile wide receiver Deebo Samuel pounced on that turnover with a 26-yard rushing touchdown a blowout appeared on the cards.

Dallas, though, pulled back within 13 points with a Greg Zuerlein field goal and an overthrown interception by Jimmy Garoppolo teed up Prescott to fray the nerves with a five-yard rushing score.

San Francisco's job looked to be done when a deep fourth-down throw from Prescott fell incomplete and the Niners should have been celebrating victory when Garoppolo executed a quarterback sneak on fourth and inches, only for that play to be called back for a false start.

However, the Cowboys could not capitalise on that reprieve despite their initial progress down the field, Prescott and center Tyler Biadasz forgetting that an official needed to spot the ball after his run in the final seconds, with a collision between a referee and Biadasz before he spotted the ball meaning the clock hit triple zeros before the quarterback could spike it to set up a Hail Mary attempt.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' hopes of winning back-to-back Super Bowls remain firmly intact after a crushing 31-15 Wild Card round win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

Tampa Bay's defense welcomed back two stars of their Super Bowl LV blowout of the Kansas City Chiefs in the form of Lavonte David and Shaquil Barrett, and that group dominated an Eagles team that looked ill-prepared for the challenge of knocking off the defending champions.

Philadelphia did not beat a single team that qualified for the playoffs in their nine-win regular season, and this contest soon had the look of a mismatch as the Eagles punted three times, turned the ball over on downs and saw Jalen Hurts throw the first of his two interceptions on their opening five offensive series.

Touchdown runs by Giovani Bernard and Ke'Shawn Vaughn propelled the Bucs to a 17-0 half-time lead and, as Hurts struggled in his first playoff start, Tom Brady showed the benefit of his experience in his record 46th postseason start.

A muffed punt by Jalen Reagor set up a Brady touchdown pass to another seemingly ageless wonder in Rob Gronkowski and Hurts' second interception was followed immediately by a 36-yard strike to Mike Evans.

Late Eagles scores from Boston Scott and Kenneth Gainwell proved little more than consolations on a day when the only concern for the Buccaneers was a worrying ankle injury to right tackle Tristan Wirfs.

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