Top 5 Performances From NFL Divisional Playoff Weekend
Top 5 Performances From NFL Divisional Weekend
After what turned out to be a very dull Wildcard weekend in the NFL, the “greatest weekend in sports” a.k.a. the Divisional Playoff round lived up to all of the hype that it is warranted.
Between all four games, each game was entertaining for their own specific reasons whether it was watching the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning choke as the number one seed in the AFC or seeing Matt Ryan win his first playoff game in his career, the games were filled with excitement from start to finish.
There were also many moments and much anticipation as we awaited to see which teams would pull aways in the close contests. Then there were the moments where it was whether another team could come back from a deficit as they failed under the playoff pressure.
And among those fun-filled games, there were some performances that will go down as the best of the entire playoffs. I’m here to point out the 5 best performances we say from individual players during the Divisional Playoff Weekend.
Before I start, here are some honorable mentions:
Ray Lewis, LB (BAL): 17 Tackles (10 Solo), 1 TFL, W
Russell Wilson, QB (SEA): 24/36, 385 Pass YDs, 2 TD, 86.4 QBR, 60 Rush YDs, 1 Rush TD, L
Matt Bryant, K (ATL): 3/3 FG (including GW 49-YD FG), W
Richard Sherman, CB (SEA): 3 Pass Deflections, L
Michael Crabtree, WR (SF): 9 Rec/11 Targets, 119 Yards, 2 TDs, W
Shane Vereen, RB (NE): 7 Carries, 41 Rush YDs, 1 TD, 5 Rec, 83 YDs, 2 TD, W
Frank Gore, RB (SF): 23 Carries, 119 Yards, 1 TD, W
5) Torrey Smith, WR - Baltimore Ravens
3 Receptions/6 Targets, 98 Receiving Yards, 2 TDs, W
When you make one of the best cornerbacks of this current generation look below-average, you’re doing something right. And that’s what Torrey Smith did to Broncos CB Champ Bailey. Whether it was the 59 yarder or the 32 yarder in which Smith “Moss-ed” Champ, he made things easier for the Broncos passing game.
Even on the passes that Joe Flacco overthrew him on, Smith was ripping past Bailey the entire game. Once that second touchdown happened before the half-time mark, it opened up the entire field allowing the Baltimore Ravens to operate under the safeties and eventually win the game. None of that happens without Smith’s 4.43 40 time and incredible leaping abilities.
4) Trindon Holliday, KR - Denver Broncos
158 Kick Return Yards, TD, 90 Punt Return Yards, TD, L
Against the Baltimore Ravens, the Denver Broncos scored 35 points. 14 of those points came from mid-season free agent signee Trindon Holliday.
Holliday ran into the record books by doing several things: - Longest punt return for a touchdown in a playoff game (90 yards), - Longest kick return for a touchdown in a playoff game (104 yards), and - Became the first player in NFL history to return a punt and kickoff for a touchdown in the same game.
It’s safe to say that without Holliday’s historic efforts, the Baltimore Ravens may have cruised to an easy victory.
Not since the days of Devin Hester have we seen a performance like this. He’ll certainly be a household name come next season.
3) Tom Brady, QB - New England Patriots
25/40, 344 Yards, 3 TDs, 115.0 Passer Rating, 74.8 Quarterback Rating, W
Not much changed from December’s match-up against the Houston Texans and now. What Tom Brady wanted, he got and with ease. As the Texans continued to bring the blitz, Brady picked them apart over and over to end his day with 3 touchdowns.
While he lost his ace tight-end in Rob Gronkowski, Brady made a household name in running back Shane Vereen and continually fed his star wide-receiver Wes Welker. Compared to last year’s divisional round performance (6 touchdowns), Brady's efforts looked almost pedestrian, but he put his team into position to compete in the AFC championship and a chance to participate in what would be his sixth Super Bowl appearance. Also, Sunday’s win made Brady the winning-est quarterback in NFL history (17 wins) ahead of his childhood idol Joe Montana.
2) Joe Flacco, QB - Baltimore Ravens
18/34, 331 Yards, 3 TDs, 116.2 Passer Rating, 65.3 Quarterback Rating, W
While Joe Flacco isn’t the “elite” quarterback that he and his agent think he is, he came up huge when the Ravens needed him most. And for the second year straight, he’s outplayed a lock at Hall of Fame (2012 - Tom Brady, 2013 - Peyton Manning).
He made some mistakes with a few overthrows, but when the lights got the brightest he stepped up big time to score his team points. When his team needed points going into the half he made the throw to score and at the end of the game (despite a terribly played ball by a Broncos defensive back), Flacco made the game-tying touchdown with less than a minute left to give his team a chance to win the game in overtime and that’s exactly what they did.
You can make an argument that he had best QB performance over the weekend if you look at the defense he was playing. If you aren’t a fan of Flacco, Saturday may have made you a believer.
1) Colin Kaepernick, QB - San Francisco 49ers
7/31, 263 YDs, 2 TDs, 91.2 Passer Rating, 94.7 Quarterback Rating, 16 Carries, 181 Rush Yards, 2 TDs, W
If you missed the San Francisco 49ers vs. Green Bay Packers game then you may have missed the best performance we’ll see by a quarterback in the next 10 years. While his passing was just good enough to win the game, Colin Kaepernick changed the game via his legs as he ran for 181 rushing yards, the most by a quarterback.
The Packers didn’t have a clue what hit them honestly. Whenever the pass rush looked as if they had Kaepernick, he’d break off for a 10-yard run. And when they kept enough in the box to stop him from running, Kaep was hitting Michael Crabtree for a crippling reception.
There will be high expectations going into the NFC Championship for Kaepernick, but until then we’re sure no one will question Jim Harbaugh’s decision to sit Alex Smith mid-season for Kaep. He won this weekend.
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