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2014 NFL Playoffs: 10 Players Who Stepped Up in the Wild Card Round

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2014 NFL Playoffs: 10 Players Who Stepped Up in the Wild Card Round

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Wild Card weekend certainly didn’t disappoint the fans this year, except maybe in Kansas City, Green Bay, Cincinnati and Philadelphia. But even fans that suffered crushing losses can’t deny the amount of excitement the matchups brought.

The San Diego Chargers beat the Cincinnati Bengals in a major upset, the San Francisco 49ers and New Orleans Saints both took down their opponents with last-second field goals on the road, and the Indianapolis Colts erased a 28-point second-half deficit to the Kansas City Chiefs in one of the most wildly entertaining playoff games of all time.

It was an incredible weekend that saw several players step up when it really counts. The regular season also saw several great performances, but the postseason is what everybody remembers. Heroes aren’t made in the regular season. The 2007 New England Patriots had arguably the greatest regular season in history, but what people remember most about their season was how the New York Giants took them down when it counted.

The Super Bowl champions have played in the Wild Card round in six of the last eight seasons, including the last three. That means there is a good chance some players’ big performances from this weekend could lead to their team getting the ultimate prize.

There were several players who came up big to help their team move on, and there were even a few who put up admirable performances in a losing effort. Obviously, the winners will be remembered more than the losers, but we’re going to take a look at everyone who had a big impact this weekend. Here are 10 players who stepped up in the Wild Card round.

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10. Husain Abdullah DB Kansas City Chiefs

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Why Abdullah has had such limited playing time this season is just baffling. He was one of the few things working for the Chiefs' defense on Saturday with two interceptions, two defended passes and six tackles.

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9. Shayne Graham K New Orleans Saints

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Graham hit all four of his field goal attempts, including the game-winning 32-yarder as time expired. His longest on the day was from 46 yards out, which isn’t exactly astounding, but if he misses one of his kicks, he is the goat. So, let’s give him credit for getting the job done.

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8. Robert Mathis LB Indianapolis Colts

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Mathis was pretty quiet most of the day on Saturday, but provided a momentum-shifting forced fumble in the third quarter. The big play led to a touchdown for the Colts and it was vital to the team’s historic comeback.

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7. Mark Ingram RB New Orleans Saints

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Oddly, the Saints' running game had a better day than Drew Brees and the passing attack. Led by Ingram’s 97 yards on 18 carries with a score, New Orleans ran for 185 yards without turning the ball over. Brees threw for 250 yards, but also had two picks.

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6. Alex Smith QB Kansas City Chiefs

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When Jamaal Charles went down early in the first quarter, Smith stepped up huge, completing 30-of-46 passes for 378 yards with four touchdowns, no interceptions, while adding 57 yards rushing. In most cases, leading a team to 44 points is enough to get the win. Smith did more than enough to put his team in a position to get the victory, but the defensive collapse was just too great to overcome.

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5. Michael Crabtree WR San Francisco 49ers

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Crabtree was vital in a narrow victory over the Packers, grabbing eight catches for 125 yards, including a huge 17-yard reception on third-and-10 during the 49ers' game-winning drive.

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4. Colin Kaepernick QB San Francisco 49ers

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With the score tied at 20 and 5:06 left in the game, Kaepernick made play after to play to march the 49ers 65 yards down field for a last-second 33-yard field goal attempt that Phil Dawson nailed. Kaepernick finished the day with 227 yards in the air, 97 yards on the ground, and threw for a touchdown and an interception.

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3. Donald Butler LB San Diego Chargers

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Butler had a monster game against the Bengals, compiling 12 tackles, two for a loss and adding a huge forced fumble that took a first-and-goal opportunity away from Cincy.

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2. T.Y. Hilton WR Indianapolis Colts

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Hilton was unstoppable in Indy’s epic Wild Card win, catching 13 passes for 224 yards with two touchdowns, including the 64-yard game-winning score in the fourth quarter.

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1. Andrew Luck QB Indianapolis Colts

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Luck did not do the Colts' defense any favors with his three interceptions, but his performance outside of those miscues was so massive it will be remembered for a very long time. Luck finished the day with 488 total yards and five total touchdowns on his way to leading Indy to a historic comeback.