10 best performances of the Divisional Round
With the second round of the NFL playoffs now in the books, let’s take a look at the top individual performances from the Divisional Round:
1. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
This wasn’t a flawless game from Rodgers by any means, and in the first half in particular, he was relatively off-target with some of his passes. It was more about the big plays that he made, though, and the game management he demonstrated that really elevated this performance. The final play—reportedly drawn up by Rodgers on the fly in the huddle—is now arguably one of the great plays in NFL postseason history, and rescued a game that appeared sealed up for the Packers early on, only to balance on a knife edge again. Rodgers was only under pressure for 10 snaps in the game, once more owing a lot to his pass protection, which has been the best in the league this season.
2. Ramon Foster, G, Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh’s offensive line conclusively won the battle in the trenches in this game against a Kansas City defensive front with big talent and physical ability. LG Ramon Foster didn’t allow a single pressure over 32 pass-blocking snaps, and was particularly dominant in the run game, notching pancake blocks against multiple Chiefs defensive linemen. Foster has been part of one of the league’s best offensive lines this season, and a unit playing its best football in the postseason.
3. Le’Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Le’Veon Bell’s effortless ability to find a crease in the blocking is impressive to watch. Against Kansas City, he rushed 30 times for 170 yards (5.7 per attempt), breaking four tackles on his way to 89 yards after contact. Bell is one of the league’s most unstoppable runners, and while the Steelers didn’t get in the end zone all game, Bell was a big reason they were able to consistently move the ball into field-goal range throughout the night.
4. Whitney Mercilus, EDGE, Houston Texans
The first player to make the list from a losing effort, Whitney Mercilus was excellent for the Texans on a defense that deserved far more given the performance they had against the Patriots. Mercilus recorded a sack, three hits and three additional hurries, as well as three defensive stops in the game, and was a consistent threat to break through the Patriots’ O-line and cause problems for the offense. Mercilus wasn’t alone on the Houston defense in terms of fine performances, and the future looks bright for that unit in 2017.
5. Justin Britt, C, Seattle Seahawks
Seattle’s offensive line was a disaster against Atlanta, but Justin Britt, at least, was not part of the problem. Britt has been by far the best player on the league’s worst offensive line all season, and against the Falcons, he was perfect in pass protection while keeping a lid on Atlanta NT Grady Jarrett and controlling Ra’Shede Hageman, in particular.
6. Jared Cook, TE, Green Bay Packers
The last time these two teams met, the Packers were without Jared Cook, who proved to be a matchup problem for the Cowboys this time around. Cook caught six of the 11 passes thrown his way for 104 yards and a touchdown, and while he didn’t have perfect hands (registering a drop), he did come up big when it mattered most, and was the player able to hook up with Rodgers on the sideline for the game’s biggest play late in the fourth quarter, securing the catch and keeping both feet in bounds before he went to ground.
7. Alejandro Villanueva, T, Pittsburgh Steelers
The development of Alejandro Villanueva has been one of the most impressive stories of the season, and this week against the Chiefs, he posted one of his best games. Villanueva was perfect in pass protection over 32 snaps, but also continued his excellent work in the run game, moving bodies on down blocks and even pulling to lead the run to the right side on occasion.
8. Logan Ryan, CB, New England Patriots
Aided by the play of QB Brock Osweiler, Logan Ryan produced a big game against the Houston Texans. He was thrown at seven times, but allowed just three catches for 9 yards, breaking up two of the incompletions and picking off a third himself. For the game, Ryan surrendered a passer rating of just 10.7 when targeted, and he also chipped in with a sack and four defensive stops.
9. Alan Branch, DI, New England Patriots
Alan Branch was extremely impressive for the Patriots in the middle, stuffing the run and forcing the Texans to the air. Branch notched three hurries over the course of the game, but it was his team-leading six defensive stops that really told the tale of his play.
10. Mason Crosby, K, Green Bay Packers
It’s not often you find a kicker on the list of best performances of a week, but Mason Crosby was money for the Packers when it mattered most under the most difficult of circumstances, including being iced before the final kick with a Dallas timeout. Crosby made two kicks from over 50 yards late in the game that were the difference between the two sides when all was said and done.