10 best performances of Wild Card weekend
With the first round of the NFL playoffs now in the books, let’s take a look at the top individual performances from Wild Card weekend:
1. James Harrison, EDGE, Pittsburgh Steelers
James Harrison was more productive than the entire Miami defense put together when it came to rushing the passer and stopping the run on Sunday. Harrison racked up seven total QB pressures, forced a fumble, and recorded eight defensive stops—tied for the most of any player over this first round of the playoffs (with Oakland edge defender Khalil Mack). For Harrison to playing at this level at 38 years old is ridiculous; the Pittsburgh veteran has become well-versed in the art of postseason impact plays over his career.
2. Randall Cobb, WR, Green Bay Packers
With Jordy Nelson knocked out of the game by the Giants’ defense after just 16 snaps and one catch for 13 yards, it didn’t look great for the Packers’ offense. Green Bay still caught fire, however, and Randall Cobb ended the day with three touchdown receptions against a very tough New York defense, albeit one shorn of one of their best cover corners in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Cobb caught five of the six passes thrown his way, beating three different Giants defenders for receptions, and Aaron Rodgers had a passer rating of 153.3 when throwing his way.
3. Jadeveon Clowney, EDGE, Houston Texans
Jadeveon Clowney gave the Raiders a warning on the first quick pass they attempted to his side by reaching up with a big paw and swatting it out of the air. On the second attempt, however, he tipped the ball to himself and intercepted it. Clowney finished the game with four QB hurries and made a couple of big plays in the run game in addition to his batted pass and interception, and was the most dominant defender on the field in Saturday’s game against Oakland—a field shared by Defensive Player of the Year candidate Khalil Mack.
4. Thomas Rawls, RB, Seattle Seahawks
At his best, Thomas Rawls can pull off a pretty good “Beastmode” impersonation, and against the Lions, he was somewhere close to his best. Rawls racked up 161 rushing yards on the ground, with 81 of them coming after contact. He averaged 6.0 yards per carry and broke three tackles on his way to a touchdown, despite some extremely poor blocking from certain sections of the offensive line in front of him.
5. Jake Ryan, LB, Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay defense saw several players step up on Sunday, but none had a better day than LB Jake Ryan. Ryan’s eight solo tackles led the team, and when you add in assists, he recorded 12 against the Giants. That said, his real strength was in coverage, where he broke up a series of passes thrown his way, either with a play on the ball to notch a pass breakup, or a play on the receiver to ensure that the offensive player couldn’t bring in the reception.
6. Le’Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Miami’s defense didn’t make things overly difficult for him, but Le’Veon Bell still put on a masterclass for running the football in Pittsburgh’s AFC Wild Card game. He carried the ball 29 times and racked up 167 rushing yards (5.8 per attempt), notching 110 of them after contact and scoring twice on the ground. Bell wasn’t quite the receiving threat he usually is in this game, catching both passes thrown his way but for just 7 yards, but he was able to use patience to pick his way through a hapless Dolphins defense seemingly at will throughout the afternoon.
7. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
Early in the game, it looked like the Giants had found a way to contain Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense, but then a switch seemed to flip, and Rodgers became the undefendable force he has been over the past few weeks. His pocket movement for the touchdown to Davante Adams was absolutely freaky, and he ended the game with a passer rating of 125.2, having completed 62.5 percent of his passes. Even when pressured, Rodgers’ passer rating was 100.0.
8. A.J. Bouye, CB, Houston Texans
A.J. Bouye’s stellar season continued into the playoffs, even if aided somewhat by the rookie quarterback he found himself facing on Wild Card weekend. Bouye was targeted seven times in the game, and caught more of those passes himself (one) than the receivers in his coverage managed to haul in (zero). Bouye also broke up another one of the incompletions, and for the game, allowed a passer rating of 0.0 when the Raiders chose to go after him.
9. Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks
What Russell Wilson has been able to do behind the Seattle offensive line has been unbelievable this season. Against Detroit, he was again under pressure on more than 40 percent of his dropbacks (41.2), yet recorded a passer rating of 97.5 on those plays (126.3 when kept clean). Overall, he completed 84.2 percent of his passes from a clean pocket, and even when he was pressured, he hit on 63.6 percent of his throws and gained 10.2 yards per attempt.
10. Doug Baldwin, WR, Seattle Seahawks
Doug Baldwin had the kind of day where, even when he did something wrong, it resulted in a touchdown. He caught effectively 11 passes from 10 targets, snatching a touchdown pass intended for teammate Jermaine Kearse in the end zone for his score, beating seven different Detroit defenders for a catch over the game. Baldwin is as reliable as they come, though it’s also worth noting the sequence of ridiculous catches made by his teammate Paul Richardson, who just misses this list for his display.