Secret Superstars: Wild Card
The playoffs always push the level of excitement about football even higher and, with just four games in each of the first two weeks, storylines are pushed harder and harder. In the Wild Card round we saw Ray Lewis’ last dance in Baltimore and Robert Griffin III’s horrible injury in Washington.
As always however, we’re here to highlight those players who shone in limited roles, or those who performed better than they’ve been given credit.
We’re mixing it up a little bit for the playoffs, this time focusing on a Secret Superstar from each game.
Glover Quin — S, Houston Texans
Houston Texans safety Glover Quin featured on Secret Superstars earlier in the season and, with another impressive performance in the team’s home win over the Cincinnati Bengals, has earned a spot in our first postseason edition. Bouncing back from a poor performance on the road against Indianapolis to end the regular season, Quin had his best performance of the season, in terms of pass coverage at least, in Sunday’s game.
Frequently matched up against tight end Jermaine Gresham and shifty slot receiver Andrew Hawkins, Quin more than held his own, giving up just two receptions for 13 yards from the six passes thrown into his coverage. His number of receptions allowed was matched with two passes broken up, both coming against Gresham. Between his time at safety and his time covering the slot, Quin played 27 snaps in coverage, allowing a mere 0.48 yards per snap. Highlighting his play in coverage was his pass breakup against Gresham on 2nd-and-11 with 3:01 left in the game, as Quin able to get his hands in front of the tight end just as he reached for the pass.
Fred Evans — DT, Minnesota Vikings
While the big stories to come out of the second game of Wild Card weekend were Joe Webb’s struggles and the Green Bay Packers finally keeping Adrian Peterson under 100 yards at the third attempt this year, the most impressive performance from the Minnesota Vikings roster came from defensive tackle Fred Evans. An undrafted free agent back in 2006, Evans has put together a quietly impressive season, with several strong performances in a reserve role.
Saturday’s game was his best of the year, however, with him dominating against the run when he was on the field. As a pass rusher he offered very little, with no pressure at all from his nine snaps against the pass. He produced much more against the run, with all five of his tackles resulting in a defensive stop, and coming on just 13 snaps as a run defender. His most impressive play of the day came on 2nd-and-3 with 5:47 left in the game. Blowing past left guard T.J. Lang to the inside, Evans was in the backfield before running back Ryan Grant had even received the ball, bringing him down for a 5-yard loss.
Bernard Pierce — HB, Baltimore Ravens
The focus on the Baltimore Ravens’ backfield coming out of Sunday was the fact Ray Rice, who fumbled just once during the regular season, gave the ball away twice against the Indianapolis Colts. While that was reason enough for rookie Bernard Pierce to see an increased workload, it might surprise you to note that Pierce has actually been the superior runner to Rice this season, out producing him in his limited role. That’s not to say he’s a better all-around player — we’ve already seen Pierce struggle in pass protection this year — but he’s run the ball better the more the season has progressed.
Rushing for 103 yards on 13 carries, Pierce averaged 3.77 yards after contact per carry, while forcing five missed tackles, giving him an Elusive Rating of 145.0 that was bettered only by Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch over the weekend. With the Ravens looking to close out the game on 3rd-and-6 with 1:57 left in the game, they turned to Pierce and he didn’t disappoint. Breaking free of Colts linebacker Jerrell Freeman in the backfield, the rookie burst forward to pick up the first down that sealed the game and allowed the Ravens to bring on Ray Lewis for his victory dance.
Chris Chester — OG, Washington Redskins
In a game that saw their season end, and an injury to their franchise quarterback that raises early question marks heading into 2013, you’d forgive Washington Redskins fans for failing to find much to be happy about after Sunday’s game. While that’s understandable, the play of right guard Chris Chester to finish the year is definitely worth highlighting.
As a run blocker it wasn’t so much that he was dominant but, with the tackle for loss by Alan Branch on 2nd-and-10 with 6:32 left in the third quarter his only negatively graded play against the run, he was solid throughout. As a pass blocker he was perfect, with a Pass Blocking Efficiency rating of 100.0, allowing no pressure whatsoever from 32 snaps in pass protection.
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