NFL Wild Card Round: Most Impressive Performances

Jordan Ball@jball_13Correspondent IJanuary 7, 2013

NFL Wild Card Round: Most Impressive Performances

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    The opening round of the NFL playoffs is always exciting, and this season's proved to be no different. 

    Going in, there were many big storylines just waiting to be played out. 

    We got to witness three teams that were led by rookie quarterbacks, something that has never been seen before in the history of the game. 

    There was "AP2K", Adrian Peterson, seeking to become only the second player to win a playoff game after rushing for 2,000-plus yards in a season. 

    Then, of course, there was Ray Lewis.

    Just a few days after announcing he'd retire after this postseason, it seemed that all eyes were fixed on him in what may have been the very last game of his legendary career. 

    With stories like these, among others, this Wild Card Weekend was guaranteed to be entertaining.

    And entertaining it was. 

    Let's take a look back at the top performances the first round had to offer...

Arian Foster

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    After finishing the season with 1,424 rushing yards, good enough for sixth overall, Arian Foster looked to improve on yet another impressive season in the playoffs.

    He did just that as he ran all over the Cincinnati defense, shredding them for 140 yards on 32 carries including a touchdown. 

    Foster also reeled in eight passes for a total of 34 yards, bringing his game total to 174 yards.

    That 174 yards was just 24 shy of what the Bengals recorded on the day at 198.

    In the midst of carrying his team to victory, the Texans running back made some NFL history along the way. 

    With going over the 100-yard mark, Foster became the first player ever to gain triple-digits rushing in his first three playoff contests. 

    Along with that, his 425 yards on the ground are the most any player has totaled through the first three playoff games in his career. 

    The greats always found a way to raise their level of play when it mattered the most and Arian Foster is doing just that.

Aaron Rodgers

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    The reigning 2012 MVP didn't have his typical embarrass-the-opposing-team night like usual, but he led his Packers to a crucial victory over the Vikings after losing to them just a week before. 

    Rodgers picked apart the Minnesota defense for 274 yards on 22-of-32 passing. 

    Surprisingly,  he only threw one touchdown pass on the night, and even more surprisingly, fullback John Kuhn was on the receiving end of it. 

    Rodgers completed a pass to 10 different receivers, while his opponent Joe Webb only had 11 total completions on the night. 

    His 104.9 passer rating, along with 274 yards, were the highest of the week out of the eight quarterbacks. 

    Expect those numbers to continue as he leads his team into San Francisco next week in a chance to revenge a Week 1 loss.

Anquan Boldin

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    Speaking of getting it done in the playoffs, meet Anquan Boldin.

    The 10-year-veteran had a respectable 2012 season in which he hauled in 65 receptions for 921 yards, but only reached the end zone four times. 

    His respectable season is already being overshadowed by his huge performance in a win over the Colts on Sunday. 

    In the game, Boldin caught just five passes. He made the most of the passes that came to him as he went for 145 yards, good enough for a 29 YPC average. 

    The Ravens' receivers biggest moment came in the fourth quarter, as he was on the receiving end of an 18-yard touchdown pass, putting the nail in the coffin, as Baltimore went up 24-9, eventually being the final score. 

Ray Lewis

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    It's only fitting that in his last home game, and what could have potentially been his last game ever, that Ray Lewis played big. 

    After announcing his pending retirement, No. 52 danced on to the field with emotion and passion unparallel to anything anyone else could bring, and he played with that until the final whistle. 

    When all was said and done, Lewis finished with a game-high 13 tackles, including one takedown for a loss. 

    He had a chance to make the entire state of Maryland explode as a tipped Andrew Luck pass fell right into his arms early on in the contest. Unfortunately the Ravens linebacker had not shaken off the rust from his three-month hiatus, as the ball bounced off his hands and then his face mask before falling to the ground as an incompletion. 

    Oh yea, in case you weren't aware Lewis hadn't played in a game since October 14, following undergoing surgery to repair torn triceps. Just one more thing that makes his big day even more remarkable. 

    After the win, the greatest Raven of all time made his final victory lap around M&T Bank Stadium to pay tribute to his thousands of adoring fans. 

Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch

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    Though the Seattle Seahawks had a very impressive 11-5 season, they still had a lot to prove to the NFL world which still seemed to doubt them for some reason. 

    Led by their underrated and often overlooked rookie QB, Russell Wilson and their workhorse running back Marshawn Lynch, the team set out to let people know once again that they are legit title contenders. 

    They succeeded in doing that by taking out the Washington Redskins on Sunday evening. 

    Wilson had the most to prove on the night as he was going against opposing quarterback and Rookie of the Year favorite RGIII. 

    With the pressure from that and the game itself, Wilson set out on a mission. 

    The 24-year-old shook off the nerves early on and helped lead his team to a victory by throwing for 187 yards on 15-of-26 passing and adding a touchdown—a four-yard strike late in the second quarter. 

    Wilson kept the Redskins' D in check all night with his feet as well as he gained 68 yards on the ground on seven attempts, his longest going for 24 yards. 

    To accompany Wilson's rushing attack, Lynch torched the 'Skins defense all night. 

    Running over people left and right like usual, Lynch racked up 131 yards rushing on 19 carries, an outstanding 6.9 average. 

    The duo's biggest moment came in the fourth with their team trailing 13-14 with seven minutes left on the clock. 

    Wilson gave the ball to Lynch on a 3rd-and-5 and let his back go to work. 

    Needing 27 yards, Lynch made it to the 1-yard line before reaching trouble. 

    In stepped his rookie QB, providing a big block to power Lynch into the end zone. 

    After succeeding on the two-point conversion and a late field goal, the Seahawks went on to win 24-14. 

    It was a win due in large part to their dynamic duo in the backfield.