2013 NFL Playoffs: 4 Unheralded Players Who Helped Win Wild Card Weekend
A quartet of unheralded players helped their respective teams win on Wild Card Weekend. The group is headlined by two surprisingly productive running backs.
There is also room for a pair of defensive stalwarts who don't always garner the attention they deserve. One is a defensive back who plays a vital role in sub-packages. The other is a hulking defensive tackle who can key a run defense.
Here are the four unheralded players who helped win Wild Card Weekend.
4. Bernard Pierce, RB, Baltimore Ravens
Bernard Pierce continued his impressive rookie form by trampling all over the Indianapolis Colts on Wild Card Weekend. He powered his way for 103 yards on 13 carries.
Pierce averaged 7.9 yards per rush and compensated for a rather disappointing showing from Ray Rice. The 2012 third-round pick has been productive between the tackles all season.
However, his latest effort could soon push him towards a more expanded role. It could also give the Ravens the potent ground attack they will need to keep Peyton Manning on the sidelines.
3. Glover Quin, S, Houston Texans
Glover Quin is sure to earn more of the recognition he deserves after a stellar performance on Wild Card Weekend. He was the key member of a Houston Texans coverage scheme that shut down the Cincinnati Bengals pass attack.
Quin was at his best when operating as the dime linebacker in coordinator Wade Phillips' six-defensive-back schemes. He was chiefly responsible for containing Jermaine Gresham.
The prolific young tight end is the second-favourite target of Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton. However, Quin shut him down with tight coverage and excellent instincts.
With Jonathan Joseph handling A.J. Green on the outside, Quin had a vital role to play. He left Dalton with nowhere to throw.
2. Alan Branch, DT, Seattle Seahawks
The Seattle Seahawks have Alan Branch to thank for eventually shutting down the Washington Redskins running game. The talented but often inconsistent defensive tackle was outstanding in the final game of Wild Card Weekend.
Branch's power and aggression became too much for Washington's offensive line to handle. He routinely drove blockers into the backfield and was in on five tackles.
Branch was the key to Seattle slowing and eventually halting Alfred Morris' early dominance. With Branch puncturing the line of scrimmage, the Seahawks started keeping Morris to two- and three-yard gains.
Branch was also able to pressure the pocket, eventually recording a key sack. The 6'6", 325-pounder was the focal point of the Seahawks defensive revival after conceding 14 early points.
1. DuJuan Harris, RB, Green Bay Packers
DuJuan Harris can play a key role in another Super Bowl push from the Green Bay Packers. He has emerged from obscurity to give the Packers offense a serviceable running game.
Although he only averaged 2.8 yards per rush, Harris did finish with 100 all-purpose yards. He is offering speed and elusiveness between the tackles and is also a useful receiving threat.
The Packers need Harris to continue producing, if they hope to have the balance they will need to win in San Francisco.