Ranking the Top 15 Performances from the NFL Divisional Round
The 2013 NFL divisional playoffs provided plenty of drama, starting with Joe Flacco propelling the Baltimore Ravens to a comeback over the Denver Broncos. Colin Kaepernick followed up that performance with a very good showing of his own, leading the San Francisco 49ers back to the NFC championship game.
Three of the final four teams are in the same exact position from a year ago. However, they couldn't have achieved this success without some quality performances from a variety of players.
Here are the top 15 performances from this past weekend's football action.
15. Peyton Manning
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Stats: 28-of-43, 290 yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs
Even though he struggled in overtime, Peyton Manning's overall performance against the Baltimore Ravens warrants a spot on this list.
He certainly faced his challenges, from the cold weather to facing a veteran defense who is well aware of his style of football.
However, Manning capitalized on the red-zone opportunities, which is why Denver managed to even last two overtimes against Baltimore.
It wasn't the greatest performance in Peyton's career, but it was good enough to give the Broncos a chance despite the momentum switch during the game.
14. Arian Foster
Stats: Rushing - 22 carries, 90 yards, 1 TD
Receiving - 7 carries, 63 yards, 1 TD
The Houston Texans' season didn't end as they hoped, but their All-Pro running back played his part to keep this game close in the second half.
Foster was the dominant force in the Texans' touchdown drive in the first half that made a victory still appear to be a logical possibility.
He was also effective in the short-yardage passing game, which the Texans clearly showed the willingness to commit to throughout this ball game.
As Foster's season comes to an end, one can certainly say that he did everything he could to give the Texans a shot at pulling off the upset.
13. Roddy White
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Stats: 5 receptions, 76 yards, 1 TD
The All-Pro receiver did come up when it mattered most against the best secondary in the league. White's biggest catch was the 47-yard touchdown reception when he blew past Richard Sherman and gave the Falcons an early cushion.
He let plenty of more opportunities get past him in the game, as overthrown passes by Ryan kept White from having an even bigger impact on the outcome.
12. Corey Graham
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Stats: 8 tackles, 2 interceptions, 1 defensive TD
Corey Graham is the only defensive player to make the list from this weekend, and for good reason. His two interceptions couldn't have come at a bigger time for the Baltimore Ravens.
Graham's first interception eventually resulted in a pick-six for the Ravens, who turned the momentum in their favor after giving up an opening touchdown on special teams.
And most importantly, Graham showed excellent coverage on his second interception in overtime, which eventually led to the Ravens' monumental upset in Mile High.
11. Ray Rice
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Stats: 30 carries, 131 yards, 1 TD
Ray Rice is unquestionably the most valuable Ravens offensive player, and his ability to be dynamic in all facets of the game made him much tougher to prepare for on Saturday.
Contrary to previous weeks, the Ravens only utilized Rice in the rushing attack against the Broncos defense, who knew he was going to receive at least 30 touches this week.
As usual, Rice broke enough big runs to eclipse the 100-yard mark and have a significant impact on the game. His runs in overtime were also crucial, as the Ravens were able to rely on the running game to ultimately put themselves in game-winning field position.
10. Torrey Smith
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Stats: 3 receptions, 98 yards, 2 TDs
Torrey Smith continues to grow as the No. 1 offensive target in the Ravens passing game and has improved leaps and bounds from his rookie season.
While his route-running has significantly improved, Smith's role in the Ravens' victory over the Broncos was to challenge veteran Champ Bailey deep down the field.
The result: two touchdowns, both of which gave the Ravens momentum after the Broncos found success on previous drives.
9. Wes Welker
Stats: 8 receptions, 131 yards
As questions continue to loom about Wes Welker's future in New England, it's becoming more clear how valuable the former undrafted receiver is to this offense.
Although he finished with zero touchdowns, he brought a new dynamic to the Patriots passing attack by emerging as a deep threat during the absence of Rob Gronkowski.
He has been Brady's most reliable target since emerging as a legitimate playmaker in this offense. On this day, he continued to show how difficult he is to defend in the open field and made the most of his opportunities.
8. Matt Ryan
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Stats: 24/35, 250 yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs
Matt Ryan has finally silenced the critics after his performance on Sunday that capped the final-second victory for the Atlanta Falcons.
The former first-round pick had confidence going early on, testing the elite Seahawks secondary deep while also utilizing Tony Gonzalez in the middle of the field.
However, his struggles came in the second half, which was enough to give Seattle the lead with 30 seconds remaining in the game.
Ultimately, that meant nothing to Ryan, who took advantage of the available timeouts and was efficient in the final seconds that put Atlanta in field-goal range to march to next week's battle with the 49ers.
7. Shane Vereen
Stats: Rushing - 7 carries, 41 yards, 1 TD
Receiving - 5 receptions, 83 yards, 2 TDs
The plethora of talent on the New England Patriots continues to startle many. For those who didn't watch the Patriots too closely, this could have been their exposure to Shane Vereen and his ability to add a unique dynamic in the backfield with Stevan Ridley.
Vereen played a major role in the Patriots' offensive explosion, having earned three of the five touchdowns that involved Tom Brady and company. He proved to be lethal in the intermediate passing game, where he benefited from the Texans' lack of preparation for the no-huddle offense.
This was a very important game for Vereen, who certainly appears to be in the future plans of this organization for the next few years.
6. Zach Miller
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Stats: 8 receptions, 142 yards, 1 TD
On a weekend where All-Pro tight ends were showcased in prime time, the Seahawks' Zach Miller was extremely reliable in the passing game and gave his team a legitimate chance in the second half.
Miller did not find much trouble stretching the middle of the field against an average linebacker corps who couldn't keep up with his athleticism.
His touchdown in the second half sparked the swing of momentum for the Seahawks, who lost on a last-second field goal after taking the lead seconds earlier.
Despite ending up on the losing end, Miller's performance gave Seattle an opportunity to compete late in the game for a right to advance to the NFC championship.
5. Michael Crabtree
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Stats: 9 receptions, 119 yards, 2 TDs
The San Francisco 49ers passing game has emerged because of the increased production from their receiving corps. After years of disappointment, Michael Crabtree is beginning to perform at a level that resembles his days as a dominant wideout at Texas Tech.
He got a taste of the postseason for the second straight season and took advantage of a Packers defense that struggled the majority of the game.
With the focus being turned to Vernon Davis, Crabtree utilized his one-on-one opportunities and even displayed some speed on the outside against the Packers secondary.
As if Kaepernick didn't need much help to begin with, Crabtree ensured that the 49ers closed the deal in the second round.
4. Tom Brady
Stats: 25/40, 344 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INT
Tom Brady showed no signs of rust following the bye week and ultimately carved up a Texans secondary despite losing Rob Gronkowski to injury again.
Despite the variety of weapons at his disposal, Brady only utilized five weapons, which, quite frankly, was enough to put this game out of reach in the second half.
Brady accomplished what Peyton Manning couldn't do in his playoff game—challenge the opposing secondary down the field early and often in order to control the tempo throughout the game.
His ability to utilize the no-huddle offense effectively capped off another quality performance from one of the league's elite signal-callers.
3. Russell Wilson
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Stats: Passing - 385 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT
Rushing - 7 carries, 60 yards, 1 TD
Despite coming up on the close end, the future of Russell Wilson in a Seahawks uniform is one you have to admire his ability to regroup with his offense and become the catalyst for their success late in the second half against a vulnerable Falcons defense.
Wilson obviously took advantage of the quality pass protection he received, but his ability to challenge the middle of the field with Zach Miller and Sidney Rice led to an extremely unpredictable offense.
He also took control in the running game due to Marshawn Lynch's disappointing performance. His quality of play is a major positive for the Seahawks, who will build on their surprising season into the offseason.
2. Joe Flacco
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Stats: 18/34, 331 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INT
Joe Flacco knew he had to deliver a perfect game if the Baltimore Ravens wished to extend their emotional season for another week. Not only did he rise to the challenge on the road, but he also outplayed arguably the league's MVP in Peyton Manning.
Flacco was incredibly efficient in all facets, especially on the deep ball that eventually led to three touchdowns. However, the most surprising outcome from this game was the lack of turnovers committed by Flacco, who clearly did not try to force too many passes into tight coverage and benefited from his awareness.
His ability to spread out the Broncos secondary and use seven receivers in the passing game was ultimately the deciding factor in the Ravens' improbable victory.
1. Colin Kaepernick
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Stats: Passing - 17-of-31 263 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT
Rushing - 16 carries, 181 yards, 2 TDs
Colin Kaepernick officially asserted himself as the most logical choice at quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers after his fantastic performance in his playoff debut.
Despite the early interception that resulted in a pick-six, the first-year starter was not fazed by the miscue. His athleticism posed a major problem for the Packers, who couldn't handle his running ability in the middle of the field nor challenge him throwing the football down the field.
The 49ers march on to the NFC championship game for a second straight game, but this time their quarterback gives them a great deal of confidence towards the ultimate goal.