NFL Playoffs: Top 20 Best Player Performances in Divisional Round History

Jon GilbertCorrespondent IIJanuary 11, 2011

NFL Playoffs: Top 20 Best Player Performances in Divisional Round History

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    You know those debates that can never really be solved? Here's another one.

    Stats can only imply so much impact that a player has on a game, and since so many NFL Divisional Round games have long ago been logged in the history books, its nearly impossible determining the greatest 20 individual performances in NFL Divisional Round history.

    There have been some spectacular games played by seemingly superhuman athletes. Here is a list of what could be the 20 best we've ever seen. We can only hope that someone turns in a performance this weekend that we think is worthy of a spot on this list.

20. Daryle Lamonica, 1969

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    This is kind of not a part of NFL history since it was an AFL game. Making Lamonica's case even harder to accept is that he completed only 13 passes. So what makes him even considered for this list, exactly?

    Of those 13 completions, six went for touchdowns. Lamonica led the Raiders to a 56-7 rout over the Houston Oilers.

19. Ed Podolak, 1971

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    Ed Podolak did everything he could to get his Kansas City Chiefs to win. In the Christmas Day double-overtime thriller against the Miami Dolphins, Podolak amassed 350 all-purpose yards. The running back carried 17 times for 85 yards and a score, caught eight balls for 110 yards and had one punt return for one yard.

    Podolak even returned kickoffs for 154 yards, including a 78-yard return that should have set up a game-winning field goal. However, the kick was missed and the Dolphins won 27-24.

    With a win, Podolak would be higher on this list.

18. Richard Dent, 1985

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    Richard Dent was an absolute beast for the entire playoffs, eventually being named Super Bowl MVP. In the Divisional Round, the Bears' Dent manhandled the Giants offensive line, sacking Phil Simms 3.5 times.

    The Bears sacked Simms a total of 7 times en route to a 21-0 win. The shutout had much to do with Dent's domination on the line of scrimmage.

17. Lawrence McCutcheon, 1975

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    Lawrence McCutcheon never got in the end zone that day that the Los Angeles Rams took on the St. Louis Cardinals. But he carried 37 times for 202 yards, helping the Rams grind out a 35-23 win over the team that would eventually leave St. Louis, paving the way for the Rams to move in.

    McCutcheon was the first player to rush for more than 200 yards in a playoff game.

16. Bernie Kosar, 1986

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    This game against the New York Jets is just the type of game Cleveland Browns fans were used to during the 1980 "Kardiac Kids" days. Bernie Kosar put his team in a precarious position by throwing two fourth-quarter interceptions and the Jets led by 10.

    But Kosar led the Browns to 10 straight points in the final two minutes of regulation, forcing overtime. Once in overtime, Kosar anchored a Browns drive that ended in a game-winning field goal.

    Browns 23, Jets 20.

15. Don Strock, 1981

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    Sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures. With the Miami Dolphins trailing the San Diego Chargers 24-0 with 12:05 to play in the second quarter, coach Don Shula benched quarterback Daniel Woodley and brought in Don Strock.

    Strock made Shula look like a genius.

    Strock completed 29-of-43 passes for 403 yards and four touchdowns. The Dolphins actually took a 38-31 lead. But the Chargers came back for a 41-38 overtime win.

14. Anthony Carter, 1987

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    Anthony Carter caught 10 passes for 227 yards (then a playoff record) and also had one carry for 30 yards. The Vikings completed the stunning upset of the San Francisco 49ers, 36-24.

    Carter's record for most receiving yards in a playoff game was broken by the Buffalo Bills' Eric Moulds in 1998, when he had 240.

13. Danny White, 1980

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    We all know of Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach when it comes to Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks. But Danny White turned in one of the best playoff performances in team history in a 30-27 Divisional Round win.

    White was 25-for-40 passing with 322 yards and three touchdowns. He led the Cowboys to a 20-point fourth quarter and tossed the game-winning touchdown with 47 seconds left.

Freeman McNeil, 1982

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    The New York Jets got a muli-faceted performance out of running back Freeman McNeil in a 44-17 rout of the Cincinnati Bengals in 1982. McNeil rushed 21 times for 202 yards and a touchdown, and also passed for a score.

11. Steve Smith, 2005

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    Despite how good the Chicago Bears defense was in 2005, Steve Smith shredded it. The wideout made 12 catches for 218 yards scored two touchdowns. There was nothing the Bears could do to stop him and the Carolina Panthers earned a 29-21 win.

10. John Riggins, 1982

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    John Riggins turned in the type of performance that takes over a game. The running back put his Washington Redskins on his back and almost single-handedly defeated the Minnesota Vikings. The final score was 21-7 and the Redskins eventually played in the Super Bowl.

    Riggins carried the ball 37 times—37 times!—for 185 yards and two touchdowns.

9. Willie McGinest, 2005

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    Remember when the New England Patriots were about defense first? The philosophy probably hasn't changed much, but players like Rodney Harrison and Mike Vrabel used to carry an average offense along.

    One of those players was Willie McGinest. Against the Jacksonville Jaguars, he racked up a playoff-record 4.5 sacks as the Patriots smothered the Jags and earned a 28-3 win.

8. Ricky Watters, 1993

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    Quick: Who holds the record for touchdowns in a playoff game? By now you've guessed that it's Ricky Watters. The San Francisco 49er went crazy against the New York Giants.

    Sort of.

    Watters never rushed for more than six yards on a single carry.

    He scored the five touchdowns on 118 yards rushing as the 49ers crushed the Giants 44-3.

7. Roger Staubach, 1972

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    Roger Staubach was in the lineup the least of anyone on this list, since he didn't enter the game until the third quarter. The Dallas Cowboys were down 28-13 to the San Francisco 49ers when Staubach took over.

    He proceeded to lead the Cowboys to 17 straight points and threw a touchdown pass with 50 seconds left to give Dallas the 30-28 win.

6. Dave Casper, 1977

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    The Oakland Radiers tight end only caught four passes that day against the Baltimore Colts. But they were probably the four biggest plays of the game. Three catches went for touchdowns, including the game-winner in double overtime.

    The only other grab Casper had was the famous "Ghost to the Post" play that set up the game-tying field goal that forced overtime. Casper only had 70 yards receiving on the day and 42 came on that play alone.

5. Tom Brady, 2007

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    Tom Brady has turned into one of the great quarterbacks in the history of the NFL and the Divisional Round game against the Jacksonville Jaguars is one of his best performances ever. Brady completed 26-of-28 passes for 263 yards and three touchdowns.

    Brady was the picture of precision and efficiency in the Pats' 31-20 win. If only he could have reproduced such magic two games later against the New York Giants in the Super Bowl...

4. Kurt Warner, 1999

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    Kurt Warner was tasked with overcoming a 37-14 second-half deficit—and those St. Louis Rams uniforms—for a playoff win.

    He did it. Ho-hum. He torched the Minnesota Vikings for 35 straight points for a 49-37 win.

    Warner threw five touchdowns to five different receivers and hooked up with 10 different receivers in all. It was a classic execution of the "Greatest Show On Turf" that allowed the Rams to carry on to a Super Bowl win.

3. Eric Dickerson, 1985

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    The Los Angeles Rams blanked the Dallas Cowboys 20-0 in this game. But as good as the Rams defense was, it was Eric Dickerson that made it all happen.

    Los Angeles held onto the ball for most of the game with Dickerson carrying 34 times for 248 yards and two scores.

2. Kellen Winslow, 1981

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    Kellen Winslow had a pinched nerve in his shoulder. Of course, you couldn't tell.

    After all, he made 13 catches for 166 yards and a touchdown for the San Diego Chargers. Then he stepped up and blocked the Miami Dolphins' potentially game-winning field goal attempt in regulation.

    The Chargers went on to win 41-38 in overtime. Winslow was carried off the field by teammates due to pure exhaustion. The game carries several nicknames, among them "The Epic In Miami." Sports Illustrated called it "The Game No One Should Have Lost".

1. Vernon Perry, 1979

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    Vernon Perry never had much of an NFL career to talk about. He was never a Pro Bowler, never a Hall of Famer. But his performance against the San Diego Chargers in the 1979 Divisional Round was quite possibly the greatest ever played in that round of the playoffs.

    The Houston Oilers were without their starting quarterback and No. 1 wide receiver as well as running back Earl Campbell. Obviously, Houston needed its defense to step up.

    Perry did that by intercepting four passes—a postseason record. He also blocked a field goal and returned it 57 yards. Thanks to Perry, the Oilers won 17-14.