Ranking the Greatest NFL Playoff Performances of the Last 10 Years

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistJanuary 22, 2022

Ranking the Greatest NFL Playoff Performances of the Last 10 Years

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Among the many appeals, one beautiful part of the NFL playoffs is that anyone can become a legend.

    While superstars and future Hall of Famers occasionally put together remarkable playoff runs, role players and perceived mid-tier players can become postseason heroes all the same.

    In the last 10 yearsback to the 2011 season and 2012 playoffsthe greatest individual performances even lean toward the latter group. On one hand, there's Eli Manning, Ray Lewis and Patrick Mahomes captaining Super Bowl runs. But then, there's Sean Murphy-Bunting, Sony Michel and Joe Flacco leading championship surges.

    The list is subjective but considers total production throughout the playoffs, and each player's team won the Super Bowl.  

10. Sean Murphy-Bunting, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2020)

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    Matt Ludtke/Associated Press

    During the last decade, two players have snagged three interceptions in a postseason. Lardarius Webb accomplished that in 2011 with the Baltimore Ravens, but they lost in the playoffsunlike Sean Murphy-Bunting and the 2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    The second-year cornerback grabbed a pick in each of Tampa's first three contests, becoming the first player since Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed to achieve that. Seems decent, right?

    All three interceptions led to touchdowns, and the most important arrived in the NFC championship.

    Late in the second quarter, Tampa Bay held a 14-10 lead on the Green Bay Packers. Murphy-Bunting intercepted Aaron Rodgers, and Tom Brady hit Scotty Miller for a 39-yard score before halftime. The touchdown proved vital in the Bucs' 31-26 win.

    Murphy-Bunting capped his breakout month with six tackles against the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV. He totaled 19 stops, three interceptions and five pass breakups in the postseason.  

9. Ray Lewis, Baltimore Ravens (2012)

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    In the final season of his Hall of Fame career, Baltimore Ravens legend Ray Lewis assembled a monstrous four-game stretch.

    Lewis, who missed 10 regular-season games with a torn right triceps, returned in time for the playoffs and tallied 13 tackles (one for loss) and a pass breakup in a win over the Indianapolis Colts. Then, he posted 17 stops (one for loss) in the "Mile High Miracle" victorymore on that lateron the road against the Denver Broncos.

    The linebacker made 14 tackles as the Ravens exacted some revenge on the New England Patriots in the AFC championship. And finally, Lewis notched seven tackles in Super Bowl XLVII to help Baltimore outlast the San Francisco 49ers.

    We're focused on the last 10 years. Still, nobody in NFL history has amassed more tackles in a postseason than Lewis' 51.    

8. Leonard Fournette, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2020)

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    This memorable postseason almost never happened.

    In mid-December, the Bucs placed Leonard Fournette on the game-day inactive list. Head coach Bruce Arians said he told the running back to either embrace his role or request a release. Within a month, Fournette had become an integral piece of the offense.

    He piled up 132 yards from scrimmage in the Wild Card Round victory over Washington and 107 in the divisional round against the New Orleans Saints. He provided 74 yards at Green Bay in the NFC championship and 135 opposite Kansas City in Super Bowl LV. And, most importantly, he scored a touchdown in every game.

    Considering he'd totaled 600 yards and six touchdowns in 13 regular-season games, the legend of Playoff Lenny with 448 yards and four scores was both iconic and highly unexpected.

7. Tom Brady, New England Patriots (2014)

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    No, he wasn't perfect. Tom Brady threw at least one interception in all three playoff appearances following the 2014 campaign. If not for Malcolm Butler's heroic goal-line pick in Super Bowl XLIX, the perception of Brady's postseason run might be different.

    But he came up clutch. Twice.

    To propel New England past Baltimore 35-31 in the divisional round, Brady connected with Brandon LaFell for the winner late in the fourth quarter. Brady totaled 367 yards and four touchdowns in the victory before managing 226 passing yards and three scores in a 45-7 thrashing of Indianapolis in the AFC championship.

    Brady threw for 328 yards and four touchdownstwo of which overcame a 24-14 fourth-quarter deficitto win his first Super Bowl in a decade and claim his third of five Super Bowl MVPs. As a bonus, he prevented Seattle from becoming the first back-to-back champion since his Pats in 2003-04.

6. Eli Manning, New York Giants (2011)

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    Although the New York Giants won the NFC East in 2011, they owned the conference's worst record (9-7) among playoff teams. Expectations, as you can imagine, were pretty low.

    But the G-Men kept on winning.

    Eli Manning threw for 277 yards and three touchdowns to eliminate the Atlanta Falcons. On the road against top-seeded Green Bay, he tallied 330 yardsa career postseason highwith three touchdowns and his lone interception of the playoffs.

    In the NFC championship, he put up 316 yards and two scores as the Giants defeated the 49ers in overtime. Super Bowl XLVI brought the crowning moment for Manning, who launched the famous 38-yard pass to Mario Manningham that sparked the last-minute, game-winning drive to defeat the Patriots.

    Manning finished the postseason with 1,219 passing yards, nine touchdowns, one turnover and the Super Bowl MVP award.

5. Von Miller, Denver Broncos (2015)

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Not only did Von Miller have an immensely productive 2015 postseason, but he also created the defining plays.

    After notching two tackles in the divisional-round win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, Miller simply dominated. He collected 2.5 sacks, four quarterback hits and a vital interception when the Broncos clipped Brady and the Patriots 20-18 in the AFC championship.

    Miller again registered 2.5 sacks against the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50, but he also forced two fumbles. Malik Jackson recovered the first for a touchdown, and the secondwhich T.J. Ward picked upensured Carolina would not mount a late comeback. Miller added two quarterback hits in the 24-10 victory.

    No defender has positively affected a team's championship run in the last decade like Miller, who was the 2015 Super Bowl MVP.

4. Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles (2017)

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    Carson Wentz propelled the Philadelphia Eagles to an 11-2 start, but a torn left ACL ended his seasonand, in theory, the team's dreams of winning Super Bowl LII.

    Nick Foles, however, stepped in to replace Wentz and guided the underdogs to an improbable championship.

    After throwing for 246 yards to dispatch Atlanta in the divisional round, Foles scorched the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC championship. He racked up 352 yards and three touchdowns in the 38-7 blowout, setting the stage for Philly's first title in 57 years.

    In the epic 41-33 victory over New England, he passed for 373 yards and three scoresincluding the game-winning touchdown to Zach Ertz late in the fourth quarter. Foles, who ultimately won Super Bowl MVP, also caught a one-yard score on the illustrious "Philly Special" trick play.

    Wentz regained his starting job when healthy in 2018, but this postseason made Foles a franchise legend.

3. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs (2019)

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    Twenty minutes into the divisional round, the Kansas City Chiefs trailed the visiting Houston Texans 24-0. Turns out, it simply provided a chance for the league's reigning MVP to shine.

    Patrick Mahomes threw four touchdowns before halftime to rapidly put Kansas City in front. K.C. hardly slowed after the break, winning 51-31 thanks to Mahomes' 321 yards, five scores and zero interceptions. He also rushed for 53 yards.

    The next weekend in the AFC championship, Kansas City overcame an early 10-0 deficit against the Tennessee Titans. Mahomes closed that 35-24 triumph with 294 yards and three touchdowns through the air, plus 53 yards and a score on the ground.

    Kansas City once again started slowly in Super Bowl LIV, and San Francisco took a 20-10 advantage into the fourth quarter. Mahomes responded with two touchdown passes in the frame, finding Damien Williams for the winning score with 2:44 to play. Mahomes totaled 315 yards and three touchdowns in the 31-20 win and claimed the contest's MVP.

    Three games, three double-digit comebacks, three wins. And the franchise's first Super Bowl victory in 50 years.   

2. Sony Michel, New England Patriots (2018)

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Tom Brady earned his sixth career championship in 2018, but the Patriots also leaned on rookie running back Sony Michel.

    New England's first-round draft pick scampered for 129 yards and three touchdowns against the Los Angeles Chargers in his postseason debut. He followed that showing with 113 yards and two scores to help the Pats outlast Kansas City in the AFC championship.

    Michel then scored the lone touchdown of Super Bowl LIII, running for 94 yards in a 13-3 victory over the Los Angeles Rams.

    He ended the playoffs with 336 rushing yards and six scores. In the Super Bowl era, only Denver Broncos running back Terrell Davis (1997; eight) and Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald (2008; seven) have more touchdowns in one postseason.       

1. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens (2012)

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    NFL fans debated Joe Flacco's place among the league's hierarchy throughout his 11-year Ravens career. Exactly how good was a productive yet risk-averse QB who often struggled in the playoffs?

    The answer: Elite. At least in the 2012 postseason.

    Flacco bounced the Colts with 282 yards and two touchdowns to begin the playoffs. He threw for 331 yards and three scores to upend the Broncos in the divisional round, which featured the game-tying 70-yard "Mile High Miracle" to Jacoby Jones in the last minute of regulation to force overtime.

    Baltimore hammered nemesis New England 28-13 in the AFC championship as Flacco put up 240 yards and three touchdowns. And, lastly, he passed for 287 yards and three scores when the Ravens clipped the 49ers 34-31 in Super Bowl XLVII, winning the game's MVP.

    Flacco's final playoff line read 1,140 passing yards, 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions. Nothing short of sensational.