Arian Foster, running back, Houston Texans: Foster, who was named to his third straight Pro Bowl, tossed the Texans on his back in Saturday’s 19-13 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. Foster had 32 carries for 140 yards and a touchdown, becoming the first player in NFL history to have 100 or more rushing yards in each of the first three post-season games of his career. Foster added eight receptions for 34 yards out of the backfield, as well. Foster will attempt to keep the 100+ rushing yard performances going against a New England Patriots run defense that ranked ninth against the run during the 2012 regular season and held Foster to 46 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries on Dec. 10.
Marshawn Lynch, running back, Seattle Seahawks: In the Seahawks’ first road playoff win since 1983, Lynch had 20 carries for 132 yards and a game-winning 27-yard touchdown run where he side-stepped cornerback DeAngelo Hall before running around and through several defenders on his way to the end zone. Lynch’s remarkable run atoned for an uncharacteristic fumble near the goal line in the third quarter and was his third run of 20+ yards on the night. The first of those runs came when Lynch scooped up a fumble by quarterback Russell Wilson behind the line of scrimmage and fought his way for 20 yards midway through the second quarter. Lynch’s fumble recovery not only avoided a turnover, but his long run helped set-up a four-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to fullback Michael Robinson that trimmed the Redskins’ lead to 14-10.
Anquan Boldin, wide receiver/Paul Kruger & Ray Lewis, linebackers, Baltimore Ravens: Aside from two targets, both of which fell incomplete, you might not have known that Boldin played in the first half. By the end of the game, however, Boldin would leave a large imprint on the Ravens’ 24-9 win over the Indianapolis Colts. With the Ravens facing a 3rd-and-19 deep in their own territory on the opening possession of the third quarter, Boldin hauled in a prayer of a pass from Joe Flacco for 50 yards. The Ravens would have to punt, but Boldin’s impressive catch helped flip the field position. On the Ravens’ next possession, Boldin would haul in a 46-yard pass from Flacco that set-up a 20-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dennis Pitta that extended the Ravens’ lead to 17-6. In the fourth quarter, Boldin made an impressive catch over Darius Butler in the back corner of the end zone that sealed the win for the Ravens. On the day, Boldin caught five passes for 145 yards and a touchdown, with all of his production coming as the Ravens offense came alive in the final 30 minutes.
The Ravens’ defense, as it usually does, played a huge role in the 24-9 win over the Colts and Lewis and Kruger came up big on Sunday. Lewis, the emotional leader of the unit, had a game-high 13 tackles in the final home game of his NFL career while Kruger had 2.5 sacks and numerous pressures on Andrew Luck, accounting for five of the 10 hits that the Ravens got on the No. 1 overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft.
Aaron Rodgers, quarterback, Green Bay Packers: Rodgers completed 23-of-33 pass attempts for 274 yards and a touchdown in picking up the first playoff win at Lambeau Field in his career. The Packers did not have many explosive plays in their 24-10 win over the Minnesota Vikings, but what big plays they did have came from Rodgers’ right arm. All ten of the Packers’ big plays on Saturday night came in the passing game as the team’s ball-carriers – running backs DuJuan Harris, Ryan Grant and John Kuhn plus wide receiver Randall Cobb – combined for 29 carries for 64 yards on the ground. Rodgers added a dozen rushing yards of his own, including a 10-yard run that was the Packers’ longest rushing play of the night.
Russell Wilson, quarterback, Seattle Seahawks: Making his NFL playoff debut against the more highly-celebrated Robert Griffin and the Washington Redskins, Wilson shook off a poor start to complete 15-of-26 pass attempts for 187 yards and a touchdown in the Seahawks’ 24-14 win. In addition to making plays with his arms, Wilson added 67 rushing yards on eight carries, including a 28-yard scramble, the third-longest run from scrimmage on wild-card weekend. Wilson also showed off his athleticism and leadership by getting out front and blocking for his running backs on a couple of plays, getting just enough of cornerback Josh Wilson on Marshawn Lynch’s 27-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter.
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