After an action-packed Wild Card weekend filled with many standout performers, we take a look at the most impactful contributors from each winning team:
Raiders at Bengals
In their first postseason victory since 1991, the Cincinnati Bengals put together a quality showing, including a strong performance from their stud rookie receiver. Ja’Marr Chase reeled in nine passes on Saturday, and he would’ve had even more had he not dropped two of his twelve targets. The LSU product racked up 116 receiving yards, accounting for nearly half of Joe Burrow’s passing total. Chase also rushed for 23 yards, more than his regular season rushing total. The Offensive Rookie of the Year favorite was responsible for half of the team’s first downs, highlighting a stellar postseason debut.
Jessie Bates III
A key to holding the Las Vegas Raiders to just 19 points for the Bengals was Jessie Bates III, playing one coverage snap shy of the team lead. The safety had six total tackles, the most among the Cincinnati secondary. Most importantly, Bates III had three passes defended which ties his single-game career-high. In his first playoff appearance, Jessie Bates III reaffirmed his worth, cementing his status as one of the premier soon-to-be free agents.
Patriots at Bills
The blowout in Buffalo brought Bill Belichick and the Patriots a brutal defeat, the largest in the head coach’s New England tenure. The offense of the Bills was on fire, led by a masterful performance from Josh Allen. In fact, the 2018 draftee is the only quarterback in playoff history to put up 300 passing yards, 60 rushing yards and 5 passing touchdowns. On the play Allen threw his fifth touchdown, he actually lost a perfect passer rating, an unusual result. However, he finished with a passer rating of 157.6, trailing just Peyton Manning, Terry Bradshaw and Don Meredith for a single-game postseason passer rating.
Right tackle Spencer Brown was quietly influential in Buffalo’s incredible offensive output. The rookie was the only Bills offensive lineman to not record an allowed pressure, and this group kept Josh Allen from being sacked. Allen was also afforded an astounding 3.11 seconds to throw, much more than his regular season average. On the first touchdown of the game to Dawson Knox, Josh Allen was able to hold onto the ball for nearly ten seconds while scrambling to Brown’s side, just another example of Spencer Brown’s impact in this game.
Eagles at Buccaneers
Despite an injury-riddled group of skill position players, Mike Evans was able to carry the load for Tampa Bay on Sunday afternoon. The 6’5” receiver hauled in nine of his ten targets in the contest, good for 117 yards and a 36-yard touchdown. This performance marked Evans’ season-high in both receptions and receiving yards. His 44 yards after the catch also is the most he’s had in the 2021 season, another statistic to measure his impact upon this matchup.
Antoine Winfield Jr.
Up until the fourth quarter, the Buccaneers were shutting out the Eagles behind their stingy defense. One of the most important defenders on the field was Antoine Winfield Jr., putting his fingerprints on many facets of Todd Bowles’ unit. Although he’s only rushed the passer 29 times all season, eight of these came in this matchup, resulting in a whopping four pressures. Winfield Jr. also recorded a crucial third-down sack on Jalen Hurts. The safety also added five tackles, capping off an impressive day.
49ers at Cowboys
In dramatic fashion, the 49ers were able to defeat the Cowboys, in part because their offense was able to do just enough. Nearly a third of their total yards came thanks to Deebo Samuel, who is continuing to show he’s the ultimate offensive weapon. Although listed as a wide receiver, the South Carolina product only was targeted three times, catching them all for 38 yards. Amazingly, his average depth of target was just two yards, amounting to 32 of his receiving yards coming after the catch. The majority of his work came on the ground, rushing ten times for 72 yards and what ended up being the game-winning touchdown.
Winning this matchup wouldn’t have been possible if not for their defense stepping up, holding the best offense based on points and total yards to just 17 points. One standout player this one was defensive lineman Charles Omenihu, leading the team with 1.5 sacks. These were his only sacks of the season, and he tied his season-high in pressures with five. His 20.8% pressure percentage also led all defensive linemen in San Francisco.
Steelers at Chiefs
Although Patrick Mahomes threw an interception in the first quarter of his game against the Steelers, the rest of his performance was incredible. Throwing for over 400 yards and five touchdowns, Mahomes became the only signal-caller to win a postseason game with these figures. He accounted for an impressive 20 total first downs, which included a 23-yard scramble to help set up a second-quarter touchdown. The fireworks the Chiefs put up against the Steelers were a team effort, but Mahomes was the catalyst in this one.
Another impactful player on Kansas City was Joe Thuney. Signed by the Chiefs this offseason, the offensive lineman has been a key cog for the team, and this was on full display Sunday evening. Thuney had one of his best performances of the season, giving up zero sacks, pressures, and hits. In 47 pass-blocking snaps, he registered the most in this category without allowing any pressures.
Cardinals at Rams
In his first playoff game following the blockbuster trade during the offseason, Matthew Stafford did not disappoint. Formerly holding the record for most touchdown passes without a playoff victory, the quarterback finished with an efficient 11.9 yards per pass, including two touchdown passes. The former Detroit Lion also had more rushing yards than Cardinals’ starting running back James Conner, and he punched in a touchdown on the ground. His strong performance placed him sixth in single-game postseason passer rating and propelled LA to the Divisional Round.
Like Stafford, Von Miller had an immediate impact in his first playoff game with the Rams. The Super Bowl 50 MVP racked up a sack, three tackles for loss, and six total tackles in just 33 snaps. His pressure percentage was 17.6%, the leader among Rams’ defensive linemen. Leading his team in sacks, solo tackles and tackles for loss, Miller helped hold Arizona to their second-lowest scoring output of the season.
All information taken from Pro-Football-Reference, PFF and Tru Media