The NFL divisonal playoff weekend just blew by, with the Bears (35-24 over the Seahawks) and the Packers (48-21 over the Falcons) set up a rivalry type game in the NFC championship. In the AFC, the Jets stunned the Patroits (28-21) and the Steelers staged a huge comeback against the Ravens (31-24). Here are three quarterbacks (Cutler, Roethlisberger and Rodgers) and one head coach (Rex Ryan, who else) that stood out above all the rest this weekend in the NFL divisional playoff games.
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
Why? Because he got sacked and sacked and sacked. The Ravens beat him his o-line and him the entire first half. Good thing Ben is probably the strongest QB in the league. His second half was pretty much perfect. The right throws, the right timing, the right decisions. Big Ben finished with 226 yards and two passing TD’s. For some reason, the Ravens allowed him to pass in the second half, relying on their secondary to beat him. They didn’t, and the Steelers won the game 31-24. Roethlisberger is now 9-2 in the playoffs, the second best record among NFL QB’s with over 10 playoff starts, behind Bart Starr and his 9-1.
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
First of all, it can’t go all to Rodgers. The Packers D shut down the Falcons for nearly three quarters, with Tramon Williams intercepting Matt Ryan twice and returning one of those for a touchdown. Ryan got sacked five times, with Clay Matthews doing most of the damage. Still, this was Rodgers night. A perfect night. Touchdowns? 3. Accuracy? 31 for 36, going for 366 yards and finishing with a QB rating of 136.8. Rodgers led the Packers to the highest scoring playoff quarter since 1995 (Eagles, 31 points) with 28 points in the second quarter. On a personal note, he one the duel with Matt Ryan, who had another terrible playoff performance and has yet to win a post season game in his career.
Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears
Yeah, Jay Cutler. The Seahawks aren’t exactly the strongest team in this post season but still, passing for two touchdowns and running in for two yourself to put your team 28-0 up in the Third quarter is no mere feat. It’s tough being THE quarterback in a sports-crazy city, and Cutler has seen tons of criticism come his way, plenty of times justified. He isn’t the dream quarterback and probably never will be, but he did all the right things against Seattle, becoming only the second quarterback in NFL playoff history to throw for two and run for two. Cleveland’s Otto Graham did it twice in 1954-1955. Cutler finished with 274 yards through the air and 43 on the ground, allowing his team plenty of garbage time, letting the Seahawks to make it 35-24 by the time it was all over.
Rex Ryan, New York Jets
Why? He delivered. He’s arrogant, controversial and annoys a lot of people. Especially Pats fans. So What? He picked up his team from that 45-3 drubbing against these same Patriots just over a month ago and dominated Bill Belichick’s game plan from the first second. The Patriots defensive line didn’t hold up, and with Tom Brady getting sacked 5 times and hit 7 times with blitzes coming from everywhere, the Patriots had no chance. Mark Sanchez played a calm game and the running game was there each time the Jets needed it to carry them. They aren’t the flashiest of teams and they probably aren’t the best team, but Ryan has made the Jets play their best football when it matters the most.