And then there were four…
The divisional round of the NFL playoffs pared down the field of teams still in the hunt to go to Super Bowl 50 from eight to four this past weekend. All four games came were decided by a touchdown or less and came right down to the wire. Time to hand out some game balls for our Dave & Adam’s “Leaders of The Pack”.
Quarterback: Carson Palmer – Arizona Cardinals – 25 of 41, 349 yards, 3 touchdowns
Palmer’s five-yard touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald in overtime clinched the first postseason win of the veteran quarterback’s NFL career. That touchdown was set up by a 75-yard pass to Fitzgerald on the first play of overtime, which was made possible by Palmer spinning away from a Packers defender, and then throwing a jumping, cross-field pass to his receiver. The Cardinals advanced to their first NFC title game since the 2008 season.
Running Back: Jonathan Stewart – Carolina Panthers – 19 carries, 106 yards, 2 touchdowns
Stewart got the Panthers’ dominant first half rolling with a 59-yard run on the first play of the game. He found the end zone twice as Carolina ran out to a 31-0 halftime lead. The Seahawks made a game of it in the second half as they rallied to get within seven points, but ran out of time in the end.
The former first round pick out of Oregon had the second best season of eight-year NFL career in 2015 with 989 yards. Stewart has spent much of his NFL career sharing playing time in the Panthers’ backfield and battling injuries, but he has taken over the spotlight as Carolina’s premier back. Look for his rookie card in select 2008 football products.
Wide Receiver: Larry Fitzgerald – Arizona Cardinals – 8 catches, 176 yards, 1 touchdown
Fitzgerald had Cardinals fans chanting his name after he scored the game winning touchdown in overtime. Combine that with his 75-yard catch and run that set up the winning touchdown, and you have one of the most impressive postseason receiving performances in history. Fitzgerald was on the last Cardinals team to play (and win) in the NFC Championship game, and now he hopes to return to the Super Bowl.
Honorable Mention: Jeff Janis – Green Bay Packers – 7 catches, 145 yards, 2 touchdowns
Had the Packers won on Saturday then it would have been Janis taking the LOTP award. He made two huge clutch catches that allowed the Packers to send the game to overtime, including bringing down a hail mary pass from Aaron Rodgers just as regulation time expired. That drive was kept alive by Janis catching a 60-yard pass from Rodgers on fourth-and-20 deep in Green Bay territory.