January 19, 2009
Honorable mention: Limas Sweed. After the inexcusable drop and the child-like reaction afterward, Sweed rebounded, found his backbone and contributed to the Steeler cause. He laid a crushing block downfield for Heath Miller, and if anything will get him back into the good graces of Steelers fans, it's that. He also made a great play to break up an interception in the end zone. Sweed could have easily turtled and turned into a giant Todd Pinkston for the rest of the game, but he didn't. He fought back, focused on the next play and did his job.
5. Ken Whisenhunt. I just love the gameplan that Whisenhunt and Todd Haley came up with to go after the Eagles' blitz. It seems so simple to just say, "We're going to get the ball out early and not give your pass rushers a chance to get there," but few teams have been able to pull it off like the Cardinals did. Then again, very few teams have quarterbacks like Kurt Warner and unstoppable weapons like Larry Fitzgerald.
4. Brent Celek. Celek made himself Donovan McNabb's security blanket and improved his fantasy draft position in '09 by about five rounds. He came up with a boatload of big catches in the second half during the Eagles' comeback, including two touchdown receptions. I'm going to have to ask that he shares this spot with Kevin Curtis, though, as Curtis was the other big playmaker for the Eagles in their comeback bid.
3. Ben Roethlisberger. To quote myself from the least valuable post, "Both Ben Roethlisberger and [Joe] Flacco played against great defenses, and one guy looked like a veteran who would take what he could get and make a play here or there, and the other guy looked like a rookie in a championship game against a fierce defense." Roethlisberger, of course, was the guy making plays.
His numbers don't wow you -- actually, I take that back. You know what? There is some "wow" involved in throwing for 255 yards against the Ravens. Throwing 33 times against the vicious Ravens defense and not being intercepted deserves a "wow." Completion percentage under 50 percent? I don't care. He didn't make any huge mistakes, and he did make some big throws that helped the Steelers beat the Ravens for a third time this season.
2. Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald had a bananas first half, hauling in six balls for 113 yards before halftime. And then he disappeared for a while, right up until the Cardinals offense needed him again. And then he sprung into action like Batman when he sees the big bat light, and he added three more catches for 39 yards on the deciding drive. Oh, and he also set a playoff record for most receiving yards in a single season's playoffs, and he's still got one game to go. A legend is being born.
1. Troy Polamalu. Polamalu vs. Ed Reed got a lot of attention this week, but it was Polamalu who came out and made play after play after play for the Steelers, while Ed Reed remained relatively silent. Polamalu was responsible for the game-clinching interception-into-touchdown off a Joe Flacco pass, stopped an early fourth-and-inches effort by the Ravens, and was making plays all game long, all over the field.
See also: Sunday's five least valuable players
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