Ndamukong Suh, Defensive Tackle, Detroit Lions. Suh spent his Saturday doing three things: 1) being run right past as he bulled his way into the backfield, 2) being unable to beat the double-teams the Saints threw at him, and 3) not being so great against the single-teams, either. He and Nick Fairley were non-factors. And sure, going against the Saints' excellent offensive line is a tall order, but if you're Suh the superstar, you need to find a way to make an impact in playoff games. Earn that rep.
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Andy Dalton, Quarterback, Cincinnati Bengals. It's sort of a shame that Andy Dalton ends a brilliant regular season with this performance: zero TDs, three interceptions. And I don't feel like I'm abusing the word "brilliant" for his regular season ‒ he had an 80.4 passer rating, as a rookie, on a team that was expected to win about three games. It's not Brees brilliant or Rodgers brilliant, but given the degree of difficulty, it was brilliant enough. He had a rough day against an outstanding defense in the playoffs. That'll happen.
Chris Crocker, Cornerback, Cincinnati Bengals. No one in the Bengals secondary had a particularly wonderful day ‒ Pacman Jones didn't shine here, for example ‒ but Chris Crocker's defensive atrocity probably took the cake. As Doug noted Saturday, Crocker got stiff-armed twice on the same run by Arian Foster, leading the NFL Network's Tom Waddle to say Chris Crocker was playing more like Betty Crocker. I only hope that his ability to bake a delicious pie is of some comfort to him in the long offseason.
Ike Taylor, Cornerback, Pittsburgh Steelers. I feel like some member of the Steelers' defense should be here, but I feel bad making it Ike. Here's basically what was asked of him on Sunday afternoon: "Cover your man, one-on-one, while the safeties are at the line of scrimmage, for as long as Tim Tebow can run around the backfield." Pretty tall order. And on the game-deciding play, that's what was asked of him, and that's what killed the Steelers. Safety Ryan Mundy was at the line of scrimmage, so Taylor had to cover Demaryius Thomas with no help. Thomas beat him, Tebow got the ball there and that was the end of the story.
Matt Ryan, Quarterback, Atlanta Falcons. There were no glaring mistakes for Matt Ryan, but there were no noticeable triumphs, either. That might be just as bad. I know he had a vicious pass rush in his face all day, but I'm not asking for 400 yards here ‒ just make a handful of plays through the course of a game. Great quarterbacks do that, even against tough defenses. A 4.9 yards-per-attempt average isn't good enough. One of these days, Matt Ryan's going to have to do something to win a game like this.
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