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Green Bay Packers 34, Dallas Cowboys 31

What you need to know

Green Bay Packers - It seems like the Packers have abandoned all pretense in running the ball, throwing it 43 times compared to running it just 17 (including two scrambles by the quarterback). Christine Michael didn’t see a carry and barely saw the field on offense, while Ty Montgomery saw almost as many targets as he did carries. It works for them, and may continue to work against the Atlanta defense next week. Really, as long as Aaron Rodgers does what Aaron Rodgers does, the Packers offense is always a threat to put up great production. You can’t count on the run game, though. It’s just not a focus at this point.

Dallas Cowboys - After their well-deserved bye week, Dallas opened their playoffs against the red-hot Green Bay Packers in Dallas. In what turned out to be an instant classic, the high-scoring affair saw Aaron Rodgers with the ball last and ultimately won the game on a long field goal. The key components of Dallas’ offense – Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, and Dez Bryant – all performed well en route to 31 points. However, clock management at the end of the game prevented a potential overtime frame.

QB Aaron Rodgers, Pass: 28 - 43 - 356 - 2 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 2 - 16 - 0 - Rodgers’ game was a bit uneven, but going forward nobody will remember anything but his key pass to Jared Cook on third down with seconds left, to set up the game winning field goal. That play has everything you need to know about Aaron Rodgers, as he showed poise, ridiculous accuracy and a knack for making the big play in the big moment. On the play, with 12 seconds left, Rodgers rolled out to his left to avoid pressure and buy time for his receivers against a secondary which had been blanketing them the whole second half. He continued towards the sideline, eyes downfield, until he saw Cook break free towards the sideline. Rodgers threw a bullet along the line to Cook who did a fantastic job keeping both feet in for the catch. Mason Crosby nailed the field goal and the win on the next play. That throw was more indicative of the first half Rodgers had than the second, though that was more about the adjustments the secondary made than Rodgers. The first half was a pretty good one, as Rodgers hit Richard Rodgers for a 34-yard touchdown pass. On the play, the tight end got a step on his defender, and Aaron Rodgers threw a little behind him, but the receiver still made the catch and rolled into the end zone for a score. Rodgers hit Cook, his other tight end, for a wide open touchdown in the third quarter, but also turned the ball over. On that play, Rodgers had Davante Adams down the sideline but threw a bad pass too far inside and short. It seemed as if Rodgers thought Adams would come inside more, perhaps on more of a post route, but Adams was running a streak down the sideline. It was the one really bad pass thrown by Rodgers Sunday, though the second half did see some great defensive play by the Dallas secondary, which made it hard for Rodgers to get much traction. That said, when he needed two during the last two drives for the Packers, Rodgers got the job done.

RB Aaron Ripkowski, Rush: 4 - 24 - 0 - Mostly on the field as a blocker, Ripkowski has been reliable both on pass plays and running the ball. His longest play was a 20-yard run in the second quarter. On the play, Ripkowski ran off-tackle, and stayed low which caused several defenders to miss tackles, allowing him to break free into the open field before getting hauled down.

WR Ty Montgomery, Rush: 11 - 47 - 2, Rec: 6 - 34 - 0 (7 targets) - Montgomery got most of the carries, and was on the field for 78 percent of the offensive snaps compared to Christine Michael, who was on for just 6 percent and had no carries. The Packers still don’t run the ball much these days, and saw as much time as a receiver as he did a ballcarrier. Montgomery scored both of his touchdowns in the first half on short yardage plays and showed power as he shoved forward on the first score and good vision as he knifed his way in for the second. His best play was on the final drive when he caught a short pass by Rodgers, got some nice blocks by his teammates and cut towards the sideline and down field, wisely stepping out to preserve time outs for the offense. It’s that sort of smart and instinctive play which has made Montgomery so valuable to the Packers this season.

WR Randall Cobb, Rec: 7 - 62 - 0 (8 targets) - Cobb’s role was throttled back a bit this week, though the Dallas Cowboys also took great pains in containing him considering how he decimated the New York Giants last week. He still played well against Dallas, but lacked the big plays which marked last week’s effort. When Cobb was open, he and Rodgers were on the same page and Cobb did a good job of making catches even with the Dallas secondary all over him. Cobb regained his place in the Packers passing offense last week, and while the numbers weren’t huge on Sunday, he continued to be a big part of it on Sunday.

WR Davante Adams, Rec: 5 - 76 - 0 (10 targets) - The second-most targeted player next to Jared Cook, Adams had a good day which could have been even better if he hadn’t been forced out on the one yard line on a 10-yard gain in the second quarter. On the play, Adams ran a short out route, and caught the ball out in the flat. He made a defender miss, but was hit just enough to be propelled towards the sideline. He reached out for the pylon, but the heel of his foot stepped out of bounds just before the ball crossed the plane. Adams also had a nice catch down field in the first quarter where he juked a defender to get open and then caught the ball in stride. Overall, Adams had a few missed opportunities, but continues to improve his consistency and skills, becoming a big asset to the passing offense.

WR Geronimo Allison, Rec: 3 - 46 - 0 (5 targets) - With the return of Randall Cobb, Allison saw a reduction in targets, but still was on the field for a significant amount of offensive snaps. It’s not surprising that on a day when the opposing secondary was effective in blanketing the more veteran receivers that the rookie undrafted free agent would struggle the most. Allison had a hard time getting open on Sunday during the second half when Dallas adjusted its coverage and saw no passes thrown his way.

TE Jared Cook, Rec: 6 - 104 - 1 (11 targets) - The hero of Sunday afternoon, Jared Cook was Aaron Rodgers most frequent and consistent target. Yes, he had a few misses he could have made, but he also made some big catches when it counted, most notably a 36-yard catch with just a few seconds left in the game to set up a game-winning field goal. The play started with 12 seconds left and Aaron Rodgers scrambling to find an open man. The Dallas secondary was once again blanketing the receivers, but Cook was able to break free and run towards the sideline. Rodgers saw him and delivered a crisp pass down the sideline. Cook hauled it in and did a fantastic job keeping both feet in bounds to complete the catch. He also scored on a short 3-yard touchdown in the third quarter when the defense bit on a playaction pass and left him wide open. While he often is criticized for what seem like focus-drops—and we saw a relatively poor performance in the first half to remind us of that—Cook did a tremendous job keeping his focus on that play and it’s likely nobody will remember his first half struggles

TE Richard Rodgers, Rec: 1 - 34 - 1 (2 targets) - If you’re going to make just one catch in a game, a 34-yard touchdown is the way to do it. On the play, Richard Rodgers ran right past linebacker Sean Lee, and Aaron Rodgers dropped a pass to him while he was wide open. The tight end showed excellent focus as the ball fell a bit short and passed right through the defender’s outstretched arms and into Rodgers’. The tight end caught the ball falling backwards and rolled into the end zone.

QB Dak Prescott, Pass: 24 - 38 - 302 - 3 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 2 - 13 - 0 - Prescott was a focal point of discussion leading up to his first career playoff game. The rookie was up to the task as Dallas trailed immediately giving up an opening drive touchdown and by as many as 18 points (down 21-3) in the mid-second quarter. The game plan was structured around well-defined throws for Prescott early in the game, but the game script changed as Dallas fell behind. While generally accurate, Prescott had a dangerous throw into double coverage for Dez Bryant and airmailed an open Brice Butler to stall another early drive. While Prescott threw an interception – an outstanding defensive read by Micah Hyde on a screen pass – there were other opportunities for turnovers. Prescott again threw into double coverage down the field, this time Terrance Williams, which was misplayed by the defense. Prescott’s mobility was a plus trait as both of his scrambles resulted in third down conversions. While rolling left, Prescott made one of his best throws of the game, releasing the ball just before his knee was down to hit Jason Witten for a key first down. When Dallas was down 15 points in the early fourth quarter, Prescott was at his best. He was six-for-six passing on the drive, leading to a must-have touchdown. Later in the frame, Prescott’s two-point conversion sneak tied the game with four minutes to play. Prescott did not blink as he and Aaron Rodgers traded scoring drives late in the game. With 93 seconds to play, Dallas needed a field goal to tie. Prescott worked the ball into Green Bay territory quickly, but spiked the ball preemptively, giving up a down and stopping the clock. The saved time ultimately undid Dallas as they tied the game but allowed Aaron Rodgers a few plays to work into field goal range for the win. While Prescott did not notch the win, he performed well and remained on an upward trajectory for 2017 as Dallas will be one of the favorites in the NFC for a strong playoff run.

RB Ezekiel Elliott, Rush: 22 - 125 - 0, Rec: 1 - -2 - 0 (1 targets) - Elliott was well-rested entering the playoffs after not playing in Week 17 and having a bye week. Green Bay consistently used a nickel defense and Dallas’ offensive line took advantage on a number of run plays. Elliott found space to the perimeter on a number of his runs, baiting defenders to the inside of his blockers only to burst to the corner for five to 10 more yards. On the interior, Elliott ran over a defender on one highlight run in the first half and exhibited strong balance on a spin move with another. Elliott’s primary backup, Darren McFadden, barely saw the field in the game as Elliott was the unquestioned lead back. Lance Dunbar did see sporadic snaps in spread looks for Dallas and Elliott had just a single reception. While a strong pass protector, a boost in receiving production would be the lone area for improvement in 2017 for Elliott. The rookie back did not have optimal opportunities for touchdowns this week and did not find the end zone from long range.

WR Dez Bryant, Rec: 9 - 132 - 2 (12 targets) - Bryant was the featured receiver for Dallas against Green Bay, seeing nearly 30% of the team’s targets and nearly doubling the second-leading receiver (Terrance Williams) for production. Bryant was a matchup issue for Green Bay’s secondary most of the game. In addition to his nine receptions, Bryant drew a defensive holding penalty and a third down defensive pass interference penalty. Bryant found the end zone twice, both times showing his strong ball skills. Bryant outmuscled the defensive back on a long sideline target on one of Dak Prescott’s best throws of the game for a score. Later, Bryant shielded the defensive back on a goal line slant, showing strong hands on a high ball, for his second touchdown. Bryant looked fresh and physical for Dallas’ biggest game of the season and performed at an elite level for four quarters, an uncommon occurrence throughout his career.

WR Terrance Williams, Rec: 4 - 68 - 0 (6 targets) - Williams played the secondary role to Dez Bryant as usual against Green Bay. Williams’ route tree featured more intermediate and deep routes than short-range opportunities. Williams dug out a low throw on a slant route for his most notable catch. He did log a horrible drop on a deep out route in the second half of note. Williams now enters free agency coming off his worst statistical season of his four-year career on a low-water-mark 61 targets. Williams will be fortunate to find a number two role like he has in Dallas if he changes teams.

WR Cole Beasley, Rec: 4 - 45 - 0 (6 targets) - Beasley had a common stat line for his solid 2016 season against Green Bay in the playoffs, generally in the 40-60 yard range. Beasley was active in the first half, but quiet in the final 30 minutes. Beasley converted a slot screen for more than 10 yards and corralled a diving out route target. A slant route reception in the second quarter converted a key third down, but Beasley took a big hit in the process. While Dallas’ season ends with a heartbreaking home playoff loss, Beasley enjoyed his best NFL season to-date, leading Dallas with 75 receptions.

TE Jason Witten, Rec: 6 - 59 - 1 (9 targets) - Witten had a strong receiving effort in the loss against Green Bay. The elder tight end was integral to Dallas’ late-game comeback, converting third-and-long into the red zone against zone coverage. Witten also came wide open on a goal line play-action score. In pass protection, however, Witten whiffed against a blitzing Micah Hyde who ultimately sacked Dak Prescott. The mistake led to an opening drive punt as Dallas got down big in the first half. Witten is clearly on the downslope of his long-standing career, logging less than 700 receiving yards for the first time since his 2003 rookie season. With a strong rookie crop of tight ends in the 2017 NFL Draft, this may be the year Dallas drafted Witten’s sooner-than-later replacement.


Houston Texans 16, New England Patriots 34

What you need to know

Houston Texans - Brock Osweiler was not as bad as his stat line suggested and he was let down by drops that could have turned the game in the first half. Lamar Miller was workmanlike, but not impressive. Will Fuller's drops hurt the team and the Patriots kept DeAndre Hopkins from hurting them.

New England Patriots - Tom Brady was not the reason the Patriots won this one, instead it was Dion Lewis scoring in three different ways. Chris Hogan did hook up with Brady in the deep passing game, and Julian Edelman was a clutch target to keep drives going. The Patriots weren't as in control as the final score suggested.

QB Brock Osweiler, 69 offensive snaps, Pass: 23 - 40 - 198 - 1 TD / 3 INT, Rush: 1 - 18 - 0 - The stat sheet shows a complete meltdown but the three interceptions came late in the game when the Texans needed to start airing out the football. What is lost in that in the first half, Osweiler had three well placed footballs in the end zone not hauled in. C.J. Fiedorowicz stumbled and could not haul in a pass that hit his finger tips. Will Fuller dropped a post route dropped perfectly over his shoulder and the ball slipped right through his hands to the ground right before the half. Then add another ball thrown down the right sideline that was a 50/50 ball that Fuller only got his right hand on but was also a well placed ball for only Fuller to make a play on. That lack of help slowed Osweiler’s day but he did have a touchdown pass to C.J. Fiedorowicz on a play action pass that he hit wide open in the end zone. Osweiler played under control but if he would have gotten some help from his receivers, the game might have taken a different turn.

RB Lamar Miller, 39 offensive snaps, Rush: 19 - 73 - 0, Rec: 4 - 16 - 0 (7 targets) - 73 yards on the day, Lamar Miller had a normal day at the office. Miller missed some yards like usually on the field and his best run came off the left side of the offensive line for 17 yards. Miler also had 4 receptions for 16 yards but that did not amount to much in the passing game. Miller had tough sledding majority of the game but his game was much like what he put up during the regular season.

WR DeAndre Hopkins, 69 offensive snaps, Rec: 6 - 65 - 0 (9 targets) - The Texans knew that DeAndre Hopkins was going to be pressed in coverage with a safety over the top. Hopkins caught 6 passed for 65 yards and a long of 19 yards. Moving him in the slot helped put him against weaker cornerbacks and that made a difference in his game. Hopkins worked in and out of routes but he really did not take off until the second half when it was too late.

WR Will Fuller, 68 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 16 - 0 (6 targets) - Fuller had plenty of opportunities to get going on offense and make a difference but two key misses by him on football thrown to him in the end zone were crucial misses in the loss. Dropping a well placed 40 yard deep ball from Osweiler that was over his shoulder was the biggest miss of the evening. He did have some hitch routes caught for a total of 16 yards but he missed a big day if he could haul in those passes.

TE C.J. Fiedorowicz, 57 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 36 - 1 (5 targets) - Fuller had plenty of opportunities to get going on offense and make a difference but two keep misses by him on football thrown to him in the end zone were crucial misses in the loss. Dropping a well placed 40 yard deep ball from Osweiler that was over his shoulder was the biggest miss of the evening. He did have some hitch routes caught for a total of 16 yards but he missed a big day if he could haul in those passes.

TE Ryan Griffin, 38 offensive snaps (3 targets) - Griffin was quiet in this game after playing a larger role in the wild card win over the Raiders.

QB Tom Brady, 69 offensive snaps, Pass: 18 - 38 - 287 - 2 TD / 2 INT, Rush: 4 - -1 - 0 - Though the final score doesn't show it, Tom Brady has had better games. Under pressure for much of the game, Brady was out of sorts minus a few drives. In fact, he matched his season interception total (2) in this game alone, something that won't fly if the Patriots want to win their next playoff game. His first INT was a pass to Michael Floyd that was equal parts blame assigned to Brady and Floyd. Brady led Floyd a bit too much on a slant route, and though Floyd could have caught it, the end result was a turnover. Brady's second interception was entirely his own fault, as he threw a very questionable pass into heavy traffic for a deflection and pick. On the plus side, Brady did connect on several deep balls, including one to Chris Hogan and two to Julian Edelman. His touchdowns were both to running backs. The first was a simple swing pass to Dion Lewis, who sped by a linebacker for a score. The second was a great stutter route by James White, who, like Lewis, beat a linebacker in coverage. Despite that, the theme of the game was a subpar Patriots offense helped out by an opportunistic Patriots defense.

RB Dion Lewis, 33 offensive snaps, Rush: 13 - 41 - 1, Rec: 2 - 23 - 1 (7 targets) - Dion Lewis stole the show, putting on a record setting performance with a couple blemishes. Lewis scored a rushing, receiving, and return touchdown, showing off his versatility in the process. His first touchdown was a swing pass from Tom Brady. Matched up against a linebacker, Lewis simply sped on by for a score. His return touchdown was a full highlight of his speed, while his rushing touchdown was a short one that typically goes to LeGarrette Blount. On the down side, Lewis fumbled twice on the day, which is inexcusable, especially in the playoffs. He will still have a big role going forward, especially if the Patriots can create speed mismatches against the Steelers.

RB LeGarrette Blount, 27 offensive snaps, Rush: 8 - 31 - 0 - Part because he had been under the weather during the week, part because Dion Lewis played like a beast, Blount took a backseat against the Texans, playing roughly half of his snaps once the game was out of reach. As a result, there wasn't much to speak of for the bellcow RB. Don't be surprised if he does see more meaningful snaps next week.

RB James White, 12 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 19 - 1 (1 targets) - White barely played any snaps, but he did score a touchdown on one of them. White ran a wheel stutter route against a linebacker, and simply outclassed his defender, catching a nice lob pass from Tom Brady for a score. Other than that, he was quiet, as Dion Lewis stole the show.

WR Julian Edelman, 58 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 12 - 0, Rec: 8 - 137 - 0 (13 targets) - Julian Edelman manned up against the Texans, making critical catch after catch, especially in the second half. He and Brady repeatedly hooked up on an early drive in the 3rd quarter to help break the game open after the offense struggled throughout the first half. Edelman caught a couple deep balls as well, something he normally doesn't do. He did have a drop, but that can be forgiven given the quality of the rest of his play.

WR Chris Hogan, 34 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 95 - 0 (4 targets) - Hogan played well while he was in the game, but did sit out a portion of the second half due to injury. When he was in the game, he caught a couple deep passes, and drew a 30 yard P.I. call for good measure. Hogan operated as the second wide receiver while he was in the game, and did exactly what he was called upon to do.

WR Michael Floyd, 44 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 9 - 0 (3 targets) - Floyd had a pretty down day. His most notable play was an interception that Tom Brady threw his way. Don't be surprised if Malcolm Mitchell usurps Floyd's spot against the Steelers.

TE Martellus Bennett, 64 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 4 - 0 (4 targets) - As per usual, Bennett was not a focal point of the passing attack. He did get injured a couple times during the game, but for the most part, he wasn't that involved.


Seattle Seahawks 20, Atlanta Falcons 36

What you need to know

Seattle Seahawks - Ultimately, the Seahawks weak and inexperienced offensive line was their undoing, offensively at least. On the other side of the ball, a defense that people tend to classify as ‘Elite' has been as Jekkyl & Hyde as the offense, alternating periods in which nothing gets past them with games like this, a 36 point debacle. That said, the offense deserved better in the first half. A misstep (literally, on the part of the right guard, who stepped on his quarterback's foot) resulted in a Safety early on), and Devin Hester's huge kickoff returns could have changed the game, had a couple of them not been called back on a penalty - one of which led to the poor field position prior to the Safety. On the plus side - looking toward next year, at least - was the emergence of Paul Richardson these past two playoff games, who showed that he's ready to be not only a deep threat but has great hands and the ability to catch the ball in traffic. Thomas Rawls also played well enough to warrant optimism for next year; though he didn't see the ball much in the second half, due to the Seahawks playing from behind.

Atlanta Falcons - Atlanta exploited a Seattle defense that has been statistically atrocious after an injury to All-Pro safety Earl Thomas. The confidence Atlanta had in this mismatch began by deferring possession after winning the coin toss and the Falcons offense routinely converted third-down passes for big plays over the middle against replacement safety Steven Terrell, who missed multiple tackles. The Falcons used stack formations to force Richard Sherman to play off coverage on Julio Jones and Ryan found Taylor Gabriel, Mohamed Sanu, Devonta Freeman, and Levine Toilolo for meaningful plays as Atlanta built a 16-point lead early in the third quarter, and eventually 23 late in the fourth quarter. Julio Jones played well early, but aggravated his foot injury early in the third quarter and before getting pulled from the game he dropped multiple passes when forced to work against Sherman tight. Keep an eye on his prognosis for next week.

QB Russell Wilson, 55 offensive snaps, Pass: 17 - 30 - 225 - 2 TD / 2 INT, Rush: 6 - 49 - 0 - Wilson started off on fire, distributing the ball well on the opening scoring drive, and rushing the ball himself early on, leading up to a short TD pass to his huge target, Jimmy Graham. On the second drive, he threw an excellent deep ball to Paul Richardson to get the Seahawks close to red zone territory, but after taking a sack he then overthrew Doug Baldwin in the end zone and settled for the field goal. He conceded a Safety on the next drive as his right guard stepped on his foot while he took the snap at the 2 yard line, causing Wilson to fall into the end zone while holding the ball. In the second half, he was forced out of the pocket far too quickly on almost every play. Even though Wilson is an adept scrambler and made something of the play often, it clearly hurt the effectiveness of the passing game overall. Twice he overthrew Baldwin on plays that easily would have been scores, and another in the end zone was tipped by Baldwin, who was in front of big Jimmy Graham, who was likely Wilson's intended target. He fought hard to bring the Seahawks back from what became 16 point deficit by the 4th quarter, but these early mishaps and a defense that did not live up to their top billing, made the gap too wide to overcome. Late in the game, Wilson played hard, running for a couple of first downs, but also throwing a poor pass out of desperation, which the Falcons intercepted (and then padded their lead on the ensuing possession). Wilson was able to make it interesting with a quick touchdown strike to favorite target Doug Baldwin, and then nearly brought the Seahawks back from the bring with an apparent 58 yard catch by Paul Richardson that was overturned and ruled incomplete. In the end it was too little too late. Wilson was still moving the chains in hopes of a 16 point comeback when a fluky fumble put the ball back in the Falcons hands to effectively end the game.

RB Thomas Rawls, 31 offensive snaps, Rush: 11 - 34 - 0 - Rawls had a great opening drive, with powerful inside running, sidestepping into lanes well, and generally taking it to the Falcons defense until they brought him down. He averaged nearly 5 Yards on his six carries, which led to the Seahawks opening the game with a touchdown. The Seahawks operated out of the shotgun often, and Rawls again had much of his success out of this formation as the Falcons would defend the pass first.

WR Doug Baldwin, 50 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 1 - 0, Rec: 5 - 80 - 1 (9 targets) - Baldwin's first catch was on the opening drive, an excellent leaping catch on a crossing pattern for 18 yards. He followed that up with a quick hitch for a short gain on the very next play. One more chance in the first half, this time in the end zone, but the ball was overthrown. Some bad luck in the second half: Baldwin tried to make a leaping catch in the end zone, but it was too high and went off his fingertips; behind him was Jimmy Graham, quite possibly the actual intended target, who may have come down with it if not for the tip. In the 4th quarter, Baldwin had the defense beat deep over the middle, but the ball arrived just ahead of his grasp. He fought hard for first down yardage on a short catch in the final quarter, and scored a touchdown on 30 yard catch that he was able to reach despite being interfered with. He made one more catch still as they tried to mount an unlikely comeback in the final minutes, but in the end it was too little, too late.

WR Paul Richardson, 38 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 83 - 0 (5 targets) - Writing about Richardson now that the Seahawks are done, is really a prequel for next year, in which he should finally be on everyone's sleeper list. In the first half, he made a big 33 yard diving catch that was at first ruled a 52 yard TD as he got up seemingly untouched and ran it in. But upon review it showed the defender had touched him as he went down with the ball. In the second half he made a similar big play, making a fingertips catch in tough coverage for a 40 yard reception. They tried a quick hit to him in the slot but he didn't get far. With only a few minutes remaining, Richardson made another spectacular long catch, this time for 58 yards - or seemingly so. It was overturned on the replay, however, as the ball touched the ground (though he seemed also to have possession) as he hit the ground.

WR Jermaine Kearse, 47 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 8 - 0 (3 targets) - Early in the second half, Kearse caught a short pass on the sideline, which was his first time being targeted.

TE Jimmy Graham, 41 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 22 - 1 (3 targets) - Graham started things off with a bang, opening the scoring for the Seahawks with a catch on a flare pattern inside the 5 yard line that he walked in easily. He's a big target and, as he so often does, was able to shed the defensive back's attempted tackle easily. Graham does his job well but is often under-targeted (as he was this game) because he is forced to stay and block to make up for the inefficient offensive line.

QB Matt Ryan, 72 offensive snaps, Pass: 26 - 37 - 338 - 3 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 3 - -3 - 0 - Ryan took some hits throughout this game as well as two sacks, including a sack fumble but that was the extent of his obstacles. The Falcons QB routinely took advantage of game planned formations that stacked Julio Jones behind a teammate and forced Richard Sherman to play off coverage. The result was big plays including a slant for a touchdown early in the second quarter off a rub route with Mohamed Sanu. Ryan wasnft accurate on deep passes to Taylor Gabriel and Tevin Coleman, but with substitute safety Steven Terrell failing to tackle well, Ryan exploited the middle of the Seattle defense with completions to Jones, Devonta Freeman, and Taylor Gabriel for yards after the catch. Ryan also managed to slide from pressure and find open receivers. Despite a couple of near interceptions where he failed to get on the same page with Gabriel on a Run-Pass Option in the second half that was nearly a pick-six and a misread of a coverage, Ryan spread the ball around and made efficient throws to build a commanding lead.

RB Devonta Freeman, 44 offensive snaps, Rush: 14 - 45 - 1, Rec: 4 - 80 - 0 (5 targets) - Atlantafs lead back began the game strong but Seattlefs defense, including a quick gain off left tackle for 8 yards to begin the first drive and then a more impressive run the following play where he worked to the right and successfully reversed field due to penetration for a first down. Seattle limited Freeman to short gains for much of the half but he generated big plays in the third quarter with a seven-yard gain on a play where All-Pro defensive lineman Michael Bennett got hurt and followed with a tough run up the middle to the Seattle 1 that set up a one-yard touchdown plunge. Late in the third quarter, Ryan hit Freeman on a circle route against the blitz and Freeman made replacement safety Terrell miss badly with a juke that led to a 53-yard gain on a drive that padded Atlantafs lead.

RB Tevin Coleman, 29 offensive snaps, Rush: 11 - 57 - 0, Rec: 3 - 22 - 1 (4 targets) - Coleman continues to look better with each passing month. Hefs improving his setups of zone plays with cuts that hefs capable of making based on his build and not the stop-start moves or jump-cuts that he did earlier in his career. This has helped him set up big creases and earn strong gains. He bounced off a hit off left guard and worked up field for five yards to reach the 25 of Seattle during the first drive. He juggled a pitch to the right but made the first penetrating DB miss in the backfield and earned a first down for about seven yards to begin the second quarter on this long initial drive for the Falcons offense. It set up a touchdown on a slant to Julio Jones. Active in the receiving game, Coleman earned the first down with a cat6ch over the middle to get Atlanta to the 14 after a Seahawk punt pinned Atlanta inside the 1. Atlanta later upped the tempo with four minutes n the half. Three straight completions led to a touchdown to Coleman on the sail route wide open behind the defense after Ryan slid to his left from pressure. Early in the third quarter, Coleman earned a big hole inside right end on an outside zone for a 15-yard gain to get across midfield. He followed up with another up the middle for eight yards. The gains kept coming for Coleman, who out-rushed Freeman in this game thanks to some runs from passing sets and the defense cuing on Freeman for run plays. Coleman continued earning carries in the second half for gains of 6-8 yards on most of his attempts.

WR Julio Jones, 42 offensive snaps, Rec: 6 - 67 - 1 (8 targets) - The Falcons All-Pro receiver benefitted from stacked formations during the first half of the game, forcing All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman to play off coverage. This gave Matt Ryan room to hit Jones on short passes and Jones room to earn yards after the catch. Jones caught a 3rd and 7, making a nice turn outside to earn the extra few yards for the first down and bounced off a hit to do so. Two plays later, he earned first down on a sideline hitch against Richard Sherman with an excellent break to get Atlanta to Seattlefs 40. This was Jones best play against Sherman when the corner played tight. The off coverage continued with Ryan hitting Jones on a rub route with Mohamed Sanu working a slant under Richard Sherman in off coverage from about seven yards for an easy uncovered touchdown catch to tie the game. Another quick hitch against Sherman in off coverage earned jones 8 yards after Seattle pinned Atlanta inside the 1. Jones then made a sliding catch on the slant and returned to his feet for a run outside for a first down inside the Seahawk 20 late in the half when Atlanta went up-tempo. Ryan hit Jones on a cross on 3rd and 8 to begin the first drive of the second half on a cross from a bunch formation to get the first down. Jones left the game for a while not long after this catch, limping to the sideline with an aggravation to his foot injury. When he returned, he was not as effective, but it was hard to tell whether it was the foot, Atlanta letting Sherman cover him tight, or both. Jones dropped a play action hitch against Sherman in tight coverage, the first tight coverage play of the game with 3:00 in the third quarter. Jones then dropped a short slant against Sherman in tight coverage early in the fourth quarter on 2nd and 10. He was pulled from the game soon after because Atlanta had built a commanding lead.

WR Taylor Gabriel, 24 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 71 - 0 (6 targets) - After a safety on Russell Wilson where the Seahawksf replacement guard tripped Wilson at the line of scrimmage, Ryan followed up with a pass to Gabriel on a short slant for a seven-yard completion that lead to an 18-yard gain. Gabriel spun inside a second defender for the gain to get insdie Seattlefs 20. He later settled into the zone up the middle for 18 yards on a 3rd and down pass at the two minute warning to get across midfield. Gabriel was targeted on a deep out and open but the pass was over thrown. After cornerback Deshaun Shead suffered a non-contact injury to his knee on the route and was carted to the locker room, Gabriel made a nice adjustment for 12 yards on 3rd and 12 on a spot out against rookie CB Deandre Elliott. His production was timely throughout the game. His only mistake was not recognizing a run-pass option opportunity with Matt Ryan pre-snap that bounced off his leg in Atlanta territory. If the Seahawksf rookie was more aware, he was a step or two from a pick-six in the fourth quarter that could have made this game closer.

WR Mohamed Sanu, 49 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 44 - 1 (5 targets) - Matt Ryan overshot Sanufs first target—a corner route from the Atlanta 14 with 2:40 in the half. But Ryan followed up to Sanu with the same route against tight coverage with a magnificent one-hand catch for 22 yards on the next play. It was a fantastic display of tensile strength to hold onto the ball with his three fingers. It was the extent of Sanufs production during the game with the exception of a rub route where he set the stage for a 7-yard Julio Jones score. It was a play that FOXfs Mike Pereira would have ruled an offensive pass interference foul, but it was close. After a few runs with eight minutes left in the game that put Atlanta inside the 20 and he found Sanu in the flat inside the five and then hit the receiver on the fade for the score that sealed the game 35-13.

WR Justin Hardy, 15 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 0 - 0, Rec: 2 - 18 - 0 (2 targets) - Hardy gained maybe a yard on an end around at the 40 of Seattle when Michael Bennett kept the WR at bay during the first Atlanta drive. He earned a short gain for a first down in the right flat early in the third quarter to get Atlanta inside the 21 of Seattle. The officials ruled a drop on a 3rd and 10 out early in the fourth quarter at the sideline after Hardy rolled out of bounds with the ball and hit the towel guy. The replay officials awarded Hardy the catch and an important third-down conversion during the second half. It wasnft a big day for Hardy, but two first downs helped the cause.

WR Aldrick Robinson, 25 offensive snaps (1 targets) - Robinson got open on a deep slant off a play action partial roll on 2nd and 10 with 13:20 in the half, but got overthrown. It was the extent of his day.

TE Levine Toilolo, 58 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 26 - 0 (4 targets) - The veteran tight end had a good day by his standards. He nearly caught a 2nd and 8 wounded duck from Matt Ryan during the second drive. It was a play where Ryan got hit by Cliff Avril during his release. He later dropped a route up the right hash inside the 15 of Seattle late in the third quarter on a wide-open route. It doesnft sound like a good day for him, but as the game progressed, he made two big plays to keep Atlantafs offense on the field. He caught a 3rd and 15 flat route to get a few yards late in the third quarter setting up a field goal at the top of the fourth quarter. Then, Ryan hit Toilolo for an 18-yard gain with about 10 yards earned after the catch. He delivered a strong siff-arm in the open field and took the fight to All-Pro Bobby Wagner with a shoulder that drove the defender backwards.

TE Austin Hooper, 39 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 10 - 0 (1 targets) - Although targeted only once, Hooper got wide open on a shallow out to the left flat and turn up the left sideline for a gain of 11 and a first down. It came from a two tight end set as the outside tight end in-line with the front.


Pittsburgh Steelers 18, Kansas City Chiefs 16

What you need to know

Pittsburgh Steelers - The Pittsburgh Steelers won their 9th consecutive game by a score of 18-16 over the Kansas City Chiefs. LeVeon Bell led the way with 30 rushing attempts for 170 yards. Antonio Brown led the Steelers receivers with 108 yards on 6 receptions. But the hero of the game was Chris Boswell, who scored all 18 of the Steelers points and set an NFL postseason record with 6 field goals. Boswell accounted for 227 FG yards, the same amount of total yards as the Chiefs offense.

Kansas City Chiefs - The Kansas City Chiefs ended their 2016 season with an 18-16 playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Quarterback Alex Smith was inconsistent throughout the game, completing 20 of 34 passes for 172 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Smith also rushed two times for nine yards. Spencer Ware did not see extended carries, which was puzzling considering the close nature of the game. He finished with eight carries for 35 yards and a touchdown, while also catching two passes for one yard. Travis Kelce once again led the Chiefs receivers with five catches for 77 yards. Jeremy Maclin was a non-factor, as were the rest of the Chiefs receivers, catching only two passes for 28 yards. Pittsburgh was able to shut down the Chiefs offensive sparkplug, Tyreke Hill, limiting him to four catches for 27 yards and three rushes for 18 yards.

QB Ben Roethlisberger, Pass: 20 - 31 - 224 - 0 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 4 - 1 - 0 - Ben Roethlisberger did not have a fantasy friendly performance as the Steelers finished the game with zero touchdowns. Roethlisberger was efficient but unable to sustain drives. The Chiefs played their usual “bend but don’t break” defense and Roethlisberger was able to capitalize in the short to medium passing game. Mid 1st quarter on a 3rd and 10, Roethlisberger eluded pressure and stepped up in the pocket to complete a 52-yard pass to Antonio Brown. On the play, Roethlisberger recognized that Brown was left in one-on-one coverage with Chiefs LB Justin Houston. The only blemish of the game came in the 2nd quarter on a 1st and goal from the Chiefs 5-yard line as Roethlisberger threw an interception on a pass intended for Antonio Brown. On the play, the pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage by Chiefs defender Frank Zombo and intercepted by Eric Berry. Roethlisberger was able to accumulate the bulk of his passing yards during the first half. He finished the half with 14 completions on 23 attempts for 170 yards. The Chiefs defense played conservatively as he was pressured only once during the first half. Roethlisberger only attempted 8 passing attempts during the second half as the Steelers were protecting the lead. Late in the 4th quarter with the game on the line, the Steelers put their faith in Roethlisberger on a 3rd and 3. On the play, Roethlisberger had time and completed a 7-yard pass to Brown to seal the victory.

RB LeVeon Bell, Rush: 30 - 170 - 0, Rec: 2 - -4 - 0 (5 targets) - Once again, it was a Leveon Bell day as the Steelers RB rushed the ball 30 times for 170 yards, a 5.7 average/per rush attempt. The offensive line was able to control the line of scrimmage as Bell had plenty of room to maneuver. Bell ran with his signature patience and fought for additional yardage. For the second week in a row, he was not a focus in the passing game as he finished with only 2 receptions. Late 2nd quarter on a 3rd and 9, Bell ran off the right tackle and followed his blockers for a 17-yard gain. Bell cracked the 100-yard mark with 2 minutes left in the half. Bell started off the 3rd quarter with a 38-yard gain, his longest run of the day. On the play, Bell ran up the middle before cutting to the left sideline for the long gain. After the Steelers built a lead, they leaned on Bell during the second half.

WR Antonio Brown, Rec: 6 - 108 - 0 (11 targets) - Antonio Brown turned in another standout performance leading the Steelers receivers with 6 receptions for 108 yards. Mid 1st quarter on a 3rd and 10, Brown was left in one-on-one coverage with Chiefs LB Justin Houston. On the play, Brown ran a go-route and came down with a 52-yard reception. Late 4th quarter on a 3rd and 3 with the game on the line, Brown ran a crossing-route for a 7-yard reception to put the game on ice.

WR Eli Rogers, Rec: 5 - 27 - 0 (7 targets) - Eli Rogers was a reliable option in the short passing game totaling 5 receptions for 27 yards.

WR Cobi Hamilton, Rec: 1 - 4 - 0 (1 targets) - Cobi Hamilton was not a focus of the passing game as he finished with only 1 reception for 4 yards.

WR DeMarcus Ayers, Rec: 1 - 6 - 0 (1 targets) - DaMarcus Ayers was not a focus of the passing game as he finished with only 1 reception for 6 yards.

TE Jesse James, Rec: 5 - 83 - 0 (6 targets) - Jesse James made an impact with 5 receptions for 83 yards. The Chiefs often left the middle of the field undefended and James was able to take advantage. James started early during the opening drive with receptions of 13 and 16 yards. Early 4th quarter, James ran a crossing-route over the middle for a 23-yard reception.

QB Alex Smith, Pass: 20 - 34 - 172 - 1 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 2 - 9 - 0 - Alex Smith ended an up and down season by completing 20 of 34 passes for 172 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Smith was also kept in check on the ground, rushing twice for 19 yards. Despite the Chiefs offense scoring the only two touchdowns in the game, the Steelers secondary was able to keep Smith to short gains, which ultimately was the difference in the game. Smith's long completion of the game was a 24 yard pass to Travis Kelce. The Chiefs inability to create big plays on offense was the story of their season, and despite the emergence of Tyreke Hill, they will have to go out and find more playmakers this offseason to support a defense that did not let up a touchdown in a heartbreaking playoff loss.

RB Spencer Ware, Rush: 8 - 35 - 1, Rec: 2 - 1 - 0 (4 targets) - Spencer Ware played admirably in his first season as the Chiefs bell-cow running back. The game against Pittsburgh was tightly contested, yet the Chiefs only gave their lead back eight carries, which Ware was able to turn into 35 yards and a touchdown. He also caught two passes for one yard on four targets. Ware did well when called upon, scoring one of only two touchdowns in the game. The Chiefs have found their running back of the future and will look to Ware after most likely moving on from Jamaal Charles this offseason.

RB Charcandrick West, Rush: 1 - -1 - 0, Rec: 2 - 14 - 0 (2 targets) - West was quiet in this game, except when he fumbled on an unforced error in the last two minutes of the first half. He'll be clearly behind Spencer Ware entering the offseason with Jamaal Charles' future up in the air.

WR Tyreek Hill, Rush: 3 - 18 - 0, Rec: 4 - 27 - 0 (6 targets) - By all accounts, Tyreek Hill was the best find in the 2016 NFL Draft. He became a key playmaker for the Chiefs in their run to the 2nd seed in the AFC, and without his ability to score from anywhere on the field, the Chiefs might have not have even made the playoffs, let alone secure a top seed. He finished his season on a quiet note though, catching four passes for 27 yards, while also rushing three times for 18 yards. The Pittsburgh secondary came up with a solid game plan to limit Hill's ability to generate big chunks of yards, and despite not scoring a touchdown on offense, it was this game plan that kept the game within reach and allowed them to win a tight playoff game against Kansas City.

WR Jeremy Maclin, Rec: 2 - 28 - 0 (4 targets) - After a groin injury limited Maclin to only 12 starts in 2016, it appeared as though he was never the same after reentering the starting lineup. Pittsburgh was able to limit Maclin to only two catches for 28 yards on five targets, and it begs the question whether Kansas City would have better playing younger receivers like Chris Conley and Albert Wilson in extended duty against a tough Pittsburgh secondary.

WR Chris Conley, Rec: 2 - 19 - 0 (3 targets) - Conley had a huge fourth down conversion on the fourth-quarter touchdown drive, and he also drew a long pass interference penalty earlier in the game. His most impactful play was a target inside the five on the late touchdown drive that was incomplete but resulted in a personal foul when Sean Davis made helmet-to-helmet contact on Conley. He was only targeted sporadically as the Chiefs offense failed to execute consistently for most of the game.

TE Travis Kelce, Rec: 5 - 77 - 0 (7 targets) - Travis Kelce continued his fantastic 2016 season by catching five passes for 77 yards and eight targets against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Despite the Chiefs season ending on a low note, Kelce had nothing to be ashamed of. He was a dominant force for much of the season, and became arguably the best tight end in football with Rob Gronkowski injured for much of the year. He was able to find seems in the Pittsburgh secondary, despite being double teamed on nearly every play, and the Chiefs inability to come away with a win was hardly his fault.