There’s plenty of pressure on players during the playoffs to win the coveted Lombardi Trophy, but for Oakland Raiders quarterback Connor Cook there will be a little more riding on his shoulders. The rookie quarterback will make his first start of the season in the wild-card game against the Houston Texans.
There’s been only a few players that have entered the playoffs as unknowns and emerged as postseason stars for their turnaround performance. Here’s a look at some of the players:
Malcolm Butler, New England Patriots CB –The rookie undrafted free agent, who started the game on the bench, made one of the biggest plays in Super Bowl history to make his mark in the NFL
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson snapped the ball from the one-yard line down by four points with 26 seconds remaining in the game. It looked as if the Seahawks would score a touchdown until Butler stepped in front of Tyler Lockett to cut off his slant pattern and intercept the ball to seal the Super Bowl XLIX victory.
David Tyree, New York Giants WR – The Super Bowl XLII between the wildcard Giants and undefeated New England Patriots was a David vs Goliath matchup, both ending in favor of the underdog.
The Giants were down 14-10 with 1:16 left in the game and faced a third-and-five on their own 44-yard line. Giants QB Eli Manning escaped several New England defenders and threw up a desperation heave to David Tyree, a receiver who was seldom-used during the season. In a jump ball against safety Rodney Harrison, Tyree caught the ball by pinning it against his helmet, securing a 32-yard gain. His improbable catch led a to a touchdown after Plaxico Burress hauled in a touchdown to give the Giants a 17-14 win. Tyree’s catch solidified his name in NFL history.
Desmond Howard, Green Bay Packers WR/KR – Howard Struggled to live up to the NFL hype after a stellar college career. He did however Cement his name in NFL history with an incredible 1996 playoff run with the Green Bay Packers. During the three-game stretch, he returned 18 kicks (both kickoff and punt) for 487 yards and two touchdowns with an MVP performance in Super Bowl XXXI where he returned 10 total kicks for 244 yards including a game-sealing 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
Frank Reich, Buffalo Bills QB – The Buffalo Bills had their man under center with Jim Kelly, but when Kelly was injured in the season finale during the 1992 season, perennial backup Reich stepped in after only throwing 47 passes in spot duty.
Reich’s breakout game came in a 41-38 shootout victory over the Houston Oilers in the playoffs when he completed 21 of 34 passes for 289 yards and 4 touchdowns. He led his team to the greatest comeback in NFL history.
He followed it up the next week against the Pittsburgh Steelers with an efficient 16 completions on 23 pass attempts for 160 yards and two touchdowns, while helping the Buffalo Bills return to their third straight Super Bowl.
Timmy Smith, Washington Redskins RB – The rookie only played in seven games and had 29 rushes for 126 yards during the regular season, but nearly doubled that in the playoffs. He rushed for 342 yards in the postseason including a Super Bowl record 204 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns. He wasn’t named MVP of Super Bowl XXII, but his record of most rushing yards in a Super Bowl still stands today.
Chad Morton, New Orleans Saints RB/KR – Morton spent most of his time on special teams during his rookie season. However, during the 2000 NFC Playoffs he showed off his diverse set of skills.
He hauled in 15 catches for 140 yards, including then-playoff record 13 receptions (which went for 106 yards) and added 5 carries for 25 yards.
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