Winning on the road in the playoffs is a tough assignment ... or, not. Three of four games during Wild Card Weekend were won by road teams. This is the fourth time that this has happened under the current playoff format (2010, 2005 and 2004 were the other years).
Greatest on the road ...
Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints
Five previous Saints teams have ventured on the road in the NFL playoffs only to emerge scarred with bitter disappointment. Two years ago, the Saints went into Candlestick Park and were disposed of in epic fashion, 36-32, in a divisional playoff showdown. A year before that, the Saints fell victim to "Beast Mode" and were on the wrong end of a seismic event in Seattle during a wild-card game. In 2006, the Saints lost to the Chicago Bears in the NFC Championship. In 2000, the Saints lost to the Minnesota Vikings in a divisional playoff and in 1990 the Saints were defeated by the Bears in a wild-card game.
Forced to go back on the road to face the Philadelphia Eagles at the unfriendly confines of Lincoln Financial Field, the Saints used a rare blend of a punishing running game coupled with a strong defensive effort to emerge 26-24 victors. It marked the first road playoff win in franchise history. That experience might provide a psychological boost as the Saints will head to the Pacific Northwest for a divisional showdown with the Seattle Seahawks (owners of said famous seismic event from 2010 playoffs).
Ingram picked a good moment to have one of his finest games. He rushed for 97 yards and a touchdown against the Eagles. Those 97 yards represented Ingram's highest yardage total since going for 145 yards in a Week 10 dump trucking of the Dallas Cowboys. His touchdown was just his second of this season, with the first coming in said dump trucking of Dallas.
Ronnie Brown, San Diego Chargers
Winning on the road can be risky business in the NFL playoffs, especially if you are a West Coast-based football team playing in the Eastern time zone with a 1 p.m. ET kickoff time. West Coast teams in playoff games with a kickoff time of 1 p.m. ET or earlier are a combined 11-28 in NFL history. The Chargers, however, are 4-2 in such games.
To emerge victorious 27-10 over the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium, the Chargers rolled with their running game. Leading that charge was the veteran back Brown, who gashed the stout Bengals defense for 77 yards. That yardage total was boosted a bunch when Brown burst through for the decisive score in the fourth quarter, a 58-yard touchdown run that gave San Diego its final tally. The Chargers finished the game with 196 yards rushing, the third-most in franchise postseason history (behind the 1963 AFL Championship -- 318 yards -- and a 1994 AFC divisional playoff game -- 202 yards). Brown's 58-yard touchdown run is now tied for the second-longest in franchise history with Paul Lowe's 58-yarder in that 1963 AFL Championship and behind Keith Lincoln's 67-yard touchdown run from that same game.
Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers
Once a fortress of invincibility for the Green Bay Packers, Lambeau Field hasn't provided the home-field edge it once had. After winning the first 13 postseason home games in team history, the Packers have gone 3-5 in playoff games at Lambeau since. The most recent setback came courtesy of Kaepernick and the 49ers by a final score of 23-20.
Kaepernick followed up his coming-out party performance in a divisional playoff win over the Packers a year ago with an appropriate encore, rushing for 98 yards and throwing for a touchdown in the narrow, last-second victory. Kaepernick's 98 yards rushing were the most of any player during Wild Card Weekend, and the 49ers-Packers heavyweight showdown was a fitting finale for what was an exciting weekend for playoff football.
Previous Greatness on the Road winners:
» Week 1: Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
» Week 2: Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins
» Week 3: Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
» Week 4: Tom Brady, New England Patriots
» Week 5: Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs
» Week 6: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
» Week 7: A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals
» Week 8: Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers
» Week 9: Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles
» Week 10: Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions
» Week 11: Matt McGloin, Oakland Raiders
» Week 12: Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
» Week 13: Eric Decker, Denver Broncos
» Week 14: Charles Clay, Miami Dolphins
» Week 15: Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks
» Week 16: Karlos Dansby, Arizona Cardinals
» Week 17: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Follow Jim Reineking on Twitter @jimreineking.