So maybe road teams got off too easy in Wild Card Weekend -- every five- and six-seeds won away from home last week, a first in NFL history. Every one of those teams came crashing back down to earth on Saturday and Sunday, under the weight and pressure of toppling rested higher seeds. But they didn't go down without a fight, and a few spectacular performances. Three wide receivers, in particular, stood out from a quartet of losing teams, dazzling viewers with brilliant routes, strong catches and one magical moment.
Greatness On the Road winner
One by one, Packers wide receivers limped off the field in 2015. Jordy Nelson in Pittsburgh. Davante Adams in Landover. Randall Cobb in Glendale. By the end of the season, Aaron Rodgers' receiving corps was as depleted as any in the league, and against a stiff Cardinals secondary in the Divisional Round, Green Bay's offensive ma-cheese-mo looked certain to mold.
Enter Jeffrey Ronald Janis. The second-year wideout was drafted in the seventh round by Green Bay in 2014 and saw action in just three games his rookie season. After Nelson went down for the count in the preseason, Janis was looked at as a possible plug-in replacement, but his role on the Packers never increased during the trying campaign -- he finished with just two receptions on 12 targets for 79 yards. In the Packers' Wild Card Round win over the Redskins, Janis was still invisible, fixed on the sideline waiting his turn.
Janis' time to shine came Saturday night in Arizona. With Adams and Cobb out, Rodgers needed another pair of hands; Janis brought that and a whole lot more. The wideout earned five receptions on nine targets for 44 yards through 59 minutes of play, but it was Green Bay's grand finale that saw Janis truly break out as a big play threat.
On a fourth-and-20 from the Packers' four-yard line with 55 seconds left, Janis found himself on the receiving end of a massive 61-yard Rodgers heave. Finding that much open space behind Arizona's corners would have been enough to earn Janis all the respect and attention from the Packers brass he needed -- but he wasn't finished.
On a play that will anchor NFL Films countdowns for years and millenia to come, Janis high-pointed a 40-yard Hail Mary over two Cardinals defenders and came down with a miraculous game-tying touchdown grab as the clock expired. The play, which will likely be more remembered as Rodgers' second improbable last-second touchdown toss of the season -- and a fleeting one at that -- was as much Janis' as it was the legendary quarterback's.
Thanks to a penalty on the previous play, Janis was able to amass 101 yards on two plays with under one minute of play in the fourth quarter, bringing his game total to 145 yards on seven catches and two touchdowns. A player who barely saw the field all season covered an entire one in 55 seconds.
Kearse caught two touchdowns during Seattle's furious, albeit failed second-half comeback attempt. The Seahawks wideout was Russell Wilson's go-to guy down the stretch and caught a game-high and career-high 11 receptions for 110 yards. The Panthers will be happy not to see Kearse next week -- the Carolina killer has burned Luke Kuechly's bunch for 239 yards in two postseason games.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger called out Bryant ahead of Pittsburgh's Wild Card Round matchup in Cincinnati, and the wide receiver responded. Bryant didn't need any more motivation to step up this week. Sans Antonio Brown, who was out with a concussion, the Steelers relied on Bryant early and often Sunday. Against Aqib Talib and a dominant Denver defense, Bryant turned into a turf-torcher, compiling 154 yards on nine receptions and 40 yards on the ground. The wideout was so good he led his team in rushing and receiving. However, the cherry on top on his Sunday -- a touchdown -- evaded him, and kept the Steelers from advancing to the AFC Championship Game.