Six secondary standouts from football’s week that was:
1. Logan Ryan, CB, Patriots (NFL) — Early in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s AFC divisional playoff game, the Texans forced the Patriots to punt and, facing an eight-point deficit, got the ball with a chance to tie.
On the first play of the ensuing drive, however, Ryan intercepted Houston QB Brock Osweiler and returned it to the 6-yard line. New England punched it into the end zone a couple of plays later, going up by two touchdowns and essentially sealing the eventual 34-16 victory.
Ryan finished with seven tackles, an interception, a sack and three pass breakups.
2. Ricardo Allen, FS, Falcons (NFL) — Atlanta had a little more breathing room when Allen made his clutch fourth-quarter interception during Saturday’s NFC divisional playoff game.
The Falcons led the Seahawks by 13 when Allen picked off QB Russell Wilson and returned it 45 yards. That set up another TD pass from Atlanta QB Matt Ryan, the team’s final score in a 36-20 victory.
3. Micah Hyde, S, Packers (NFL) — You wouldn’t know it from listening to the FOX announcing crew or some other national media types, but there were players on the Packers other than QB Aaron Rodgers who played key roles in Green Bay’s thrilling 34-31 win over the Cowboys in Sunday’s NFC divisional playoff game.
One who made a mark on defense was Hyde, who had a sack on Dallas’ opening drive and an interception in the third quarter. The backup safety also had four tackles during the game.
4. Artie Burns, CB, Steelers (NFL) — With the offense unable to score a touchdown, the Steelers pulled out their 18-16 win over the Chiefs in Sunday’s AFC divisional playoff game thanks to defense and special teams.
Pittsburgh kicker Chris Boswell connected on six field goals, and the defense held Kansas City to just 227 total yards.
Late in the second quarter, the Chiefs down by five and driving when RB Charcandrick West fumbled. Burns recovered. The Steelers then ran out the clock to end the half and eventually hung on for the victory.
Burns, a rookie from the DB factor that is Miami (Fla.), had three interceptions during the regular season, but his takeaway Sunday was his first fumble recovery as a pro.
5. Keanu Neal, SS, Falcons (NFL) — The rookie from Florida was stellar during the regular season, recording 106 tackles, five forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and eight pass breakups. In his playoff debut, Neal posted a team-high 11 tackles while playing in front of his mentor, All-Pro Seahawks SS Kam Chancellor.
6. Jeff Heath, FS, Cowboys (NFL) — Had the Cowboys managed to beat the Packers and a couple of plays turned out differently, Heath would’ve been a good candidate for a game ball.
The backup safety had one interception late in the third quarter (the first pick thrown by QB Aaron Rodgers in 319 attempts), and in the fourth quarter he had another interception nullified due to a pass interference penalty on rookie CB Anthony Brown.
On Green Bay’s final drive, Heath came in hot on a blitz and sacked Rodgers, nearly causing a fumble. Rodgers held on (one of his most impressive plays of the day) and of course went on to put the Packers in position for the winning field goal. Heath finished with three tackles, a sack and an interception in the loss.