Careers in the National Football League are made in the postseason, as postseason performances (and plays) remain the stuff that lasts in NFL lore. The Super Wild-Card Weekend is one of the most exciting weekends of the playoffs, being the first weekend of the postseason tournament and an opportunity for the underdog teams to have their moment on the national stage.
The wild-card round was instituted in 1978 when the league expanded the playoff format from eight teams to 10, as non-division winners entered the postseason for the first time. This created the famous wild-card weekend (now Super Wild-Card Weekend) that had football fans glued to their television sets. Four wild card games were instituted in 1990 when the postseason was expanded to 12 teams and the wild-card round will feature six games this year with the playoff expansion to 14 teams.
As Super Wild-Card Weekend gets underway, we'll take an interesting twist in this postseason edition of "By The Numbers." We'll look at the single-game leaders in the wild-card round and the all-time leaders on Super Wild-Card Weekend. We'll also look at the all-time postseason leaders for reference.
Most passing yards in a game (wild card round)
- Drew Brees (2012, Saints) -- 466
- Peyton Manning (2005, Colts) -- 458
- Andrew Luck (2014, Colts) -- 453
- Kelly Holcomb (2003, Browns) --429
- Aaron Rodgers (2010, Packers) -- 423
Highest passer rating in a game (wild card round)
- Peyton Manning (2004, Colts) -- 158.3
- Dave Krieg (1983, Seahawks) -- 158.3
- Kurt Warner (2010, Cardinals) -- 154.1
- David Woodley (1982, Dolphins) -- 153.8
- Jeff Hostetler (1994, Raiders) -- 150.8
Most rushing yards in a game (wild card round)
- Lamar Smith (2000, Dolphins) -- 209
- Freeman McNeil (1983, Jets) -- 202
- Terrell Davis (1997, Broncos) -- 184
- Derrick Henry (2020, Titans) -- 182
- Natrone Means (1996, Jaguars) -- 175
Most receptions in a game (wild card round)
- T.Y. Hilton (2014, Colts) -- 13
- Shannon Sharpe (1994, Broncos) --13
- Darrell Jackson (2005, Seahawks) -- 12
- Calvin Johnson (2012, Lions) --12
Most receiving yards in a game (wild card round)
- Eric Moulds (1999, Bills) -- 240
- T.Y. Hilton (2014, Colts) -- 224
- Reggie Wayne (2005, Colts) -- 221
- Calvin Johnson (2012, Lions) -- 211
- Jerry Rice (2002, Raiders) -- 183
The wild-card round has never featured the top teams in the league in a non-strike year, which is obvious since all the top-seeded teams had a bye to the divisional round. There still have been some legendary performances in the round, starting with Peyton Manning having a perfect passer rating to earn his first postseason win.
Manning, who lost his first three playoff starts, finally broke through in January of 2004. The Colts quarterback completed 22 of 26 passes for 377 yards and five touchdowns for a perfect 158.3 passer rating in a 41-10 win over the Denver Broncos -- only the third game with a perfect passer rating in NFL playoff history (minimum 10 attempts).
Lamar Smith had one of the best rushing performances in playoff history -- against Manning and the Colts of all teams. Smith set a postseason record with 40 carries for 209 yards (the third-most in a game in the playoffs) in the Miami Dolphins' 23-17 overtime win over Indianapolis. Shaun Alexander and Napoleon McCallum share the record for rushing touchdowns in a game in the wild-card round with three.
Moulds set a playoff record for receiving yards in a game with 240 in the Buffalo Bills' 24-17 loss to Miami in 1999. Hilton's 13-reception game occurred in the Colts' thrilling 45-44 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in 2014 -- a game in which Indianapolis trailed 38-10 early in the third quarter. The record for most receiving touchdowns in a game in the wild card round is three, accomplished by five players (Willie Jackson, Andre Reed, Amani Toomer, Randall Cobb, and Alvin Garrett).
Willie McGinest had 4.5 sacks in the New England Patriots' 28-3 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2006, a wild-card round and NFL postseason record. Now that we looked at the single-game leaders in the wild-card round, let's look at the all-time leaders on Super Wild-Card Weekend.
Most passing yards (wild-card round)
- Drew Brees -- 2,023
- Brett Favre -- 2,008
- Peyton Manning -- 1,969
- Warren Moon -- 1,735
- Aaron Rodgers -- 1,626
Most passing TD (wild-card round)
- Aaron Rodgers -- 15
- Brett Favre -- 13
- Peyton Manning -- 13
- Warren Moon -- 12
- Drew Brees -- 11
Most rushing yards (wild-card round)
- Freeman McNeil -- 414
- Emmitt Smith -- 394
- Eric Dickerson -- 364
- Derrick Henry -- 338
- Edgerrin James -- 335
Most receiving yards (wild-card round)
- Reggie Wayne -- 573
- Ernest Givins -- 493
- T.Y. Hilton -- 478
- Marvin Harrison -- 433
- Antonio Brown -- 430
David Woodley has the highest passer rating for any quarterback in the wild-card round (min. 10 attempts), having a 153.8 passer rating in his one start for the Dolphins. Rich Gannon holds the record for highest passer rating for a quarterback that has made one than one playoff start in the wild-card round (131.8).
Rodgers has played six games in the wild-card round while Manning has seven and Favre eight, explaining why they are on top of the leaderboards. Woodley had the highest completion percentage in the wild-card round (84.21%) while Gannon is second (79.31%).
Zack Crockett has the highest yards per carry average in the wild-card round, averaging 10.13 yards per carry in three games. Emmitt Smith, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Darren Sproles each have four rushing touchdowns on Super Wild-Card Weekend -- the most all-time. Givins has the most catches in the wild-card round with 40, as Hilton is just nine receptions away (32) from passing him. Givins also has the most receiving touchdowns in the wild-card round with six with Reggie Wayne second on the list with five.
Trace Armstrong has eight sacks in the wild-card round to lead all players while Ed Reed's four interceptions in the wild-card round is the most in NFL history.
Finally, we'll take a look at the all-time postseason leaders since the playoffs begin this weekend. Needless to say, Tom Brady owns most of the passing records and Jerry Rice owns the receiving marks.
Most passing yards (postseason)
- Tom Brady -- 11,388
- Peyton Manning -- 7,339
- Brett Favre -- 5,855
- Joe Montana -- 5,772
- Ben Roethlisberger -- 5,256
Most passing TDs (postseason)
- Tom Brady -- 73
- Joe Montana -- 46
- Brett Favre -- 44
- Peyton Manning -- 40
- Aaron Rodgers -- 40
Highest passer rating (postseason)
- Patrick Mahomes -- 106.6
- Bart Starr -- 104.8
- Kurt Warner -- 102.8
- Matt Ryan -- 100.8
- Aaron Rodgers -- 100.0
Most rushing yards (postseason)
- Emmitt Smith -- 1,586
- Franco Harris -- 1,556
- Thurman Thomas -- 1,442
- Tony Dorsett -- 1,383
- Marcus Allen -- 1,347
Most rushing touchdowns (postseason)
- Emmitt Smith -- 19
- Franco Harris -- 16
- Thurman Thomas -- 16
- Terrell Davis -- 12
- Marshawn Lynch -- 12
- John Riggins --12
Mort receptions (postseason)
Most receiving yards (postseason)
- Jerry Rice -- 2,245
- Julian Edelman -- 1,442
- Michael Irvin -- 1,315
- Cliff Branch -- 1,289
- Reggie Wayne -- 1,254
Most receiving touchdowns (postseason)
- Jerry Rice -- 22
- Rob Gronkowski -- 12
- John Stallworth -- 12
- Fred Biletnikoff -- 10
- Larry Fitzgerald -- 10
- Antonio Freeman -- 10
- Randy Moss -- 10
- Hines Ward -- 10
These records are obviously determined by postseason appearances, which is accomplished by winning a lot of regular season games. Brady has played the most playoff games at 41, while Rice is second amongst skill-position players at 29. Manning is the only other skill-position player to play 25 postseason games.
Brady will be playing in his NFL-record 42nd postseason game Saturday, a mark that doesn't seem to be ending in the near future. Gronkowski can also move into second place on the all-time postseason touchdown reception list with a score Saturday.
Rodgers has the second-most passing touchdowns in the playoffs among active players with 40 while Brees is third with 34. Frank Gore has the most rushing yards amongst active players with 668, followed by Derrick Henry at 630 and Russell Wilson at 477. Brady, Sony Michael, and Damien Willams lead all active players in postseason rushing touchdowns with six.
Edelman leads all active players in catches and receiving yards in the postseason, while Gronkowski leads in touchdown catches. Gronkowski is second amongst active players in yards (1,163) while Larry Fitzgerald is third (942). Fitzgerald's 10 touchdown catches are second-most amongst active players.
More records will certainly be challenged as the NFL playoffs commence this weekend. That's part of what makes the NFL postseason so special, witnessing NFL history and ranking with the all-time greats.