Cornerback Al Harris of the Green Bay Packers, quarterback Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts and kicker Gary Anderson of the Tennessee Titans are the NFL Defensive, Offensive and Special Teams Players of the Week for Wild Card Weekend (January 3-4), the NFL announced Wednesday.
Harris earned defensive honors for his play in the Packers' thrilling 33-27 overtime win over the Seattle Seahawks at Lambeau Field, earning Green Bay its seventh trip to the NFC Divisional Playoffs in the past 11 years. The Packers will travel to Philadelphia for a meeting with the NFC's No. 1 seeded Eagles on Sunday.
Harris, who played in 80 games for the Eagles from 1998-2002, helped make a matchup against his former team a reality with a game-winning 52-yard interception return touchdown in overtime to give the Packers the victory. Harris' touchdown was the first defensive touchdown in a playoff overtime game in NFL history.
"There is no doubt that this is the biggest play I've ever made in my career," Harris said. "We put together a good rush and I was able to make the right read and intercept the pass. Once I had the interception, I was trying very hard to not let the quarterback catch me."
The sixth-year pro from Texas A&M-Kingsville finished the game with five tackles, helping the Packers' defense hold Seattle to a three-and-out following the opening kickoff of overtime, and then making a play to win the game on the visitors' second possession in the extra session.
Harris was acquired by Green Bay in a trade with Philadelphia on March 3 and has paid dividends for the Pack, starting every game and finishing the regular-season with three interceptions. His interception return touchdown against Seattle was his second such score of the season, reaching the end zone on a 56-yard INT return in a 31-6 win over Detroit in Week 2.
"Al made one of those plays that as a defensive back you just dream about," said fellow cornerback Mike McKenzie. "He made a big play when we needed it most."
Manning provided Colts fans one of the most prolific passing days in NFL playoff history in the team's 41-10 victory against the Denver Broncos. En route to the Colts' first home playoff win since January 3, 1971, the Associated Press NFL co-MVP recorded only the second perfect postseason-passer-rating game (158.3) with a minimum of 15 attempts. The Colts travel to play the AFC West champion Kansas City Chiefs Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.
Facing the club who defeated the Colts in Indianapolis only 14 days earlier, Manning completed 22 of 26 (84.6 percent) against the Broncos for 377 yards and five touchdowns without an interception. The six-year pro took his last snap in the one-sided victory with 13:30 remaining in the fourth quarter.
His five touchdown passes were one shy of the NFL's single-game playoff record of six, shared by Oakland's Daryle Lamonica (1969) and Steve Young (1994) of San Francisco. Manning tossed four of his touchdowns in the first half - two apiece to wide receivers Marvin Harrison and Brandon Stokley.
"I'm very, very happy for Peyton," says Colts head coach Tony Dungy. "To play like that in a playoff setting was just exceptional. It's a good feeling. But now we have to get ready to go on the road to Kansas City. They've played great football this season, especially at home."
The Chiefs are 8-0 at home this season while the Colts have a road record of 7-1.
Anderson, Tennessee's 44-year-old kicker, kicked a game-winning 46-yard field goal with 29 seconds left in regulation to forge a 20-17 lead and eventual win in a white-knuckled thriller, as the Titans advanced to the AFC Divisional round for the fourth time in the past five seasons under head coach Jeff Fisher.
Anderson's field goal tries were good from 45 and 46 yards, respectively, which were his two longest kicks of the year. The NFL's oldest player, Anderson ensured the Titans an upcoming week of practice and preparation as the franchise eyes its first Super Bowl championship.
On its final drive of the game, Tennessee gained possession on its own 37-yard line with 2:44 on the game clock. The team marched to the Ravens' 28-yard line in seven plays with all seven being either a completed pass by Steve McNair or a run by Eddie George. Anderson trotted onto the field and proceeded to deliver his 46-yard kick with perhaps one yard to spare.
'"There was a certain amount of pressure, but I've been in those situations many, many times," says Anderson. "'I just somehow subconsciously focus on what needs to be done and everything sort of disappears and I just focus on the ball."
Tennessee travels to the AFC's No. 1-seeded New England Patriots this Saturday night. The Patriots, champions of the AFC East, defeated the Titans in New England in Week 5 38-30.