The most totally Undefeated storylines in the NFL playoffs
With the divisional round on the horizon, these are the stories worth crowing over
For NFL teams, the postseason is all about being undefeated. After all, one loss gets you booted from the party. Up next: The divisional round. With two more victories, two teams will reach the Super Bowl in Houston. And there are great stories on every team. Stories of new beginnings, of comebacks and of the will to fight. Then there are the most Undefeated storylines of the playoffs. Check ’em out.
Dak Prescott and ghosts of Cowboys playoffs past
We want to root for Dak Prescott. We want him to succeed. Some of it’s because we’re always eager for the next big thing. Prescott is the first star black quarterback of America’s Team. That’s big. The rookie changed the game. But with Prescott, that’s only part of the story. He wasn’t supposed to be here. Remember: Dude was an afterthought. But after Prescott’s outstanding play during a 13-3 season, the Cowboys became his team. Even Tony Romo, a Blue Star institution, reluctantly has acknowledged as much. It’s Prescott’s time. Of course, the haters are still out there. After Prescott’s only true stinker of the season Dec. 11 in a 10-7 loss to the New York Giants, the anti-Dak crowd called for Romo to get back his old job. Prescott finished the regular season strong. Dak’s the guy. He comes across as the most unflappable 23-year-old you’ll ever meet. Prescott has dealt with so much (he lost his mother to colon cancer in 2013) at such a young age, you’d think the playoff stage won’t be too big for him. Then you remember it will be his first time in the postseason. Everything is magnified. When the Cowboys play host to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, the pressure will be all the way on. Even with all of his experience, Romo is only 2-4 at this time of year. The Cowboys haven’t won a Super Bowl in 21 seasons. They believe in Prescott. They’re counting on him. He’s the new face of the franchise. He must deliver.
If you’re not inspired by Eric Berry, there’s just something wrong with you. By now, many know the story of the Kansas City All-Pro safety, who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma on Dec. 8, 2014. Berry missed much of that season while undergoing chemotherapy. Declared clear of cancer on July 28, 2015, Berry returned to the field last season, steadily regained form and wound up back in the Pro Bowl while helping the Chiefs earn a wild-card berth. The Chiefs will tell you that, for them, merely being in the presence of the 2015 NFL Comeback Player of the Year provides daily inspiration. This season, Berry played a big part in Kansas City tying for the AFC’s second-best mark and earning a first-round bye. Like most who battle major illnesses daily, Berry displayed courage that the rest of us have never had to even try to summon. That’s inspiring. That’s undefeated. On Saturday, the Chiefs will rely on Berry to help in coverage against Pittsburgh Steelers superstar wideout Antonio Brown. Covering Brown can be a daunting challenge. But no matter the opponent, Berry has proven he has what it takes to win.
Ready When needed
Ty Montgomery wasn’t supposed to have a big role with the Green Bay Packers. The second-year player definitely wasn’t expected to hold it down in the running game. Things, though, can change quickly in professional sports’ most dangerous workplace. With running backs Eddie Lacy and James Starks injured, the Packers turned to Montgomery, who could best be described as an emergency back. Anyone who has a number in the 80s (Montgomery wears No. 88) definitely is viewed by coaches as a receiver first. As a rookie in 2015, Montgomery was listed as a wideout. He appeared in only six games before missing the remainder of the season because of an ankle injury. Without any better options this season, Green Bay gave the ball to Montgomery. The former third-round pick from Stanford didn’t simply fail to disappoint: He led the Packers with 457 yards rushing and 348 yards receiving. In a victory over the Chicago Bears on Dec. 18, Montgomery produced a career-high 162 yards on only 16 rushes and scored two touchdowns. He played a big part in the Packers’ season-ending, six-game winning streak en route to the NFC North title. In Sunday’s wild-card victory over the New York Giants, Montgomery was limited to 27 yards on a team-high 11 carries and three receptions for 41 yards. But the modest statistics don’t reflect Montgomery’s overall importance to the Packers now. He’s a legitimate threat in the running game. The Packers need that. Montgomery has filled an important role for Green Bay while also dealing with illness earlier this season related to sickle cell trait. He has overcome a lot to rise up for the Packers. You know what you call that.
A tougher road than you may think
Russell Wilson shouldn’t be on the list, right? After all, only in his fifth season, Wilson already is a Super Bowl winner, a three-time Pro Bowler, has a higher playoff winning percentage than New England Patriot Tom Brady and a contract that guarantees him more than $60 million. Oh, and he’s married to Ciara. We can’t forget Ciara. At first glance, it appears Wilson only wins, wins, wins. Just hold up a minute. Let’s travel back to 2012. That’s the year a whole bunch of teams passed on Wilson in the draft. After 74 players were chosen, the Seattle Seahawks finally picked Wilson in the third round. Listed at only 5 feet 11, Wilson was considered too short to become a superstar NFL passer, the thinking went among NFL decision-makers. Surely, he wouldn’t be more than a journeyman backup. Wilson didn’t buy it. He always envisioned himself succeeding at the game’s highest level. He ignored the doubters. He stayed on the grind. On Saturday, Wilson will lead the Seahawks against the Atlanta Falcons. With two more victories, Wilson will appear in his third Super Bowl. Quickly, Wilson became a rarity in the NFL: A true franchise quarterback. And did we mention he’s married to Ciara?