Davante Adams and Jermaine Kearse had their best games to help their teams reach the NFC championship game. Trent Richardson and Jonas Gray watched in street clothes while their teams advanced to the AFC title game.
The NFL playoffs are a time for unsung heroes and busts.
Often, the standout stars in big games aren't the biggest names or players making the most money. Two prime examples in past conference championship games are cornerback Ricky Manning Jr. and linebacker A.J. Duhe.
Manning intercepted Donovan McNabb three times in Carolina's 14-3 win over the Eagles in January 2004. Duhe picked three of Richard Todd's passes and returned one for a touchdown in Miami's 14-0 over the New York Jets in January 1983.
Last weekend, Adams, a rookie second-round pick, had a career-best seven catches for 117 yards and one touchdown in Green Bay's 26-21 win over Dallas. Kearse, a third-year pro, had three catches for a career-best 129 yards and one TD in Seattle's 31-17 win over Carolina.
In the AFC, Gray was inactive for New England in a 35-31 over Baltimore. The little-known running back burst on the scene when he ran for 201 yards and a franchise-best four TDs in the Patriots' 42-20 win at Indianapolis in Week 10. But Gray has rushed for just 80 yards since that effort.
Richardson, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 draft by Cleveland, was a healthy scratch for Indianapolis in a 24-13 upset at Denver. Richardson had already been demoted to third-string and couldn't make the active roster on special teams.
Here are potential unsung heroes for each team on Championship Sunday:
PACKERS: Tight end Andrew Quarless had four catches for 31 yards and a touchdown last week against Dallas. With Adams, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb facing Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell, Quarless might end up being Aaron Rodgers' go-to guy.
SEAHAWKS: Rookie first-round pick Justin Britt has started every game at right tackle and faces another tough task this week. Britt can't focus on just one player because the Packers move their linemen around, but he should see plenty of veteran end Julius Peppers. Britt hasn't allowed a sack in the past three games.
COLTS: Free safety Sergio Brown had a rough time against Rob Gronkowski when the teams last met. Brown, who broke Gronkowski's arm in 2012, was tossed into a camera cart by the All-Pro tight end after a 26-yard, tackle-breaking touchdown catch. So Brown certainly has extra motivation going into this matchup.
PATRIOTS: Backup tight end Michael Hoomanawanui caught two passes for 30 yards when the Patriots lined up in a unique formation that confused the Ravens. Since Gronkowski will get extra attention, Hoomanawanui has a chance to sneak in a few more big catches.
Here are players who were busts this season for each team:
PACKERS: Rookie defensive tackle Khyri Thornton, a third-round pick, spent the year on injured reserve after hurting his hamstring in a preseason game. While the Packers have received significant contributions from other draft picks, they got nothing from Thornton because of his injury.
SEAHAWKS: Wide receiver Percy Harvin was traded to the New York Jets in October for a mid-round draft pick less than two years after the Seahawks gave up a first and third-round picks to get him and signed him to a lucrative contract.
COLTS: The Colts traded a first-round pick for Richardson last year, but he lost his starting job to Dan Herron and was inactive last week in favor of a player the team had just signed.
PATRIOTS: Gray led the Patriots in rushing this season, though 201 of his 412 yards came in one game. Gray was sent home from practice for reporting late the Friday after his breakout game and hasn't played much since that performance.
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