SAM FARMER / ON THE NFL

Playoff quarterbacks come through when it matters most

The knack: After three frustratingly inconsistent seasons, Rivers has been phenomenal. He had 32 touchdowns and 11 interceptions this season and guided the Chargers to huge upset victories on the road against Philadelphia, Kansas City, Denver and Cincinnati.

The knock: There were some missed opportunities this season — losses to Washington and Miami come to mind — but otherwise there haven't been a lot of knocks on Rivers. Still, winning twice at Denver in a month is a tall order.

Brees

The knack: Brees has a Super Bowl ring, a 6-4 record in the playoffs, and has thrown for 5,000-plus yards in each of the last three seasons. As quarterback-coach combinations go, it's tough to beat the offensive know-how of Brees and Coach Sean Payton.

The knock: Although they were 8-0 at home this season, the Saints were 3-5 on the road. They were able to win at Philadelphia, but Saturday return to Seattle, where they lost, 34-7, on Dec. 2.

Luck

The knack: In addition to last weekend's miraculous finish against Kansas City, Luck has 10 comebacks in the fourth quarter or overtime. His 22 victories in his first two seasons are the second-most by any quarterback in his first two seasons since 1970; Wilson has 24.

The knock: It's not all Luck, but the Colts routinely fell behind this season, and had ugly losses to Arizona and St. Louis. Luck is typically outstanding, but occasionally hangs on to the ball a bit too long when trying to make a play.

Newton

The knack: Newton is finishing games this season, a marked improvement from last fall, when he failed to slam the door on several occasions. In their first two seasons with Newton at quarterback, the Panthers were 2-12 in games decided by seven points or fewer.

The knock: The biggest drawback to Newton is his lack of postseason experience. This is his first playoff game. He had a rare meltdown game — most notably four interceptions in a loss to Detroit — but was picked only three times in the final six games.

Wilson

The knack: A playmaker and motivator, Wilson is one of only four players in NFL history to pass for at least 20 touchdowns in each of his first two seasons, along with Dan Marino, Manning and Andy Dalton. His career passer rating of 100.6 ranks first in team history.

The knock: The Seahawks have cooled on offense in recent weeks, leaning more on their top-ranked scoring defense. The offensive emphasis this week has been on improving in the red zone and on third down.

Kaepernick

The knack: Kaepernick is in some lofty 49ers company. With 3,197 yards passing, and 524 rushing, he joins Steve Young as the only San Francisco quarterback with more than 3,000 yards passing and 500 rushing in a season. Kaepernick's postseason passer rating of 93.9 is second in team history to Joe Montana's 98.2.

The knock: Although he struggled to find his groove earlier this season, Kaepernick got considerably more comfortable when receiver Michael Crabtree returned. Interceptions haven't been a problem this season — Kaepernick had eight — but he gave the 49ers a scare in the first-round game at Green Bay, when one of his passes was picked off and two more were dropped by Packers.

sam.farmer@latimes.com

Twitter: @latimesfarmer

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