AFC East High Energy Player of the Week

December, 21, 2010
12/21/10
3:00
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NFC High Energy: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

A look at a player who gave his team a significant boost in Week 15.

Dan Connolly's 71-yard kickoff return was captivating.

He's a 313-pound New England Patriots offensive lineman who was supposed to block for Brandon Tate. Instead, the Green Bay Packers made the grave mistake of squibbing it in such a place that Connolly could scoop the ball and plod just short of the goal line.

[+] EnlargeDan Connolly
AP Photo/Tim CookDan Connolly's kick return put the Patriots in position to trim the Packers' lead.
Because of that play, Neon Connolly was the runaway winner in voting for the AFC East's High Energy performer in Week 15.

Since I started allowing readers to select the High Energy recipient last month, this is the first time I disagree with the vote.

Connolly's return was entertaining to watch in the same way Tommy Callahan performed "Fat Guy in a Little Coat" or Mr. Chow found Zach Galifianakis' character hilarious in "The Hangover" or Butterbean managed a lucrative boxing career.

A portly dude did something that made us laugh.

So let's call this the Butterbean Phenomenon, where people get so enthralled by something so unusual they credit undue significance. Remember when people thought Butterbean would give Mike Tyson a good fight?

Connolly's return, sprung by sensational blocking, was important. It set up the Patriots for an easy touchdown right before halftime, cutting the Packers' lead to 17-14. The return also was a record for an offensive lineman.

But if Connolly was chosen based on one play, then that's misguided. Connolly's return didn't mean as much as Brad Smith's 96-yard touchdown for the New York Jets to start the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

There's a healthy chance Tom Brady eventually would have taken control of the game from Matt Flynn without Connolly's kickoff return. The Jets, who went 11 quarters without an offensive touchdown, wouldn't have won without Smith.

If I were to rank the most deserving Patriots for this award, I would've listed tight end Aaron Hernandez and cornerbacks Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington ahead of Connolly.

But the readers have spoken.

Connolly's return obviously was a transcendent moment for enough folks that they were compelled to roll with him.

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