NFL Nation: 2010 Week 1 Decisive Moment AFC

AFC West Week 1 decisive moment

September, 14, 2010
9/14/10
1:01
PM ET
NFC Decisive Moments: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

The theme of Oakland’s 38-13 loss at Tennessee developed very quickly. How fast?

The opening kickoff.

It became immediately apparent this was not going to be Oakland’s day. After Tennessee won the coin toss and deferred until the second half, Oakland return man Yamon Figurs took the opening kickoff in the end zone and started running. He was smashed at the Oakland 19-yard line and the ball popped out.

There was a long, spirited scrum, and Oakland eventually was awarded possession. But it was a bad sign of things to come.

The Raiders then went three-and-out with an incomplete pass by quarterback Jason Campbell, a delay of game penalty on Campbell, a 2-yard run by Darren McFadden and a 5-yard pass from Campbell to tight Brandon Myers on third-and-13. Oakland was clearly flat and out of sorts at the start of the game.

It never got better, and any intrigue in this game quickly went out the door. We knew right away Oakland was in for a long day, and they ended up trailing 24-6 at halftime.

AFC South Week 1 decisive moment

September, 14, 2010
9/14/10
1:01
PM ET
NFC Decisive Moments: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

The Texans came out of halftime determined to run it and wear down the Colts on Sunday at Reliant Stadium. They did it about as well as could be imagined.

But had one crucial call not panned out, things might have been very different.

The Texans led only 13-10 with 10:04 on the clock in the third quarter, facing a fourth-and-1 at the Indianapolis 20-yard line. Texans head coach Gary Kubiak and offensive coordinator Rick Dennison decided to stick with what they were doing.

Arian Foster ran right, and found his line pushed back. He had to patiently go around the backside of right tackle Eric Winston, then bounce all the way outside. Owen Daniels tied up Clint Session long enough for Foster to pick up some steam and make it past the marker on the right side.

Houston moved on and Foster scored the first of his three touchdowns, helping Houston to a 20-10 lead. It was never less than two scores the rest of the way.

AFC North Week 1 decisive moment

September, 14, 2010
9/14/10
1:01
PM ET
NFC Decisive Moments: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

In the few seconds that it took running back Rashard Mendenhall to gallop 50 yards for a touchdown in overtime, all the offseason stress for the Pittsburgh Steelers temporarily disappeared.

For those precious moments, there were no concerns about quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's four-game suspension, and the Steelers couldn't have cared less about their sputtering offense the previous four quarters. All that mattered was Mendenhall's sprint up the right sideline gave a jubilant Pittsburgh team its first victory of the season, a 15-9 decision over the Atlanta Falcons.

It doesn't get more decisive than overtime -- and Mendenhall was ready for the big moment.

"In the run game, you just have to be patient," said Mendenhall, who rushed for 120 yards on 22 carries. "We knew that something was going to open up, and it did in overtime."

There were many important plays in the AFC North this weekend. But Mendenhall's clearly was the biggest. Roethlisberger will miss three more games for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy, but the Steelers proved they can win without him.

The Steelers (1-0) will need more big plays from Mendenhall and others when they travel to play the Tennessee Titans (1-0) on Sunday.

AFC East Week 1 decisive moment

September, 14, 2010
9/14/10
1:00
PM ET
NFC Decisive Moments: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

The Buffalo Bills might have been beaten on their first offensive series Sunday, when Miami Dolphins inside linebacker Karlos Dansby blitzed unabated and pulverized quarterback Trent Edwards, setting a tone for the afternoon.

Or maybe it was the perfectly placed Chad Henne pass to tight end Anthony Fasano to the Bills' 1-yard line, setting up Ronnie Brown's touchdown plunge a play later.

Those were mammoth plays, but they weren't demoralizing enough. The Bills hung tough. They were down two scores for only 8:23 of the game and climbed within a field goal with 5:13 to play.

That's why a clutch punt claims the first edition of a new weekly series that identifies the decisive moment of the weekend.

Brandon Fields, who struggled with the winds at Ralph Wilson Stadium, dropped a 48-yard punt at Buffalo's 1-yard line, and Jason Allen downed it with 1:48 to play.

"Huuuuuge," Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said of the play. "That was a big punt. I just grabbed the kid and told him that's the way to battle back."

That left the Bills, who had 157 yards of total offense at that time, with no shot of getting within field goal range against a prevent defense. Three straight incomplete passes made Bills coach Chan Gailey manufacture hope with an intentional safety.

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