NFL Nation: 2010 Week 1 High Energy NFC

NFC West High Energy Player of the Week

September, 14, 2010
9/14/10
3:02
PM ET
NFC High Energy: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Receiver Steve Breaston was the difference for Arizona in Week 1, even on a day when safety Adrian Wilson became the first player in franchise history with two interceptions, a sack and a blocked field goal in one game.

[+] EnlargeSteve Breaston
Scott Rovak/US PresswireSteve Breaston's forced fumble prevented a Rams touchdown by Clifton Ryan.
Breaston was everywhere for the Cardinals during their 17-13 victory over the St. Louis Rams. He hustled downfield to force a fumble just as Rams defensive tackle Clifton Ryan was about to score a touchdown on a fumble return. The Cardinals trailed by three at the time and they were struggling to get much going offensively. A Rams touchdown in that situation might have won the game for St. Louis. Breaston made another touchdown-saving tackle earlier in the game, bringing down Rams cornerback Bradley Fletcher after a 43-yard fumble return.

When the Cardinals needed Breaston on offense, he was catching each of the seven passes thrown his way, good for 132 yards. Six of the seven receptions produced first downs. Breaston had a 16-yarder on third-and-6, a 22-yarder on third-and-16 and a 35-yarder on third-and-10.

"The one that really stands out for me was the forced fumble on the turnover because that’s a game-changing play for us," Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt told reporters Monday. "When you talk about kids watching this game and how it should be played, if you want to point to one thing, that play is what you point to. ... He had a very good game as an offensive player, but that play really distinguished who Steve is and what he means to our team."
NFC High Energy: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

When training camp started, it didn’t look like Micheal Spurlock even had a chance to make the roster with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

[+] EnlargeMichael Spurlock
Cliff Welch/Icon SMIMicheal Spurlock's fourth-quarter touchdown catch put the Bucs in the lead to stay.
Rookies Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn were high draft picks and Sammie Stroughter had carved a spot for himself with a strong rookie season last year. The Bucs also had traded for Reggie Brown and had veterans Michael Clayton and Maurice Stovall. A former college quarterback, Spurlock had bounced around the league as a receiver and return man and hadn’t made a reception since he was a rookie with the Arizona Cardinals in 2006.

But Spurlock kept making play after play in the preseason. When the roster dust settled, Brown and Clayton were gone and Spurlock was ahead of Stovall on the depth chart. Still, the conventional wisdom heading into the season was the Spurlock would not be much of a factor.

So much for conventional wisdom. All Spurlock did Sunday was make the biggest play of the day for the Buccaneers. Actually, he had two big plays. The first was a crucial third-down catch that gave the Bucs a first down.

The bigger one came late in the game when Spurlock caught a 33-yard touchdown pass from Josh Freeman to put the Bucs ahead to stay in a 17-14 victory after they had trailed 14-3.
NFC High Energy: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Before you add up what Clay Matthews did Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field, let's first make a list of what he didn't do this summer.
[+] EnlargeClay Matthews
AP Photo/Matt SlocumClay Matthews made his presence felt in Green Bay's win on Sunday.

  1. Practice between Aug. 7 and Sept. 6.
  2. Get comfortable with his early-camp position switch from left outside linebacker to the right side.

Other than that ...

Despite missing the entire preseason while resting a strained hamstring muscle, Matthews was all over the field in the Packers' 27-20 season-opening victory over the Eagles. He was credited with a team-high seven solo tackles, including a fourth-down stop of Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick that sealed the game, along with two sacks and a forced fumble. That performance made Matthews the NFC North's first-ever high energy player of the week.

Matthews was named to the Pro Bowl last season as a rookie, and if there was any doubt that he could handle a switch to the Packers' premier pass-rushing/playmaking position, I think it was settled Sunday.

NFC East High Energy Player of the Week

September, 14, 2010
9/14/10
3:02
PM ET
NFC High Energy: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Our first recipient of this award is Washington Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall, who made an enormous play to strip Dallas Cowboys running back Tashard Choice of the ball and then return the fumble 32 yards for a touchdown. It wasn't a play that was headed anywhere, so most defenders would've simply taken Choice to the ground.

[+] EnlargeDeAngelo Hall
AP Photo/Evan VucciDeAngelo Hall's fumble return gave the Redskins a 10-0 lead.
Hall remembered all those strip drills during training camp and began ripping at the ball. When another Redskins defender arrived, the ball squirted free and Hall was off to the races.

That extra effort by Hall led to a 10-0 halftime lead for the Redskins and electrified the 90,000-plus fans at FedEx Field. And he punctuated the score with a forward somersault once he crossed the goal line.

New defensive coordinator Jim Haslett has strapped footballs to blocking dummies and asked his players to swipe at them in drills. The defensive backs take it to another level and constantly try to work on their scooping skills whenever the ball hits the ground in practice.

This defense feeds off of Hall's energy and the play at the end of the first half turned out to be the difference in the game. Haslett has challenged his defense to score points, and on this night, his unit outscored the offense.

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