NFL Nation: 2010 Week 10 Decisive Moment NFC

NFC West Week 10 decisive moment

November, 16, 2010
11/16/10
1:05
PM ET
NFC Decisive Moments: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Fourth down, 18 yards to go.

San Francisco 49ers trailing the St. Louis Rams, 17-13, with 2:23 remaining in regulation at Candlestick Park.

Troy Smith at quarterback for San Francisco from the Rams' 39-yard-line.

"Kind of an ad-lib situation," Smith said after finding Frank Gore uncovered near the left sideline for a 23-yard gain.

The improbable play set up the 49ers' go-ahead touchdown, helping them to a 23-20 overtime victory.

"Frank being the player that he is, the year-in, year-out, vet leader that he is, definitely just let me know, putting a bug in my ear as far as when we were breaking the huddle, some of the things that he would ad-lib if it happened," Smith said. "It just so happened that it happened that way, and we were going up the sideline."

Smith had found Gore for a 14-yard gain on third-and-32, so it's not as though the Rams should have been surprised when Smith targeted Gore again on the next play.

The 49ers should have been reeling after left tackle Joe Staley, playing on a badly injured leg that was either broken or about to break, committed penalties on back-to-back plays -- the latter infraction wiping out a 43-yard touchdown pass to Vernon Davis. Gore's receptions, followed one play later by Smith's 16-yard scoring pass to Michael Crabtree, gave the 49ers life.

"There is nothing more frustrating," Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "You never relax and all that. Again, a good quarterback got it to a really good back twice. I’m sure the defensive guys would say the same thing. There is no excuse. That can’t happen."

NFC North Week 10 decisive moment

November, 16, 2010
11/16/10
1:04
PM ET
NFC Decisive Moments: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

We're going to take a bit of a different tack this week. The NFC North's most decisive moment in Week 10 was actually a four-play sequence Sunday, during which the Chicago Bears' defense held the Minnesota Vikings without a score on four plays inside their 15-yard line.

Holding a 3-0 lead early in the second quarter, the Vikings had a first down at the Bears' 11. Here's what transpired:

First down: Bears linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa slid off Vikings left tackle Bryant McKinnie to stop tailback Toby Gerhart for a 1-yard gain.

Second down: Bears defensive end Israel Idonije, having swapped sides with teammate Julius Peppers, blew up a trap play out of the shotgun formation. Lined up at right end, Idonije quickly got into the backfield as quarterback Brett Favre handed the ball to Gerhart. Jeff Dugan, lined up as an H-Back on the opposite side, had no chance to get down the line in time to kick out Idonije. The play lost 1 yard.

Third down: The Bears ran a smart zone blitz that beat the left side of the Vikings' offensive line. Peppers, this time lined up as a right end, dropped into coverage in the flat against tailback Adrian Peterson. Linebacker Brian Urlacher and nickelback D.J. Moore both blitzed through the area Peppers vacated, but McKinnie was caught off guard because he had looked first for Peppers. He blocked no one. Left guard Steve Hutchinson blocked down on defensive tackle Matt Toeaina. Seeing Urlacher and Moore approaching, Favre threw the ball away. He was called for intentional grounding.

Fourth down: Place-kicker Ryan Longwell hit the left upright on a 39-yard field goal attempt.

The Bears drove for a touchdown on their ensuing possession, and the exchange marked an important momentum shift. Instead of taking a 10-0 lead, which might have caused the Bears to abandon the offensive balance they eventually achieved, the Vikings found themselves trailing 7-3. And although they did retake the lead briefly on a 53-yard touchdown pass to receiver Percy Harvin, it came on a one-play series against a busted coverage.

In my mind, the Bears controlled the game from the moment Longwell's kick clanged off the upright.

NFC South Week 10 decisive moment

November, 16, 2010
11/16/10
1:04
PM ET
NFC Decisive Moments: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

For the last year or two, there's been a lot of debate about whether Atlanta's Matt Ryan is an “elite'' quarterback.

I'm not sure what the exact qualifications are for that term, but there's a chance history might point back at Thursday night as the moment Ryan officially joined the club.

With 65 seconds remaining in the game, the Ravens took the lead for the first time. That didn't seem to bother Ryan a bit. He took his team straight down the field.

He had the Falcons very close to where they needed to be for a game-winning field goal, but they didn't have to settle for a field goal. With the ball at Baltimore's 33-yard line, Ryan first looked for tight end Tony Gonzalez. When he saw Gonzalez was covered, Ryan turned to secondary receiver Roddy White.

Although there was some contact with defensive back Josh Wilson, no penalty was called and White was wide open. Ryan hit him with a touchdown pass with 20 seconds left.

That made the 7-2 Falcons the first NFC team to get to seven wins.

NFC East Week 10 decisive moment

November, 16, 2010
11/16/10
1:00
PM ET
NFC Decisive Moments: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

The Eagles-Redskins game was over so quickly, it's hard to remember a decisive moment. I guess you could go with Michael Vick's 88-yard touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson on the first play from scrimmage. But we've already written about that.

Former SMU Mustang Bryan McCann, who was released by the Cowboys at the end of training camp, gave Dallas a 16-3 lead over the New York Giants when he picked off an Eli Manning pass and returned it 101 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter Sunday. Giants head coach Tom Coughlin was quick to point out the interception was Hakeem Nicks' fault for quitting on a slant route at the goal line. McCann, who was briefly on the Baltimore Ravens' roster, stood his ground and then raced the other direction. It set the tone for the rest of the game, and that's why McCann provides our decisive moment of the week.

Cowboys interim head coach Jason Garrett told his players all week that they'd face adversity in Sunday's game. And when Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins left with injuries, McCann was forced into action. He certainly had some tough moments, but he played with a high level of energy and provided a spark.

For a guy who played his college football in Dallas, it had to be a pretty special moment. And I'm sure the Ravens were kicking themselves as McCann raced down the sideline.

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