NFL Nation: 2010 Week 11 Decisive Moment NFC

NFC East Week 11 decisive moment

November, 23, 2010
11/23/10
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NFC Decisive Moments: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Dallas Cowboys interim head coach Jason Garrett should suggest a long-term contract extension for rookie cornerback Bryan McCann immediately. For the second consecutive game, the former SMU Mustang made a game-changing play that contributed to a win. Last week it was a 101-yard interception return for a touchdown against the New York Giants.

On Sunday against the Lions, McCann made a brilliant play with 9:38 left in the third quarter and the Cowboys trailing 12-7. The Lions' John Wendling saved the ball from going into the end zone on a 53-yard punt by Nick Harris. But once Wendling touched the ball, McCann knew there wasn't any downside to trying to grab it and take off. That's exactly what he did en route to a 97-yard touchdown that put the Cowboys up 14-12 and completely changed momentum. Within three minutes, the Cowboys made the score 21-12.

As McCann raced down the sideline, fellow cornerback Orlando Scandrick delivered the final block to spring him into the end zone. And as some of you will recall, McCann didn't even make the Cowboys' opening day roster. He was released and then signed by the Baltimore Ravens. When the Ravens released him and tried to stash him on the practice squad in September, the Cowboys convinced him their practice squad would be a better situation. The Cowboys had only three cornerbacks on the 53-man roster at the time.

Now McCann may have won himself a permanent spot on the roster. Everyone's waiting to see what he'll do on Thanksgiving against the New Orleans Saints. McCann may have been the NFC defensive player of the week for his efforts against the Giants, but now he's received a much more prestigious honor from the Beast blog. I'll get back to you regarding the presentation ceremony at Valley Ranch.

NFC North Week 11 decisive moment

November, 23, 2010
11/23/10
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NFC Decisive Moments: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

If you can remember back as far as last Thursday, you'll recall that the Chicago Bears dominated throughout their game against the Miami Dolphins. But late in the third quarter, they were clinging to a dangerously close 9-0 lead at Sun Life Stadium.

Hoping to ice the game, quarterback Jay Cutler drove the Bears deep into Dolphins territory. His 10-yard pass to tight end Greg Olsen gave the Bears a first-and-goal at the Miami 8-yard line.

For me, it was time to cringe.

As we noted earlier this season, the Bears have stubbornly -- and with almost no success -- handed the ball to tailback Matt Forte in similar situations over the past two seasons. Entering Thursday night's game, Forte had scored a touchdown on only four of his 45 goal-to-go carries since the start of the 2009 season.

First play: Forte for 2 yards.

Otherwise known as four-for-46.

Second play: Forte for 4 yards.

Four-for-47.

On third-and-goal from the 2-yard line, I was expecting some kind of play-action pass to Olsen. Maybe the Dolphins were too. Because Forte rammed the ball over right guard for a touchdown.

The score gave the Bears a commanding 16-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.

And oh, it also gave us this: Five-for-48.

And counting.

NFC West Week 11 decisive moment

November, 23, 2010
11/23/10
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NFC Decisive Moments: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Sam Bradford proved a week earlier he could lead the St. Louis Rams to the tying field goal in the final minutes.

The rookie quarterback was leading another potential fourth-quarter rally in Week 11 when the Rams called a seemingly safe play for third-and-goal from the Atlanta Falcons' 2-yard line. More than three minutes remained in a game the Rams trailed 26-17. A touchdown would have made the Falcons work to close out the game.

Instead, everything that could go wrong for the Rams did go wrong. The Falcons picked off the pass, added a late touchdown and coasted to a 34-17 victory.

"I thought it was a good call," Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo told reporters Monday. "I’m standing there saying, 'We’ve got a touchdown here.'"

Bradford hadn't thrown an interception in an NFL rookie-record 169 pass attempts. His passer rating on third down ranked among the best in the league. The Falcons later admitted they had no idea a shovel pass was coming. The Rams never could have anticipated the Falcons intercepting such a quick pass.

"The play was developing," Spagnuolo said. "Just the way Sam got it all set, I thought we had the right guy getting the ball, people were going to concentrate on Steven [Jackson] and the whole thing."

The play began to go awry when Falcons defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux beat Rams guard Adam Goldberg off the ball. The unexpected disruption prevented tight end Mike Hoomanawanui from releasing as a receiver out of the backfield. Hoomanawanui, a rookie, also might have tipped off his route a little early. The man assigned to cover him, Falcons safety William Moore, ran to the spot where Hoomanawanui had intended to run.

Bradford delivered the ball on schedule.

"They penetrated a little bit, knocked Mike off the ball," Spagnuolo said. "I don’t know that I’ve seen that happen. It’s usually incomplete, or even if it’s a tackle you kick the field goal, but it’s unfortunate the way that happened."

NFC South Week 11 decisive moment

November, 23, 2010
11/23/10
1:00
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NFC Decisive Moments: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

The St. Louis Rams and rookie quarterback Sam Bradford were driving late in Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons. Bradford, who already had thrown two touchdown passes, had been on a hot streak.

He had not thrown an interception in his previous 169 pass attempts. But that streak ended when Atlanta safety William Moore intercepted Bradford's shovel pass at the Falcons’ 2-yard line with 3:34 left in the game. It was Moore’s fourth interception of the season and his first since Week 6.

That ended a St. Louis comeback attempt and Atlanta’s offense iced the game when Michael Turner broke off a 39-yard touchdown run with 1:52 left to put the Falcons ahead 34-17 as they improved to 8-2.

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