NFL Nation: 2010 Week 12 High Energy NFC

NFC West High Energy Player of the Week

November, 30, 2010
11/30/10
3:00
PM ET
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 12.

Setting aside this space for St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford seemed like a sure bet before Brian Westbrook's surprise 136-yard rushing performance for the San Francisco 49ers.

[+] EnlargeBrian Westbrook
AP Photo/Paul JasienskiBrian Westbrook rushed 23 times for 136 yards and one touchdown Monday night.
Bradford still came out OK.

Westbrook provided the more significant boost relative to expectations.

The 31-year-old running back had carried only five times for 9 yards this season before Frank Gore's hip injury forced the 49ers to alter course during the first quarter of their 27-6 victory over Arizona on Monday night. Westbrook posted the third-highest single-game rushing total of his career as the 49ers gained 261 yards on the ground.

"I felt good, I felt very young, I was fresh," Westbrook said.

Maintaining a similar level of performance across multiple games seems unrealistic. The 49ers will face tougher defenses. Teams will prepare for Westbrook's style. Westbrook won't be as fresh after taking punishment each week.

For one game, at least, Westbrook provided the boost his team needed.
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 12.

[+] EnlargeMatt Ryan
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesMatt Ryan improved his record as starter in the Georgia Dome to 19-1.
For the last year or two, there has been a lot of conversation about whether Atlanta's Matt Ryan is an "elite'' quarterback.

I've never been sure exactly what the qualifications are for that distinction. But I'm pretty sure getting signature wins against very good teams and leading late game-winning drives must fall somewhere on that list.

If they do, what Ryan did Sunday must have him at least closing in on elite status. In what was perhaps Atlanta's biggest game of the season so far, a showdown with fellow NFC power Green Bay, Ryan outdueled Aaron Rodgers.

With the score tied 17-17 with 56 seconds left, Ryan marched the Falcons down the field, completing four of five passes. He set them up for Matt Bryant to kick the game-winning field goal that allowed the Falcons to become the first NFC team to reach nine wins.

Ryan also continued his winning ways at the Georgia Dome, where he has lost only one game in three seasons -- and that came in 2008. For the day, Ryan completed 24 of 28 passes (85.7 percent) as the Falcons went a franchise-record fourth straight game without a turnover. The team won its fifth consecutive game and won for the ninth time in its past 10 games.
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 12:

[+] EnlargeJay Cutler
Dennis Wierzbicki/US PresswireJay Cutler threw four touchdown passes in Sunday's win over Philadelphia.
Considered from at least one perspective, quarterback Jay Cutler has never played better than in the Chicago Bears' 31-26 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. His 146.2 passer rating was the best of his career and only three completions from a perfect score (158.3).

Longtime teammate Earl Bennett called Cutler's four-touchdown, zero-interception performance one of "the top five games I've seen him play." Few have carried so many layers.

Cutler has been known to make a mistake (or 26) in his career, and Sunday's matchup came against one of the NFL's most opportunistic defenses. And fairly or otherwise, many national observers tabbed the Eagles as the team that would burst the Bears' surprising season.

Cutler responded as you would hope a top-flight franchise quarterback would: with a nearly flawless performance. The Bears didn't ask him to win the game on his own -- he attempted only 21 passes -- but he provided confident leadership and executed on all of the opportunities that were presented to him.

Cutler is now one victory away from his first winning season since high school. Leading the Bears to the playoffs, whether it is via the NFC North title or a wild-card spot, would go a long way toward erasing questions about his leadership and ability to play well in pressure situations.

NFC East High Energy Player of the Week

November, 30, 2010
11/30/10
3:00
PM ET
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 12.

The New York Giants were missing star receivers Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks in Sunday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, and they desperately needed someone to fill the void. But in the first half, one of their prime candidates, tight end Kevin Boss, was costing his team with penalties and drops. A holding call on Boss nullified a Mario Manningham touchdown catch and the Giants were down at halftime 17-6.

[+] EnlargeKevin Boss
Chris McGrath/Getty ImagesKevin Boss made a play when the Giants needed him most in Sunday's win over the Jaguars.
But late in the third quarter, Boss started atoning for his errors with two catches for a combined 42 yards. With 3:24 left in the game, Boss and quarterback Eli Manning made a sight adjustment at the line of scrimmage. Boss found some open space and Manning unloaded the ball against the Jags' blitz. Boss broke Courtney Greene's attempt at a tackle and raced 32 yards for the game-winning touchdown. That's why he's our High Energy Player of the Week.

Justin Tuck, a daily reader of this blog, will surely inform Boss of this high honor when the players return to practice Wednesday.

"It's important to be on the same page as the quarterback, and Eli and I were both able to see the pressure coming," said Boss, who finished with 74 yards receiving on three catches. "I was able to read it hot, and he threw me a pretty easy ball and I had some room to run."

The emergence of Boss in 2007 made it possible to trade Jeremy Shockey, but he has had an up-and-down career since his performance in the Super Bowl. On Sunday, he made huge plays for the Giants when they needed him the most. We'll see what he does for an encore against the Washington Redskins.

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