NFL Nation: 2010 Week 13 Decisive Moment

NFC North Week 13 decisive moment

December, 7, 2010
12/07/10
1:00
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NFC Decisive Moments: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

The Detroit Lions were aggressively and intelligently hoping to lock down their first NFC North victory in three years Sunday. Leading 20-17 with 12 minutes remaining, the Lions decided to go for a fourth-and-1 at the Chicago Bears' 41-yard line.

Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan dialed up a creative play: An option run for mobile quarterback Drew Stanton. From that point, however, the Lions couldn't get themselves organized quickly enough for what turned out to be a decisive moment in their 24-20 loss.

Only a few seconds remained on the play clock when Stanton brought the team to the line of scrimmage. He rushed his cadence and took the snap amid a slew of whistles. He took several steps down the line and cut upfield before realizing the play was dead. Lions coach Jim Schwartz had called a timeout to prevent a delay of game, a penalty that would have pushed the Lions into a punting situation.

But Schwartz and Linehan decided the Bears had too good of a look at the option call and changed plays. They had already used Stanton twice on a quarterback sneaks, so they decided to call a bootleg pass to receiver Nate Burleson. The pass was a bit off target, however, and Bears cornerback D.J. Moore batted it away. The Bears assumed possession and scored the winning touchdown six plays later.

"We did a poor job of executing on that," Schwartz said. "I thought that Scott had a good play dialed up and it made it hard. You weren't going with your best play in that situation. You're going to the No. 2 play in that situation."

NFC East Week 13 decisive moment

December, 7, 2010
12/07/10
1:00
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NFC Decisive Moments: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

The Dallas Cowboys signed former Fresno State backup tailback Lonyae Miller to an undrafted free-agent contract last April. And on Friday, they called him up from the practice squad as insurance with Marion Barber out with an injury.

With 21 seconds remaining in regulation, Miller made perhaps the most important play of the game against the Colts. Bryan McCann had the ball poked away from him during a kickoff return and Miller, playing on special teams for the first time this season, made the recovery. The Cowboys probably wouldn't have won the game in overtime if not for Miller's hustle on the play.

"I can't think of a more significant play in the game, to be honest with you,” Garrett said. “When you go about it the right way and you're hustling to the football and the ball comes out [and] you're able to get in there and make a play like that, it's a game-changer. I think our team understands that. Lonyae got his first opportunity to be an active player this past week and he took advantage of it."

Miller will accept his decisive moment ribbon Wednesday at Valley Ranch.

AFC South Week 13 decisive moment

December, 7, 2010
12/07/10
1:00
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NFC Decisive Moments: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

The Colts had driven to a tying touchdown and won the overtime coin toss.

They looked primed to drive to a score, overcome a rough day and sneak out a win over Dallas. But on third-and-4 from the Colts’ 37-yard line, Peyton Manning dropped back and threw to the left to Reggie Wayne, who was plenty open in front of Mike Jenkins and Gerald Sensabaugh.

Wayne, who had a spectacular 200-yard receiving day, moved back to the ball and was going to his knees and it went through his arms, bounced off his chest and fell incomplete.

The Colts’ stretch of momentum ended as they punted it away. While they got the ball back once more, Manning threw his fourth interception, and it set up Dallas’ David Buehler’s game-winning 38-yard field goal.

There are two dozen plays that could have changed the outcome of this game, starting with Manning’s four interceptions.

But the Colts could have washed it all away with a big drive to open overtime and didn’t get the play they needed from a star who had a huge performance.

NFC West Week 13 decisive moment

December, 7, 2010
12/07/10
1:00
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NFC Decisive Moments: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

The St. Louis Rams were plodding through their game against the Arizona Cardinals, leading only 9-6 midway through the third quarter, until Steven Jackson's 27-yard touchdown run finished a 10-play, 85-yard touchdown drive.

The big run over the right side stood out as a decisive moment in Week 13.

Quarterback Sam Bradford had scrambled to convert a third-and-1 on the previous play, opening up the playbook on first down.

The Rams lined up on the right hash with Brit Miller at fullback, Daniel Fells at tight end and two receivers on the weak side. Fells pushed Cardinals defensive end Darnell Dockett past the play. Right tackle Jason Smith erased outside linebacker Clark Haggans with a dominating kick-out block toward the right sideline. Jackson narrowly avoided diving defensive end Calais Campbell near the line of scrimmage. Center Jason Brown walled off inside linebacker Gerald Hayes, who broke free but could not catch Jackson despite having a favorable angle. Strong safety Adrian Wilson drifted inside, getting lost in traffic.

The touchdown gave the Rams a 16-6 lead and plenty of breathing room against an Arizona offense with one touchdown in its last three games.

AFC East Week 13 decisive moment

December, 7, 2010
12/07/10
1:00
PM ET
NFC Decisive Moments: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

The Miami Dolphins were in a must-win situation Sunday at home.

They never led the Cleveland Browns in Sun Life Stadium, but the Dolphins never were down more than a score, either. Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne found Anthony Fasano for a touchdown with 10:27 left to tie it at 10.

With 1:34 left remaining, the Dolphins took over on their own 25-yard line and had a timeout. At a minimum, they appeared on their way to overtime.

Ronnie Brown ran for 1 yard.

Henne threw an incomplete pass to Fasano.

Now the Dolphins were in a spot. They had a third-and-9 situation with 65 seconds left. The Browns still had all three timeouts.

Henne threw a pass to his left toward popular third-down target Davone Bess. Browns defensive end David Bowens stuck up a paw and deflected the ball. Defensive back Mike Adams snagged the ricochet and returned it to the Dolphins' 2-yard line.

Three kneeldowns later, Phil Dawson kicked a 23-yard field goal to deny the Dolphins another home victory.

AFC West Week 13 decisive moment

December, 7, 2010
12/07/10
1:00
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NFC Decisive Moments: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

The Oakland Raiders did not wait long before proving to the San Diego Chargers that Sunday would belong to the visitors.

Oakland took possession at the San Diego 18 early in the first quarter after Darren Sproles muffed a punt. The Raiders got to a fourth-and-1 situation from the 9. Perhaps concluding that he was in a no-lose situation after Sproles’ gift, Oakland coach Tom Cable decided to go for it instead of kicking a field goal.

Nice call, coach. And what a call it was. The Raiders executed one of the prettiest plays I’ve seen this season.

They faked a classic fourth-and-1 play -- the run up the middle. The entire San Diego defense bit hard on the fake and quarterback Jason Campbell executed a beautiful bootleg right into the end zone for a score. He was never in danger of being stopped.

It gave the Raiders a 7-0 lead and a major mental edge over the home team. That vibe never changed all day. The Raiders kept their playoff dreams alive and severely damaged San Diego’s playoff hopes.

It all started with Campbell’s crafty play.

NFC South Week 13 decisive moment

December, 7, 2010
12/07/10
1:00
PM ET
NFC Decisive Moments: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

There are certain general rules in football that always seem to hold true: Defense wins championships. Win the turnover battle and you’ll win. And, when playing the Cincinnati Bengals, just be patient -- they’ll find a way to lose.

Rule No. 3 came in very handy for the New Orleans Saints on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium. Trailing the Bengals 30-27, the Saints faced a fourth-and-2 deep inside Cincinnati territory. The easy decision would have been to kick the field goal, tie the game and take your chances in overtime.

But, remember, it’s the Bengals. Sean Payton kept his offense on the field and quarterback Drew Brees began directing guys in motion and barking out snap counts. It should have been obvious to anyone in the stadium or watching on television that the Saints were trying to draw the Bengals offside.

And, of course, the Bengals fell for it. Defensive tackle Pat Sims jumped into the neutral zone and drew a flag. That gave the Saints a first down.

On the very next play, Brees threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Marques Colston to give the Saints the win.

AFC North Week 13 decisive moment

December, 7, 2010
12/07/10
1:00
PM ET
NFC Decisive Moments: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

The decisive moment for Week 13 may end up as the biggest decisive moment in the AFC North this season.

Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu forced a crucial fourth-quarter fumble against Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco that led to Pittsburgh's game-winning touchdown in a 13-10 victory. It was the biggest play in the biggest game in the division, where the Steelers (9-3) took control of the AFC North with four games to go.

Pittsburgh called a Cover Zero blitz with Polamalu coming off the edge. He timed the snap count perfectly and got to Flacco unimpeded to force the turnover. Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley recovered the ball, rumbled 19 yards, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw the final touchdown three plays later.

Barring a late collapse by Pittsburgh, Polamalu's play could be the difference in the Steelers securing a first-round bye and at least one home playoff game at Heinz Field. He is a special player who is always ready to step up in the big moments.

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