NFL Nation: 2010 Week 16 Decisive Moment NFC

NFC North Week 16 decisive moment

December, 28, 2010
12/28/10
1:00
PM ET
NFC Decisive Moments: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

The Detroit Lions ran off 10 points in less than two minutes of the fourth quarter last Sunday, erasing the Miami Dolphins' 27-17 lead with 2 minutes, 44 seconds left in the game. The old Lions defense, circa November 2010, would have promptly given up a game-losing score in the final moments. Instead, here is what happened:

Play No. 1: Incomplete pass.
Play No. 2: Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh drags down Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne after a 2-yard scramble.
Play No. 3: Pay dirt.

Indeed, as he felt pressure from Lions defensive end Cliff Avril, Henne rushed a pass to receiver Davone Bess -- who slipped as he broke toward the ball. Lions middle linebacker DeAndre Levy stepped in front for the interception at the 30-yard line and took off for the end zone.

Levy ran around Dolphins guard John Jerry at the 20-yard line, cut inside Henne at the 9-yard line and broke back to the middle of the field. Suh shoved center Joe Berger, giving Levy an angle to the goal line, and cornerback Nate Vasher shielded Levy from Berger as he scored the game-winning touchdown.

The play gave the Lions their third consecutive victory and put them in position to escape the NFC North cellar for the first time in three seasons. After a dismal few years in Detroit, it doesn't get much more decisive than that.

NFC West Week 16 decisive moment

December, 28, 2010
12/28/10
1:00
PM ET
NFC Decisive Moments: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

The Arizona Cardinals were dangerously close to blowing another fourth-quarter lead.

They had done so spectacularly during narrow defeats to Minnesota (27-24) and Tampa Bay (38-35) earlier in the season, and it was happening again in Week 16.

The Dallas Cowboys had turned a 21-3 deficit into a 26-24 lead at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals faced fourth-and-15 from their 19-yard line with 1:17 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Larry Fitzgerald's 100-game streak with a reception was in danger of ending. Rookie quarterback John Skelton had completed only 8 of 20 passes for 132 yards.

Moments don't get much more decisive. Either the Cardinals would improbably complete a pass for at least 15 yards or they would lose the game.

Skelton's 26-yard strike to Fitzgerald gave the Cardinals a chance. Skelton followed up with a 6-yard pass to Tim Hightower and a 19-yarder to Max Komar. Two clock-stopping spike passes stood as Skelton's only incompletions after the fourth-down play.

Jay Feely's 48-yard field goal with 10 seconds remaining won the game for Arizona.

"On that last drive, it got pretty shaky there for a while on fourth-and-long," Skelton told reporters after the game, "but Larry ran a great route, found a soft spot in the defense and I was able to hit him. That one play got the momentum going for the rest of the drive."

NFC South Week 16 decisive moment

December, 28, 2010
12/28/10
1:00
PM ET
NFC Decisive Moments: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

On a night when he was passing the ball a lot like John Stockton at various times, Drew Brees got back to being a quarterback and let the basketball player on his team make the biggest catch of the night.

Brees rifled a 6-yard touchdown pass to rookie tight end Jimmy Graham with 3 minutes, 24 seconds remaining to give the New Orleans Saints a 17-14 victory against the Atlanta Falcons. The pass capped a 90-yard drive in which Brees got back to top form after having a relatively rough start.

With Atlanta bringing all sorts of defensive pressure earlier, Brees resorted to some desperate measures. Like Stockton in his NBA days, Brees threw a behind-the-back pass that resulted in a completion, but not much else, and a shovel pass that ended up being picked off and returned for a touchdown by Atlanta defensive lineman Chauncey Davis.

But when it mattered most, Brees abandoned the basketball tricks and found a basketball player. That was Graham, whom the Saints took a gamble on when they drafted him in the third round this year. Graham spent three years playing college basketball at Miami before switching to football in his final season. He displayed enough athletic ability to get himself drafted.

With backup tight end David Thomas injured, Graham has been getting more playing time and the touchdown catch showed that he already has earned the trust of Brees in key situations.

NFC East Week 16 decisive moment

December, 28, 2010
12/28/10
1:00
PM ET
NFC Decisive Moments: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

The New York Giants were trailing the Green Bay Packers 21-14 early in the third quarter, but they were on the move. Facing a third-and-2 at the Packers' 41-yard line, Ahmad Bradshaw took a direct snap and headed to his left. Packers cornerback Charles Woodson came slicing through and poked the ball out of Bradshaw's hands. The ball was recovered by safety Atari Bigby at the 50-yard line and the Packers quickly drove for a field goal.

The Giants were fortunate to be in the game up to that point after falling behind 14-0 in the first quarter. It was Bradshaw's sixth lost fumble of the season and you could see the disgust on Giants coach Tom Coughlin's face. It was one of six turnovers for the Giants.

I thought the Giants had a legitimate chance to win that game until Bradshaw's fumble. It simply killed all their momentum. And that's why I think it was this week's decisive moment.

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