NFL Nation: 2010 Week 16 High Energy NFC

NFC East High Energy Player of the Week

December, 28, 2010
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 16.

[+] EnlargeKevin Barnes
AP Photo/Phelan M. EbenhackKevin Barnes' interception in overtime set up Washington's winning field goal.
OK, I realize Washington Redskins "safety" Kevin Barnes made a couple of (glaring) mistakes against the Jaguars, but he fought through that and made the interception that set up the game-winning field goal in a 20-17 win. Barnes was a third-round pick by the Redskins in the 2009 draft and he really hasn't done much to distinguish himself. But with the Skins in bad shape at safety because of injuries, Barnes moved over from cornerback.

His teammates have bragged on the way he performs at cornerback in practice, but we haven't seen much evidence on the field. When Jags quarterback David Garrard dropped back to pass against a heavy rush, he tried to slip the ball to his talented tight end Marcedes Lewis. Barnes read the play all the way and was able to get inside position before making the grab.

Barnes later told reporters that he'd practiced against that play all week, so he knew exactly what to do. A guy like Barnes, who wasn't drafted by the Mike Shanahan regime, is playing for a roster spot next season. And I'd have to say he took a major step in the right direction this past Sunday.

The former Maryland star has always had the potential, but he wasn't really able to take it to the field. On Sunday, he displayed the ability to forget about his mistakes and stay focused with the game hanging in the balance. I started to go ahead and give the award to Michael Vick in anticipation of what he's going to do to the Vikings tonight, but Barnes seemed like the right choice.

Vick's had three NFC Offensive Player of the Week awards and a phone call from President Obama, so I think he needs a breather.
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 16.

[+] EnlargeJosh Freeman
AP Photo/Margaret BowlesTampa Bay's Josh Freeman threw five TD passes against Seattle.
With his team needing a win to stay in the playoff hunt, Josh Freeman simply did what he has done many times this season. Freeman put the Buccaneers, who have been decimated by injuries in recent weeks, on his back and carried them to a 38-15 victory against Seattle.

This one wasn’t the usual game where the Bucs stay close all the way and Freeman finds a way to pull it out in the end. The Bucs took firm control of this game in the second quarter when Freeman threw two touchdown passes straight into a strong wind.

But it didn’t stop there. Freeman, who never had thrown more than three touchdown passes in a game, finished with five touchdown passes to tie the franchise’s single-game record.

He also rushed four times for 23 yards and finished with 237 yards passing. Freeman didn’t even have to play the whole game because the Bucs had such a big lead that they decided to rest their starter and bring in backup Josh Johnson late in the game.
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 16.

A few people, coach Mike McCarthy included, are still getting used to the newest chant at Lambeau Field.


"I think Mike got a little flustered there," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said, "maybe thinking they were booing him instead of actually the Kuhn chant."

[+] EnlargeJohn Kuhn
Matthew Stockman/Getty ImagesJohn Kuhn scored three times in the Packers' win over the New York Giants on Sunday.
Yes, the Green Bay Packers have a bona fide cult hero on their hands. When (formerly) little-used fullback John Kuhn rumbles onto the field, fans can't help but drag out the vowel in his name. His name and performance have appealed to Packers fans all season. Rodgers refers to Kuhn as the ultimate "security blanket," a no-frills ball carrier who gets results.

Kuhn, in fact, has emerged as one of the most efficient running backs in the NFL this season. He has converted 25 first downs on 80 carries, including 8-of-9 on third-and-1, and has the league's second-best conversion rate (31.3) among running backs with at least 25 first downs.

Overall, Kuhn has 31 first downs on 94 touches this season. Last Sunday, he doubled his season scoring output with three touchdowns in the Packers' 45-17 victory over the New York Giants.

Packers receiver Greg Jennings noted that opponents have rarely stopped Kuhn even though it's obvious to everyone -- including those in the stands -- that he's probably getting the ball when he gets on the field. And any hope of sneaking him onto the field, at least at home games, has now been lost.

"It's hard to miss," Kuhn said. "I think it's great. It's getting to the point now where, if they do it, I can't let them down. If they do it and Coach sends me out there, I've got to perform."

NFC West High Energy Player of the Week

December, 28, 2010
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 16:

Danario Alexander had 11 receptions, one knee surgery and a diminishing role in the St. Louis Rams' offense heading into Week 16.

[+] EnlargeDanario Alexander
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty ImagesDanario Alexander had a breakout game against the 49ers, catching six passes for 99 yards.
The rookie hadn't caught a pass in two games.

Alexander's unexpected re-emergence Sunday proved pivotal for the Rams in a 25-17 victory over the 49ers at the Edward Jones Dome. Alexander caught six passes for 99 yards. He caught passes for gains of 2, 17 and 46 yards on consecutive plays as the Rams drove toward the touchdown that gave them a 22-14 lead with 9:36 remaining in the fourth quarter.

The 46-yarder was initially ruled to be a 49-yard touchdown, but Alexander stepped on the sideline during a strange sequence. Cornerback Shawntae Spencer walked away from Alexander under the mistaken assumption Alexander had been ruled down. Officials hadn't blown the whistle, however, and no one had touched down Alexander, so the receiver popped up and headed for the end zone. Replays showed his foot touching the sideline.

"It was an awesome catch by Danario," quarterback Sam Bradford said. "We were trying to get the ball to [Danny] Amendola on that play. Their safety hung in the middle a little bit, and I think they were actually both open, but I looked down and saw Danario just running away from his guy and he made a great catch and then made a heads-up play by getting up and getting into the end zone."

Alexander has undergone five surgeries on his left knee, including the procedure in late October to repair a torn meniscus. The knee troubles helped explain why the 6-foot-5, 220-pound Alexander went undrafted out of Missouri. The Rams found a spot for him on their 53-man roster only after Donnie Avery and Mark Clayton suffered season-ending injuries.

Alexander caught a 38-yard scoring pass in his first NFL game, helping the Rams beat San Diego in Week 6. Knee soreness after that game affected Alexander against Tampa Bay the next week. He underwent surgery and missed three games, plus a bye week. The Rams are 4-0 this season when Alexander catches more than one pass (he had one catch for 6 yards in a loss to the Bucs).