NFL Nation: 2010 Week 5 Decisive Moment NFC

NFC West Week 5 decisive moment

October, 12, 2010
10/12/10
1:06
PM ET
NFC Decisive Moments: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

The St. Louis Rams were trailing the Detroit Lions by a field goal five minutes into their game Sunday when quarterback Sam Bradford threw deep for Mark Clayton along the left sideline.

The pass traveled 35 yards downfield, which was fitting. Bradford ranks third among NFL quarterbacks with eight completions covering at least 30 yards, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Clayton ranks third among NFL receivers with four receptions at least that long.

Bradford and Clayton have made such connections appear somewhat routine, but there was nothing routine about this play at all. Clayton's knee buckled as he ran underneath the ball. His patella tendon snapped. Clayton slid on his stomach. The ball fell incomplete. Officials flagged the Lions for illegal contact, but the penalty could not offset the damage done.

Clayton left the field on a motorized cart, his season finished. The Rams wilted and lost, 44-6. Clayton's departure wasn't the only factor in the lopsided outcome, of course, but it was a decisive moment for the Rams in this game and possibly in this season.

Bradford loved throwing to Clayton because Clayton has a quarterback's understanding of the game, and he was a reliable route runner. Bradford could trust him. Clayton fit the Rams' offense.

"You'd ask any quarterback in this league, they want to feel comfortable with the guys, that they’re going to be in the same spot -- more than anything, that their routes are going to be consistent," Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo told reporters Monday. "They’re working on it all the time. I think Sam’s getting more and more comfortable with the guys. I’m sure he’ll miss Mark just like we all will, but he’ll just have to get up to speed with some of the other guys."

NFC South Week 5 decisive moment

October, 12, 2010
10/12/10
1:05
PM ET
NFC Decisive Moments: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

There’s an old saying in the NFL that big-time players make big-time plays. If that’s the case, the baby Buccaneers are growing up fast and big-time players have been sprouting up quickly in a 3-1 start.

No one has grown faster than quarterback Josh Freeman, who wasn’t even playing at this time a year ago. It still is very early in his career, but Freeman is showing he might be capable of doing what no other quarterback in franchise history ever has done. This guy goes out and wins games.

That has never happened in Tampa Bay before. Through different coaching and front-office regimes, the Bucs always seemed to ask their quarterbacks to not lose games. From Doug Williams to Trent Dilfer to Brad Johnson to Jeff Garcia, nobody ever went out and truly won games. The quarterbacks always were asked to try to be careful while the defense did the winning.

But the Bucs are letting Freeman be a gunslinger and it’s working. The latest example came Sunday in Cincinnati. With one fourth-quarter touchdown pass already under his belt to tie the score, Freeman got a huge break when safety Sabby Piscitelli picked off Carson Palmer.

Freeman charged onto the field and threw a rocket to the sideline where Micheal Spurlock also grew up before our eyes. Spurlock made a tippy-toe catch that prompted a replay to see if he actually made the catch inbounds. He did.

That set up Connor Barth’s game-winning field goal.

NFC North Week 5 decisive moment

October, 12, 2010
10/12/10
1:05
PM ET
NFC Decisive Moments: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A fierce second-half rally allowed the Minnesota Vikings to cut their deficit Monday night to 15-13 with 12 minutes, 55 seconds remaining in their game against the New York Jets.

A two-point conversion attempt seemed the logical next step, but the Vikings first sent out their extra-point team. During the ensuing confusion, they called a timeout to get their offense back on the field. It was Decisive Moment No. 1 for the Vikings, who could have used that extra timeout as the game progressed.

The two-point play call appeared to be a good one. Quarterback Brett Favre faked a handoff, rolled to his right on a bootleg, and had fullback Naufahu Tahi wide open for a touchdown. But Favre inexplicably didn't throw, instead holding the ball and ultimately firing a wild pass toward tight end Visanthe Shiancoe. Had they tied the score at that point, the rest of the game obviously would have played out differently.

Decisive Moment No. 2.

Asked about the initial confusion, coach Brad Childress said: "Could you use one? Could you use two? There are nine and something minutes to go in the fourth quarter and typically you are going to go for two. One was the same as two. We went for two. I might not be able to give you a clear answer, but we would love to have two there."

I'm not totally sure what Childress meant about one being the same as two, other than the fact that there was still plenty of time remaining in the game. But he did confirm that Favre should have thrown to Tahi on the play.

NFC East Week 5 decisive moment

October, 12, 2010
10/12/10
1:04
PM ET
NFC Decisive Moments: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

The Washington Redskins didn't have much of a running game against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday and Donovan McNabb had been streaky in the passing game. But on the Skins' second possession of the fourth quarter, a leaping 48-yard touchdown catch by Anthony Armstrong changed everything.

Before that play, the Redskins trailed by 10 points and it was hard to imagine them rallying against a Packers defense that kept them bottled up for much of the afternoon. Armstrong's catch galvanized the offense and appeared to inspire the defense as well. Suddenly Washington was in a game it seemed destined to lose.

"Armstrong is just kind of that big-play guy," McNabb told reporters after the game. "You never know when he'll explode for that 40- or 50-yard catch."

Tight end Chris Cooley, who has been one of McNabb's favorite targets, has praised Armstrong's route running and calls him "sneaky fast." Armstrong's emergence probably made it easier for coach Mike Shanahan to cut ties with former second-round draft pick Devin Thomas, who had only played one snap on offense this season.

If the Redskins go on to have an excellent season, say 9-7, I think we'll look back at that Armstrong catch as one of the defining moments. Washington is in desperate need of another playmaker on offense and Armstrong might be that player.

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