NFL Nation: 2010 Week 8 Decisive Moment NFC

NFC West Week 8 decisive moment

November, 2, 2010
11/02/10
1:01
PM ET
NFC Decisive Moments: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

The San Francisco 49ers have produced too many decisive moments of the unwelcome variety this season.

Quarterback Troy Smith changed that during his first start of the season Sunday.

The 49ers trailed the Denver Broncos 10-3 early in the fourth quarter when a holding penalty forced San Francisco into a first-and-20 situation from their 34-yard line.

What to do?

The 49ers could have played it safe, hoping their defense would score a fourth-quarter touchdown for the second consecutive week. Or, the 49ers could have taken their chances with a largely untested quarterback. What did they have to lose besides another game?

They chose the aggressive play, and Smith rewarded them. His perfect 27-yard strike over the middle to a well-covered Delanie Walker on second-and-20 set up the most decisive moment in the NFC West during Week 8. On the next play, Smith sidestepped pressure, rolled right, waited as long as he could and then, to put it generously, chucked the ball up for grabs. Walker was there. His leaping grab for a 38-yard gain to the 1 set up Smith's tying touchdown run.

Smith threw the ball off his back foot with a defender bearing down on him. He released the ball from San Francisco's 49-yard line. Walker caught it inside the 5 and fell forward to the 1.

Singletary wasn't going to quibble with the throw, or the decision. The 49ers needed results, and they got them. They scored 14 more points in the quarter, including one on a 28-yard pass from Smith to Michael Crabtree, and won the game 24-16.

NFC South Week 8 decisive moment

November, 2, 2010
11/02/10
1:01
PM ET
NFC Decisive Moments: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Early in the second quarter of Sunday night’s game in the Superdome, the Pittsburgh Steelers looked like they were about to take control. In fact, officials said Antwaan Randle El had caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger.

But New Orleans coach Sean Payton challenged the call and replays showed cornerback Leigh Torrence, playing because of a slew of injuries in the defensive backfield, had brought Randle El down before the goal line.

The Steelers were given possession just inches from the end zone. The Saints, who previously weren’t known as a shutdown defense, made a goal-line stand. The Steelers ran three plays, but couldn’t get into the end zone as Sedrick Ellis, Jeff Charleston, Scott Shanle and Roman Harper each made plays to stop the three runs.

The Steelers were forced to kick a field goal and didn’t score a touchdown until the fourth quarter, when the Saints already had the lead.

NFC North Week 8 decisive moment

November, 2, 2010
11/02/10
1:01
PM ET
NFC Decisive Moments: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

The clock was winding down Sunday in the fourth quarter at New Meadowlands Stadium as the Green Bay Packers' defense ferociously protected the slimmest of leads. One bad step or unfortunate bounce could have erased a 6-0 advantage.

Cornerback Charles Woodson ended one drive with an interception and linebacker Clay Matthews set back another with a sack. But no defensive player contributed more than a reserve safety who might not start another game this season.

Charlie Peprah could give way to Atari Bigby as early as this week, but on Sunday he created two of what I consider the most decisive moments of the Packers' 9-0 victory. Peprah broke up a pair passes to Jets receiver Jerricho Cotchery, providing a textbook display of how a safety can play pass defense.

The first came with 4 minutes, 18 seconds remaining. On fourth down from the Packers' 45-yard line, Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez fired downfield. Peprah went high with Cotchery and broke up the pass at the Packers' 12-yard line.

The Jets got the ball back less than a minute later, and from his 28-yard line, Sanchez again looked downfield for Cotchery. This time, the ball hit Cotchery in the hands and was milliseconds away from being ruled a catch before Peprah's hit dislodged it at the Packers' 45-yard line.

On this blog, at least, decisive plays call for Decisive Moments.

NFC East Week 8 decisive moment

November, 2, 2010
11/02/10
1:00
PM ET
NFC Decisive Moments: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

We've devoted at least 3,000 words to Mike Shanahan's benching of quarterback Donovan McNabb for "cardiovascular endurance" reasons, so let's look at another defining moment in the Redskins' 37-25 loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday. With 8:50 left in the third quarter, the Skins stopped Lions running back Jahvid Best for no gain on third-and-1 from their 7-yard line.

The Lions set up for a short field goal attempt that would have cut the Skins' lead to 13-10. Instead, Phillip Daniels was called for jumping offside against the field goal unit. Daniels wasn't the only Redskins player who jumped early, as documented in the Washington Post. I've watched the replay several times and you can see Lions deep snapper Don Muhlbach flinch his left hip, which appeared to draw the Skins offside. But the officials didn't detect Muhlbach's flinch and penalized the Redskins. The Lions scored a touchdown two plays later and took a 14-13 lead.

It was a defining moment in Sunday's game that was overshadowed by what happened late in the fourth quarter. In case you missed it, Daniels addressed this call via Twitter following Sunday's loss. If the Skins had held the Lions to a field goal, it would've been a confidence booster for the team. Alas, the Muhlbach flinch will get you every time.

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