NFL Nation: 2010 Week 9 High Energy NFC

NFC West High Energy Player of the Week

November, 9, 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 9.

I'd be OK renaming this award for the Arizona Cardinals' LaRod Stephens-Howling if his name would fit in the headline.

Perhaps we could simply hyphenate the "High Energy" part in his honor.

[+] EnlargeLaRod Stephens-Howling
AP Photo/Andy BlenkushLaRod Stephens-Howling returned a kick 96 yards for a score in Sunday's loss at Minnesota.
Stephens-Howling would merit consideration even without the game-breaking kickoff returns he provides on occasion. The second-year running back has been a force on special-teams coverage units, putting his 5-foot-7 frame on the line against much larger men. He's also a threat on offense, having scored on a 30-yard run in Week 8.

A seventh-round draft choice from Pitt in 2009, Stephens-Howling broke a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Minnesota in Week 9, giving Arizona needed life right after the Vikings took a 7-0 lead. The Cardinals had lost the early momentum after Kerry Rhodes failed to protect the football during the final stages of an interception return, ultimately losing the ball as he approached the goal line for what should have been a Cardinals touchdown.

Stephens-Howling caught the kickoff just inside the Cardinals' left hash and cut to his right. He crossed the right hash at the 15, hit full stride inside the yard-line numbers near the 30 and then cut back toward the right hash as Vikings kicker Ryan Longwell flailed at him helplessly. There were key blocks -- safety Hamza Abdullah and linebacker O'Brien Schofield on Vikings linebacker Jasper Brinkley, defensive end Alan Branch on Vikings cornerback Chris Cook, fullback Jason Wright on Vikings cornerback Asher Allen, tackle Jeremy Bridges on Vikings running back Toby Gerhart, tight end Jim Dray on Vikings safety Husain Abdullah, Hamza's brother -- but the little guy with the football made them all look good.

"He’s obviously a dynamic player," Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt told reporters Monday. "He does a lot of things very well for us. We all see the kickoff returns, but he does some other things for us in coverage and those aspects that are invaluable to us. We really have a good young player in LaRod."

Stephens-Howling has two kickoff returns for touchdowns this season and three in his career. Only Ollie Matson has more in franchise history (six between 1952 and 1958). Only Stephens-Howling, Matson and Les Goble have scored more than once on kickoff returns in the same Cardinals season. League-wide, Stephens-Howling is one of three players this season with multiple kickoff returns for touchdowns, joining New England’s Brandon Tate and Seattle’s Leon Washington.
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 9.

[+] EnlargeMichael Turner
Dale Zanine/US PresswireMichael Turner rushed for 107 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries against Tampa Bay.
Last year and this year, the Atlanta Falcons have talked repeatedly about how they don’t want to wear out running back Michael Turner.

They are going more cautious than they were in 2008, when they let Turner carry 376 times. But you get the feeling that the Falcons are pushing whatever limit they have on Turner. At the moment, he’s on pace for 310 carries.

In Sunday’s victory against the division-rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Turner carried 24 times for 107 yards. He also produced two touchdowns as the Falcons took sole possession of first place in the NFC South.

That marked Turner’s second straight 100-yard game, and he has scored four touchdowns in the past two games. Like the rest of the Falcons, he’ll need to bounce back quickly from Sunday’s victory because Atlanta plays host to Baltimore on Thursday night and Turner is likely to play a big role again.
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 9.

Remember Bernard Berrian? The fleet-footed receiver the Minnesota Vikings guaranteed $16 million in 2008 to be their No. 1 receiver? Oh, yeah. He reappeared Sunday at the Metrodome.

[+] EnlargeBerrian
Bruce Kluckhohn/US PresswireBernard Berrian made the most of his opportunities in Sunday's win over Arizona.
Demoted to reserve status following the trade for Randy Moss, Berrian re-captured his starting role and caught nine passes in the Vikings' 27-24 victory over the Arizona Cardinals. The production tied his career high, set in 2007, and doubled his season total over the first seven games of the season.

Berrian's early-season ineffectiveness played a big role in the Moss trade, and you wonder if the demotion didn't wake him up a bit. Moss' departure last week gave Berrian another opportunity. And after failing to find much chemistry with quarterback Brett Favre, Berrian was targeted for 11 passes Sunday.

"He had a very good week of practice," coach Brad Childress said. "Maybe a little extra hop in his step."

No catch was more important than the slant pass Berrian took 22 yards in overtime, putting the Vikings in field goal range. Berrian is known as a deep threat, but he's also an exceptional runner after short passes. Given their pass protection issues, the Vikings would be wise to continue focusing on that route with him.

"He certainly has the capabilities to catch the football coming inside," Childress said. "... He is a good slant runner. He is a good in-break runner. ... It's nice to be able to get him those quick-hitters in a little bit of air because those slants typically end up 15-18 yards down the field, if you can connect on them."

NFC East High Energy Player of the Week

November, 9, 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 9.

[+] EnlargeDeSean Jackson
Howard Smith/US PresswireDeSean Jackson's return to the lineup provided a spark to the Philadelphia offense.
When a team begins a drive at its 1-yard line in the first quarter, there's a tendency to be pretty conservative. But when you have Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson in your lineup, it can be tempting to throw caution to the wind. The Eagles faced third-and-7 from their 4 when Vick hit Jackson in stride for a 58-yard completion past midfield.

Jackson pulled off one of his patented double moves to freeze Colts cornerback Deshea Townsend for a moment. Then he raced past safety Aaron Francisco to make the catch. No matter how much you watch Jackson on film, there's no way to simulate his speed on the field. Jackson may be the most dangerous offensive weapon in the league right now, and his return to the lineup following a concussion gave the Eagles a huge spark in this game.

Jackson finished with seven catches for 109 yards and a touchdown. The Eagles are a completely different team when he's on the field because defenders must account for him on every play. The Colts tried to shade a safety to Jackson's side, but he still exploited them with his ridiculous speed and quickness.

Jackson was an easy choice for our prestigious High Energy Player of the Week award, otherwise known as the most coveted honor in professional sports.




Thursday, 9/18
Sunday, 9/21
Monday, 9/22