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Friday, December 17, 2010
D-Gaps: pick six paves way for wins

By Jason Vida

When Josh Wilson of the Baltimore Ravens stepped in front of a pass intended for the Texans' Kevin Walter and sprinted 12 yards into the end zone in Monday's win at Houston, he became the 17th player in league history to return an interception for a game-winning score in overtime, and the first since the Bears' Charles Tillman in 2005.

Josh Wilson
Wilson
If Ravens fans were looking for a hero to save them from losing yet another game after leading in the fourth quarter, Wilson would have been a surprisingly good bet. The interception returned for a TD was his fourth since 2008. Over the last three seasons, only Packers cornerback, and former Defensive Player of the Year, Charles Woodson has more (six).

Not all pick-sixes wrap up a win as definitively as Wilson’s, although it sometimes seems that way. This season, teams that have returned an interception for a touchdown in a game went on to win more than 87 percent of the time (34-5). That’s the highest rate since 1977, when teams with a pick-six went 23-3 (88.5 percent).

Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, teams that return an interception for a touchdown in a game are 1,187-343-3, a winning percentage of 77.5. Teams with multiple interception return TDs in the same game have been virtually unbeatable, now 95-4 after the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday behind pick-sixes from Troy Polamalu and LaMarr Woodley.

Wake making late push for sacks title
Cameron Wake
Wake
Two sacks on the Jets' final three offensive plays Sunday gave Miami Dolphins linebacker Cameron Wake an NFL-best 14 sacks this season. That’s tied for the seventh-highest single-season total in franchise history.

Wake became just the second player with a pair of sacks in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter this season. John Abraham sacked Carson Palmer twice late in the Falcons' Week 7 win over the Bengals.

Suh, Lions defense not holding own in middle of field
Ndamukong Suh and the rest of the Detroit Lions defensive line have been given credit -- in this blog and elsewhere -- for their impressive results in getting to the quarterback this season. Detroit’s defensive line has combined for 32 sacks this season, the second-most by any defensive line behind only the New York Giants (33.5).

However, a bit more discipline in the run game couldn’t hurt. Detroit is allowing 5.2 yards per rush on carries in between the tackles this season, the most in the league by a wide margin. To find the last time the Lions allowed as many as five yards per carry in between the tackles, you only have to go back to 2008. That’s when Detroit surrendered 5.0 yards per rush up the middle en route to the first 0-16 record in league history.