Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFL [Print without images]

Saturday, December 24, 2011
Week 16: Cruz puts Giants in control

ESPN.com

STUDS

Cruz
Cruz

Victor Cruz

Wide receiver, N.Y. Giants

Cruz caught only three passes, but one of them changed the complexion of the brawl for the Big Apple. Cruz's second-quarter, 99-yard touchdown catch and run gave the Giants a lead they never relinquished in a 29-14 victory over the Jets. It was the longest TD reception in Giants history. Cruz (164 yards) also broke Amani Toomer's single-season franchise mark for receiving yards.


Cook
Cook

Jared Cook

Tight end, Tennessee Titans

Aided greatly by Cook's second big performance in as many weeks (he caught nine passes for 103 yards in Week 15), the Titans are still alive in the AFC wild-card hunt. Cook caught eight passes, including a 55-yard TD, and finished with 169 yards receiving, a franchise high for a tight end.


Newton
Newton

Cam Newton

Quarterback, Carolina Panthers

Newton broke Peyton Manning's rookie passing yardage record. He also broke the spirits of the reeling Buccaneers (see below). Newton threw for three TDs, including a franchise-record 91-yarder, and ran for another to lead Carolina to a 48-16 victory. He completed 12 of 17 passes for 171 yards without an interception.


Stafford
Stafford

Matthew Stafford

Quarterback, Detroit Lions

Stafford continued his late-season surge Saturday, and the Lions are in the playoffs for the first time since 1999. Stafford completed 29 of 36 passes for 373 yards and three TDs in Detroit's 38-10 drubbing of San Diego. Stafford has nine TD passes and no interceptions in his past three games.


Steelers

The Steelers' running game

No Ben Roethlisberger, no problem for the Steelers. Led by Rashard Mendenhall (18 carries, 116 yards), the Steelers' running game picked up the slack in Big Ben's absence, gaining 169 yards and scoring three times in Pittsburgh's 27-0 victory over the Rams.


Welker
Welker

Wes Welker

Wide receiver, New England Patriots

After a slow first half, Welker and the Patriots turned it on against the Dolphins. Welker's 12 catches for 138 yards helped New England rally for a 27-24 victory, its seventh in a row. Welker passed Randy Moss to set a franchise record for receiving yards in a season.


Royster
Royster

Evan Royster

Running back, Washington Redskins

The Redskins came up short in Week 16, but they might have found another running back. Royster, pressed into duty because of an injury to fellow rookie Roy Helu, rushed for 132 yards on 19 carries in Washington's 33-26 loss to Minnesota.




DUDS

Tebow
Tebow

Tim Tebow

Quarterback, Denver Broncos

Is Tebow-mania losing steam? That might be an understatement. Tebow suffered through his worst game of the season Saturday, throwing four interceptions -- including a pair of pick-sixes on consecutive plays in the fourth quarter -- in Denver's 40-14 loss in Buffalo. Tebow completed only 13 of 30 passes.


Taylor
Taylor

Phil Taylor

Defensive tackle, Cleveland Browns

The Browns made some inexcusable mistakes in a 20-14 loss to Baltimore, none more embarrassing than Taylor's late-game gaffe. On fourth-and-2, the Ravens lined up looking to get the Browns to jump offside -- and Taylor did just that. The rookie grabbed his helmet in disbelief, but the penalty gave the Ravens a first down and allowed them to run out the clock.


Doucet
Doucet

Early Doucet

Wide receiver, Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals had a chance to tie the Bengals late, but Doucet tripped up -- literally. With Arizona inside Cincinnati's 20-yard line and trailing by seven with just over a minute remaining, a wide-open Doucet tripped at the goal line and went down, letting a fourth-down pass fall incomplete. The Bengals held on for a 23-16 victory.


Buccaneers

The Buccaneers

LeGarrette Blount fumbled on the Buccaneers' first play from scrimmage. Things only got worse from there. Tampa Bay allowed scores on eight of the Panthers' first nine possessions en route to suffering its ninth straight loss after opening the season 4-2. The Bucs also committed four turnovers.


Clemens
Clemens

Kellen Clemens

Quarterback, St. Louis Rams

Starting for the injured Sam Bradford, Clemens couldn't get anything going against the Steelers' defense. Clemens completed only nine of 24 passes for 91 yards.