NFL Gamechangers, Week 8
NFL Gamechangers, the column that brings you the biggest plays that you won’t see on the highlights. These are the plays and players that changed the outcome of the games this weekend, but really don’t get the fanfare or hype that they deserve given their key role in the outcome of the game. Of course, touchdowns are important, but these are plays that help to set up those touchdowns and give a team momentum throughout the course of the day.
Miami Dolphins at New York Jets (Ryan Tannehill injury, Matt Moore to the rescue)
In the first quarter, Calvin Pace pasted Ryan Tannehill, who went down with an injured quad and banged-up knee not even half-way through the first quarter. Enter the Dolphins backup quarterback Matt Moore. Moore came in and picked up right where Tannehill left off the last few weeks. As a back-up he would have little first team time in comparison, and has had few snaps in important situations, yet he came in off the bench completely prepared. Kudos to Miami’s coaching for having their back-up playing so well, and kudos to Matt Moore for understanding his role, the playbook and being prepared at a moments notice. Moore had an efficient day as he finished 11 of 19, for 131 yards, 1 touchdown, no turnovers and a 96.6 quarterback rating. He helped the Dolphins stay hot, winning their third straight game, this one a whitewashing 30-9 of fellow AFC East rival, the New York Jets.
Seattle Seahawks @ Detroit Lions (11 yard pas to Joique Bell)
Every highlight show in the country will show you the game winning 1-yard Touchdown Pass from Matthew Stafford to Titus Young with just 20 seconds left in the game. Rightly so, we should see this play as it won the game for the Lions. However the big play that you might not see on the highlights occurred just two plays earlier. Lets remember that the score was 24-21 for Seattle at the time, and the Lions had the ball, 3rd and 10 on the Seahawks 12 yard line. A stop by the Seahawks would surely lead to Detroit sending Jason Hanson on the field to kick the field goal, tie the game, and give us yet another overtime game when the last two weeks of NFL action have been full of them. Instead, we saw a gamechanger. Matthew Stafford, unable to find an open receiver in the endzone threw a little “check down” pass to Lions running back Joique Bell up the middle. Bell took the ball and made a couple nice moves to get by defenders and get the first down at the 1 yard line. The Lions made their first down, got another chance at the endzone, and as they say, the rest is history.
Carolina Panthers @ Chicago Bears (Cutler/Marshall Connection)
After a field goal by Justin Medlock gave the Panthers a 22-20 lead, the Chicago Bears took the kickoff back to their own 22 yard line and began looking for a game winning drive. There was just 2;20 left and so it was time to see the Bears in the two minute drill. Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall showed the chemistry that goes back to their Denver days. On the game winning drive Cutler hit Marshall 4 different times, for completions getting the Bears 8 yards, 7 yards, 11 yards and finally 10 yards to the Carolina 26. This game of “pitch and catch” was very important as three of Marshall’s receptions on the final drive led directly to Bears’ first downs. As the Cutler/Marshall connection took the Bears down the field, they did so quickly and efficiently despite the fact that the Panthers defense had to know Cutler was looking to his number 1 receiver on nearly every key play. Their work on this drive was clutch, and they helped to set up Robbie Goulds’ 41 yard Game Winning Field Goal, that curled through the posts with no time left on the clock.
New York Giants at Dallas (Dez Bryant’s difficuties)
Most of the time we look at Gamechangers as being particular plays that affect a game’s outcome, but sometimes we need to consider a player as having been instrumental in a team’s win, or loss as in this case. In this game we are sure to see that Dez Bryant was a little bit unlucky as an apparent game winning touchdown for the young reciever was called incomplete as he had a finger touch the back line of the endzone after his leaping catch. However that isn’t the play we want to talk about on Gamechangers. We hate to dog on Dez Bryant as the stat sheet seems to indicate that he had a pretty good day with 110 yards recieving even without the potential game winner. However it was a couple of Dez Bryant plays in the first half of this football game that helped lead to an early 23-0 score in favour of the Giants. Early in the first quarter, with the Giants up by 3 and the Cowboys looking to answer back quickly, Bryant and quarterback Tony Romo were clearly not on the same page. Bryant appeared to run the wrong route on a timing pattern leading to an easy interception for Stevie Brown. The Giants would add a field goal to take a 6-0 lead. Later in the quarter, with his team down by 13, Bryant fumbled on a punt return, leading to 3 more points for the Giants.
A special shootout goes out to Stevie Brown who came up with two more turnovers in this game, and a guy who seems to be a regular name in NFL game changers. It seems that he is making a huge play for the Giants defence every week.
New England Patriots vs St. Louis Rams in London England
The St. Louis Rams faced a number of problems in this game. Firstly, much to the chagrin of most Rams fans, Lambert International Airport has a reasonably good efficiency rating. As such the team was able to fly out of St. Louis and head across the pond to play this game on time. Since the Rams arrived in England with plenty of time to spare, this game could not be postponed, forfeited, or cancelled in some way to save the Rams the embarrassment. These type of front office mistakes are just inexusable!
The Rams were also up against a horrendous transit system in the UK. Apparently when the Rams defense boarded the team bus and told the driver that they needed to head for the football stadium, he thought they were fans of soccer and drove them to Stamford Bridge to watch the key matchup between Chelsea and Manchester United. The entire Rams defense missed the first half and had an American highschool team, which just happened to be touring England, suit up against the Pats. This allowed Tom Brady to hook up with Rob Gronkowski on several nice plays, and Steven Ridley to run wild, allowing the Patriots to score on their first five possessions of the game. When the Rams eventually did show up, they got some stops, but not many, and the team was so far behind that it didn’t really matter.
What’s that you say? This didn’t really happen? Yeah, yeah, we know. But I thought it was a nicer explanation than just flat out saying that the Rams SUCKED and were completely outclassed in this lopsided game.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Hamilton Tiger-Cats (CFL EDITION)
We seldom combine the NFL and CFL in one article, but this game had important meaning as it was a very important CFL clash. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats, one of two most historic franchises in football, far, far older than any America franchise, was closing the doors to one of the oldest stadiums and most beloved in existence in North America – Ivor Wynne Stadium. The Tiger-Cats have had a rough season, and a big win in the final game at Ivor Wynne could be a bright spot for fans of this club.
Early in the game, the two teams weren’t so far apart on the scoreboard as it was just 7-0 Hamilton. That was until the Tiger-Cat defensive line converged on Winnipeg Quarterback Buck Pierce. It was a devastating sack, which forced Pierce to fumble deep in Bomber territory. And the fumble was scooped up by Greg Peach and returned for six points. The Touchdown gave the Cats the momentum, and they never looked back en route to a huge rout of the Winnipeg team that has had their number in recent years. It seems fitting that in closing the Stadium, the boys from Steeltown whose glory years were all about a tough, hard hitting, blue collar defence, where able to come up with a huge defensive play. And a little unexpected this season, as the team is last in the league in sacks and total defense this year.