Sports. Honestly. Since 2011

NFL Gamechangers: Week 5

Momentum is huge in football, and often effects the outcome of games. There are key plays that change momentum that are very subtle and may not make the highlight package on your favorite sports show. Sure, these shows do a great job of showing incredible catches, hits, and runs, or of showing you the scoring plays in a game, but do they really tell the whole story?

While a drive might end in a 5-yard TD pass or a 10-yard TD run, is that really the key play in a 7, 8, 9 or 10 play drive? Would the scoring play even be possible without the key completion on third and long earlier in the drive? Or that receiver who made a key block freeing up the running back to get to the outside to pick up a first down?

The purpose of this column is to highlight some key plays that greatly effected the outcome of their games, yet they might not have made highlight reels. This isn’t to take away from the importance of a big scoring play or turnover, but without these plays the highlight reel play would not have happened.

Cleveland at New York Giants (Turnovers!)
The Browns raced out to an early 14-0 lead.
New York started to comeback and cut lead to 17-10.  Cleveland came right back, driving down the field again deep into Giants territory, looking to restore the two-score lead.  It was then that Stevie Brown took over.  He intercepted Weeden and took it back to the 40.
The Giants drove down the field and scored a TD on a run by Ahmad Bradshaw
On the ensuing kickoff, Will Hill made a great play to strip the ball from Josh Cribbs, and Stevie Brown picked it again.  This was the second turnover for him in a matter of minutes.  Eli made good on a TD toss to Victor Cruz and the Giants never looked back in blowing out the Browns.  I say it every week – turnovers change games.

Eagles @ Steelers (Steelers Power Game)
In what was mostly an ugly game, the Eagles took the lead with 6:33 to play on a TD pass from Michael Vick to Brent Celek, and it was 14-13 after the extra point.  The Steelers took the ball and drove down the field, killed all 6:33, won the game on a last second FG by Sean Suisham and Philly never got the chance to respond.  That is dominance.  The drive featured a number of important runs by Isaac Redman and Rashard Mendenhall.  The big play here is Pittsburgh’s power offence coming back, and being able to sustain a long drive through running the ball.  Also worth noting is that Roethlisberger also made key third down completions to Antonio Brown (20 yards on a 3rd and 12 early in the drive).
Are the Steelers regaining their identity this week?

Greenbay @ Indianapolis (the value of good punting and field position)
Indianapolis was up by one point with 5:47 to play and forced a Green Bay Punt from their own 42 yard line.  It was a nearly perfect punt by Tim Masthay and was downed at the Colts 6-yard line.  Green Bay forced a three and out quickly and got the ball back after an Indy punt by Pat McAfee, and set up shop on the Indy 49 yard line (gained 9 yards in the punting game, great field position on Indy side of mid-field).  Two plays later Aaron Rogers finds James Jones for the go-ahead TD.

On the very next series (Andrew Luck’s Strength)
Indy had the ball back at the Packer 47.  It was 3rd down and 12 and Luck dropped back with 2:00 left.  Clay Matthews got into the backfield and got his hands on Luck’s shoulder pads.  Luck escaped and completed a 15-yard pass to Reggie Wayne.  Instead of a sack and 4th and really long, they had a first down.  Several plays later was a 4-yard TD by Wayne gave the Colts the lead back.

San Diego @ New Orleans (Drew Brees Record)
Brees set a record with 48 games with at least 1 TD pass, breaking a record he shared with Johnny Unitas.  Brees’ 40 yard TD pass to Devery Henderson will be on every highlight reel in the country.  What won’t be will two big 3rd down conversions earlier in the drive that kept things alive for the Saints and made this possible.  The First play was a on 3rd and 5 at the Saints 25.  Brees hit Marques Colston to the right for a 12-yard completion.  Later in the drive, on another 3rd and 5 you had Brees hit Camarillo down the middle for 15 yards.  You really see what an elite Quarterback Brees is on a drive like this where he was able to convert three times on third and long (the two passes mentionned, plus the pass to Henderson was 3rd and 6).  You also see the strength of Brees’ game, which is spreading the ball around to a number of different receivers.  While Colston has been the Saints number 1 guy, Brees doesn’t rely on him to the same extent that other quarterbacks lock in on a favorite receiver.  It keeps the defence on their toes, and makes him much harder to defend, because its so unpredictable where he will go with the ball.

Melvin Ingram Roughing the Passer Penalty
There was a huge game-changer that came in the fourth quarter.  New Orleans was down 24-21, and San Diego had all the momentum.  The Chargers pinned Brees deep in his own end, and we’re looking to force the punt.  Rookie Melvin Ingram closed in on Brees who was looking to pass.  A split-second after the ball left his hand, the Charger put his helmet right under Drew’s chin, knocking him hard on his back.  The pass was intercepted and returned to the house.  BUT, because Ingram hit Brees on the chin he was flagged for hitting in him in the facemask and given a 15 yard roughing the passer penalty.  The Saints got breathing room and a fresh set of downs.  A few plays later and they punched it into the endzone, and all momentum was back with New Orleans.  That penalty resulted in a 14-point switch.  For an 0-4 team that was staring 0-5 in the face, the question is, was Ingram’s penalty a Season Changer for the Saintes?  or just one win on a bumpy road?

Check out our NFL coverage every sunday night at 7:30pm as we run down the results and news of the day on NFL Sunday Blitz Package.  Old Episodes are available in the sidebar as podcasts.


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