Big plays and game-changing developments have been divided sporadically throughout most of this NFL season.
Not on Sunday.
From the Meadowlands to Miami, from Green Bay to the Bay Area and points in between, Week 9 brought a flood of standout performances. Maybe even something to lift the TV ratings, too.
Do you like big-time kick returns? The Colts’ Jordan Todman had one to open their win at Lambeau Field. And the Dolphins’ Kenyan Drake had one to finish off their victory over the Jets.
“It is a very rare play,” Todman said. “This is my sixth year in the league and it is my first return to the house. It is huge. It is very rare, but when it does happen you see the results. When things click in the right way, when all blocks are there and it is set up in the right way, you can house it.”
Todman’s 99-yarder got things started for Indy, putting the host Packers in an early hole. Drake’s 96-yarder provided the winning points for Miami.
“I’m just a little sick after that,” the rookie from Alabama said. “Kind of had to run back and forth like from kickoff return, then kickoff, then punt. Just a little winded still, but hey, that win makes it a lot better I guess.”
The NFL might be on the way to legislating kick runbacks out of the game for safety’s sake, but while they remain, they sure do thrill.
So do momentum-creating defensive plays, and there were plenty of those Sunday, as well.
The Giants picked off two of Carson Wentz’s first three throws, and quickly they were up 14-0 on two TD passes by Eli Manning. Those plays were critical in New York’s 28-23 victory because the Eagles eventually got into position to grab the win.
On the other side, had Philly scored any points off its two interceptions — or off Darren Sproles’ 66-yard punt return — the result in New Jersey could have been different.
“The thing that got us was the big plays,” Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “Everything else other than that we felt really good about. The big plays hurt us.”
There were six plays of at least 30 yards in the first half alone at MetLife Stadium. The game also featured a blocked field goal and four fourth-down tries by Philadelphia, only one of them successful.
The Saints’ Mark Ingram , who appeared headed to losing his starting job, broke a 75-yard touchdown run during his 158-yard day at the 49ers. That matchup also was highlighted by touchdown passes of 32, 47, and 65 yards. Two of those were produced by offensively challenged San Francisco.
We’ve got plenty more, all of which ratcheted up the excitement quotient:
— Todman added a 61-yard kickoff runback.
— Baltimore’s Chris Moore returned Javorius Allen’s blocked punt 14 yards for a TD in a win over Pittsburgh.
— Dwight Lowery and Brandon Flowers of the Chargers each scored defensive TDs against the Titans. Lowery returned a fumble 43 yards and Flowers had a 33-yard interception return for a score.
Nothing tops what went on at the only overtime game of the day, though. In Detroit’s 22-16 victory at Minnesota, Tyrunn Walker blocked Blair Walsh’s 46-yard field goal attempt early in the fourth quarter. Then Matt Prater nailed a 58-yarder — 58 yards! — as regulation time expired. Not that Prater was new to such achievements: it was the second-longest tying field goal in the final minute of the fourth quarter in NFL history, behind Prater’s 59-yader in 2011 with Denver against Chicago.
“I’m confident,” Prater said. “More than likely I’m not worried about missing it short. … I expect to make every kick. I don’t overanalyze it or think too much. I just kick it and hope it goes straight.”
It did. But wait, there’s more.
Golden Tate took a pass along the left sideline, shook off two attempted tackles by the Vikings’ vaunted defense, then vaulted into the end zone to win it.
“At that point, I think God took over and pushed me into the end zone,” Tate said. “But the jumping part was definitely me.”
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