Champions are made within a matter of minutes. They are the individuals in the sports world that stand above everyone else to prove their worth when it counts the most.
Every single sport in the United States isn't immune from this factor.
In the NBA, for every Michael Jordan there are 100 Karl Malone's. For every Derek Jeter in baseball there are dozens of players that don't stand up to prove they belong among the elite in that sport.
This article is going to focus on the nine least-clutch players in the National Football League today.
Not only has Michael Crabtree struggled late in games throughout his three-year NFL career, the talented receiver was a no-show in the playoffs last season for the San Francisco 49ers.
He recorded a total of five receptions for 28 yards in two playoff games in 2011.
Moreover, Crabtree has a total of 35 career fourth-quarter receptions which represents less than 20 percent of his total catch total.
If Crabtree is going to prove that he is a true No. 1 receiver he is going to have to step up when it counts for the 49ers. They are not only depending on it, they expect it.
Michael Turner is the perfect example of a running back that shows up in the sunny days of September and October, but struggles a great deal when the weather gets cold and the season is on the line.
In order to be considered an elite running back you need to get that yardage late in the season. When the postseason rolls around, Turner just doesn't show up.
While Turner boasts a 4.6 rush average and scores a touchdown every other game in the regular season, his numbers take a crap in the playoffs. The talented running back averages under 3.5 yards a carry and has gained a total of 112 yards in three playoff games with the Falcons.
Moreover, Turner hasn't been that good when the game is on the line during the regular season either. He gained a total of 207 yards and averaged 3.8 per rush in the fourth quarter last season.
Running backs are supposed to get stronger as the game goes on. This is a primary reason why teams rely so much on them during the end of the game. They hand the ball off to their bell cow in order to gain yardage and run the clock out.
Turner is unable to do this and for the reasons listed above deserves to be on this list.
On the exterior, putting Peyton Manning on this list might not make much sense. After all, he has been considered one of the best quarterbacks in history of the National Football League.
That is just on the exterior.
Being a clutch player in the National Football League involves more than just padding your numbers and collecting wins during the regular season.
Manning has won one Super Bowl in 11 postseason appearances and barely has a record over .500 in the second season.
Manning has thrown 19 interceptions in as many postseason games and possesses a quarterback rating of under 90 in such games. By comparison, Manning has a quarterback rating of 95 during the regular season.
Manning's biggest struggles in the playoffs have come in the conference championship games where he completes less than 58 percent of his passes, has thrown as many interceptions as touchdowns and boasts a quarterback rating in the mid 70's.
It is hard to gauge Chad Ochocinco from last season so I am going to avoid providing statistics from 2011. Instead, I am going to focus on the entire body of his work.
Ochocinco played in just two postseason games prior to 2011, recording a total of six receptions for less than 90 yards in those two games combined. This was at a time when he was the Cincinnati Bengals' unquestioned No. 1 receiver.
His last 1,000 yard season was in 2009. That year Ochocinco recorded a total of 12 receptions for less than 200 yards in the fourth quarter. By comparison, he had nearly 400 receiving yards in the first quarter of games that season.
This differential from the start of the game to the end stands out throughout his career in the National Football League.
Ochocinco led the NFL in receiving yards with nearly 1,400 in 2006, but struggled a great deal in the final stanza that season. Less than 20 percent of his receptions came in the final quarter and that was the second best performance of his career.
In the NFL you have to come up big in crunch time. This is something that Ochocinco has failed to do throughout his career and don't expect that to change in 2012 with the New England Patriots or any other team.
Carson Palmer has only made the playoffs twice in his eight-year NFL career. He boasts a losing record in December and hasn't won a regular season game in January (0-4).
More than that, the Oakland Raiders' quarterback struggles big time with the game on the line. He threw nine interceptions and just seven touchdowns in the second half of games last season and seven interceptions in the fourth quarter alone.
This has been a continuing theme for the talented quarterback throughout his career. He has thrown a total of 27 interceptions during the fourth quarter over the course of his last four seasons.
Additionally, 2006 was the only season that saw Palmer possess a quarterback rating over 80 in the fourth quarter during his career.
This needs to change dramatically if the Raiders are going to have a chance to capture the AFC West in 2012. They need Palmer to play as well in the final stanza as he has in the first quarter.
If history tells us anything this just isn't in the cards right now.
Jay Cutler might have missed the final six games of the 2011 season, but it didn't stop him from proving to the football world just how overrated he is. The talented signal-caller did not throw a single interception in the second or third quarters last season, but was picked five times in the final quarter and possessed a 60.5 quarterback rating.
This has been a continuing theme throughout his career. Play well when the pressure is not on, but struggling a great deal when all is on the line.
Over the course of the last three seasons Cutler has thrown as many interceptions (17) as touchdowns in the fourth quarter while accumulating a pedestrian 70.5 quarterback rating. Additionally, 35 percent of his interceptions have come in the final quarter during that span.
The Chicago Bears are going to be relying on Cutler and the passing game to take their franchise to the next level in 2012. It is time that he steps up and proves himself to be more than an average signal-caller in the National Football League.
Matt Ryan performs extremely well late in the regular season, which has helped lead his Atlanta Falcons to the postseason in three of his first four seasons. In fact, Ryan boasts a 13-4 record in December and January while putting up 29 touchdowns compared to 13 interceptions.
It is the postseason that puts Ryan on this list.
While football is a team sport, the quarterback is going to get the majority of the praise and blame for postseason performance.
Atlanta is yet to win a playoff game in three attempts under Ryan and have been outscored by a total of 54 points. Ryan boasts a career postseason quarterback rating of 71.2 and has thrown one more interception than touchdown.
Granted the young quarterback has not received help from the rest of the Falcons roster, but in order to be an elite quarterback in the NFL you need to lead your team in crunch time during the postseason.
Ryan has yet to do that.
For the first time in his career, Joe Flacco played a home playoff game after having to travel for the previous seven playoff games in his career. The young quarterback completed barely 50 percent of his passes, but did avoid an interception in a Baltimore Ravens win over the Houston Texans.
That being said, Flacco has been pedestrian at best when it counts.
Last season he threw six touchdowns compared to five interceptions and accumulated a 74.8 quarterback rating in the fourth quarter.This pales in comparison to the first quarter where Flacco threw eight touchdowns and one interception with a quarterback rating in the high 90's.
This has been a trend throughout his short career. Flacco has thrown just two more touchdowns (21) then interceptions (19) during his career in the fourth quarter. Magnified is the fact that 41 percent of his interceptions have been thrown in the final stanza.
It is all about starting the game off quick then fizzling out towards the end. This is something that teams definitely try to avoid when drawing up a game plan for their quarterback.
Flacco's completion percentage drops down to 55 percent in the postseason from over 60 percent during the regular year. He has thrown just eight touchdowns and just as many interceptions during the playoffs in his career.
If the Baltimore Ravens hope to win the Super Bowl with Flacco at the helm he is going to need to step his game up a great deal late in games and in the postseason.
It really is that simple.
It goes without saying that Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys consistently struggle when the season and the game is on the line. This has been a proven fact throughout his eight-year tenure in Dallas.
Last season Romo did play his heart out until the end and wasn't the primary reason that Dallas missed out on the playoffs. That being said, this was the first season of his career that Romo acted as a true leader on the football field and worked to lead the Cowboys towards the end.
Romo has a quarterback rating of 86.0 during December, while posting one of over 110 in November. This is one sign that his game is taken down a notch when all is on the line.
This doesn't even take into account the fact that Romo botched a snap on a game-winning field-goal attempt against the Seattle Seahawks in the 2006 NFL Playoffs.
The talented quarterback has won a total of one playoff game in eight seasons and has seen his quarterback rating drop to just over 80 in such games.
In order for Romo to prove skeptics wrong he is going to need to lead the Cowboys deep into the playoffs or win a Super Bowl Championship when all is said and done. If not, Romo will go down in history as one of the most disappointing quarterbacks in franchise history.