Handing out Game Balls for Every Game After NFL Week 5
The NFL is not a "what have you done for me lately" league. It's a "what are you going to do for me" league.
Past performance counts for nothing in the NFL, certainly not when it's contract negotiation time. It often doesn't matter when it comes to media coverage or hype, either. Players make their mark on the NFL, and then the focus is on who's NEXT.
But in Week 5, some of the best performances came from players whose best days are supposed to be behind them. Some of the biggest names in the NFL came up with some of the biggest plays and games of Week 5.
So it's no coincidence that some of the biggest names in the NFL are getting some of the biggest game balls.
Arizona Cardinals at St. Louis Rams
"We Must Protect This House" Game Ball: Robert Quinn, Rams DE
Over the past few weeks, beleaguered Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb seemed to elevate his game to Warnerian levels: he simply refused to lose.
Well, Robert Quinn and his three sacks, four tackles, two assists and forced fumble refused to let him win.
Miami Dolphins at Cincinnati Bengals
"Wise Beyond His Years" Game Ball: Ryan Tannehill, Dolphin quarterback
Ryan Tannehill did not have a lot of cheerleaders when he was drafted, and certainly none not wearing teal and orange. But on the road against the Bengals, Tannehill stood up to the Bengals' defense and delivered great passes under lots of pressure.
Tannehill's just a rookie, but he's playing like he's pushing 30.
Green Bay Packers at Indianapolis Colts
"Why Teach Old Dogs New Tricks When They're Still Really Good at the Old Ones" Game Ball: Reggie Wayne, Colts wide receiver
The real game ball went to leukemia-stricken head coach Chuck Pagano, and that's to the credit of Colts owner Jim Irsay. But this imaginary one goes to the one and only Reggie Wayne, whose 13 catches for 121 yards and the game-winning touchdown gave the Colts their biggest win of the Luck era... so far.
Baltimore Ravens at Kansas City Chiefs
"Oh Good Lord I Have to Give a Game Ball to Somebody" Game Ball: Justin Tucker, Ravens kicker
This was a true throwback game: a throwback to the era when nobody could string two complete passes together. Both defenses applied pressure like crazy, but in the end, one kicker made one more field goal than the other kicker, so his team won the game.
And he wins the game ball.
Cleveland Browns at New York Giants
"Muy Calienté" Game Ball: Victor Cruz, Giants receiver
With a career-high three salsa dances—er, touchdown receptions—Cruz and the Giants overcame an early 14-0 deficit to beat the Cleveland Browns.
Ahmad Bradshaw had an outstanding 200 yards rushing, and Doug Wilson cracked off a 40-yard touchdown run. But Cruz's coming-out party as a short-yardage weapon could mean a lot more to Manning and the Giants as they keep up their winning ways.
Philadelphia Eagles at Pittsburgh Steelers
"The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same" Game Ball: Ryan Clark, Steelers safety
Regardless of which bird is depicted on his helmet, Michael Vick has trouble not turning it over. And when Vick tried to punch it in for a score, Clark punched it out, saving a touchdown en route to a 16-14 Steelers win.
Atlanta Falcons at Washington Redskins
"Like a Fine Wine" Game Ball: Tony Gonzalez, Falcons tight end
The 36-year-old Gonzalez surely has a completed bust in Canton sitting under a sheet in the back, just waiting for his first year of eligibility. But Gonzalez is still playing like one of the best in the business.
According to Bleacher Report's Knox Bardeen, Gonzalez's 13-catch, 123-yard performance was the second-most prolific of his career. His touchdown catch was his 99th, tying him for the eighth-most touchdowns in NFL history.
Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers
"Jack and the Beanstalk" Game Ball: Bruce Irvin, Seahawks defensive end
The Seattle defense faced a very tall task: 6'5" Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. But Irvin was up to the challenge, chopping Cam down with two sacks and a crucial forced fumble.
Chicago Bears at Jacksonville Jaguars
"Beating a Dead Horse" Game Ball: Jay Cutler, Bears quarterback
At halftime, the score was tied at a measly three points each. But the Bears whaled on the Jaguars in the second half, blasting them into oblivion with 38 second-half points. With a field goal and an interception return giving the Bears a 10-point lead, Cutler threw two consecutive touchdown passes to put the game away—way away.
Tennessee Titans at Minnesota Vikings
"One if by Land, Two if by Air" Game Ball: Percy Harvin, Vikings wide receiver
Until the fourth quarter, Harvin was responsible for the game's only two touchdowns: one rushing, and one receiving. According to the AP, Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder called Harvin "a beast," and superstar tailback Adrian Peterson called him "the best player I've ever played with."
Considering Peterson's played with a few certain Hall of Famers, that's saying something.
Denver Broncos at New England Patriots
"Hatfield vs. McCoy" Game Ball: Tom Brady
Of course, the story of the Broncos' game against the Patriots was the rematch of the old feuding rivals: Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Manning had the better statistical day; he completed 31-of-44 for 345 yards and three touchdowns.
But Brady, as he has so often, did what the Patriots needed to do to win. He completed 23-of-31 passes for 223 yards and a score—and unlike Manning, Brady didn't cough up a crucial fumble.
Buffalo Bills at San Francisco 49ers
"Can they Turn on the Running Clock Like in High School Football" Game Ball: Alex Smith, 49ers quarterback
The 49ers' 45-3 domination of the Bills was a complete team effort, but Smith's nearly flawless performance was the shiniest gem in the crown. An output of 18-of-24 passing for 303 yards and three touchdowns deserves a game ball, period.
San Diego Chargers at New Orleans Saints
"You Break a Johnny Unitas Record, You Get a Game Ball" Game Ball: Drew Brees, Saints quarterback
The Saints needed every bit of Drew Brees' record-breaking performance to win, but they did. Brees completed 29-of-45 passes for 370 yards and four scores, felling Johnny Unitas's decades-old record of 47 consecutive games with a touchdown pass.
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