Handing out Game Balls for Every Game After NFL Week 6
It's always hard to win on the road in the NFL. Rowdy crowds, air travel and constantly changing practice rhythms for short weeks, long weeks, day games and night games make winning in the league a chore.
But this week, it was even more back-breaking work than usual. Road teams went 4-8 in NFL Week 6; two of those wins were in overtime, and one was for the night owls watching Sunday Night Football.
The road winners needed some spectacular performances to overcome home-field advantage, and the home teams got some great plays made, too.
As we do every week, it's time to hand out game balls to the players and people who made the home teams so tough to topple—and the few road winners so hard to handle.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Tennessee Titans
"Welcome Back Kotter" Game Ball: Kenny Britt, Titans wide receiver
He needed a couple of cracks at it, but Britt finally got back to his old stomping grounds: the end zone. He could hardly have timed it better. His bobbled-and-recovered score brought the Titans level with the Steelers just 4:25 before the final gun.
Oakland Raiders at Atlanta Falcons
"If You Want Something Done Right, You've Got to Do It Yourself" Game Ball: Asante Samuel, Falcons cornerback
After Matt Ryan's three interceptions, someone was going to have to win the game for the Falcons. Cornerback Asante Samuel stepped up, picking off Raiders QB Carson Palmer and taking it to the house with just minutes left in the game.
The Raiders did answer the score before the Falcons went on to win it, but Samuel's pick-six was a massive play at a massive time for Atlanta.
Dallas Cowboys at Baltimore Ravens
"Of Course I Just Cut This Dude in my Fantasy League" Game Ball: Jacoby Jones, Ravens WR
I just, just cut Jones in my IDP/Dynasty fantasy league, so of course he scores a 108-yard kick return touchdown. You're welcome, Ravens fans, for the crucial, dramatic victory my cutting Jones enabled.
Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns
"Break on Through to the Other Side" Game Ball: Brandon Weeden, Browns quarterback
Though Weeden's been maligned by fans, opponents and media alike, the rookie signal-caller's also made some impressive plays. Until this week, it hadn't been enough to win, but his 17-of-29 passing performance netted 231 yards, two touchdowns, just one interception and—finally—a win.
St. Louis Rams at Miami Dolphins
"Mountain out of a Tannehill" Game Ball: Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins quarterback
The Dolphins had relied on running back Reggie Bush and, occasionally, their defense to net their first two wins. The 17-14 edging of the Rams this week, though, was all on their unheralded rookie quarterback.
Tannehill completed an efficient 21-of-29 for 185 yards and two touchdowns, on a day when Bush could only muster 12 yards on 17 carries.
Indianapolis Colts at New York Jets
"Now That's Big Ten Football" Game Ball: Shonn Greene, Hawkeyes/Jets running back
If you squinted your eyes (and/or went temporarily colorblind), you could have sworn the MetLife Stadium turf was really the corn-swept grass of Kinnick Stadium, and Shonn Greene was back to blasting his way through Big Ten defenses.
Greene's 32 carries for 161 powerful yards and three touchdowns was the kind of performance the Jets have expecting from him all along.
Detroit Lions at Philadelphia Eagles
"Thanks! I Needed That" Game Ball: Cliff Avril, Lions defensive end
The reeling 1-3 Lions had to go on the road to face a team loaded with explosive weapons: quarterback Mike Vick, receiver DeSean Jackson and running back LeSean McCoy. Avril, playing on a franchise tag after a contract year, needed a big game to stay on track for an offseason payday.
He helped shut down McCoy completely (14 carries for 22 yards), brought down Jackson on an end-around for a 14-yard loss and sacked Vick twice—including in overtime, helping kill the Eagles' only overtime possession and getting the Lions the win.
Kansas City Chiefs at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
"One More for Old Times' Sake" Game Ball: Ronde Barber, Buccaneers safety
There were plenty of Bucs who deserve game balls in the wake of a 38-10 thrashing of the Chiefs, but I'm giving the nod to apparently ageless defensive back Ronde Barber, whose incredible interception return for a touchdown was the day's second-most-unbelievable highlight.
Of course, the most unbelievable highlight was the Chiefs' only score, a blocked-punt-thrown-for-an-interception-return-for-a-touchdown, but Barber's six tackles, assist and great scoring play in a big win makes the choice easy.
Buffalo Bills at Arizona Cardinals
"What's Mine is Yours, or More Accurately What's Yours is Mine" Game Ball: Jairus Byrd, Bills safety
This 19-16 overtime slugfest won't make many shortlists for Game of the Week. In fact, it's more notable for what players didn't do (like Jay Feely's missed overtime field-goal attempt) than what they did (Feely's franchise-record 61-yard make earlier in the game).
It's only fitting, then, that Byrd take home the game ball for being on the other end of two game-killing Cardinals mistakes.
Seattle Seahawks at New England Patriots
"Living Well is the Best Revenge" Game Ball: Pete Carroll, Seahawks head coach
"I hadn’t even thought about that," lied Carroll, the Seahawks and former Patriots head coach. According to The News Tribune, Carroll said about beating the team that once fired him:
You know, that was a long time ago, and there have been a lot of games. I really love Robert Kraft, he’s a great man and he’s been great throughout the years about our separation, of sorts. I respect the heck out of him. But, I’m a competitor, and heck yeah I want to win against those guys.
Heck yeah he does. Who wouldn't?
New York Giants at San Francisco 49ers
"Jack Be Nimble, Jack Be Quick" Game Ball: Antrel Rolle, Giants safety
On a day when only four road teams won in the NFL—two of them needed overtime to do it—the Giants breezed into Candlestick and blew the 49ers out like nobody else in the Harbaugh era. Rolle's two interceptions on consecutive possessions helped seal the deal.
Minnesota Vikings at Washington Redskins
"Catch Me if You Can" Game Ball: Robert Griffin III, Redskins quarterback
Griffin and the Redskins hosted a stingy Vikings defense and simply ran all over them. Griffin was surgical through the air, completing 17 of his 22 passes for 182 yards, a touchdown and one interception.
But he was devastating on the ground, racking up 138 yards and two touchdowns, including a stunning 76-yarder, on just 13 carries.
Green Bay Packers at Houston Texans
"Championship Belt Double-Check" Game Ball: Aaron Rodgers, Packers quarterback
The previously unbeaten Houston Texans surely thought there'd be a passing of the torch on Sunday Night Football: from last season's MVP, Rodgers, and his 15-1 Packers to the home team at Reliant Stadium.
Instead, Rodgers reminded everyone why he has that trophy on his mantle. A career-high (and tied for a franchise record) six touchdowns led the Pack to a 42-24 blowout of the home favorites.
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