Breaking Down the Pivotal Moments of NFL Week 12
The NFL season has reached another milepost, as Thanksgiving week has come and gone.
While Week 12 didn't have the high level of insanity of the previous week, there were a number of incredible plays that turned key games one way or another.
With five weeks left in the NFL season, the playoff races are beginning to take shape.
But before we move on to Week 13, here's a look back at the pivotal plays that shaped Week 12.
Justin Forsett's Spin Move and Jim Schwartz's Penalty
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You know a rule doesn't make any sense when the powers that be seriously discuss changing it right in the middle of the season.
Because the play happened on Thanksgiving, fans gave had a few days to digest just what happened.
At first glance, the Texans Justin Forsett looked to spin out of a tackle and break free for an 81-yard touchdown run. There was no whistle on the play, but many Lions stopped or hesitated in chasing down Forsett as he continued towards the end zone.
Replays clearly showed Forsett's knee graze the ground as he spun out of the tackle, so Lions coach Jim Schwartz threw his challenge flag.
Only problem was that the play was going to be automatically reviewed because it was a scoring play.
While all coaches and players should know that all scoring plays are reviewed, what took some people by surprise were the ramifications of Schwartz throwing the flag. By throwing his challenge flag on the score, it negated the automatic challenge, and the Lions were penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct. So even though every knew it wasn't a touchdown, the referees weren't allowed to reverse it.
It was a huge play in the 34-31 overtime win and ultimately could have been the final nail in the Lions season.
Even if the rule doesn't make much sense, it is a rule and it's Schwartz's responsibility to know it. Even if he didn't know that there was a penalty for throwing the flag when he wasn't supposed to, he should have known that all scoring plays are reviewed.
Schwartz's overreaction contributed to the Lions loss but may in turn contribute to the rule change going into next year.
Brandon Moore's Backside Causes Mark Sanchez Fumble
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After a scoreless first quarter, the Patriots broke on top with two quick touchdowns in the second quarter. Even at 14-0, the game was still in reach for the Jets. They had been running the ball well, and if not for a Mark Sanchez interception inside the 20-yard line, the Jets would have actually had a lead.
However, the game turned sour for the Jets incredibly fast.
On the Jets' second play after Shane Vereen's 83-yard touchdown gave New England the two-touchdown advantage, the game effectively ended for New York.
There was a miscommunication between Sanchez and his running backs that forced Sanchez to keep the ball himself. He ran right and actually had an opening to make a positive play.
However, he ran into the backside of his right guard Brandon Moore and fumbled. Patriots defensive back Steve Gregory picked up the ball and ran it in for a touchdown to make it 21-0.
NBC color man Cris Collinsworth claimed at the time of the play (and then multiple times throughout the game) that Vince Wilfork picked up Moore and threw him into Sanchez, causing the fumble.
However, as the replay clearly shows, Moore actually pushes Wilfork back two yards before he is able to stand Moore up straight. It wasn't Moore who was thrown into Sanchez; it was Sanchez who somehow didn't see Moore and ran right into him.
It was only then that Moore fell to the ground, making it seem that Wilfork did the damage.
Either way, the semantics of how the play unfolded didn't matter. What did matter was that there was a fumble, and Steve Gregory picked it up and ran it in for a touchdown to put the game out of reach.
The Pats would score another touchdown just seconds later and the rout was on.
However, if the Jets could have maintained possession and even just put up a field goal, the course of the game could have been much different.
Ravens Convert 4th-and-29
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Trailing 13-10 at the two-minute warning, the Ravens faced a near-impossible 4th-and-29. All the Chargers had to do was make sure they didn't get beat deep and, if the Ravens were crazy enough to throw something short, just make a simple tackle.
When Joe Flacco's initial deep reads were covered, he had no choice but to dump off a pass to Ray Rice.
Rice caught the ball at the numbers on his own 37-yard line. He broke right, but as he crossed midfield, he looked to be surrounded by four Chargers.
However, Marcus Gilchrist took a bad angle on Rice, allowing him to cut back towards the middle of the field. He needed to get to the Chargers 34-yard line, but looked to be running out of room as he approached the 40.
That was when Anquan Boldin came back and threw a devastating block on Eric Weddle that should have been called a block in the back. However, no penalty was called.
The block allowed Rice to knife between Antoine Cason and Quentin Jammer and lunge for the most incredible 4th-and-29 conversion you will see all year.
The Ravens were able to gain 14 more yards to get themselves down to the Chargers 20-yard line for a field goal to send the game to overtime.
Justin Tucker then converted the game-winning field goal with 1:07 left in overtime for the incredible Ravens win.
Tampa Bay Doesn't Capitalize on Huge Turnover
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The back-and-forth affair was a well-played contest and featured a number of plays that could have been considered the turning point of the game.
Julio Jones 80-yard touchdown reception has gotten much of the recognition, but looking back on things, the game was sealed a couple of drives later.
The Falcons started the fourth quarter with the ball on their own 20-yard line and down 20-17.
Matt Ryan advanced them to their own 44-yard line and faced a 3rd-and-1 to keep the drive going. However, E.J. Biggers came up with a sack and forced fumble, allowing the Bucs to take over at the Falcons' 36-yard line.
This is the exact point in the game that will have the Bucs kicking themselves.
With great field position and an opportunity to expand their lead to two scores, the Bucs offense instead sputtered, and they had to settle for a Connor Barth field goal and a six-point lead.
This left the door open for the Falcons, who took advantage with a Michael Turner touchdown run to take a 24-23 lead.
If the Bucs could have punched in just one more touchdown, they would have opened a 10-point lead and made the mountain much steeper for the Falcons to climb.
Instead, it ended up being another close win for the Falcons, who moved to 10-1.
Donte Whitner's Pick-Six
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Perhaps the most visually stunning and scary play of Week 12 was also a pivotal moment in the game between the 49ers and Saints.
The 49ers took a 21-14 lead with a touchdown on their first drive of the second half.
Drew Brees and the Saints started the ensuing drive on their own 30-yard line, and even against the 49ers' tough defense, the Saints were going to be a threat to answer the score.
However, Brees was sacked on first down and tried to convert a 2nd-and-18 in one shot with a deep pass to Marques Colston.
Brees' throw was high, causing Colston to leap for the ball right at the 40-yard line. Colston got just enough of his fingertips on the ball to slow it down as Dashon Goldson came flying underneath him.
The hit submarined Colston, causing him to flip and land awkwardly on his head. Because the ball was tipped, 49ers defensive back Donte Whitner was able to step in for the juggling interception.
As if that wasn't enough, Whitner raced up the left side and, with the help from a key block by Ray McDonald, was able to return the pick for a touchdown.
The touchdown helped turn what was a tie game at halftime into a two-touchdown lead for the 49ers just 3:30 later.
The 49ers would go on to add just one more field goal the rest of the game, but their defense was good enough to make sure the Saints never really threatened in the second half.
Dwight Lowery's Interception Is a Dagger to the Titans
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How about some love for the Jacksonville Jaguars?
For the first time since Week 3, the Jaguars were able to get into the win column with a 24-19 home victory over the Tennessee Titans.
The Jaguars led for most of the game, and when Chad Henne hit Justin Blackmon for a seven-yard touchdown with seven minutes left to give the Jags a nine-point lead, things looked great.
However, the Titans answered quickly with a Jake Locker to Kenny Britt touchdown to make the score 21-19.
Then, when the Titans forced a quick three-and-out and took over possession at their own 37 down just two points with 3:28 to play, you couldn't fault Jags fans from thinking that they were about to witness another crushing defeat.
That's when Russell Allen and Dwight Lowery teamed up for an incredibly acrobatic play.
Locker fired towards what appeared to be an open receiver streaking down the seam. However, Allen leaped high off the ground and tipped the pass in Lowery's direction. Lowery then made a diving grab of the fluttering ball to give the Jags possession with 2:40 left.
The Jaguars were able to tack on a field goal while running out the clock for their second win of the year, while dealing a serious blow to any playoff hopes the Titans were harboring.
One Final Fumble Seals the Steelers Fate
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It certainly wasn't pretty, but the Cleveland Browns are in no position to apologize for any victory they get.
Especially when it comes to a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Browns took a 20-14 lead late in the third quarter and then put the game in the hands of their defense. The Steelers had five drives in the fourth quarter and four of them ended in turnovers. The real back-breaker came with 2:36 left in the game.
The Browns' offense got the ball back with 3:00 left in the game, but failed to run out the clock and had to punt back to the Steelers.
Even though the Browns defense had been playing well all game, fans couldn't be too confident that they'd be able to hang on for the win against the Steelers. However, on the first play after the punt, Pittsburgh running back Chris Rainey fumbled the ball right back to the Browns.
From there, the Browns were then able to wind down the clock and secure their third win of the year.