Handing Out Game Balls for Every Game After NFL Week 13
Like every other week, NFL Week 13 had several close games, and at least one player stood out in each game. This player, of course, gets the game ball.
Deciding this player isn't always so easy, though. Many games involve several huge performances, and it can be difficult deciding who contributed the most to his team's victory. Sometimes, like with Tony Romo and the Cowboys, it's a little easier.
Who were the 16 players in Week 13 who effectively gave their teams wins? They range from offense to defense, but they all have one thing in common.
New Orleans Saints vs. Atlanta Falcons
Game Ball: William Moore
In a game with no offensive stars, William Moore stood out. The Atlanta safety came up with two interceptions and 11 tackles in his contest against the Saints.
Drew Brees threw five interceptions and no touchdowns, so the Falcons clearly did something right defensively. Moore stands at the center of the team's defensive dominance.
Everyone knows that in order to beat the Saints, you must stop their offense. That's exactly what won the Falcons this game.
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Buffalo Bills
Game Ball: Fred Jackson
This was a game without any real dominance. Fred Jackson stands out the most, however, as the Bills leaned on him throughout the entire contest.
Jackson finished with 25 carries for 109 yards, and he added 10 more yards through the air. He didn't score any touchdowns, but he and C.J. Spiller were the focal points of Buffalo's offense.
This was a strong effort from Jackson, and he is without a doubt the most worthy candidate from the game.
Seattle Seahawks vs. Chicago Bears
Game Ball: Russell Wilson
As the Seahawks upset the Bears, Russell Wilson stood out as the main reason for the victory. The rookie quarterback completed 23 of his 37 passes for 293 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 104.9 quarterback rating. He added another 71 yards on the ground.
Wilson needed to come up big for the Seahawks in several situations, including overtime. Playing against a top-ranked defense, Wilson played better than anyone could have imagined.
Though Marshawn Lynch also had a good game, Wilson was the reason Seattle won.
Indianapolis Colts vs. Detroit Lions
Game Ball: Andrew Luck
It's obvious, even when Andrew Luck struggles, who makes the Indianapolis offense work. It starts and ends with the quarterback position.
Luck wasn't particularly great against the Lions, completing 24 of his 54 passes for 391 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions. Yet he led the Colts to 35 points.
There were a few other players who had decent games, but the Indianapolis offense would have been dormant without Luck.
He won the game on the last play, and he's the only reason the Colts had that last play in the first place.
Minnesota Vikings vs. Green Bay Packers
Game Ball: Morgan Burnett
Well, we can't give every Packers game ball to Aaron Rodgers, can we?
It's not often that a team rushes for 240 yards and scores just 14 points. Morgan Burnett was a big factor in causing Minnesota to do just that.
Burnett finished the game with two interceptions, seven tackles and three deflected passes. He terrorized Christian Ponder all game and helped Green Bay win despite modest offensive production.
This could have gone to Rodgers, of course, but Burnett's play stood out and helped the Packers win when their offense wasn't quite there.
Carolina Panthers vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Game Ball: Brady Quinn
Yeah, I wasn't really expecting this either.
Somehow, Brady Quinn turned in a superb performance against Carolina, completing 82.6 percent of his passes for 201 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He led Kansas City to a surprising 27 points.
Quinn played mistake-free football and was incredibly efficient. His play kept the ball moving for the Chiefs, allowing them to outgun Carolina.
Jamaal Charles also turned in a big game at running back, and he is worthy. However, this type of play from Quinn was more crucial to securing the victory.
New England Patriots vs. Miami Dolphins
Game Ball: Wes Welker
New England wasn't the offensive powerhouse we're accustomed to, but it still managed to beat a decent Miami team. Wes Welker, a former Dolphin, was key to the team's cause.
Welker reeled in 12 passes for 103 yards and a touchdown. He was a viable safety net for Tom Brady and racked up quite a bit of yardage.
Arguments can be made for Brady or Aaron Hernandez here, but Welker's sheer volume earns him the honor.
Arizona Cardinals vs. New York Jets
Game Ball: Jets defense
As a general rule, it's better to give a game ball to a single player, but I refuse to give this to a Jets offensive player, and no defenders really stood out. So it goes to the defense as a whole.
Against Arizona, New York allowed just 137 yards and six points. Cardinals quarterback Ryan Lindley completed just 10 of his 31 passes for 72 yards and an interception.
Here, Arizona's offense was unbelievably inept. This is probably mostly because of the unit's lack of skill, but the Jets should at least get some credit.
San Francisco 49ers vs. St. Louis Rams
Game Ball: James Laurinaitis
On the surface, this seems like a good game—10 tackles with nothing else—but it was much more than that. James Laurinaitis not only stood strong as St. Louis held the 49ers to just 13 points, but he also made one of the game's biggest plays.
In the third quarter, down 7-0, the Rams forced a Colin Kaepernick fumble when the young quarterback committed intentional grounding in the end zone. It was Laurinaitis who pressured Kaepernick into throwing the ball away.
This was a victory for the St. Louis defense, of which Laurinatis stands in the middle. He came through with one huge play and made an impact on several others.
Houston Texans vs. Tennessee Titans
Game Ball: J.J. Watt
Already in the midst of a beastly season, J.J. Watt just added to his Defensive Player of the Year résumé against the Titans.
Watt recorded five tackles (all solo), a sack, a forced fumble and two deflections. However, Watt's impact goes beyond the stats, as he also helped contain Chris Johnson, who ran for just 51 yards.
Offensively, no one did anything special for the Texans, and Watt was one of several to stand out on defense. As usual though, Watt made the biggest defensive impact, taking over the game multiple times.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Denver Broncos
Game Ball: Von Miller
Perhaps Peyton Manning did more to help the Broncos win, but Von Miller certainly had the more extraordinary game. And I'm going to take that as an excuse to give Miller the game ball.
Against Tampa Bay, Miller recorded six tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and a pick-six. So, yeah, he had a pretty good game.
It's rare for a defensive player to have such a wide impact, making plays in every aspect of the game. Miller was all over the place, and his defensive dominance was crucial as Denver coasted to victory.
Pittsburgh Steeelers vs. Baltimore Ravens
Game Ball: Charlie Batch
It's hard to believe, but Pittsburgh actually won a game with Charlie Batch at quarterback.
Even more shocking, Batch played well!
Batch completed 25 of his 36 passes for 276 yards and a touchdown. He wasn't brilliant by any means, but he was responsible for just one turnover and helped score some points against the Ravens.
In many ways, Pittsburgh's victory is probably a result of inept play from Baltimore. However, Batch's performance still earns him the game ball from the upset.
Cleveland Browns vs. Oakland Raiders
Game Ball: Brandon Weeden
As his two interceptions show, Brandon Weeden made some mistakes. In spite of this, however, Weeden still played fairly well, completing 25 of his 36 passes for 364 yards.
Weeden took some chances downfield, which led to the two picks, but some led to big plays for the Browns offense. Though Cleveland scored just 20 points, it played pretty well offensively.
Another candidate here was Josh Gordon, who caught six passes for 116 yards. However, Weeden made plays away from Gordon, and the quarterback contributed more to the team's victory.
Cincinnati Bengals vs. San Diego Chargers
Game Ball: Carlos Dunlap
Here, the Chargers scored just 13 points, allowing the Bengals to win despite not having a great offensive performance themselves.
Carlos Dunlap certainly didn't hurt the Bengals' defensive effort.
With two sacks, two forced fumbles and one recovered fumble, Dunlap clearly made a huge impact. He ruthlessly attacked Philip Rivers and was a frequent presence in the backfield.
A game like this is pretty rare, and Dunlap had the most dominant performance of any player on the Bengals.
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Dallas Cowboys
Game Ball: Tony Romo
In a nearly perfect game, Tony Romo was clearly the key player for Dallas. Romo completed a stunning 81.5 percent of his passes, throwing for 303 yards and three touchdowns.
Romo's excellent play led the Cowboys to 38 points, and they needed them all, as the Eagles put up 33 themselves. This was a Romo-driven game.
A few other players impressed for Dallas, but none dominated like Romo. He couldn't be stopped, and his play won the Cowboys a game that would have been embarrassing to lose.
New York Giants vs. Washington Redskins
Game Ball: Pierre Garcon
Surprisingly, this was a defensive battle between the Redskins and Giants, but one offensive player stood out for the Redskins. Surprisingly, he wasn't Robert Griffin.
Pierre Garcon accounted for 106 of Griffin's 163 passing yards, his touchdown, and eight of his 13 completions. So, it's pretty obvious that Garcon had a huge impact on Washington's offense.
The only other player to put up big numbers for the Redskins was Alfred Morris, who was certainly worthy as well. Garcon's huge impact on Washington's passing attack made the difference, though, securing him the game ball.