Handing Out Game Balls for Every Game After NFL Week 14
Week 14 of the 2012 NFL season brought us some dominant performances and some pretty terrible ones. There were 58-0 blowouts and 17-10 snooze-fests. For each game, though, a game ball needs to be awarded.
The qualification for a game ball is simple: The player who contributed the most to his team's victory gets the ball.
It can often be difficult to pinpoint one player, but other times, it is obvious.
This week, there were some tough decisions and some easy ones. Every game, though, had one player who will be eternally enshrined for leading his team to victory.
Denver Broncos vs. Oakland Raiders
Game Ball: Peyton Manning
This wasn't an incredible game from Manning, but he was clearly the driving factor in Denver's win over the Raiders. With 310 yards, he contributed to plenty of offense.
Manning threw for just one touchdown, but he was responsible—directly or otherwise—for the majority of the Broncos' offensive movement. Despite doing nothing brilliant, Manning was the key here.
Knowshon Moreno also had a big game, but he wasn't as crucial to Denver's success as Manning was.
St. Louis Rams vs. Buffalo Bills
Game Ball: Brandon Gibson
The only Rams player to have a really big game, Brandon Gibson is the most deserving here. His six catches and 100 yards were crucial, as Gibson was responsible for nearly half of the Rams' passing offense.
Gibson also came down with the game-winning touchdown in the final minute of regulation. Even without the rest of his performance, that would put him in game-ball consideration.
On defense, Michael Brockers had an excellent game, picking up 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble. His impact didn't exceed Gibson's, however.
Atlanta Falcons vs. Carolina Panthers
Game Ball: Cam Newton
With 403 total yards and three touchdowns, Newton is the clear recipient here. His brilliant performance propelled the underdog Panthers over the previously 11-1 Falcons.
Newton was efficient throwing the ball, completing 23 of his 35 passes for 287 yards.
His performance on the ground was also crucial, though.
Carolina put up 30 points here, with Newton contributing almost all of the team's offense. No other player even warranted consideration with Newton in the picture.
Dallas Cowboys vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Game Ball: Anthony Spencer
In this game, not a single Cowboy really came through with a standout, game-winning performance, so Spencer wins the honor with his two-sack day.
Spencer came through with 11 tackles in addition to his two sacks, finishing with an excellent game. It may not ordinarily be game-ball-worthy, but in this game, it was the closest there was.
Though there's no denying that Spencer had a good game, he won because of the lack of standout performances, not his own dominance.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Cleveland Browns
Game Ball: Travis Benjamin
This is a little odd since Benjamin had just one big play, but it really was a huge one.
In the second quarter, with the score 7-3 in Kansas City's favor, Benjamin returned a punt 93 yards for a touchdown, showcasing brilliant speed, burst and quickness in the process. This gave Cleveland the lead, and the Chiefs never scored again.
Benjamin also had a 15-yard run for the Browns, but his punt return was crucial. The game was still in the balance at the time, and it served to solidify a third straight Cleveland victory.
An argument could also be made for Brandon Weeden and Josh Gordon, who were key pieces in the Browns' offensive success.
Tennessee Titans vs. Indianapolis Colts
Game Ball: Cassius Vaughn
Probably not who you expected, right? I mean, who is Cassius Vaughn anyway?
Well, Vaughn is the guy who finished against the Titans with eight tackles and an interception. For a touchdown. In a 27-23 victory, that is pretty relevant.
Indianapolis' offense wasn't at its best here, and Vaughn stepped up in a big way. His performance won the Colts this game.
That's the definition of game-ball-worthy.
New York Jets vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Game Ball: Bilal Powell
No one from this monstrosity of a game deserves a game ball. One has to be given out, though, and since Powell had the most non-passing yards, he gets it.
With 78 yards and a touchdown, Powell certainly didn't do anything special. Of everyone on New York's offense, he was the most impressive, however.
On defense, no one stood out either. A couple players had interceptions, and a couple had sacks. But no one strung enough together to be worthy.
Chicago Bears vs. Minnesota Vikings
Game Ball: Adrian Peterson
Big surprise here, right?
Adrian Peterson once again went off for a huge game, this time rushing for 154 yards and two touchdowns. He is essentially the entire Minnesota offense. He had 63 more yards rushing than quarterback Christian Ponder had throwing.
Chicago could do nothing to stop Peterson, and he was quite clearly the primary reason for the Vikings' relative offensive success. Without him, Minnesota's offense would have been useless.
Though Harrison Smith had a 56-yard pick-six, Peterson is the clear winner here. No one else came close to his dominance.
San Diego Chargers vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Game Ball: Danario Alexander
In a rare solid victory for the 2012 Chargers, Danario Alexander went off. His seven receptions, 88 yards and two touchdowns were key to the team's victory.
Philip Rivers was moderately successful, but much of that was because of Alexander. The young wideout dominated Pittsburgh's secondary, physically outmatching the entire unit.
The only other option here was Rivers, but Alexander's game was much more impressive, and Rivers' success was directly related to Alexander's performance.
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Game Ball: Nick Foles
Even as Foles faced the NFL's worst pass defense, not many expected this. Completing 32 of 51 passes for 381 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions is pretty impressive for anyone, much less a struggling third-round rookie.
Winning its first game in over two months, Philadelphia relied on Foles, as its rushing attack was completely nonexistent. Fortunately, Foles was there to lead the Eagles to 23 points.
No other Eagle had near the same impact Foles did. The rookie quarterback was the leader in the team's victory.
Baltimore Ravens vs. Washington Redskins
Game Ball: Alfred Morris
This could have easily gone to Robert Griffin III, and some may have even given it to Kirk Cousins, but Alfred Morris was the real driving force behind Washington's victory.
With 23 carries for 122 yards, Morris was a constant presence in the Redskins' victory over Baltimore. The Ravens couldn't stop him, as Morris successfully pounded the rock all game long.
This was a superb performance from the rookie runner, and he was the most important player in the victory. It's been a fantastic season for Morris, and this game just added to it.
Miami Dolphins vs. San Francisco 49ers
Game Ball: Colin Kaepernick
It's tough to give this to anyone, as no one really stood out, but Kaepernick is the most deserving. Kaepernick combined for 238 yards and a touchdown, displaying remarkable efficiency throwing the ball.
The recently-named starter completed 18 of 23 passes for 185 yards—an impressive mark for sure.
His overall numbers weren't incredible, but Kaepernick led the team's offense to 27 points and the easy victory.
This wasn't a standout game by any means, but it was solid and the single most important factor to the 49ers' win.
New Orleans Saints vs. New York Giants
Game Ball: David Wilson
Wilson hasn't seen the field too much in 2012, but he certainly showed up here. With 100 yards and two touchdowns on just 13 carries, Wilson was explosive and efficient on offense.
But his impact wasn't just limited to offensive dominance. He also scored when he took a kickoff back 97 yards for a touchdown. The rookie quite clearly was a problem for the Saints.
Several other players had big games for the Giants. Eli Manning threw four touchdowns, and Victor Cruz caught eight passes for 121 yards. Yet no one else made nearly the same impact Wilson did.
Arizona Cardinals vs. Seattle Seahawks
Game Ball: Marshawn Lynch
It's rare that a player makes quite this huge of an impact on so few touches. With just 11 carries, Lynch rushed for 128 yards and three touchdowns.
Any time there's a score of 58-0, more than one player had a huge game. However, Lynch dominated early, helping Seattle get off to a huge start. And no other offensive player was nearly as dominant statistically.
The Seahawks defense was also fantastic, but no single player stood out as much as Lynch did on offense. This was a team effort, and Lynch was just one part of it.
He was still pretty incredible, though.
Detroit Lions vs. Green Bay Packers
Game Ball: Randall Cobb
I really didn't know who to give this to.
Cobb had a good game, catching seven passes for 102 yards, but it wasn't anything incredible—especially considering the lack of a touchdown. He was, however, the only player to put up even above-average numbers for the Packers.
Aaron Rodgers struggled some, and his stats were far from impressive. The Green Bay defense put together a solid overall effort as well, but no player stood out above the rest.
Here, Cobb was the only player to really put together a game of note. So even though it wasn't a "wow" performance, it earns him the game ball.
Houston Texans vs. New England Patriots
Game Ball: Tom Brady
In a game that was all Patriots, Tom Brady stood out as the driving force behind a 42-point offensive effort. Brady hasn't been as statistically-dominant as usual this year, but this was a fantastic performance.
Completing 21 of his 35 passes for 296 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions, Brady tore apart the Houston secondary. The Texans could do nothing to stop him.
A few Patriots put together solid performances, but no others stood out as brilliant. This was all Brady, and he was without a doubt the reason New England won by such an enormous margin.