The Biggest Game-Changing Plays of Wild Card Weekend

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistJanuary 7, 2013

The Biggest Game-Changing Plays of Wild Card Weekend

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    The Wild Card Round of the 2012 NFL playoffs passed rather quickly, but it left us with some jaw-dropping plays that changed the course of each game. 

    It takes a single play to drastically alter the course of a game in the NFL, and Wild Card Weekend was no exception. Whether it was a timely touchdown or a horrible mistake, the opening playoff weekend's games did not disappoint. 

    In the following slideshow, we will break down the biggest game-changing plays from Wild Card Weekend and rank them based on their impact on the outcome.

10. Johnathan Joseph Intercepts Andy Dalton

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    The Cincinnati Bengals were down just six points late in the third quarter when a former member of the Bengals, Houston Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph, elected to take the game into his own hands. 

    Joseph picked off a Dalton pass intended for A.J. Green, who was not ready for the pass or simply did not see it. 

    The Texans would go on to extend the lead and put the Bengals away. A simple miscommunication like this capitalized on by a more experienced team is exactly why the Bengals will be watching from their couches next week as the the Texans play on into the postseason. 

9. DuJuan Harris Starts the Scoring for the Green Bay Packers

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    Believe it or not, the Minnesota Vikings actually had a lead on the Green Bay Packers at one point during their wild-card matchup. 

    That ended quickly near the end of the first quarter, when running back DuJuan Harris made a beautiful cut and scored a nine-yard touchdown for Green Bay. 

    The Packers never looked back from the lead Harris gave them, and they wound up winning 24-10. 

8. Leon Hall Intercepts Matt Schaub

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    The Cincinnati Bengals found themselves down 6-0 in Houston in what was beginning to look like a repeat of the Bengals defeat a year ago in the Wild Card Round. 

    Bengals cornerback Leon Hall then changed the course of the game in a moment's notice. 

    Hall jumped a Matt Schaub pass into the flats, intercepted it and returned it the short distance for a touchdown. 

    That was the only touchdown Cincinnati would score on the day. While the Bengals would ultimately lose the game, Hall's interception made it a competitive one the rest of the way because his offense certainly was not going to score anything. 

7. A.J. Green Drops a Touchdown in the Fourth Quarter

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    With the Cincinnati Bengals down nine points in the fourth quarter, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton attempted to force a pass to his favorite target, A.J. Green. 

    To Green's credit, he elevated over Houston defenders Kareem Jackson and Johnathan Joseph and reeled the pass in on his way to the ground in the end zone. 

    The only problem? Green lost the ball when he hit the ground. 

    It is rare that Green drops a pass, but this one hurt. Cincinnati was in the midst of a great drive and could have snuck within two points with the game winding down. 

    Instead, the Bengals ended up losing by six points. 

6. John Kuhn Puts the Game Away in the Second Quarter

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    With his team already up 10-3 and about to head into halftime, Green Bay Packers fullback John Kuhn decided he was not satisfied with the point differential.

    Kuhn took a handoff from quarterback Aaron Rodgers and rumbled into the end zone to make the score 17-3 at the half. 

    There is a huge difference between a seven-point deficit and a 14-point deficit coming out of the tunnel to start the second half, especially with the Packers receiving the kickoff following the intermission. Kuhn made sure the Vikings were buried before they had a chance to fight back. 

5. Vinatieri Misses a Crucial Kick for the Colts

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    Adam Vinatieri is a seasoned veteran on a team experiencing a youth movement, so there is no excuse for him to be making mistakes in the playoffs. 

    The Indianapolis Colts kicker did just that with his team down just eight points in the fourth quarter to the Baltimore Ravens. 

    Vinatieri whiffed on what should have been a simple 40-yard attempt, which would have put the Colts within five points. 

    The Colts struggled all day to move the ball, but Vinatieri narrowing the margin could have changed the course of the game. 

    Instead, the young Colts squad ended up losing by a wide margin, 24-9. 

4. Dennis Pitta Catches a 20-Yard Touchdown To Put Away the Colts

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    The Baltimore Ravens were clinging to a six-point lead over the Indianapolis Colts at home before quarterback Joe Flacco found tight end Dennis Pitta for a 20-yard touchdown. 

    To that point, the Ravens had allowed the Colts to hang around. The touchdown quickly ended things for Indianapolis. 

    Flacco only completed 12 passes on the day, but he was bailed out by Pitta, who turned the reception upfield and broke through defenders to eventually score. 

    Sometimes, a simple play is all that's needed to win a game. That was the case here, as the Colts were never able to catch up after this point. 

3. Andy Dalton Overthrows A.J. Green in the Fourth Quarter

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    Down only six points in the fourth quarter with under three minutes to go, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton launched a pass to a wide-open A.J. Green headed for the end zone. 

    Green had a step on both defenders and would have reeled the pass in with ease had it been accurate. The Bengals would have gone up by one point, pending the extra-point attempt. 

    With how great the Cincinnati defense had played all game, Cincinnati may have gone on to win the game had this connection been made.

    Instead, Green, Dalton and Co. are headed home because of a game-changing play they failed to execute properly. 

2. Robert Griffin III Loses the Ball After Suffering an Injury in the Fourth

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    The Washington Redskins coaching staff allowed rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III to remain in the game despite visible discomfort from a knee injury he suffered weeks ago. 

    The decision ended up losing more than the game for the Redskins. Griffin lost an erratic snap and was unable to recover the fumble as his knee gave out. 

    Griffin had to be helped from the field, and the Seahawks would proceed to kick a field goal from close range to make their lead 10 points. 

    Instead of having a chance to tie the game, the Redskins allowed the Seahawks to put it away with ease. Seattle went on to win, 24-14. 

1. Marshawn Lynch Rumbles for a 27-Yard Touchdown To Finish the Redskins

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    The Seattle Seahawks and Washington Redskins played down to the wire in the fourth quarter of their wild-card matchup. 

    The defining moment of the game came with about seven minuets left. Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, known for his big postseason plays, took a handoff and barreled through the Washington defense to score a 27-yard touchdown. 

    Lynch's touchdown marked the first time Seattle held the lead all game, and the Seahawks never looked back. 

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