Throughout the history of the NFL, we have seen players overcome pain, sickness and heartache in order to put together a performance that could only be labeled "gutsy." These 11 players risked everything for the game they loved, and they will forever be remembered for it.
From broken bones to punctured lungs and everything in between, here are the 11 gutsiest performances in NFL history.
It must be the worst feeling in the world to be a quarterback and know that nearly every time you drop back to throw a pass, you are going to get sacked.
That was the exact feeling that David Carr felt during the entire 2002 season. The 76 sacks that he felt that season is a record that is likely to never fall; he was sacked on average about five times per game. To show just how extreme that is, seven quarterbacks have been sacked less than five times in the first three games of the current season.
Even though Carr never had to deal with a major injury, he still endured a season-long torture that no quarterback will ever know again. His gutsy performance lasted 16 games and absolutely deserves a spot on this list.
As the top overall draft pick in the 2009 NFL draft, expectations were high for Matthew Stafford.
It was a late November game during his rookie season when Stafford showed exactly the kind of player he is. With his team down, Stafford came back onto the field after separating his shoulder on the previous play. No, not even the team doctors could reason with him.
He would throw his fifth touchdown pass of the game on that play, which just happened to be a game-winner. Yes, it was only one play, and yes, it was stupid, but it was also gutsy, and it was exactly what the Detroit Lions franchise needed.
Earlier this year, with practically the entire nation ragging on Tony Romo, he did something so gutsy that it is still hard to believe.
After a hard hit by Ahmad Brooks of the San Francisco 49ers early in the first quarter, Romo stayed in the game until the end of the first half. During halftime, it was discovered that he had a broken rib. Romo sat out the majority of the third quarter but came back in during the fourth quarter and led his team to victory in overtime.
It became clear later that not only had Romo broken a rib, but he had also punctured a lung. He was able to silence his critics for at least one game after this gutsy performance.
Had the game that Donovan McNabb broken his ankle in been more relevant, he would have ranked much higher on this list.
During Week 11 of the 2002 season, McNabb was tackled to the ground and came up holding his ankle. At first, it was thought to simply be a sprain. However, an X-ray after the game showed that it was indeed a broken ankle. In fact, it was broken in three places.
When McNabb came back to the field, he had one of the best games of his career. He had over 250 yards passing with four touchdowns while completing 80 percent of his passes.
There are a few things that make Terrell Davis' performance in Super Bowl XXXII incredible.
First, Davis was suffering through terrible migraines, which are extremely crippling. These migraines were so bad that he was forced to sit out the entire second quarter of the game.
While the fact that Davis came back at all is extremely gutsy, what he did when he was back on the field was the incredible part: He went on to rush for 157 yards and three touchdowns while winning Super Bowl MVP.
Few players would have been able to stand with migraines, much less rush for over 150 yards in the most important game of their career. Kudos to you, Mr. Davis.
We all know the story of Ronnie Lott amputating his finger, but every time we hear it, we still can't believe it. I mean, just think about cutting off the tip of your finger just to go back to your job. It's unbelievable to even think about.
However, it is absolutely true and proves just how gutsy of a player Lott was during his NFL career.
Having the ligaments that basically allow you to walk be torn to pieces must make the simple task of walking rather difficult and painful. Now imagine what it would be like to play football on a torn ACL.
Well, Philip Rivers knows exactly what that feels like, since that is exactly what he did during the 2007 AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots. He tore it in the previous game but wasn't going to let it stop him from playing in the biggest game of his life.
Unfortunately, Rivers lost the game to the Patriots, but his gutsy performance is one for the history books.
During the 1981 AFC playoffs, a game was played between the San Diego Chargers and the Miami Dolphins is now referred to as "The Epic in Miami."
What made this game so epic was a combination of a hard-fought battle and one of the single greatest individual performances in a game in NFL history. Kellen Winslow had 13 receptions for 166 yards and a touchdown. While those statistics don't scream epic, it was the ailments that Winslow was dealing with that make his performance one of a kind.
Throughout this game, Winslow endured a pinched nerve in his shoulder, dehydration, severe cramps and three stitches in his lower lip. He was so weak following the game that his teammates literally had to carry him off the field.
Winslow's performance of enduring whatever was thrown at him is easily one of the gutsiest performances in NFL history.
The image of Brett Favre running around like a child during a Monday Night Football game against the Oakland Raiders just a day after his father passed away is an image that is forever ingrained in our minds.
Thankfully, I've never had to experience my father passing away, so I can't even imagine what Favre was dealing with. However, when he stepped onto that football field, he put together a career performance. He threw four first-half touchdowns and ended the game with 399 yards.
His quarterback rating was a ridiculous 154.9—just a few points shy of perfection.
What made this performance all the more touching was that it was in front of a national audience where Favre couldn't hide his emotions.
From one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, this performance belongs in the history books.
As the NFL's all-time leading rusher, Emmitt Smith put together some incredible performances during his career. However, none compare to the season finale of the 1993 season.
During the game against the New York Giants, Smith took a hit and walked off the field with a separated shoulder. It wasn't long before Smith was back on the field, finishing the game with only one good arm.
The performance might not have been so gutsy if the player coming back played another position, but Smith was a running back, and the Dallas Cowboys pounded the ball with him. He took hit after hit after hit but still carried the ball and finished the game with 168 rushing yards and 10 receptions.
It was hard to not give Emmitt Smith the gutsiest performance in NFL history, but he will have to settle for second place because of this man...
Known simply as the "John Wayne of football," Jack Youngblood did something during the 1979 playoffs that is nearly unbelievable.
After suffering a broken fibula in his left leg, Youngblood came back onto the field and played the rest of the playoffs and the Super Bowl with a broken leg. He didn't just stand in one place either, as he was a vital part of the Los Angeles Rams' defense throughout this important stretch of games.
His team fell short in the Super Bowl against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but Youngblood playing on a broken leg will forever be remembered as the gutsiest performance in NFL history.