Bleacher Report's NFL Awards Week 14: Handing out Hardware
Another NFL Sunday is in the books, and now it's time hand out the awards for the action that took place in Week 14.
There was a lot to like about the games throughout the day, which included some late heroics, close finishes and some remarkable playmaking.
In addition to the standard awards recognizing the best and worst players and games of the week, this week's awards will recognize some special kicking, most painful hit and most untimely drop of the week.
Game of the Week: Houston Texans vs. Cincinnati Bengals
There were a lot of great games this week, which is a big part on why the honorable mention section is so full, but the cream of the crop is the Houston Texans 20-19 win over the Cincinnati Bengals.
Down by six points late, rookie quarterback T.J. Yates led a terrific drive down the field. He completed long passes to Owen Daniels and Kevin Walter, along with a nice 17-yard rush put them in scoring range (a pass interference call on Adam "Pac-Man" Jones helped too).
With only seconds left in the game, Yates connected with Walter for a six-yard touchdown pass, giving the Texans the big win. Even more special for Yates, a small contingent from his family were in attendance (albeit in the worst seats possible).
The win also secured the franchise's first ever division title and playoff appearance.
Honorable Mention: Denver Broncos vs. Chicago Bears, New Orleans Saints vs. Tennessee Titans, New York Giants vs. Dallas Cowboys
Stinker Game of the Week: Green Bay Packers vs. Oakland Raiders
Games are fun to watch when both teams are competitive. The Oakland Raiders Sunday were not against the Green Bay Packers.
The Raiders struggled in all facets of the game, and for a team that's desperate to keep up with the Denver Broncos for a shot at the AFC West, that's a darn shame.
"Nice Catch, Guy!" Award: Charles Tillman
Making the sideline catch, Tillman was able to keep both feet in before falling out of bounds smoothly.
While there's some question on whether the interception should have been waved off (Tillman was touching an out-of-bounds player), there's no doubt it was a sensational play.
Fake-out of the Week: Brandon Banks, Santana Moss
The Washington Redskins were on the verge of a big upset Sunday against the New England Patriots, and they got a big boost with this pass from wide receiver Brandon Banks to wide receiver Santana Moss.
Taking the reverse pitch from running back Roy Helu, Banks threw a lengthy pass to an open Moss. Moss was then able to burn his defender for the nice 49-yard score.
Despite these fireworks, the Redskins would fall 34-27.
Almost fake-out of the week: David Akers and Andy Lee, whose sweet fake-out was blown dead for a challenge of the previous play.
Read of the Week: Chuck Klosterman
There's been a lot of ink spent (in print and digitally) in talking about the Denver Broncos' Tim Tebow, so it says a lot that this piece from Grantland's Chuck Klosterman is some next-level analysis of arguably most the polarizing man in sports.
Comparing the faith people have in Tim Tebow to the religious faith which plays a big part in both Tebow's and his fans' lives, Klosterman creates the outline on why people feel the way they do about Tebow and his major success this year as a starter:
"This "Tebow Thing" is different. On one pole, you have people who hate him because he's too much of an in-your-face good person, which makes very little sense; at the other pole, you have people who love him because he succeeds at his job while being uniquely unskilled at its traditional requirements, which seems almost as weird. Equally bizarre is the way both groups perceive themselves as the oppressed minority who are fighting against dominant public opinion, although I suppose that has become the way most Americans go through life."
Also read: This New Yorker profile of ESPN commentator and Super Bowl-winning head coach Jon Gruden. Or should I say...I like this guy.
Upset of the Week: Arizona Cardinals vs. San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers may have locked up the NFC West title and a spot in the playoffs, but I'm sure they were counting on a safe win against the Arizona Cardinals Sunday.
The Cardinals, however, had different plans.
Quarterback John Skelton, replacing an injured Kevin Kolb, led three nice touchdown drives, and the defense did enough to stop the Niners (particularly in the red zone). The Cardinals would win 21-19.
While the Cardinals (and Seattle Seahawks) are admittedly long-shots for getting a wild-card bid, they have ensured that their window of opportunity has not closed.
Celebration of the Week: Rob Gronkowski
Tight end Rob Gronkowski has been a huge part of the New England Patriots offense this season, and that contribution has been mostly seen in the red zone.
Sunday was the culmination of some great play, as an early touchdown gave him the record for most receiving touchdowns by a tight end. Celebrating the score, Gronkowski spiked the ball down, sending the ball in the air.
Immediately after this spike, however, Gronkowski realized that he (or the Hall of Fame) might want the ball, he quickly scurried to recover the spiked ball before heading to the sideline.
He got the ball back, and we got the best celebration of the week.
Cold as Ice Award: Dan Bailey
The numbers suggest that icing a kicker with a timeout doesn't work. Except when it does.
The past two weeks, Dallas Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey has found himself iced in critical late game kicks. The outcome is the same.
The first kick (blown dead from a timeout) goes through the uprights perfectly. However, the second kick has a knack for not finding its way in.
In Bailey's case Sunday, his last-second kick was blocked by the New York Giants Jason Pierre-Paul.
While it's tough to put the blame for the losses on Bailey, opposing coaches may have picked up an idea or two on how to best handle late-game pressure kicks.
"Can I Kick It?" Award: Matt Prater, Robbie Gould
There's something special about kicking at Mile High, and kickers Matt Prater and Robbie Gould put on quite a show Sunday.
The Chicago Bears' Gould connected on a 57-yard field goal, while the Broncos Prater drove in kicks from 51 and 59 yards out.
In Prater's case, the two kicks were crucial, as the Broncos were able to take the big 13-10 lead and take the AFC West lead.
Ending on a High Note Award: Eli Manning
The New York Giants needed a big boost to recover from both a four-game losing streak and a late deficit Sunday to the Dallas Cowboys. They got a big boost from its quarterback Eli Manning.
Down 12 points with less than six minutes to play, Manning led two major touchdown drives to give the Giants the win.
While the win was dramatic, the poise Manning showed during the run was even more impressive. After a crucial drop from wide receiver Mario Manningham, Manning calmly organized the offense and picked up an important first down.
The Giants now have a tie for the lead in the NFC East, and if they can see this kind of play from Manning to end the season, they may be able to win the division.
Ending on a Low Note Award: Jake Locker
Tennessee Titans rookie quarterback Jake Locker had a great game Sunday filling in for veteran Matt Hasselbeck, but unfortunately he couldn't finish it out in the team's last-second drive against the New Orleans Saints.
With one play left in the game to move the ball near the Saints goal line, Locker rolled right before seeing all of his receiving targets covered. Instead of throwing the ball up to try for a score, he froze, allowing the Saints defense to sack him to end the game.
The Titans would lose 22-17.
Missed Call of the Week: Joe Webb
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Joe Webb was sensational filling in for Christian Ponder Sunday against the Detroit Lions, and may have been the hero had it not been for a confusing missed call at the end of the game.
With the Vikings on the goal line, Webb rolled to the left, before being met by the Lions DeAndre Levy. Levy made a reach high on Webb, and it appeared he grabbed his face mask. However, no flag was thrown.
Webb, with his head spun as though he was in the movie The Exorcist, fumbled the ball and ended both the Vikings' scoring opportunity and the game.
The Lions won 34-28.
Vent Award: Tom Brady
It's about the time of year for the pseudo-holiday Festivus, and the New England Patriots' Tom Brady was made into a spectacle Sunday with his airing of grievances about his offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien.
The argument started after Brady threw an interception in the red zone against the Washington Redskins, on a pass that was rightfully criticized by O'Brien. While I can't read lips well, it appears there are a few choice four-letter words thrown between the two angry parties.
The two were later seen hugging on the sideline, and after the game Brady apologized for the outburst.
Smooth Move Award: Philip Rivers
San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers had a solid day against the Buffalo Bills Sunday, but there's no doubt he'd like this play back.
Taking the snap, the ball then slipped from his hands as he tried to make a pass. The ball was scooped up in the end zone by the Bills' Bryan Scott, turning a comfortable 16-3 Chargers lead into a uncomfortable 16-10 contest.
However, the mistake didn't derail the team's efforts too much, as the Chargers would go on to win 37-10.
"Ouch!" Award: Colt McCoy
Quarterback Colt McCoy has taken some mental abuse in the form of boos and calls for his replacement, as the Cleveland Browns have stunk it up big time this season.
However, on Thursday, McCoy received a nasty blow from the Pittsburgh Steelers James Harrison as he was releasing a pass. Letting go of the ball, Harrison gave him some helmet to helmet contact, which after the game was revealed to have given him a concussion.
While there are many questions about the play (Why did McCoy stay in the game? Who let him go back in?), one can hope McCoy can recover from this devastating hit.
MVP: Matt Ryan
The Atlanta Falcons needed a win today to stay in the NFC wild card chase, and Sunday they got a masterful performance against the Carolina Panthers from their quarterback Matt Ryan.
Down 23-10 at halftime, Ryan would lead four scoring drives, which would include three touchdown passes. Combined with a stellar defensive effort in the second half, which shut out the Panthers, the Falcons would win 31-23.
He ended the day with 320 yards passing and four touchdown passes. A great game for a team that definitely needed one.
Honorable Mention: Maurice Jones-Drew, Jason Pierre Paul, Rob Gronkowski, Mark Sanchez
LVP: Carson Palmer
The Oakland Raiders were fighting for their postseason lives Sunday against the Green Bay Packers, and found themselves let down big time by quarterback Carson Palmer.
While many teams have been outmatched by the Packers offense, Palmer and the Raiders were shut down by the team's poorly ranked defense.
For his part, Palmer threw four interceptions (compared to only one touchdown).
Not a great day in the office.
Dishonorable Mention: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Marion Barber