The highs and lows of NFL Week 16

MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:50 PM ET

TORONTO - Week 16 provided its share of thrills and cleared the muddied playoff picture somewhat. The weekend featured a number of highs and lows, some of them recorded below:

1. Worst performance by a contending team and player.

The Jets’ Mark Sanchez would no doubt garner a lot of votes but it’s hard to ignore the disaster that befell Tim Tebow and the Broncos in Buffalo. Just how does a team with so much on the line get blown out by a team that had lost seven in a row and looked bad in all of them? Tebow threw the first four road interceptions of his career with two of them being returned for touchdowns. He finished just 13 of 30, for 185 yards, with one touchdown and those four picks. Yikes!

2. Top Game-Changing Play

Hands down the award goes to the Giants’ Victor Cruz. On third and 10 from their own one-yard line, trailing 7-3 with 2:27 to play in the second quarter, QB Eli Manning hit Cruz at the 11 on a curl route. Cruz stopped on a dime the cut back between two defenders, Kyle Wilson and Antonio Cromartie, and raced down the sidelines, skipping by a desperation tackle attempt by safety Eric Smith and racing the length of the field for the 99-yard TD. The Giants never looked back. “We all got a tremendous life when he went coast to coast,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said.

3. Top Individual Performance By A Player On A Contending Team

Given what was at stake, namely the first playoff berth for the franchise in 12 years, you have to go with Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. Stafford was 29-for-36 for 373 yards and three touchdowns as the Lions routed the San Diego Chargers 38-10. He didn’t throw an interception and finished with a passer rating of 137.6. “I’m just happy to be a part of it,” Stafford said. “I’m glad I got to share it with the guys. They’re a great bunch of guys.”

4. The ‘Why Do We Have To Keep Playing, We’ve Already Packed It In’ Award

Week in and week out for the past month the Tampa Bay Buccaneers haven’t let this award slip from their mitts. You have to wonder if they hate their head coach Raheem Morris this much to play so poorly and show a total lack of character and heart. Tampa Bay has now lost nine in a row since being 4-2, and every loss looking worse than the one before it. On Saturday they were simply embarrassed 48-16 by the Carolina Panthers. With the loss they secured a last-place standing in the NFC South. There is no end to their shame.

5. The ‘We Stink, But We Never Give Up’ Award

This week’s winners are the members of the Minnesota Vikings. They came into their game against the Washington Redskins with a 2-12 record but left with their heads held high following a hard fought 33-26 victory. Early in the second half, the Vikings lost running back Adrian Peterson with a torn ACL and QB Christian Ponder with a concussion but persevered. With the win the Vikings avoided the possibility of setting a new low for number of wins in a season and also took themselves out of the race to the bottom for the right to have the No. 1 pick in the draft and the chance to draft QB Andrew Luck.

6. You’ve Got To Have Heart Award

The Oakland Raiders, hands down. They had their hearts broken the previous week by the Detroit Lions in a last-minute loss and Saturday against the Chiefs, Kansas City tied the game with 1:02 left to play on a Kyle Orton TD pass. The Chiefs then had one last gasp to win it in regulation time but their 49-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Trevor Scott, sending the game into overtime. The Raiders then won it on a 36-yard field goal of their own. The victory keeps the Raiders alive in the playoff race in the AFC West.

7. The ‘Thank You God, I Needed To Win This Bet’ Award.

It was like money falling from the sky for those who happened to bet on the Philadelphia Eagles this weekend. The Cowboys came into the game as 1½-point favourites but then in an earlier game, the Giants beat the Jets which automatically eliminated the Eagles from post-season play. Instead of laying down like dogs in what became a meaningless game, the Eagles played hard and after Dallas quarterback Tony Romo injured his right hand and had to leave the game in the second quarter, it was over. The Eagles won the game 20-7 and their fans cashed in big time. What a Christmas present.

8. Gymnast of the Year Award

This play by Cincinnati’s Jerome Simpson could quite possibly end up as the touchdown of the year — it was that spectacular. With 2:46 left in the first half of Cincinnati’s game against the Arizona Cardinals, Simpson ran a crossing route, caught a sideline pass from quarterback Andy Dalton and as he approached the end zone he did a somersault flip over stunned Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington into the end zone for a touchdown. Remarkably, Simpson landed squarely on his feet like a gymnast completing a routine. As it turns out, Simpson was also a track star at Coastal Carolina and set a school record in the high jump. It was simply amazing. Bengals this, baby.


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