Defining Moments of 2010 NFL Season
Players from the Saints and Vikings raised one index finger high into the air before the NFL's kickoff game Sept. 9 in New Orleans. Going into the final year of the NFL's Collective Bargaining Agreement, the players used the gesture as a symbol of union solidarity in their negotiations with ownership.
Trailing the Bears 19-14 with 31 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Detroit Lions quarterback Shaun Hill lofted a deep pass to a streaking Calvin Johnson in the back of the end zone. Johnson leapt, snagged the ball and tapped both feet inbounds before falling to the turf. As Johnson rejoiced, officials waived off his touchdown because he didn't maintain possession throughout the entirety of the catch, palming the ball to the ground in his right arm.
Tony Romo's completion with Roy Williams in the front of the end zone seemed to cement a dramatic Dallas victory over the Redskins on Sept. 12. The Cowboys' celebration was held up by tackle Alex Barron though, whose chokehold grip on Washington's Brian Orakpo cost Dallas the touchdown, and the game, in Week 1.
After earning the nickname "Revis Island" for his brilliant play throughout the 2009 season, Darrelle Revis held out for 36 days before the Jets 2010 campaign because of contract disputes. His highly-anticipated return against the Baltimore Ravens couldn't save New York, though, as they fell to the Ravens 10-9 in Week 1.
Down by 17 midway through the third quarter, the Texans scrapped their way to within a touchdown of the Redskins with a little over two minutes to go. On 4th-and-10, Houston completed its comeback as Andre Johnson ripped down a Matt Schaub 34-yard touchdown heave to tie the game. The Texans would go on to clip the Redskins 30-27 in overtime.
Donovan McNabb's controversial trade to the Redskins last offseason seemed to knight Kevin Kolb as Philadelphia's next franchise quarterback. After sustaining a Week 1 concussion, Kolb watched as Michael Vick dazzled -- passing for 459 yards, rushing for 140 over the team's next six quarters -- and claimed the role as the Eagles starter.
Making his first start since 2007 on the heels of the suspension Ben Roethlisberger and injuries to Byron Leftwich and Dennis Dixon, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch found the fountain of youth Sept. 26 in Tampa Bay. He dissected the Buccaneers' defense for three passing touchdowns on 12-of-17 passing en route to a 38-13 Steelers' victory.
It wasn't pretty, but Donovan McNabb's return to Philadelphia in a Redskins uniform had everything the veteran quarterback could have asked for. After being greeted with a standing ovation, McNabb helped guide his Redskins to 17 first-half points, including a missile of a touchdown pass to tight end Chris Cooley late in the first quarter. The Eagles shutout the Washington offense for the last 30 minutes, but it didn't matter -- the Redskins triumphed 17-12 in McNabb's highly-anticipated homecoming.
Coming off a Week 2 loss at the Jets and a shaky Week 3 victory against the Bills, the Patriots were determined to right the ship heading into their Week 4 showdown in Miami. It wasn't the usual suspects who led the charge, though, as Patrick Chung, Rob Ninkovich and Brandon Tate spearheaded inspired defensive and special teams units that led the Pats' to a convincing 41-14 win.
Six years after his last stint in Minnesota, Randy Moss was traded to the Vikings following the Patriots' Week 4 triumph over Miami. He was acquired for a third-round draft pick, part of a last-ditch effort by the Vikings to revive their dwindling playoff chances. He hauled in four passes for 81 yards and a touchdown in his debut.
Big Ben's four-game suspension ended Oct. 17 against Cleveland, when the veteran quarterback guided the Steelers to a 28-10 victory. He showed some rust, throwing an early interception, but rebounded to rack up 257 yards passing and three touchdowns. Roethlisberger was greeted by a chorus of cheers as he trotted onto Heinz Field for the game, something that must have come as a huge relief after an offseason fraught with criticism.
Furious hits were all the rage in Week 6, the week that the danger of playing in the NFL came to a head. Brandon Meriweather, James Harrison and Dunta Robinson were all fined at least $50,000 -- $75,000 in Harrison's case -- as part of the league's crackdown on helmet-to-helmet collisions. Commissioner Roger Goodell offered to the Boston Herald, "We're not talking about changing the rules. We're going to increase the discipline."
Dallas' downward spiral plunged to new depths in Week 7 as Tony Romo suffered a broken clavicle after being sacked by a streaking Michael Boley. Jon Kitna, who hadn't started an NFL game in two years, took over, coming up just short in the Cowboys' 41-35 defeat. Wade Phillips' squad fell to 1-5 following the loss.
The Vikings had become nearly a reality show, attracting hoards of attention after the Brad Childress press conference debacle following a loss at Green Bay, when the nearly unthinkable happened: Randy Moss was cut from the team. The decision to waive the volatile superstar occurred after a questionable "interview" of his own, when he professed his love for his former New England teammates. Moss was placed on waivers just two days later.
Brett Favre's return to the Vikings wasn't as storybook as last season. Playing without favorite target Sidney Rice, Minnesota lost its first two games, then a report surfaced that Favre may have acted inappropriately with Jets employee Jen Sterger while both were with the team in 2008. Making matters worse, Favre suffered fractures in his surgically repaired ankle in a loss at Green Bay and had to leave the following week's game against the Patriots to receive stitches after being hit by lineman Myron Pryor. Amid all that, Randy Moss joined and left the Vikings, who reached Week 8 with a 2-5 record.
Widely overlooked at the onset of the season, Peyton Hillis made quite a name for himself in Cleveland. The power-running back rumbled for 460 yards through the Browns' first seven games, and had his signature performance in Week 9, rushing for 184 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-14 upset of the Patriots. Hillis' success seems to cement Cleveland as the victor in the Brady Quinn-for-Hillis trade that happened in May.
Entering 2010, Dallas was a popular pick to play the Super Bowl in their regular season home, Cowboys Stadium. After a dreadful 1-8 start, though, the playoffs were the furthest thing from owner Jerry Jones' mind. He finally fired fourth-year coach Wade Phillips on the heels of embarrassing losses to the Jaguars and Packers, placing the team in the hands of offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. Garrett promptly led the Cowboys to a convincing 33-20 win over the Giants and was named head coach at season's end.
Locked in a 24-24 tie with three seconds remaining, the Jaguars seemed destined for overtime in their Nov. 14 contest with the Texans. In a last-ditch effort, quarterback David Garrard launched a 50-yard floater into Houston's end zone, which was quickly batted down by Glover Quin. The ball miraculously ricocheted into the arms of Mike Thomas, who skipped across the goal line for a game-ending touchdown.
Some athletic performances are remembered as impressive. Then there are those that simply amaze. Michael Vick had the latter on Monday, Nov. 15, when he racked up 413 yards and six total touchdowns in a 59-28 blowout of the Redskins. His feats included an 88-yard TD bomb to DeSean Jackson and a perfectly placed 48-yard strike to Jeremy Maclin. "I've had some great games in my day, but I don't think I've had one quite like this one," Vick said in the postgame news conference.
Suspended for the season's first four games for violating the league's substance abuse policy, Santonio Holmes quickly made up for lost time once rejoining Rex Ryan's squad. His 52-yard catch spurred a Jets' victory against the Lions, and his 37-yard dash clinched an overtime win against the Browns. In Week 11, Holmes continued the trend, reeling in a six-yard Mark Sanchez fade to complete a 30-27 comeback against the Texans. He finished the contest with 126 yards receiving.
The NFL's seemingly annual Brady-Manning Bowl lived up to its billing again in 2010, the Patriots emerging with a dramatic 31-28 victory. New England clung to a 31-14 lead midway through the fourth quarter, but Manning responded with two touchdown passes to Blair White to slice the lead to three. Following a Pats' three-and-out, the Colts seemed poised for another unforgettable late-game win. That was before New England safety James Sanders made an improbable leaping interception with just 31 seconds remaining. The pick gave Bill Belichick and Co. their first win over Indy since 2007.
Brad Childress' nightmare in Minnesota finally ended on Nov. 22, when owner Ziggy Wilf acquiesced to his fan base and cut his struggling head coach before a Week 12 matchup with Washington. The firing came months after Childress sent veterans to coax Brett Favre out of retirement, and just weeks after the coach openly questioned Fave's decision-making following a 28-24 defeat to the Packers. Interim head coach Leslie Frazier (left) guided the team to a 17-13 win as Chilly's replacement and was named the new coach at season's end.
Jason Garrett's Cowboys were riding a two-game win streak entering their Thanksgiving showdown with the Saints, and looked ready to extend that after a Tashard Choice touchdown gave Dallas a 27-23 lead with four minutes to go. Roy Williams, quite literally, fumbled away the game, though, as his costly cough-up sparked a five-play, 89-yard touchdown drive to put New Orleans back on top. "I lost the ballgame," Williams said after the heartbreaking loss.
Steve Johnson has quickly become a fan favorite in Buffalo, emerging from relative obscurity to amass 728 receiving yards and nine touchdowns through Week 11. He lost a few of those followers in Week 12. Johnson dropped five passes -- including the potential game-winning touchdown in overtime -- in a heartbreaking 19-16 loss to the Steelers. He later vented on Twitter, going so far as to imply that his drop made him question his religious faith.
Things were testy for both the Texans and the Titans heading into Week 12, with Houston the victim of a four-game losing streak and Tennessee recovering from injuries to Kerry Collins and Vince Young. Still, tension was no excuse for the brawl that broke out between Andre Johnson and Titans' cornerback Cortland Finnegan. Johnson connected on several overhead punches to the back of Finnegan's head, and both were ejected after their scuffle was broken up. Both were also slapped with $25,000 fines but not suspended. The Texans won the game 20-0.
The Cardinals' dealt with a quarterback carousel all season, rotating between Derek Anderson, Max Hall and John Skelton in a frantic effort to replace the retired Kurt Warner. The team's struggles came to a head in Week 12 against San Francisco, when Anderson, after throwing for just 196 yards and an interception, was broadcast laughing with teammate Deuce Lutui on the sidelines. Reporters pressed the sixth-year QB for an explanation after the 27-6 loss, prompting him to lash out angrily.
Hyped as the game of the year, the Week 13 showdown between the Patriots and Jets was decidedly one-sided. New England dominated New York from the opening snap, handing Gang Green a 45-3 drubbing that left many doubting Rex Ryan's preseason Super Bowl promise. Tom Brady was 21-of-29 for 326 yards and four touchdowns. Mark Sanchez was 17-of-33 for 164 yards with three picks.
Things went from bad to worse in Minnesota on Dec. 12 as the roof of the Metrodome, the Vikings' home for the past 28 years, collapsed under the weight of accumulated snow. The incident -- captured with remarkable video footage -- caused the team's Week 14 matchup with the Giants to be postponed and subsequently held at Ford Field in Detroit. The new location didn't help: Minnesota lost 21-3.
On Dec. 13, Brett Favre finally sat out. A shoulder injury forced him to miss the team's Week 14 contest with the Giants, ending his 297-game consecutive start streak, one of the most impressive individual streaks in all of sports. Backup quarterback Tavaris Jackson didn't fare too well in his first start since 2008. He went just 15-of-30 for 118 yards and suffered a turf toe injury that would later land him on injured reserve.
Leading 28-7 midway through the fourth quarter, the Giants had a Week 15 victory against the Eagles all but secured. That was before Philadelphia mounted one of the most miraculous comebacks in recent NFL history. Michael Vick guided the Eagles to three TDs in just over six minutes (two passing, one rushing), storming back to even the score. The Eagles capped the rally when, with just 14 seconds remaining, New York punter Matt Dodge lined a punt to dynamic wideout DeSean Jackson. Jackson muffed it, recovered and sprinted 65 yards to the end zone to seal a thrilling 35-28 victory.
Josh McDaniels and Mike Singletary became the third and fourth coaches fired in-season, followed by the dismissals of Tom Cable, John Fox and Eric Mangini at year's end. McDaniels' teams lost 17 of 22 games after starting the 2009 season 6-0. He also drew the ire of Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, and a $50,000 fine from the league, for not revealing that an aide had taped an opponent's practice session. Singletary was let go after his underachieving 49ers were eliminated from playoff contention. It didn't help that he got into an ugly sideline argument with quarterback Troy Smith near season's end.
After selecting Tim Tebow with the 25th pick of the 2010 draft, Denver benched their rookie to let him mature behind Kyle Orton. They showcased his progress Dec. 26 against Houston, when Tebow threw for 308 yards and a touchdown to lead the Broncos to a 24-23 victory. He even showed off the running ability that made him so coveted at Florida. His six-yard touchdown scamper in the fourth quarter completed Denver's comeback from a 17-0 halftime deficit.
Heading into their Week 17 showdown in Seattle, the Seahawks and the Rams had a combined record of 13-17. Despite that, their prime time Week 17 contest became a winner-take-all battle for the underachieving NFC West. Charlie Whitehurst pioneered Seattle to a 16-6 victory, leading an impressive 87-yard touchdown drive early in the first quarter to set the tone. With the win, the Seahawks earned the right to host the defending Super Bowl-champion Saints in the first round of the playoffs. Who would you add to the list? Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
At 5-foot-8 and 195 pounds, Danny Woodhead isn't the prototypical NFL running back. In New England, though, he's become an icon. The undersized back took the league by storm, tallying 547 rushing yards, 379 receiving yards and six total touchdowns in 2010. The unlikely duo of Woodhead and BenJarvus Green-Ellis were vital to the Patriots 14-2 campaign.