Pick 6: QBs, Saints D, Gonzalez are clutch
Talk about clutch players in the NFL, and two names come to mind: Joe Montana, Adam Vinatieri.
The four-time Super Bowl winning quarterback's most memorable play is known simply as ''The Catch'' - an on-the-run, 6-yard TD toss hauled in by a leaping Dwight Clark with 51 seconds left that lifted the 49ers to a 28-27 win over the Cowboys in the 1982 NFC championship game.
Vinatieri has twice kicked pressure-packed field goals to win Super Bowls for the Patriots: one against the Rams with no time left in 2002; the other against the Panthers with 4 seconds left in 2004. He also delivered in the ''Snow Bowl'' playoff game in 2002, kicking a game-tying 45-yarder in blizzard-like conditions, and a 23-yarder in OT to win a divisional playoff game against the Raiders.
As we head into Sunday's games and wait to see who will make the biggest plays of the weekend, here's a Pick 6 of clutch efforts from last week.
Before we start, a shout out to the Patriots 325-pound defensive tackle Vince Wilfork. He read a screen pass perfectly, picked it off and rumbled 28 yards before being hauled down late in the first half of New England's 35-21 win over the Chargers. More colorful than clutch, but well done, nonetheless.
- Ryan Fitzpatrick to David Nelson: On fourth down, Ryan Fitzpatrick found a wide-open Nelson for a 6-yard TD pass with 14 seconds left that ended a wild and woolly fourth quarter with a Bills' 38-35 win over the Raiders. Now, Fitzpatrick and the Bills will need all kinds of clutch plays when they host the Patriots in a matchup of AFC East unbeatens.
- Rex Grossman to Santana Moss: The Redskins - of all teams - began their fourth-quarter rally when Grossman hit Moss for an 18-yard TD pass on fourth-and-3 with 5:17 left to cut the Cardinals' lead to 21-19. After a failed 2-point conversion, the Redskins got the ball back, and Grossman moved them in position for Graham Gano's 34-yard field goal with 1:45 left for a 22-21 win. And surprise, surprise, Washington leads the NFC East heading into Monday night's game against the Cowboys.
- Tony Gonzalez: The first of his two TD catches may wind up as catch of the year - really. On third-and-4 late the first half against the Eagles, the Falcons fabulous tight end leaped and thrust an arm forward to snare what looked to be a sure overthrow. At the same time, he stuck his left foot into the ground and tapped his right toes on the turf just before falling out of bounds between the goal posts. The end result was a 35-31 win for Atlanta. Tune in for the Falcons at Bucs on Sunday and see if he can out-clutch the comeback kid, Josh Freeman.
- Tony Romo to Jesse Holley: Playing with a punctured lung and busted up rib, Romo directed the Cowboys to a field goal that forced overtime, then connected with Holley on a 77-yard completion on Dallas' first OT play to set up Dan Bailey's winning 19-yard field goal in a 27-24 win over the 49ers. Will he back Monday to go clutch for clutch against Grossman?
- New Orleans defense: Play after play, the Saints defense pounded Bears quarterback Jay Cutler to the tune of six sacks and a forced fumble. Led by two sacks each from Roman Harper and Junior Gallette, the Saints' not-so-fearful defense held Cutler to a 42 percent completion rate (19 of 45). Next up for the invigorated defense is Matt Schaub and his unbeaten Texans, who have a pretty good defense of their own to throw at Drew Brees.
- Aaron Rodgers: With Panthers rookie Cam Newton delighting the hometown crowd, it took Super Bowl MVP Rodgers to settle things down. He threw a 49-yard TD rocket to Greg Jennings early in the third quarter for the Packers' first lead and followed up by finding Jordy Nelson with a short pass that was turned into an 84-yard TD with 2:14 left in the game that ended up 30-23 Green Bay. Now it's on to Cutler and the Bears, where the Pack's defense might come alive.