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.