As the research analyst for NFL Network's NFL RedZone, Elliot Harrison watched all 267 games in the 2010 season. We asked him to rank the 20 most memorable.
On Halloween 1999, Jason Garrett found himself playing against a second-year quarterback out of the University of Tennessee who was setting the NFL on fire. A young Peyton Manning had guided the Colts to a 31-24 lead in the fourth quarter when the Cowboys' second-string quarterback entered the game. Garrett's entrance came courtesy of a head injury to Troy Aikman. Garrett's big chance resulted in a sack, incompletion and punt. The ensuing drive the concussed Aikman (although no one knew it at the time) was sent back into the fray, and Garrett's opportunity was over.
That pretty much encapsulates the story of the former Ivy Leaguer's career. Garrett never really got a shot, but many who followed pro football back then knew he would be a coach some day. Garrett came from a coaching family, and was as bright as they come.
So it was not exactly a shocker that here Garrett was in Week 13 of the 2010 season, in the same town, against the same quarterback, trying to deliver his third win in four games as the new head man of the Cowboys. He would try and instill some of the same principles he observed as member of a team in the 1990s that also won three of four ... Super Bowls.
Manning's interceptions spotted the Cowboys a big lead, but he still finished 36-48 for 365 yards. Unfortunately it wasn't enough, as an obscure rule ultimately played a big role in putting down the Colts.
With Dallas trailing 28-27 in the fourth quarter, David Buehler hit a 24-yard field goal, but the Colts' Eric Foster was cited for Rule 12, Section 3, Article 1 of the NFL rulebook: "leverage." Foster essentially used another player's body as a stepping stone to try to block Buehler's kick.
Dallas collected a free set of downs, and would score on a touchdown to Jason Witten and add a two-point conversion. When the Colts scored a touchdown on their ensuing drive, the five-point swing off the leverage call allowed this game to spill into overtime at 35-35.
Ironically, the Colts were aided by a similar call on a Monday night in 2003. Kicker Mike Vanderjagt missed a potential winning kick to beat the Buccaneers in overtime, but got another shot after Simeon Rice was called for "leaping" and landing on a teammate during the block attempt. Vanderjagt banged the second attempt through, and the Colts completed a 21-point comeback.
In Week 13, NFL rulebook karma reared its ugly head.
Boneheaded play of the game
Foster's foul is worth taking another look at, as you can clearly see how he uses his teammate to try to make a play on Buehler's kick.
Well-known rule: no. Huge play: yes.
(Rule 12, Section 3, Article 1: Placing a hand or hands on a teammate or opponent to gain additional height in the block or attempt to block an opponent's kick.)
Same 'ol situation
Is it a stretch to say that Reggie Wayne is the most underrated player in football? What has the guy not done? Super Bowl? Check. All-Pro? Check. Productive? How about these numbers: Seven consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, five of which have exceeded 1,200 yards. You could even argue that he had his best season in 2010, catching a career-high 111 passes with a merry-go-round of receivers around him.
To say he and Manning are often unstoppable is an understatement. In this game, the duo hooked up 14 times for 200 yards, a touchdown and 10 first downs. And they weren't all easy, like this completion.
Play of the game
When the Cowboys drafted linebacker Sean Lee out of Penn State in the second round of the 2010 draft, no one really paid attention because the Dez Bryant choice in the first round commanded so much of it.
While Bryant made huge plays, none were bigger than the two picks made by the rookie Lee in this game. Give the kid credit for being where he was supposed to be. Dallas doesn't win this Week 13 thriller without Lee's contributions.
Why is this game No. 14 of 2010?
You can make the case for this game being higher or lower. No. 14 felt right, as this interconference battle featured arguably the greatest player of our generation having one of his worst games of his career (four interceptions), yet still keeping his team right there. Athletic brilliance takes many forms, including overcoming repeated failure.
The game featured two Dallas defensive touchdowns, Indy blocking a punt for a touchdown, several huge individual plays (many of those from Wayne), and took overtime to settle. It was a cool uni matchup. Throw in an obscure rule being the key point of the afternoon, and you've got the 14th best game of 2010.
Why not higher?
As fun as this one was, there were other games that had bigger stakes and did not feature as many mistakes. Also, Dallas was already out of the playoff race at this juncture of the season. That said, 14 doesn't feel like too high of a ranking.