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.
If you base the top games of 2010 on entertainment value, then this was some of the best three hours you spent all season. The Week 16 matchup between the Jets and Bears was like a good action movie. Think Taken, not Cobra.
Perhaps more importantly, this game featured two playoff-bound teams trying to improve their pole position. Ultimately, Chicago would put the hex on Rex and a vest that looked like he cut the sleeves off his dad's 1985 sweater, 38-34.
When you put "Rex" and Chicago in the same sentence, you probably start thinking about gross quarterback play. But where Rex Grossman left a lot to be desired during his Bears' tenure, Jay Cutler has shown he could put some points up.
Or, has he? Coming in, the Bears' offense had struggled mightily, ranking 28th overall. Much of the struggle was blamed on the offensive line, but the beleaguered unit did a decent job against the Jets. Cutler only got sacked twice in 27 dropbacks, en route to throwing three touchdowns passes.
And that might have been the point of this contest: The Bears played like a "team." Where the O-line had been an abomination all season, the unit was getting its act together. The special teams came through, stopping the Jets on some fourth-down trickery and giving Devin Hester some lanes to explode through ... returning one punt 38 yards and a kickoff 40 yards. Both drives ended with Bears touchdowns.
Then there was the defense. Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez did play well, carving up the underbelly of the Cover-2, the deep middle, time and again. But when it came time for Lovie Smith's guys to make a play, they did. Especially safety Chris Harris, who iced the game with a bait-and-pick with 58 seconds left.
For the second straight week (after a 40-14 win over Minnesota), Chicago played like a playoff team, and less like Jabba the Hutt's honky-tonk band. No longer disjointed, all three phases contributed.
Meanwhile, this game commanded our attention in the NFL RedZone studio. Every time we looked up, there was a big play that we needed to show our viewers. So, we got off whichever game we were on and showed yet another play from Jets-Bears.
I kept annoying Kent Camera, our coordinating producer, on headset every five minutes.
"Kent, we gotta go back to Chicago."
"Kent, Jets are goin' for it on fourth down ... Sanchez is lined up with the punt team."
"Dude, Hester went off again."
That was the story of No. 12 on our list. In a sport of big plays, this was a game of big plays.
Same ol' situation
In 2009, Cutler manufactured 26 interceptions by trying to make too much out of nothing, forcing throws, and bad decision-making. At least he made up for it by throwing off his back foot.
Cutler cut down on the picks in 2010, but he gift-wrapped the Jets a lead when he regressed into some bad habits, forcing a ball off his back foot again and throwing to the wrong shoulder of Earl Bennett. A 10-7 game became 14-10 Jets just like that.
Up 24-17, and on the first possession of the third quarter no less, Ryan decided to go for it on fourth down from the 40-yard line ... the Jets' 40. With a top-five defense and a seven-point lead, let's just say the risk-reward ratio was not on the Jets' side.
Sanchez sneakily lined up with the punt team, taking the direct snap, but his pass was broken up by Chicago's Rashied Davis. Considering Davis is a wide receiver by trade, this was a big-time special teams play.
Play of the game
Harris' interception was savvy to the nth degree. The veteran safety hung inside just long enough for Sanchez to think Santonio Holmes was open on the near sideline. No dice. After Sanchez looked over the deep middle, Harris anticipated where Sanchez would go next.
As soon as the ball left Sanchez's hand, Harris had already started breaking toward the spot he thought the pass would go. Ball game.
Why is this game No. 12 of 2010?
Dude, a failed fourth-down conversion with your quarterback lined up as the personal protector to the punter, two big kick returns, a sweet deep ball to Johnny Knox, a pick-six ... this game killed it.
Not to mention, it was played in a foggy haze and was another great uniform matchup unlike, say, Ravens-Texans. Seeing the Bears in their navy unis and the Jets in their whites, along with the hazy conditions, reminded me of the "Fog Bowl" divisional playoff between Chicago and Philly back in 1988. Cool game.
Why not higher?
Quite frankly, this game could've been higher. But, we're getting down to the nitty-gritty on our list, the very best of the best. Former player and current NFL Network analyst Warren Sapp said, "Just be happy you're on the list" regarding the "Top 100 Players of 2011" last Sunday. Same deal, Bears fans.