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.
A head coach can put his stamp on a game. A player's legacy can be synonymous with a game. And, in some cases, a single play can define a game.
There's the "Miracle in the Meadowlands," "The Catch," and the "Immaculate Reception." All of these became centerpieces of NFL history, played time and again by NFL Films.
No Hail Mary, other than the famous Roger Staubach original, resides at the level of fame as unbelievable plays, now known as major events, like the "Holy Roller" or the "Music City Miracle." Yet, so few of these desperation Hail Mary plays turn out successful that they are impossible to ignore when they do -- especially because many are the deciding points in a game. Really, the replacement points, as the desperation heaves can singularly erase everything done in the first 59:55 of a contest.
That certainly was the case with David Garrard's wing and a prayer to win the No. 8 game in our best of 2010 list. Funny thing is, even without that ball magically fluttering in Mike Thomas' hands with no time left, this divisional matchup was three hours well spent. Yes, I'm serious. An AFC South game was worth viewing.
The AFC's least sexy division was one big "Real Housewives of Orange County." There was no bigger catfight in pro football during the middle of the 2010 season. Here's a glance at the standings coming into Garrard's miracle:
The Texans embarrassed the Colts in Week 1, only to get embarrassed in Indy seven weeks later. The Jaguars beat the Colts, but got throttled by the Titans, 30-3. Meanwhile, Tennessee got swept by the Colts but split with the Texans. The division was a jumbled mess.
Down, 17-3, Houston was a mess early on ... until they got their act together in the second half, with three touchdown drives of 80 or more yards. Despite those marches, there were two plays that were integral in setting up Thomas' winning catch.
The usually reliable Josh Scobee shanked a 43-yard field goal on what was supposed to be Jacksonville's final drive. That set Houston up with good field position, but tight end Joel Dreessen fumbled with eight seconds to go in Jaguars territory ... a huge, huge play.
After a quick pass and a penalty, Garrard would load up for the game-winner. Everyone watching at home, at crawfish boils, at baby showers, and at the NFL RedZone studios, would go bonkers.
Play of the game
Watching the play again, you notice just how good of a job Garrard did lofting the ball, hanging it in the air just long enough for his receivers to get there, as well as putting it around the front of the end zone ... leaving Thomas in the perfect place for a carom.
Poor Glover Quin, who did everything he was taught to do, choosing to swat the ball down rather than try to pick it off. Too bad he swatted it right to Thomas.
By the way, in case you didn't know, the play is now referred to as "The Rebound."
Boneheaded play of the game
Dreessen's lack of ball security seemed harmless at the time. In the NFL RedZone studio, we thought it was no big deal because there were only eight seconds left. But when the Jags got an 11-yard completion, and then Antonio Smith had a brain fart and jumped offside, the Jags were suddenly in a good spot to take a shot at the end zone ... and Dreessen's fumble became pretty relevant.
Same ol' situation
Houston couldn't defend the pass all year. In fact, they finished dead last in that category in 2010.
Defending the pass doesn't just involve stopping receivers from catching balls, it's also about getting their butts on the ground when they do catch 'em. Houston didn't do either against tight end Zach Miller.
Why is this game No. 8 of 2010?
The Jags dominated the first half, and the Texans put on an offensive display in the second -- three 80-yard drives are testament to that. At the NFL RedZone studios, switched back to this game several times, especially when we thought Matt Schaub would surely direct Houston to the winning drive.
That's what made this game so cool. You thought Houston would easily get a field goal to win, 27-24. When Dreessen fumbled, we were led to believe we'd have overtime. Going to OT was always good on NFL RedZone, as it gave us another game to add to our light menu of afternoon matchups. Garrard and Thomas spoiled that little deal, but in a good way.
Why not higher?
As fun as this game was, and as much as everyone remembers Garrard's desperation heave, the lack of stakes and the teams involved left this wild one batting outside the top of the order.