Hardest Working Man  


Big plays from some unlikely sources led to Week 1 victories

  • By NFL.com
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These guys don't exactly carry a lunch pail to the stadium, but they did bring a blue-collar, working-man's approach to the weekend's games:

Ted Ginn, San Francisco 49ers

After the Seattle Seahawks pulled to within 19-17 in the fourth quarter, Ginn returned back-to-back kicks within a minute's span for touchdowns to seal the 49ers' win and make new coach Jim Harbaugh a winner in his debut. Ginn first returned a kickoff 102 yards for the second-longest kick return at Candlestick Park and fourth-longest in 49ers history. After the Seahawks went three and out, Ginn returned the ensuing punt 55 yards for a score that sealed a 1-0 start for San Francisco.

» Watch: Ginn's back-to-back returns

Bruce Gradkowski, Cincinnati Bengals

When rookie second-round draft pick Andy Dalton was forced out of the Bengals' game after the first half against the in-state rival Cleveland Browns, Gradkowski was pressed into action. Gradkowski's moment came with less than two minutes remaining in the game and the Bengals facing a 17-13 deficit. Gradkowski caught Cleveland's defense still in the huddle and quickly lobbed a 41-yard touchdown pass to rookie WR A.J. Green. The touchdown led the Bengals to a 27-17 win and the franchise's first opening-day win since 2007.

» Watch: Gradkowski burns Browns defense

Haloti Ngata, Baltimore Ravens

In the mother of all statement wins in a busy and action-packed Week 1, it was Ngata -- a 330-pound defensive tackle -- who set the tone for a convincing 35-7 manhandling of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the most lopsided victory in the hotly contested series that dates back to 1996. Ngata led an inspired Ravens defense that forced a team-record seven turnovers. Ngata caused a fumble and deflected a pass that was intercepted in the rout.


» Watch: Ngata forces a Steelers fumble

Mike Scifres, San Diego Chargers

When the Minnesota Vikings' Percy Harvin returned the opening kickoff 103 yards for a touchdown, the play proved devastating to the Chargers on a couple of fronts. While the team's shaky special teams (a major area of weakness in the 2010 season) did provide a glimmer of improvement this offseason, the team's two-time Pro Bowl kicker Nate Kaeding suffered a season-ending injury on the play. That forced Scifres -- a punter by trade -- into place-kicking duties for the first time since college. With the Chargers facing a 17-14 deficit with 10:05 left in the game, Scifres was called on to kick his first NFL field goal and was true on a 40-yarder, allowing the Chargers to tie the game they would eventually win 24-17.

» Watch: Scifres comes up clutch on kick

Ben Tate, Houston Texans

With the NFL's leading rusher from last season, Arian Foster, declared inactive before the Texans' AFC South showdown with the Indianapolis Colts, Tate -- who missed the entire 2010 season because of a broken ankle -- assumed the team's lead-rusher role. Tate rushed for 116 yards and a touchdown -- a 2-yard plunge through the Colts' defensive front -- as the Texans administered a 34-7 demolition of the overwhelmed Colts.

» Watch: Tate bursts into end zone



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