Hardest Working Man  

 

Alex Smith, Ahmad Bradshaw spark wins on both coasts

  • By Jim Reineking NFL.com
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These guys might not exactly be carrying a lunchpail to the stadium each week, but they did bring a diligent, blue-collar approach to Week 5. Take a look at all the nominees, then vote in the poll at the bottom of the right column for your choice for the Hardest-Working Man.

Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants

Bradshaw followed up an embarrassing miscue with a career-best effort as the Giants defeated the Cleveland Browns, 41-27. Bradshaw fumbled on the first play from scrimmage, and that turnover helped the Browns build a surprising 14-0 lead on the defending Super Bowl champions. Following that fumble, Bradshaw was nearly unstoppable. Carrying the Giants' full load out of the backfield due to a first-quarter injury to Andre Brown, Bradshaw went on to carry the ball 30 times for a career-high 200 yards and a touchdown. Not to be outdone by Bradshaw's big day, Victor Cruz also had a career day, catching three touchdowns. Cruz is the first player to have three touchdown catches in a game this season.


Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons are off to their first 5-0 start in team history thanks to a major contribution from the ageless Gonzalez. Gonzalez, who at 36 years old is likely in his final season, had 13 receptions for 123 yards and a touchdown as the Falcons edged the Washington Redskins, 24-17. His touchdown came on a 1-yard reception in the final seconds of the first half, one play after the tight end had collected a 21-yard catch. That touchdown catch tied Gonzalez with Don Hutson for the eighth-most receiving touchdowns (99) in NFL history. The 100-yard receiving effort was the 29th of Gonzalez's career.


Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

It was a stunning victory filled with storylines. The Colts' comeback win over the Green Bay Packers opened with an emotional email message to the team and concluded with a coming-of-age performance for Luck. Luck endured a sack-filled first half (he finished the game being sacked a career-high four times) to help the Colts overcome a 21-3 halftime deficit to ultimately prevail. Luck finished with 362 yards passing (a career high) and two touchdown passes. Luck's favorite target was Reggie Wayne, who the rookie quarterback connected with in the game's most critical moments including the go-ahead 4-yard touchdown play with 35 seconds remaining.


Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers' offensive output against the Buffalo Bills was one for the ages. In a 45-3 demolition of the Bills, the 49ers gained 621 total yards (NFL's 10th-most in a non-overtime game since 1950, third-most since 1970 and most in team history). The 49ers became the first team in NFL history to have 300 yards passing and 300 yards rushing in a single game. The 49ers had a 300-yard passer (Smith), a 100-yard rusher (Frank Gore) and two 100-yard receivers (Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis) for the second time in franchise history. The first time was in 1961, when quarterback John Brodie, running back C.R. Roberts and receivers Aaron Thomas and R.C. Owens combined for that amazing feat.

Smith's day included three touchdown passes and a passer rating of 156.2, which was a career-best mark that came two points short of a perfect rating. Smith also added 49 rushing yards to that team total of 311 yards.


Robert Quinn, St. Louis Rams

The Rams' return to relevance came at the expense of the previously unbeaten Arizona Cardinals in a primetime showdown Thursday night. With the 17-3 win, the Rams went above .500 for the first time since the 2006 season. The team's three wins also tops last season's two-win total. Sparking that turnaround has been the defense, which sacked Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb nine times. Earning three of those sacks was Quinn, who leads the Rams with six sacks after five games.

Follow Jim Reineking on Twitter @jimreineking.

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