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Ray Rice's improbable play lifts Baltimore Ravens to unlikely win

These guys might not exactly be carrying a lunch pail to the stadium each week, but they did bring an industrious, blue-collar, working-man approach to Week 12. 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.

Joe Haden, Cleveland Browns

Haden is part of a core of talented young players that the Browns possess on their underrated defense (a group that also includes defensive end Jabaal Sheard, defensive tackle Phil Taylor and safety T.J. Ward). The opportunistic nature of this unit came to life in a rare victory over the rival Pittsburgh Steelers. In the 20-14 win, the Browns defense forced an unprecedented eight turnovers. Haden was in the mix on a number of those tide-turning plays, picking off one pass, assisting on another pick by Billy Winn and also forcing a fumble. The Browns became the first team in 11 years to force eight turnovers (Saints vs. the Rams, Week 7 of the 2001 season), and the first time for Cleveland since an eight-turnover fiesta turned into a 51-0 win over Pittsburgh in 1989.

T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts

Hilton provided the necessary spark to make sure the Colts remaining in the thick of the AFC playoff race, scoring on a 75-yard punt return and then catching an 8-yard touchdown pass from Andrew Luck as Indianapolis defeated the Buffalo Bills, 20-13. With those scores, Hilton became the first player in franchise history to do so in the same game. Hilton's touchdown came after a scare for the receiver, who took a vicious hit on a punt return and was temporarily removed from the game after lying motionless on the Lucas Oil Stadium turf. Hilton's return to action helped a sluggish Colts team regain its edge and improve to 7-4 on the season.

Janoris Jenkins, St. Louis Rams

In a 31-17 win over the Arizona Cardinals, Jenkins accomplished something no rookie defensive player had done in more than 50 years. Jenkins became just the second rookie to return two interceptions for touchdowns in a game. It was first done by Dan Sandifer of the Washington Redskins  against the Boston Yanks in 1948. In 1960, the Cleveland Browns' Bobby Franklin had two pick sixes against the Chicago Bears.

Andre Johnson, Houston Texans

Johnson didn't reach paydirt, but his efforts assured that the Texans escaped Ford Field with a thrilling 34-31 overtime win over the Detroit Lions in their annual Thanksgiving game. Four of Johnson's nine catches (totaling 64 yards) came on the Texans' game-tying drive late in the fourth quarter. A 23-yard catch on the game's final drive late in overtime assured that the Texans would improve to 10-1 and remain in the driver's seat for home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs. Johnson finished the game with 188 yards receiving, the second most in a game played on Thanksgiving (the Cleveland Rams' Jim Benton set a ridiculous standard to match in 1945, going for 303 yards).

Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens

The play could go down in NFL lore as "Hey diddle diddle, Ray Rice up the middle" unless, of course, somebody comes up with a moniker more amazing. The fourth-and-29 conversion at the game's most crucial moment will go down as one of the most amazing in Ravens history and will be one of this season's signature plays. Down 13-10 to the San Diego Chargers at their own 37-yard line with 1:37 left to play, the Ravens got an unbelievable play in the seemingly improssible situation. Rice turned a short check-down pass into a 29-yard gain, keeping alive a drive that ultimately ended with the tying field goal attempt by Justin Tucker. Late in overtime, Tucker supplied the winning kick as the Ravens improbably won 16-13 and added to the misery of the downtrodden Chargers.

Follow Jim Reineking on Twitter @jimreineking.

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