Sorry. I know I said I'd keep the numbers down in this section, but there were too many great individual performances Sunday to ignore.
Offensive Players of the Week
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh.
Playing with a broken bone in his plant foot against Baltimore, Roethlisberger got the big paw of Haloti Ngata raked across his face in the first quarter and suffered a broken nose, which bled for most of the night. He completed 22 of 38 for 253 yards, with the winning touchdown pass (to Isaac Redman) late in the fourth quarter of the 13-10 Steelers win.
Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jacksonville.
A tour de force performance by the most important running back in the league right now: 31 carries, 186 yards, leading to a ridiculous time of possession by Jacksonville -- 39 minutes, 54 seconds. The Jags never let Kerry Collins breathe, and it happened in part because Jones-Drew had so many drive-stretching runs.
Defensive Players of the Week
Troy Polamalu, SS, Pittsburgh.
For years, they'll play this blitz around left tackle over and over in Pittsburgh, because it might be the one that got the Steelers a first-round playoff bye and a shot at their seventh Super Bowl victory. Late in the fourth quarter, with the Steelers trailing 10-6, Polamalu ran around left tackle as Joe Flacco was setting to complete a pass. The Steeler safety steamed in from his blind side (yes, he beat Michael Oher around The Blind Side of Flacco) to strip-sack Flacco and force a fumble that LaMarr Woodley recovered. For the day, Polamalu added two quarterback hits and passes defensed.
Terrell Suggs, OLB, Baltimore.
How can anyone play better in defeat? Suggs took advantage of offensive-line backups and was The Man Sunday night. One and a half sacks. Five quarterback hits. Three tackles for loss. He was unblockable, and it's a shame he had to go home a loser early this morning in frigid Baltimore.
Champ Bailey, CB, Denver.
The hottest single player entering Week 13 in the NFL was Kansas City receiver Dwayne Bowe, who'd had 49 catches and an astounding 13 touchdowns in the previous seven weeks. On Sunday, in a contentious 10-6 Chiefs win, Bailey put Bowe out of commission for four quarters. Matt Cassel attempted three passes to Bowe and completed none. Of all the outstanding defensive days of 2010 by any player, this has to be in the top handful, regardless of the final score -- Kansas City 10, Denver 6.
Special Teams Player of the Week
Taj Smith, WR, Indianapolis.
Signed this week off the practice squad as a special-teamer with the ability to provide wideout depth, Smith paid dividends after just three active quarters. Early in the fourth quarter, with the Colts trailing a game they had to have, Smith burst through a seam in the Dallas protection, cleanly blocked a Mat McBriar punt at about the Dallas 15, and recovered the ball at the two, lunging in for the score to give Indy a 28-27 lead with 13 minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Coach of the Week
Pat Flaherty, offensive line coach, New York Giants.
With injuries disabling the entire left side of the offensive line, Flaherty's patch job has been phenomenal. The Giants have allowed zero sacks in the past five games, and on Sunday against Washington, the makeshift line paved the way for a 200-yard rushing day by Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs. William Beatty has subbed for David Diehl at left tackle, Kevin Boothe for Rich Seubert at left guard, and Seubert for Shaun O'Hara at center. This is Flaherty's seventh year working the line under Tom Coughlin with the Giants, and there's no question this is his best coaching job, particularly in holding all three division foes sackless in the five-game stretch.
Goats of the Week
Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis.
You could have told me a lot of things before the season. Lions win the Super Bowl. Patriots go 0-16. Giselle divorces Tom, marries Rex Ryan. But Manning throwing 11 interceptions in three weeks? Manning throwing four picks in back-to-back games? Manning throwing four pick-sixes in an eight-day span? All very, very weird. But his last of four interceptions against Dallas led to the Cowboys' winning field goal in overtime. Dallas 38, Indy 35.
Pat Sims, DT, Cincinnati.
What's the one thing drilled into the head of every defensive lineman in every fourth-down-and-less-than-5 situation? Don't jump offside. The quarterback's going to try to make you jump offside. Make sure you wait for the snap. On fourth-and-two from the Bengal 7 with 34 seconds left, New Orleans down by three, Drew Brees hard-counted and Sims, a third-year man from Auburn, jumped. Dumb, dumb play, obviously. And Brees threw the winning touchdown pass on the next snap.
"I'll keep throwing. I just hope I throw it to our guys.''
-- Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning, after his second straight four-interception game led the Colts to their third straight loss.
"To be quite frank, I'm tired of talking about it. We're talking about three or four plays for a guy that's played over 850 plays so far this year. The shame of it all for me is this guy is having an MVP-type year, he's making plays all over the field for us, he's been a catalyst for what we're doing not only defensively but as a team, and we're talking about three out of 850 plays."
-- Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin, to Rich Eisen of NFL Network, on the preoccupation with James Harrison's recent penalty and fine history with the NFL.
"Looks like they're the best team in football. That's what all the experts say. Except me.''
-- Jets coach Rex Ryan, on the Patriots, before tonight's matchup between the 9-2 Jets and 9-2 New England in Foxboro.
"I'm done. I'm done. I don't know how the remaining games will unfold, but that's it.''
-- Brett Favre, Wednesday, saying he will not play in 2011.
We shall see.
Raymond's late goal helps Leafs rally, end Kings' win streak
Schwartz, Blues stay hot with win over Oilers