‘Tis the season for defense. Three teams — two already in the postseason and another still giving chase — earned eye-popping road wins in Week 16. All three of those teams did so with stupendously stout defense efforts.
Greatest on the road …
Karlos Dansby, Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals are having an outstanding season under first-year coach Bruce Arians, posting a 10-5 record through 16 weeks of play. However, despite the on-field success, the Cardinals are still on the outside looking in on the NFC playoff field. The fact that the Cardinals go into the season’s final week with playoff aspirations still intact took a massive effort on a number of fronts in a surprising 17-10 win over the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. That win was the Cardinals‘ seventh in eight games and put to a halt the Seahawks‘ 14-game home winning streak, thus cracking the team’s aura of home-field invincibility inconveniently right in time for the playoffs.
Though quarterback Carson Palmer‘s game-winning touchdown toss to Michael Floyd provided the highlight-reel moment, it was the Cardinals defense that kept the Seahawks‘ offense off kilter. Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson had his first home loss of his career. One of those previous home wins was a 58-0 beatdown administered to the Cardinals last season.
Wilson’s day was uncommon for the usually on-target second-year player. And his final throw clinched the Cardinals‘ win. That pass was underthrown, deflected off receiver Doug Baldwin and into the arms of Dansby.
The Cardinals need to defeat the San Francisco 49ers at University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday, and hope that the hapless Tampa Bay Buccaneers can somehow topple the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome. A Cardinals win in Week 17 would make them 11-5 and just the second team since the expansion of the NFL’s playoff field to 12 teams to miss the postseason (the New England Patriots finished 11-5 in 2008 and missed the playoffs).
Jerrell Freeman, Indianapolis Colts
The Colts have put together an impressive showing against some of the NFL’s finest teams this season. The Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs are a combined 45-10 against the rest of the NFL this season, but are 0-4 against the Colts. Sparking Sunday’s 23-7 win over the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium was a defensive effort that held a Chiefs offense that entered Week 16 after scoring 45 points and 56 points in the two previous games.
Freeman was a big contributor to the Colts‘ cause, intercepting Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith twice and also forcing a fumble on a sack. That play essentially halted any hope the Chiefs had of getting back into the game.
Logan Ryan, New England Patriots
The Patriots went into M&T Bank Stadium and did what many didn’t expect, boat racing the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, 41-7, in a thorough-enough crushing that it might have many altering their AFC playoff picks.
Ryan, a rookie defensive back out of Rutgers, had two interceptions of Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, who looked little like the player who won Super Bowl MVP honors in early February. It was Ryan’s first multi-interception game and it tied him with Aqib Talib for the team lead in picks with five.
Previous Greatness on the Road winners:
» Week 1: Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
» Week 2: Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins
» Week 3: Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
» Week 4: Tom Brady, New England Patriots
» Week 5: Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs
» Week 6: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
» Week 7: A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals
» Week 8: Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers
» Week 9: Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles
» Week 10: Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions
» Week 11: Matt McGloin, Oakland Raiders
» Week 12: Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
» Week 13: Eric Decker, Denver Broncos
» Week 14: Charles Clay, Miami Dolphins
» Week 15: Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks
Follow Jim Reineking on Twitter @jimreineking.