By Nick Shook
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Monday night stands as the home side’s last chance to even out the host/visitor split for Week 10. That’s right — for the first time this season, the road teams have won more games than the home squads.
Thanks to some white-knuckle wins on the parts of Dallas and Miami, visiting clubs emerged with a 7-6 record through 13 contests, with the Cincinnati-New York matchup yet to be played. Big-time performances on both sides of the ball propelled the two winning teams to victory, while Seattle locked down on the goal line to preserve a win, and the Broncos turned to a well-timed leap and return to depart New Orleans with a stunning victory. Heroes abound! These are your greatest on the road from a wild, wacky and wonderful Week 10.
Greatest on the Road
Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys
That sweetheart pick of Elliott as Offensive Rookie of the Year is starting to look better than pumpkin pie. Who cares if he was just about everyone’s favorite? There was a reason for that, just as there’s a reason the nation will eat way too much of that pie 10 days from now.
I turned to the star of Ohio State’s 2014 National Championship run for my bold prediction this week and almost nailed it. Elliott rushed for 114 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries, including a game-winning touchdown run from 32 yards out with less than 20 seconds left in the contest.
Oh, and there was this 83-yard screen play, aided by plenty of fantastic downfield blocking that, when paired with Elliott, is devastating.
What you get with Elliott is simple, but the combination of his attributes makes him so incredibly valuable. He’s a big runner with sprinter’s legs and a track star pedigree. Add in his burst and vision, and you have a rare talent. Pittsburgh learned that for the first time, the hard way.
Elliott broke the 1,000-yard mark on the season in his ninth game, joining NFL greats Eric Dickerson and Adrian Peterson in becoming just the third to do so. We welcome our second Cowboys rookie to the winner’s circle. Chug the milk like you just won the Indy 500, Zeke. You deserve it after a game like that.
Also considered …
Johnny Hekker, Los Angeles Rams
We have two issues here that I first must confront. Punters and kickers don’t do the same things the other football players do. But, as Pat McAfee has made us aware, we know that punters are people too. And what a person Johnny Hekker was on Sunday.
Mired in a dreadful — er, defensive — stalemate, the Rams often found themselves trotting out the ol’ punting unit, which serves as issue No. 2. We won’t delve into the Keenum/Goff debate, instead focusing on Hekker, who became Mr. Boomstick against the Jets, punting seven times for a total of 352 net yards (50.3 per punt) and a long of 78 — yes, seventy-eight yards. Hekker would be a Tresselball Hall of Famer. He’s averaging a career-high 44.5 net yards per punt this season, flipping the field with consistency for a Rams team that has increasingly relied on its defense to remain competitive.
I’ve now inserted a highlight video for a punter for the first time in this column’s history, as far as I know. This is why they spent $18 million over six years on their punter, who is a person, and for a week, one of the greatest on the road, too.
Justin Simmons, Denver Broncos
This very well could also go to Miami’s Kiko Alonso for his game-winning interception. We’re not always in the business of highlighting one big play — OK, maybe we are — but this defines the meaning of “can’t miss play”. Seriously, click this sentence fragment. You need to watch what Simmons did here.
New Orleans had just capped what looked like a comeback drive. All the Saints needed was the extra point, which has become rather fleeting in the last year.
Taking a page out of Bobby Wagner‘s book, Simmons timed his approach with the snap, leaping over the long snapper, landing and hopping to block the kick, which deflected to the left toward his teammates. Will Parks scooped and — after a controversial return — scored the two points that broke the momentary tie, put Denver ahead and sent the New Orleans’ faithful home shocked. How prescient of Parks to wear white shoes, which conveniently blended in with a sideline that he may or may not have stepped on during the return.
Simmons was the man who made the play to turn the game on its side in an instant, with Parks (and a favorable review) finishing off the job for the Broncos.