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Week 8 Splash Plays: Vick Ballard saves the Colts’ day with the play of the season

Doug Farrar
Shutdown Corner

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No, this is not Photoshopped. Vick Ballard actually did this. (Getty Images)

For your pleasure, we've assembled the most impressive plays from Week 8's NFL Sunday. We start with the potential play of the season, and the touchdown that seemed to indicate a changing of the guard in the NFC:

Vick Ballard gets aerial

Play of the day? Forget that -- Vick Ballard's leaping touchdown might be the play of the season when all is said and done. Not only was it a tremendous individual effort, but it was the decisive score in overtime to give the impressive Colts a 4-3 mark on the season and a key division win over the Tennessee Titans.

Julio Jones can't be stopped

The Atlanta Falcons traded a lot of draft stock to move up and select the Alabama receiver in the 2011 NFL draft, and they're looking pretty smart about it these days. One play in Atlanta's decisive 30-17 victory over the flailing Philadelphia Eagles made this clear more than any other -- when Jones blasted off the line and blew right by Eagles cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha for a 63-yard touchdown with 6:33 left in the first half. It was especially embarrassing for Asomugha, long one of the best pass defenders in the NFL, because he had inside position on Jones, and it simply didn't matter.

Pat Lee goes long for the pick

It wasn't so much that picking off a pass from Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel was impressive -- pretty much anyone in the NFL can do that -- but Oakland Raiders cornerback Pat Lee did impress by grabbing this interception of a Cassel pass with 5:08 left in the game. Also note the lack of follow-through from Chiefs receiver Jonathan Baldwin, whom Kansas City drafted 20 spots lower than Jones (and who some thought was a second-round talent at best). If you want an explanation of the canyon between the Falcons and Chiefs from a success perspective these days, that's a pretty good place to start.

Tim Jennings gets (yet another) Bears pick-six

The Chicago Bears have already scored six defensive touchdowns in the 2012 season. This one, which put the Bears ahead of the Carolina Panthers in a game that was closer than many thought it would be, was as important as any of them. Jennings made the play that turned the game on a day when Chicago's offense was sputtering.

Jaguars turn to Guy Whimper in the red zone

The good news: Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert finally found a reliable red zone passing target in offensive lineman Guy Whimper. The bad news: Whimper now has as many or more receiving touchdowns than Justin Blackmon, Maurice Jones-Drew, Laurent Robinson, and Mike Thomas. That's right: Guy Whimper has more receiving touchdowns than Blackmon, whom the Jags drafted higher this season (fifth overall) than the Falcons did last year with Julio Jones. In a word, yikes.

Dolphins block a punt as Tebow whiffs

We're used to great special teams from the Jets, because Mike Westhoff is one of the best coaches in the NFL. However, it appears that Westhoff is as perplexed as anyone else on the Jets' coaching staff when it comes to how to effectively use Tim Tebow. This first-quarter block of a Robert Malone punt, which Dolphins defensive lineman pounced on for a touchdown, was as much Tebow's fault as anyone's, and Westhoff had a few words for his Personal Punt Protector after the play was over.

Beast Mode is impressive, but not quite enough

Usually, Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch is breaking through about 15 tackles on his average play, but once in a while, he does get free for a long gainer. So it was when Beast Mode ran away from the entire Detroit Lions defense for a 77-yard touchdown run. It wasn't enough to get the Seahawks in the win column -- Matthew Stafford returned to his old form and made the difference -- but Lynch added yet another highlight run to his resume.

Dallas gets a friendly bounce

Well, this was a weird one. Late in the third quarter of the New York Giants' win over the Dallas Cowboys, Eli Manning threw a pass over the middle to Victor Cruz, and Cowboys safety Gerald Sensabaugh absolutely blew Cruz up. The ball Cruz caught flew up in the air and into the hands of Cowboys cornerback Danny McCray, which proves one thing -- when you turn it over six times, as Dallas did, even the lucky bounces aren't enough to put you in the win column.

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