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NFL’s best game breakers of the decade
Game breakers can come in many forms in the NFL. A player can return a kick or punt return and change momentum in a game, or make a key interception return or tackle that stuffs a drive. On offense, a game breaker can be a running back that hits the closing hole on the offensive line then bursts out the other side in another gear, leaving the defense behind.
Then there is a quarterback that can take off with the ball when his receivers are covered and make something happen all on his own. A game breaker is the one player on an NFL team that will change the outlook of a game with one spectacular game breaking play that brings the crowd to their feet and makes every highlight reel.
Ed Reed of the Baltimore Ravens has lost a step as his age has finally caught up with him but over the last decade Reed was the one player that could break a game wide open with an exciting interception return or a punt return that would electrify his team.
Ed Reed intercepted nine passes in 2004 and 2008 but that does not tell the story on Reed and his unique game breaking style. When Reed intercepts a pass the fun is just beginning. He treats every interception as if it is a punt return and he has one goal, to score in spectacular fashion. Reed's speed was deceptive when he was in his prime and his footwork was second to none. Ed Reed was by far the number one game breaker in the NFL over the last decade.
Troy Palomalu: Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers realize how important Troy Polamalu(notes) is to their defense. Without Polamalu last season the Pittsburgh Steelers defense was not the same and they struggled. Polamalu has a nose for the ball and his instincts for breaking up a play are already legendary.
Polamalu is known for anticipating the snap of the ball at the line of scrimmage. His blitz instincts have landed him numerous sacks and forced fumbles over the years. As the NFL prepares to enter the next decade Troy Polamalu is well on his way to possibly becoming the greatest game breaker in the NFL.
Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings is spectacular when he gets in a groove. Great game breakers have that second gear when it is noticeable that they can burst off through a hole and hit a high gear no one else on the field has.
Peterson is the type of back that picks up steam as the game enters the fourth quarter. Peterson has the ability to tip toe through a small hole and then blast into the secondary in spectacular fashion. His progress was slowed in the Brett Favre(notes) era but it will be an obvious jump in production once Favre rides off into the sunset. Adrian Peterson has been one of the best game breakers in the NFL since stepping on the field for his first NFL game.
Chris Johnson of the Tennessee Titans is also one of the most incredible NFL running backs ever to take the field. Johnson's style reminds many of Earl Campbell of the Houston Oilers in the late '70s early '80s. His abrupt cuts and ability to stop on a dime in the open field have created legendary runs in Johnson's short but productive career. Chris Johnson will be a legendary NFL game breaker well into the next decade.
Michael Vick has played in the NFL in two separate time periods. He entered the league with the Atlanta Falcons and was one of the most spectacular game breakers in the NFL for the five years with the Falcons. In his early career Vick was a run first quarterback and pass second quarterback but he was still exciting to watch. Vick was suspended by the NFL for supporting a dog fighting ring and his career looked to be over at the time in 2007.
Vick went away to prison and returned to the NFL in 2009 with the Philadelphia Eagles as a third back up to Donovan McNabb(notes) and Kevin Kolb(notes) in his first season back in the NFL. In 2010 Kolb went down with an injury and Vick was back in the NFL as a starter. The new incarnation of Vick is a better mix than the original Michael Vick. He sees the field much better and is willing to bomb the ball deep or take off on one of his patented spectacular runs. Michael Vick should be an NFL game breaker well into the next decade as well.
Up and coming game breakers for the next decade include: DeSean Jackson(notes), Clay Mathews, Jacoby Ford(notes) and Jamaal Charles(notes). All three of these players have emerged as potential game breakers for years to come. Percy Harvin(notes) has potential also, but his migraines may end his career prematurely.
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