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Best Crucial Plays of 2010 #10--ET Phone Ball

If I was only a boy named Suh.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
If I was only a boy named Suh. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
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Week 3 Vs. Chargers

 

4th Quarter 1st and 10 at SD 28 P.Rivers pass deep middle intended for A.Gates INTERCEPTED by E.Thomas at SD 45. E.Thomas pushed ob at SD 11 for 34 yards (J.Hester).

 

Seattle WP Before Play:  72%

Seattle WP After Play:  88%

Total WP Swing:  16%

 

There were two things Seattle fans took away from this early Chargers game.  One, that Phillip Rivers and Antonio Gates are arguably the most unstoppable passing duo in the game right now.  Two, that Leon Washington essentially won the game by himself.  But there's a third thing that slipped under the covers.  Namely, this is where Earl Thomas earned his colors as an NFL safety.

The kid has flaws, yes.  He lets his speed get to him, tends to overpursue and is too happy to play defensive WR rather than play an actual defender.  So when Gus Bradley lines him up alone in center field, like he did in this play, I get apprehensive.  Then the ball snaps, the kid makes his plays, and I wonder why I get apprehensive to begin with.

On this play, Bradley has one of his weird packages rolled out.  There are three men lined down on the line (including Aaron Curry).  Chris Clemons is standing up on the right side in his usual LEO spot, with David Hawthorne shading him.  Lawyer Milloy is boxed in on the LOS as well, and Will Herring is in very close on the right side of SD's OL.  Antonio Gates is lined up opposite Heater.  Believe it or not, it is Herring who made the difference in this play.

Snap.  Gates breaks off the line clean, and runs his designed route to the middle of the field.  Problem is, Heater is hugging his shoulder every step of the way in an admirable show of skill.  Rivers very clearly sees this problem.  He's one of the best QBs in the league, so surely he would just check down and move on.  But the problem is the one he doesn't see, in Will Herring breathing down the right side of his neck.  Marmarlard doesn't sense him until it's too late.  Too late to make a good throw, that is.  He desperately chucks the ball into the general area where Gates is.  And this is where ET comes in.  He's doing his duty, watching the action from center field, not making a move until it's absolutely necessary for him to.  And when the QB's favorite target is diving towards your zone trying to make a catch, you make your move.  And move did ET do.  Or at least, make the effort he had to.  Heater got away with a PI penalty and the ball bounced off Gates' hands into Thomas'.

Cheap play?  Sure, not many big football plays aren't.  But still a back-breaking pick by SD, who could ill afford a turnover at that period of the game.  The Seahawks got a field goal out of the whole debacle.

The Week 3 Chargers game was a wave pool of emotions.  Up, down, up, down, up, down.  I'm not spoiling the series, but I feel safe in saying this game had the most intense up-and-down wave pool emotions of the whole season.