We know it's only Week 11, but we may have seen the NFL play of the year, folks. It happened with 7:15 left in the third quarter in the Atlanta Falcons' 23-19 win over the Arizona Cardinals. The Falcons had third-and-6 on the Arizona 45-yard line, and Matt Ryan threw a short pass to running back Jason Snelling. Cards linebacker Sam Acho forced a fumble, and it looked as if the ball was going to go out of bounds.
Not so fast, though -- Cards cornerback Greg Toler somehow flipped the ball back inbounds with an incredible effort, and safety Rashad Johnson came up with the recovery. You won't see a more heads-up play than that all season.
The guy who wasn't heads-up? Falcons head coach Mike Smith, who challenged the fumble recovery. Because he did so before the review, Smith was busted 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct, and the play was not reviewed. It might have been overturned, as Toler's toe was very close to the sideline, but no dice.
In the end, it didn't matter. Smith's gaffe was just a small embarrassment in the grand scheme of things because the Falcons won the game. They did so despite Ryan's three first-quarter picks, because Arizona's quarterback situation is just about the worst we've ever seen. John Skelton was benched after starting off completing 2 of 7 passes for 6 yards, and sixth-round rookie backup Ryan Lindley was similarly ineffective, going 9 of 20 for 64 yards.
In fact, speaking of heads-up plays, one of the reasons the Cards lost was that Lindley didn't seem to understand what a fumble was. John Abraham alerted Jonathan Babineaux to this fumble possibility with 8:37 left in the first half ... and what we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is a very strange touchdown after Abraham told Babineaux to get the ball and run.
The Cards have now lost six straight games after winning their first four, and their once-strong playoff hopes are just about done. Still, they do have one of the better plays of the season ... so they've got that going for them, which is nice.
And Ryan, who threw five picks in the game with no touchdowns to show for it, should be pretty relieved that no matter what he did, he was sure to only be the third-worst quarterback on the field.
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