The holidays really are a time of miracles. This year, much to my surprise, I was actually able to liberate all of Evan’s toys from their industrial strength wire bondage (I mean, come on, these toys are more confined than Christina Ricci in “Black Snake Moan” (and, thankfully, less annoying)). In honor of miraculous moments big and small, here are my five most unexpectedly awesome single game fantasy football performances of the year:
5. Ben Roethlisberger—Week 15*: Coming into this game, the Steelers were on a five game skid that included losses to KC, Oakland and Cleveland and the Packers were the NFC’s leading yardage defense. Also, Roethlisberger was only able to put up 201 yards against the Browns the week before. By the end of this Week 15 thriller, Big Ben with his 503 passing yards (and 32.82 fantasy points) became just the ninth player in NFL history to register 500+ passing yards in a game. That list contains some impressive names: Moon, Marino, Brees and Tittle (and, oddly, Elvis Grbac). What is more striking, however, are the names that are missing: Favre, Fouts, Manning, Elway, Tarkenton and Montana to name just a few. Roethlisberger’s transformation into a gunslinger is remarkable to me after watching him being groomed for his first few years as a “game manager,” a la Trent Dilfer. This leads to the inevitable question of what has happened to Pittsburgh’s running game. Talk about impotent; it might as well slip into the tub on that Cialis commercial. By the way, from a fantasy perspective, Aaron Rodgers (the most underrated fantasy player this year) proved more valuable than Big Ben in this game, notching 37.52 points on 383 yards passing, three TDs, a 2 point conversion and a rushing touchdown. The Steelers and Packers must have been in the prevent all game!
* I know that Chris Johnson’s season high 48.65 point performance in Week 2 should probably be on this list or even the Niners D for putting up 33.50 points in a three TD shutout against the Rams (heck, Vernon Davis’ three TD game against the Texans deserves some consideration), but do you really expect me to create a list of top moments without including at least one Steeler or Viking?
4. Bruce Gradkowski and Louis Murphy—Week 13: The Gradkowski-Murphy connection sounds like a 1980s arms smuggling pipeline between Poland and Northern Ireland. Well, these guys blew up Week 13 (weak, I know). Gradkowski posted the second most fantasy points that week (26.32 points from 308 yards passing and 3 TDs), with Murphy following right behind with 25.80 points off of 128 yards receiving and two TDs. Raiders fans must have a tear or two streaking down their black and silver-painted faces knowing that (i) Murphy posted more yards and touchdowns in that one game than the Raiders’ first round pick Darrius Heyward-Bey has all year and (ii) a Tampa QB outcast threw for as many TDs in this game as their first overall pick in the 2007 draft has thrown all year. And, yes, I consciously omitted the fact that the hapless Raider offense racked up these totals against the Steelers.
3. Miles Austin—Week 5: No T.O., no problem. Roy Williams injured, who cares. Playing the KC defense makes all offensive problems disappear. Austin came out of nowhere to haul in 10 passes for 250 yards and 2 touchdowns. Austin only had five catches in 2009 before his breakout performance. Going into the season, Austin was not even selected in most fantasy drafts (Romo, Williams, Crayton, Witten, Barber, Jones and Choice were expected to carry the offense). Going undrafted is nothing new for Austin as he was an undrafted free agent in 2006 coming out of the football hotbed that is Monmouth University.
2. Matthew Stafford and Brady Quinn—Week 11: Who saw this one coming? Having Stafford and Quinn combine for the second highest scoring collective QB game of the season is about as likely as putting Steven Seagal and J-CVD in the same movie and getting an Oscar-quality product (that said, who wouldn’t want to see a remake of “Bloodsport” and “Out for Justice” combined into one film? Seagal, reprising his legendary role of Detective Gino Felino, would still be on the hunt for anyone connected to Bobby Lupo’s murder. When Felino finally catches up to Bobby Lupo’s assassins, they are lead by J-CVD’s Frank Dux. Felino is then forced to enter the Kumite and fight Dux to the death. Will Dux dim-mak Felino’s gelatinous mid-section or will Felino be able to execute his deadly corkscrew to the forehead maneuver for the win? The possibilities are endless!!). Let’s set the stage for this highly anticipated showdown between the 1-8 Lions and the 1-8 Browns: prior to Week 11, Quinn had only thrown three touchdowns in his entire career spanning nine games and Stafford had reached pay dirt only five times in his first 252 pass attempts. As expected, Stafford and Quinn combined for 726 yards and nine TDs.
1. Jerome Harrison—Week 15: Going into the Week 15 showdown with KC, Jerome Harrison’s body of work was about as impressive as Larry the Cable Guy’s (while LCG was somewhat funny in the “Blue Collar Comedy Tour” (“I was living with this girl for eight months…until she realized I was there.” “A clear conscious is the sign of a bad memory!”), there really is no excusing “Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector,” “Delta Farce” or “Witless Protection”). Through Week 14, Harrison had rushed for only 301 yards as Jamal Lewis’ backup. He erupted for 286 rushing yards, which places him third all time (it is nice seeing AD on the top of the list; at least he can’t fumble that record away), and his 298 yards from scrimmage ranks seventh all-time. He also rang up three TDs and ended up with the season’s second highest single game fantasy point total (48.30 points). Git-r-dun!