During these 2012 NFL playoffs and Superbowl we have seen the impact 1 player has had on the outcome of football games. Kyle Williams. Billy Cundiff. Wes Welker. But the question remains, does 1 player or even 1 play determine the outcome of a football game better yet sporting event. Whether it be a clutch game-winning 3 pointer in the 4thquarter of a basketball game, or a missed field goal, does the entire game rest on the shoulders of 1 play? One play can literally swing all the momentum from one side to another. But isn’t the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB a team game. We always hear athletes say that “we win as a team and we lose as a team.” Is this always the case?
Kyle Williams, WR, Kick/Punt Returner for the San Francisco 49ers is a prime example of 1 player determining the outcome of the game for his team in a negative way. Kyle Williams had 2 lost fumbles in the NFC divisional game vs. the Giants which gave New York 10 free points. The first of Williams miscues came in the fourth quarter when the 49ers were up 14-10. San Francisco made a defensive stop and forced the Giants to punt on 4th and 15 on the NY Giants own 15 yard line. Kyle Williams unsure of picking up the bouncing football was stuck in no man’s land and caught in a pickle of deciding whether to pick up the ball or get out of the way. After further review of instant replay it was confirmed that the ball bounced off the knee of Kyle Williams and recovered by the Giants. The Giants will a short field, on San Fran’s 29 yard line were able to punch in the score in 7 plays and take a 17-14 lead. Instead of driving and extending the lead to 21-10 or 17-10 the 49ers blew there lead and needed a field goal to send it to Overtime, which is exactly what happened. In Overtime the saga of Kyle Williams continued. As ESPN tweeted, “Kyle Williams and his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.” Things just kept spiraling out of control for Mr. Kyle Williams. With another 4th and long, Kyle Williams attempted to return the punt from his 24 yard line when ran 5 yards and then was stripped by New York Giants Jaquin Williams and recovered by teammate Devin Thomas. The Giants inherited the ball on the 49ers 24 yard line and moved the ball to the 8 yard line, and then a false start penalty of 5 yards moved them to the 13 yard line setting up a Lawrence Tynes 31 yard game winning field goal. Tynes nailed it and the Giants won the game, and as we all witnessed went on to beat the Patriots in the Superbowl, in a thrilling 8th fourth quarter comeback for Eli Manning.
After that game 49ers fans showed there fury towards Kyle Williams as they flooded Twitter with the bashing of Williams and even death threats towards him. With that kind of reaction it is quite hard to argue that 1 player does not make a difference.
How about Billy Cundiff? Kicker for the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens were leading the Patriots going into the 4th quarter. The Patriots scored early in the 4th but left lots of time remaining. With 1:44 remaining, the Ravens stagnant for most of the quarter drove the ball down to the Patriots 14 yard line. The Baltimore Ravens sought to tie the game at 23 a piece and sent it into overtime. The field goal was from 32 yards out. A chip shot for Billy Cundiff. Cundiff sent up kicked it and it was no good, wide to the left. Ravens fans were in disbelief. The whole game came down to a simple kick, almost an extra point. But Cundiff shanked it, and the Patriots were headed to the Superbowl. Instead of being the hero Cundiff turned into a zero and his name is used as a curse word in the streets of Baltimore. What the Cundiff? Mother Cundiff! Freaking Cundiff!
Most recently and maybe the biggest play or non-play of the biggest game in sports happened in the Superbowl. The Patriots were driving in the 4th as they trailed the Giants 21-17 with less than 5 minutes left. Tom Brady dropped back when he saw a wide open Wes Welker in open field. He delivered the ball high to Wes Welker where Welker had to jump and catch the ball in midair. The pass would have been at least a 20 yard gain and put the Patriots into scoring position. Welker know as Brady’s most reliable receiver almost with perfect hands never drops a catch. However this time was different. As Welker leaped up and was coming down, he dropped the ball. Patriots’ fans, Brady, Wilfork, Bill Belichick, and Wes Welker were all in disbelief. The whole world could not believe their eyes. Tom Brady connected with his number 1 receiver and they couldn’t complete the pass! On the biggest stage of sports, Tom Brady and his sidekick failed. Welker’s drop was a monumental turning point in the game. The drop hurt the Patriots whose drive was stalled and eventually fell flat to the Giants in Superbowl XLVI.
So does 1 player actually matter? Yes I believe so. 1 play, 1 player can definitely determine the outcome of a game. One play can swing all the momentum and change the course of a playoff game even the Superbowl. At the same time I believe that football as well as baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer, etc are TEAM sports. The team wins together and loses together. The culmination of all the plays previous to the last play determines the outcome of the game. If the team was sharper and made plays earlier in the game or even down the stretch, the importance of one play and one player wouldn’t matter as much. The point of team sports and team play is TEAM. You have to have teamwork to win and even to lose. Teamwork is a collective effort of individuals coming together to help the team win. So yes 1 player making the final catch, hitting the game-winning shot, missing the game-winning field goal, or losing a fumble twice may determine the outcome, but they are still par t of the team. One play may matter but the 50 plays before that matter just as much. Kyle Williams losing 2 fumbles hurts but Alex Smith going 1-13 on third downs hurts even more. The lack of effectiveness early magnifies the inefficiency of late in big time playoff games. So to Kyle Williams, Billy Cundiff, and Wes Welker you may have affected the outcome of your teams’ losses but it is not entirely your fault.