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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Jake Ballard, Willis McGahee, Matt Moore Were the Unsung Heroes of Week 9

LBS is lucky enough to be sponsored by Chevy this week, which is fantastic given that we’re big American car guys. LBS writer Del even proudly rolls in a Chevy truck. When they asked to write a post highlighting the unsung heroes for Week 9 of the NFL season, we were stoked; there are so many players who put together commendable performances each week but get overlooked for one reason or another. With that in mind, we’re proud to recognize Jake Ballard, Willis McGahee, and Matt Moore as the unsung heroes of Week 9.

Giants tight end Jake Ballard had four catches for 67 yards and a touchdown in his team’s comeback win over the Patriots Sunday. Eli Manning is the one receiving most of the recognition for the team’s comeback. Most of the headlines have talked about Eli making good on his preseason declaration that he was an elite quarterback. They’ve talked about how he’s been clutch, and how he’s come up big to beat the Patriots in two big games (the other being the Super Bowl of course). But we’d like to remind you that in order for a quarterback to succeed, he needs someone to be on the receiving end of his passes. Ballard was that guy Sunday.

On a 3rd and 10 from their 39 with 1:07 left, the undrafted tight end from Ohio State speared a ball in double coverage to give the Giants a first down at the Patriots’ 33. Then on a 3rd and goal from the 1 with 19 seconds left, Ballard beat linebacker Tracy White on an out route and grabbed the game-winning touchdown. Ballard has three touchdowns in his last five games and 19 catches for 308 yards in that span. He’s more than filling Kevin Boss’ role for the Giants, and his awesome clutch performance in week 9 needs to be recognized.

While most people are focusing on Tim Tebow’s efforts that helped the Broncos get their third win of the season, the real hero for them Sunday was Willis McGahee. Willis ran for 163 yards — the second-highest total of his career — and two touchdowns on 20 carries. McGahee tied the game at 24 by running for a 60-yard touchdown to end the third quarter. He took an inside handoff from Tebow, broke through a huge hole, and outran three defensive backs for the touchdown. We didn’t know he still had breakaway speed. He then iced his team’s lead with a 28-yard touchdown run to make it 38-24.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of McGahee’s performance Sunday is that he was playing despite having surgery on his broken hand less than two weeks earlier. Willis broke his hand in week 7 against the Dolphins and had surgery the next day. Yes, Willis ran for 163 yards with a plate and screws in his right hand. Now that’s impressive.

Matt Moore has hardly been mentioned this week because a) he plays for the Dolphins and b) he’s Matt Moore. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve recognition. Moore led the Dolphins to their first win of the season — a 31-3 romp in Kansas City. The UCLA/Oregon State product went 17/23 for 244 yards, 3 touchdowns, and no turnovers. His 147.5 passer rating was the second highest by a quarterback who started and finished a game this season. He became the first Dolphins QB to throw for three touchdowns in a game since Chad Pennington in 2008. Not bad for a guy who entered the game with only one touchdown pass on the season. Anytime a player helps his team snap a 10-game losing streak, he deserves special recognition.

Jake Ballard, Willis McGahee, and Matt Moore were our unsung heroes of Week 9. Who were yours?

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