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Ronde Barber, Eric Wright In Running for Play of the Year

Posted Jan 10, 2013

Barber's 78 yard interception return TD in Week Six and Wright's 60-yard pick-six in Week Two are among 20 moments in the running for "Play of the Year"

The 2012 Tampa Bay Buccaneers returned three of their 18 interceptions for touchdowns, and two of those were of the spectacular, highlight-reel variety.  In fact, they may have been the two most memorable "pick-sixes" of the entire NFL campaign.


NFL.com apparently thinks so.  Ronde Barber's heads-up 78-yard scoop-and-score against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week Six and Eric Wright's winding 60-yard runback in New York in Week Two are among 20 moments in 2012 that have been nominated for the "2012 Play of the Year."  They are the only two defensive scores on the list.


Having identified 20 of the most incredible "performance moments" of the 2012 season, NFL.com is now asking fans to rank them in order to determine an overall winner.  The play that is chosen will be revealed during the league's second annual "NFL Honors" show on CBS on the evening of Saturday, February 2.


Fans participating in the vote for Play of the Year will rank their top 10 from among the 20 options using a simple drag-and-drop setup.  Click here to cast your votes and, if it helps to refresh your memory and make  your rankings, watch video clips of all 20 plays.


The NFL Honors show on CBS will air from 9-11 p.m. ET on the night before Super Bowl XLVII and will once again be hosted by Alec Baldwin.  Among the awards to be handed out that evening are Most Valuable Player, Man of the Year, Coach of the Year and Rookie of the Year.  The Rookie of the Year award is also chosen by fan votes on NFL.com and Buccaneers running back Doug Martin is one of the five nominees; vote for that award here.


Wright found the end zone in just his second game as a Buccaneer during a wild shootout with the Giants in Met Life Stadium on September 16.  The play had two rather remarkable components.  First, Wright leaves his spot covering the slot receiver and begins to blitz Giants quarterback Eli Manning before realizing that the Giants are setting up a short bubble screen to his man, Victor Cruz.  Wright stops in his track and somehow manages to intercept Manning's short dart of a throw just a few yards after it leaves the quarterback's hands.


The second half of the play is Wright's frenetic run to the end zone as the last seconds of the first half are winding down.  He starts immediately downfield after the pick but retreats after finding his initial path blocked and ends up changing directions five times in rapid succession in a 10-yard section of the field.  After eluding a half-dozen would-be tacklers, Wright finally finds the right sideline and races up it untouched to complete the 60-yard score.  DE Adrian Clayborn's block of Manning at the goal line removes the last obstacle from Wright's path.


The utter surprise of Barber's interception against the Chiefs is best read in the reaction on the Kansas City sideline in the video that's provided.  Kansas City coaches can be seen looking down at their play sheets, already thinking about the next snap after assuming the play is merely an incompletion, only to be stunned when Barber is suddenly racing past them in the opposite direction.


On the play, Chiefs quarterback Brady Quinn tries to hit Dexter McCluster on a short slant on the left side, but Buccaneers cornerback E.J. Biggers is there to break up the play.  As McCluster and Biggers hit the ground in a heap, the loose ball also heads toward the turf but ends up landing first on McCluster's thigh and then on Biggers' arm instead.  Somehow never touching the ground, the ball pops back up in the air a short distance.  By this point, Barber has arrived and he alertly snatches at the pigskin, grabbing it by the sides as one of its points stops just inches from the grass.  Knowing he has a clean takeaway, Barber takes advantage of the element of surprise and hits the sideline ahead of all the potential Chiefs tacklers, eventually running 78 yards for the score.