The 20 Most Important Plays of the NFL Season

Updated: May 29, 2023

We are now in the final throes of the NFL season. Positions have solidified. There have been a lot of key moments that have gotten us to this point. Maybe there are some bigger or splashier plays not on the list, but these are some big moments from this season that now seem really important when you look back at how things have turned out.

#20 Nathan Peterman throws late Pick Six against Texans

After an 0-3 start, the Houston Texans had a run of games where things went very right for them in key moments (you may see a few others below). Against the Bills at home, the Texans found themselves in a surprisingly nervy affair. Josh Allen got hurt, though, and Nathan Peterman was in the game late, with the score tied, when he did that thing he does. Without this survival, the Texans would not be in position for a bye.

#19 Patrick Mahomes to Tyreek Hill for a very quick score against New England

Patrick Mahomes to Tyreek Hill has been a lightning combination all year. In a key game against the Patriots they scored quickly … too quickly … in tying a game with three minutes left in just one play.

The Patriots then methodically moved down the field and Kansas City never touched the ball, and that has been a theme in key moments all year.

#18 Dan Bailey nails risky 52-yarder to seal win over Eagles

Minnesota had a six-point lead over the Eagles on the road when Mike Zimmer faced a decision. Try a long field goal to seal the game, or punt it and make the Eagles go the full field to win. A miss and the Eagles would have been starting near mid-field, and Bailey had already missed two kicks that day.

But Bailey nailed it. The Eagles went down and scored, too, but could not recover the onside kick. Bailey's long kick is the difference between the Vikings having the advantage now in the wildcard race, or being behind the Eagles in the standings.

#17 Drew Brees turns into a Running Back to force overtime

It's easy to forget that this season started slowly for the Saints. They lost to the Buccaneers in the opener, then survived at home against the Browns thanks to several Zane Gonzalez missed kicks (two extra points and two field goals). In week 3, they traveled to Atlanta and found themselves trailing in a shootout.

That's when Drew Brees found a bit of magic near the goal line, bouncing off two defenders and turning it up for a dramatic touchdown to force overtime.

#16 Alex Smith breaks his leg

Washington is still mathematically alive for a playoff spot, but their season went off the rails when Alex Smith suffered a tragic injury that could threaten his career. Washington has gone through three quarterbacks in the last four games, going 1-3, and with several other NFC contenders also collapsing, this season could have turned out very differently but for this moment.

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