- Associated Press - Friday, October 7, 2011

They come in all shapes and sizes, those dynamic NFL players who can alter the course of a game with a single play.

Their positions matter little when it’s time for that game-changer, and it can happen at any time, at any spot on the field, on offense, defense or special teams.

Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and a whole bunch of kickers have pulled their teams through with last-second touchdown passes or game-winning field goals, and Tony Romo’s playlist includes a few moments that helped _ and hurt _ his Cowboys.

But we’re talking explosive players, those special individuals with a flair for the highlight reel _ the return man going all the way with the game on the line, the running back spinning away from a sure-tackle and sprinting for a score, a receiver leaping above two _ or three _ defenders for the winning TD.

With a quarter of the season in the books, here’s a Pick Six of explosiveness:

Calvin Johnson, wr, Lions: First, the 6-foot-5, 236-pounder leaped over three defenders for an acrobatic 23-yard TD that pulled Detroit within 30-24, then leaped maybe even higher on 2-yarder scoring pass with 1:39 left that completed a 34-30 comeback over the Cowboys. So now, “Megatron” is in the NFL history books as the first player with two TD catches in each of the first four games of a season. The perfect timing of his leaps sets him apart from most receivers. Everyone gets to see him Monday night against the Bears, and our next guy on the list.

Devin Hester, wr/kr/pr, Bears: Kick to him at your own risk _ always. The 5-11, 190-pounder owns the NFL record with 11 punt returns for TDs after his 69-yarder in last week’s 34-29 win over the Panthers. The score made it 24-10. Minutes earlier, he had a 73-yard kickoff return that set up a 17-yard TD run by Matt Forte. Enough said.

Darren Sproles, rb/kr/pr, Saints: Could be the best transaction of the year. The shifty, 5-6, 190-pound former Charger is the only player with a TD rushing, receiving and returning this season, and is a big improvement over Reggie Bush (now with the Dolphins). He leads the league with 11 catches on third down plays, averages 8.9 yards per rush, and has a 72-yard punt return for a score. Next up Sunday are the Panthers, who happen to be quarterbacked by our next player on the list.

Cam Newton, qb, Panthers: OK, so we sneaked a QB onto the list. Why not? Every time he drops back to pass, which is often, the rookie has fans believing he’s going to heave a long TD pass. He single-handedly kept his team in the game against the Packers with a record-setting opening day. His team may be 1-3, but the 6-5, 244-pounder has thrown for 1,386 yards and five TDs, and run for four more.

Darren McFadden, rb, Raiders: Really, really fast and looks like he’s ready to break a long one any time he separates from a defender. The 6-2, 210-pounder snapped off a 70-yard TD run against the Jets in helping Oakland rally for a 34-24 win a few weeks ago. He finished the game with a career-high 171 yards and two TDs, and leads the league in rushing with 468 yards. He’s got no less than five runs of 20 yards or more. That’s explosive, no?

“Shoot, you block a guy for two seconds and you look and he’s 50 yards downfield,” rookie guard Stefen Wisniewski said.

DeMarcus Ware, LB, Cowboys: The 6-4, 260-pound seventh year pro who led the league in sacks two of the past three years, is on the prowl again under new coordinator Rob Ryan. While Romo is having his ups and downs, Ware is all up _ five sacks and in constant pursuit of the quarterback.

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