This piece is going to be bouncing back and forth so please bare with me and I hope you enjoy it. I may miss teams, but I will be talking about things that stood out to me. Deep breath everybody, now let’s begin.
Boy oh boy what a season. Peyton Manning returned and looked as if he never missed a game. Ray Lewis tears triceps muscle and was thought to be done, but returned and is now a 2x Super Bowl Champion. The lock out with the NFL officials, left us pulling our hair out not because of the players, but because they didn’t know what they were doing. That call in Seattle? Seriously? I have to stop thinking about it before my blood pressure shoots through the roof. Adrian Peterson came back from a knee injury when nobody expected him to be the same and proved them wrong. Almost breaking the single season rushing record, Peterson carried his team to a Wild Card birth and won the MVP award. Three teams who were looking for leaders at the quarterback position found their men. Indianapolis Colts, parted ways with one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time in Peyton Manning, picked up Andrew Luck #1 overall in the draft. Watching this kid through out the season, I forgot I was even watching a rookie. The ability to read the defense and make plays (despite so many interceptions), this kid reminded me of Peyton Manning. If they continue to build around this team, I see the Colts being a dangerous team again very soon. Speaking of the Colts, we all know head coach Chuck Pagano went through a battle with acute promyelocytic leukemia who put him out of work for majority of the season. Taking over his position was Bruce Arians, this years NFL Coach of the Year and now currently the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals.
Robert Griffin III and fellow rookie Alfred Morris, led the Washington Redskins to their first division title since the 1999 season. RG3 finished up the year with 20 touchdowns, 5 interceptions, 3,200 passing and 815 rushing yards and he added 7 rushing TD’s. Morris who added huge rookie numbers himself, ran for 1,600 yards and 13 touchdowns. If Griffin can bounce back from that knee injury he sustained against the Ravens and re-aggravated in the playoffs against the Seattle Seahawks, I see him being able to repeat those numbers. Now onto the Seattle Seahawks, probably one of the most surprising teams (in my eyes) of the season. They spent money to bring in Matt Flynn, a man who spent time behind Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, to come in and hopefully turn this team around. After winning the quarterback battle in training camp, rookie Russell Wilson has turned doubters (which I have to admit included me) into believers. A team who was solid last year on defense was lacking in the quarterback position. Adding a dual threat to that position resulted in headaches for defensive coordinators all over the league. Seattle proved they were for real, coming from behind to stun opponents, fought their way into the NFC Wild Card round against the Washington Redskins who they defeated 24-14. Their season was then ended in the 2nd round by the Atlanta Falcons who I thought were going to for sure make the Super Bowl.
Being a Chicago Bears fan, this was yet another frustrating year for me. I’m probably not the only one who feels this way but, when are we going to start being consistent on offense? Phil Emery went out and got us Brandon Marshall for a 3rd round pick, a total steal! Devin Hester struggled this year, he hardly made his presence known as a receiver or a returner. The fact that this defense let games slip away was ridiculous, I know we sent 5 total Bears to the Pro Bowl (Peppers, Jennings, Tillman, Melton and Marshall) but we started off 7-1. There was no excuse why we shouldn’t have finished off the Seahawks in that overtime loss and sealed up that Wild Card birth when we beat Detroit in Week 17. Instead we had to put our fate in the hands of the Green Bay Packers, get it together Chicago.
So how about them Cleveland Browns? Yeah I said it, Cleveland Browns. They look like they are slowly starting to get the wheels turning on that bus, it may take a while but I think the fans should start to get excited, not Super Bowl excited but excited. New York Jets? Fire Rex Ryan, I think its time for him to take that foot out of his mouth and instead of jumping the gun on how they will win the Super Bowl this year, worry about winning games first. Actually, how did Rex Ryan keep his job and Lovie Smith gets canned? Lovie has been to the Super Bowl unlike Ryan and the Jets. That is one thing I am disappointed about, Smith being fired. Yeah the man wasn’t that emotional or furious like the rest of the coaches in the league, but the man was a leader. He took the calm approach and lead the Bears to the playoffs and the big game while he was here. Anyways, New Orleans Saints. What happened? Who Dat? No seriously, who are they? They were once one of the best teams in the league, but finish 7-9? A lot of problems on Defense that need to be addressed and fixed or else it won’t matter if you have Drew Brees firing balls to receivers for big gains and touchdowns. Jerry Jones! Good ole Jerry Jones. The man who built a Super Bowl caliber stadium, has actually hosted it. The only problem is, he hasn’t built a Super Bowl caliber TEAM like he is supposed too. If he doesn’t want to win, why not sell it to somebody who does? Colin Kaepernick, a man who sealed his starter position by destroying my beloved Chicago Bears. I respect this kid a lot, to go into a game against one of the best defenses in the game and pick them a part the way he did? Bravo young man, bravo. Even though I was disappointed that you were drafted by my Chicago Cubs but decided to go the professional football route. Which I don’t blame you for choosing but I would have loved to see you pitch for my Cubbies. He lead his team to the promise land but was out done by Ray Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens. Kaepernick has proven that it is indeed Kaepernick Time and the end of Alex Smith in San Francisco.
Let’s back track a little bit to the beginning of this article. Peyton Manning, a man who I thought wouldn’t be the same after multiple surgeries to repair his neck. Nevertheless he came back to the league in a Denver Bronco’s uniform and gave his new fans one of the best offenses they have seen since Elway was under center. He won Comeback of the Year honors and was a top candidate for MVP. Manning being reunited with Brandon Stokley, threw for almost 4,700 yards, 37 touchdowns and 11 interceptions; Leading the way to yet another Division Title and the #1 seed/home-field advantage in the AFC, where they lost to later Super Bowl Champions the Baltimore Ravens.
This season had multiple power house teams who looked for sure they were heading in the right direction, only to crash and fall short of expectations. One being the Houston Texans who looked as if they were the heavy favorite to win the AFC Conference, showed it was a force to be reckoned with. That was until they showed up in Foxborough and were man-handled by Tom Brady and the Patriots defense. Their chance to lock up the #1 seed and home-field advantage through out the playoffs slipped through their fingers by being upset by the Minnesota Vikings who were on a mission themselves. Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons were a strong force in the opposite conference, a dangerous set of wide receivers and veteran tight end Tony Gonzales were finally looking like the team they should have been. Going 7-1 at home and a road record of 6-2, the NFC South Champions finished on-top of their division with a record of 13-3. During the playoffs the Falcons started off strong, leading at half time in both of their playoff games by atleast 17 points, let the leads disappear in both games. They barely slipped by the Seattle Seahawks but couldn’t get the job done against the 49ers in the NFC Championship game. Leaving Tony Gonzales unsure if he would come back for another season, to get that championship that he has been dying to win.
Which leads me to the big game. Baltimore Ravens vs San Francisco 49ers. The season finale. I wrote an article a few days ago talking about Ray Lewis and Patrick Willis and how this was going to be a ‘Clash of the Titans’ like game. And man was it ever. We all saw what happened, Baltimore started off strong with Joe Flacco finding the end-zone 3 times before half. Before the power-outage of the stadium, wide receiver and return specialist Jacoby Jones set an NFL record by returning the 2nd half kick off 108 yards for a touchdown. A few minutes later, the lights went out. The game was delayed around 30-40 minutes gave the 49ers enough time to shake off the cob-webs and get their game plan adjusted. Scoring 17 unanswered points in the 3rd quarter, the game went from being a blow out to being a nail biter. Leading to 4th and goal, Kaepernick was rushed by a flock of Ravens and was forced to throw it up to wide receiver Michael Crabtree who people could argue, was being held by defender Jimmy Smith. This resulted in turnover on downs and gave the ball to Baltimore with over a minute to run the clock down. Me, my father and my little brother were talking about what should happen. Punter take the ball, scramble around to run the clock down a little and take a safety. Sure enough that is exactly what happened; Giving Ray Lewis the retirement party from the league he was looking for, hoisting up that Vince Lombardi Trophy.
This year has been wild and unpredictable, probably one of the most unpredictable seasons ever. But like every other season, it was full of hard hits, nail biting games and full of passion. I just know that it is going to be weird seeing the Baltimore Ravens take the field, knowing that Ray Lewis won’t be making his glorious entrance. With all this being said, I tip my hat to every player in the league who put 110% on the field. If I mentioned them or not, they are what makes this game so great. A game full of leaders, future hall of fame players, role models and future hopefuls. It doesn’t matter what team you cheer for, or what team you dislike. This is a game that unites us all. With that being said, Kansas City Chiefs, you are now on the clock. Thank you for reading.