Another season is in the books and barely without a pause for breath the chatter has switched to free agency and the draft. But it wouldn’t seem right to move onto next year without a thought back to what has been a tumultuous but riveting season in the NFL, literally right down to the last seconds.
Having just about got over my Sunday night / Monday morning sleep hangover, it seems right to start by reflecting back on what some are calling the Greatest Superbowl Ever. Indeed, for the neutral fan, the game had everything you would want in terms of nailbiting excitement and entertainment. Obviously as a Jet’s fan it had everything I didn’t want: a win for the Patriots.
Although it was a close game throughout, by the beginning of the fourth quarter, it certainly looked like Seattle were going to win their second Lombardi trophy in two years. Marshawn Lynch rushed for over 100 yards and the Pats struggled to contain him. Despite Russell Wilson not completing a catch until the 19th minute of the game and only completing 12 in total (compared to Brady’s 37) the Seahawks convincingly led by 10 entering the last fifteen minutes. Jermaine Kearse caught a mind boggling, juggling catch from a Wilson deep ball and an unlikely hero emerged in former practise squad WR Chris Matthews who had not caught a catch prior to this game but took 4 grabs for 109 yards and a touchdown; a possible MVP if….
…things had not changed. Throughout the game, as the stats suggest the Seahawks had struggled against Brady’s pass. They weren’t helped by the early exit from the game of Jeremy Lane with an excruciating broken arm gained on the first of 2 Brady interceptions. New England were always coming knocking, but Seattle seemed strong enough to hold the door closed even with a weakened secondary. Then came 14 straight Patriot’s points in the fourth quarter from Edelman and Amendola and the momentum swung New England’s way. But there was still a chance, until Pete Carroll made that call to pass the ball from the 1 yard line, a pass which was intercepted and took away any chance of snatching what could have been the game winning TD. Much has been made of this mind boggling decision, not just because he had Beastmode lined up in the back but also it was only 2nd down. They would still have been just enough time to try again on 3rd if the play hadn’t resulted in the TD. Of course, this is all history now and Belichick, Brady and Kraft can go back to Boston, hand in hand, clutching the 4th Lombardi trophy of their collaboration and Gronk can jump back on his party bus and drive off into the sunset.
The biggest surprises
Although the big game ended up being contested by both number one seeds, there were several surprises this year, both positive and negative. On the positive side the Dallas Cowboys, even with a banged up Tony Romo, provided their fans with the most successful season in years, despite being widely predicted to completely flop. Instead the trio of Dez Bryant, offensive player of the year Demarco Murray and Romo ended up at the 5th highest scoring offense and the 2nd best rushing team in the league. With exceptional rookie Guard Zach Martin amongst others, the offensive line were also able to effectively protect Romo, helping them to the divisional round of the playoffs. After a very close game against Green Bay which, including the spectacular ‘non catch’ from Dez Bryant, ended the Superbowl dreams of the Cowboys, the unexpected run of success meant a new contract for HC Jason Garrett was not far away.
On a more negative note, the New Orleans Saints, who had been tipped by some to make it to the Superbowl, failed miserably in the particularly weak NFC south, finishing 7-9. Although the offense led by Drew Brees put together some decent numbers, the defense were amongst the worst four teams for points and yards allowed. Although this wasn’t overall by any means the worst performance by a team in the league, the fact that such high hopes were pinned on the Saints before the season meant their mediocre performance stands out as an unexpected surprise.
The woes of a Jets fan
This could be a whole blog post in itself. It’s pretty galling to think that apart from a surprise victory against the Steelers and last gasp of energy against Miami the only other wins came against the equally awful Titans and Raiders. In all honesty there was a lot of embarrassment, not least in some of the shocking QB play from both Vick and Geno, not to mention the hoopla that surrounded it. Taking a trip to NYC in October to watch the Jets play was in itself an amazing experience; having only previously watched a pre-season game at Met Life stadium, but the quality of play, particularly from Geno, illustrated the distance the Jets had to go. The latter part of the season was peppered with ‘Fire John Idzik’ campaigns and rumours that Rex was on his way out; which it turns out, he was. The few rays of sunshine came again from the defensive line, who provide a solid foundation for Todd Bowles and his new team to build on. A Patriot’s Superbowl win felt like a nail in the coffin, but at least from here the only way is up!
Offensive players of the year – in the other sense of the word
Sadly for the NFL, this year was dogged by major controversy which bought the attention of world wide media. Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, Josh Gordon (twice) and Aldon Smith are just a few of the players involved. The fact that it wasn’t just the actions of the players but also the reaction of the league that was bought into question cast a long shadow over what was a great year of football; especially in the playoffs. Particularly with the Ray Rice case, the handling of the seriousness of the incident, specifically about their awareness of video which later became public called into account the integrity of the league in general. Even now the season is over, Johnny Manziel is in rehab and Green Bay defensive tackle Letroy Guion has been arrested for felony possession. Roger Goodell, in his pre Superbowl press conference, was noticeably emotional regarding the trials of this year, both personally and for the league as a whole but will need to act on promises made to ensure future seasons are not marred by such mishandled allegations and incidents.
Heartbreakers and standout moments.
It would be impossible to describe all big stories of the of the 2014 season so briefly here are five of the defining moments.
- The emergence of Odell Beckham Junior and that one handed catch.
- Seattle vs Green Bay in the NFC championship game. Russell Wilson throwing four interceptions had one of the worst games of his career against the league MVP Aaron Rodgers but still Seattle found a way to win; a captivating game, with a heartbreaking ending for Green Bay.
- Peyton Manning beating Brett Favre’s all time touch down record with 530 career TDs.
- The Arizona Cardinals making it to the playoffs despite losing their first and second string QBs. A testament to excellent coaching by Bruce Arians (once again coach of the year), the wild card game was just one step too far.
- The biggest name heading up to and out of the 2014 draft ‘Johnny Football’ not actually making any impact on the league at all and now, sadly ending up in rehab, not a great moment, but a major talking point nevertheless.
On to the next…
Now that (at least I) have some closure on the 2014 season it’s time to look ahead to 2015. As a Jets fan, there are many reasons to be optimistic; a new coaching staff, opportunities to make the most of a decent salary cap situation in free agency and a high draft pick. As an NFL fan, it’s sure to be another year of excitement; bookies are already putting the Seahawks as 6-1 favourites to win Superbowl 50 but let’s hope there’ll be less off the field controversy to overshadow it. The great thing about the NFL is that there is no offseason and so I’ll be continuing to write a mixture of news and my views on what’s going on as we ramp up for the new season. I’m also planning to write some differently focused posts about the NFL in general and how I came to be so obsessed with it. If you enjoy reading my blog and have any suggestions about topics for the offseason, leave me comment, or drop me a line via twitter @nych83 – thoughts always welcome.
Thanks for reading so far and onto the 2015 season…