The NFL season did not start off how the league would have wanted. The league was hit unexpectedly with the news that Ray Rice punched his wife. Rice was originally suspended for two games before he was again suspended indefinitely by the NFL later in September after video of the incident surfaced. The incident led to NFL overhauling their domestic violence policies.
With the conclusion of the preseason, the reigning super bowl champs, the Seattle Seahawks, kicked off the regular season against the Green Bay Packers. As more games were played many teams appeared to have bright futures. Demarco Murray of the Dallas Cowboys was on pace to break the NFL rushing record, the Arizona Cardinals remained undefeated despite being decimated by injuries, and the New England Patriots appeared to have lost a step after getting blown out by Kansas City. These were some of the many exciting storylines in the first month of the season.
Almost halfway through the season, the parity in the NFL was clear. 19 teams had winning records and the games were more competitive than ever before. J.J. Watt, a defensive player, surprised all having more touchdowns than Julio Jones, Wes Welker and Calvin Johnson. Likewise, Andrew Luck was absolutely tearing apart defenses, leading the league in passing touchdowns and yards. With the first half of the season finished, fans everywhere had a lot to look forward to.
As Thanksgiving concluded and the holiday season begun, in the NFL we could now separate the contenders from the pretenders. On one hand, the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts began to pull away in their respective divisions while in the other divisions, tight races remained at the top. On the other hand, teams like the Oakland Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and D.C.’s own Washington Redskins fell to the bottom of the standings and were looking toward the future. Off the field, the St. Louis Rams expressed their opinion of the Ferguson trial and Adrian Peterson was suspended after disciplining his son. Once again, off field problems overshadowed the play on the field.
With the playoffs approaching some teams battled for a playoff spot while others played the role of spoiler. The wild-card race was tightly contested as always with 20 teams in contention heading into the month, but teams like the San Francisco 49ers were upset by teams who seemingly had nothing to play for like the Oakland Raiders. The division race were also close and the NFC South, which was one of the worst divisions in the league, was won by the Panthers with only seven wins. When everything settled it was time for the playoffs.
Playoffs. Win or go home. The NFL playoffs are usually give us some of the greatest games of the season. Yet, two games were overshadowed by the referees. Both games, in the wild-card and divisional round, featured the Cowboys. In the Wild Card round, a flag for defensive pass interference on the Cowboys was thrown, called and then picked up. In the divisional round, a Dez Bryant catch was overturned by the “Calvin Johnson Rule”. While both calls could be debated, many local Redskins fans were happy that “karma” eliminated the Cowboys from the playoffs.
Meanwhile, in the rest of the NFL, the Baltimore Ravens’ playoff run was ended by the New England Patriots and their trick plays, injuries finally caught up to the Cardinals as they were held to a record low 78 yards by the Carolina Panthers and Andrew Luck was able to lead his team to to the AFC championship past Andy Dalton (Bengals) and Peyton Manning (Broncos).
In the Championship games to conclude the month, we saw one of the great comebacks of NFL playoff history by the Seahawks while also seeing a dominating performance by the Patriots. In the NFC championship, the Seahawks overcame five turnovers to win the game in overtime. In the AFC championship, the Patriots’ Legarrette Blount rushed for three touchdowns en route to a 45-7 victory. However, neither win would be the focus of the media in the weeks leading up to the SuperBowl.
Deflate-Gate. The under inflation of 11 out of the 12 footballs used by the Patriots in the AFC championship game band the two weeks between actual football (sorry ProBowl) and the Super Bowl combined for a media storm of coverage leading up to the Super Bowl. Luckily, we could count on Marshawn Lynch for his entertaining “answers” at media days he was forced attend.
The one game in February is the biggest game of them all, Super Bowl XLIX. The Seahawks were attempting to repeat as champions and solidify themselves as one of the best defenses in the history of the game while the Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the Patriots were trying to achieve history of their own by winning their 4th Super Bowl.
The game lived up to the hype going down to the final seconds thanks to intense play and unsung heroes like Chris Matthews. Yet, the ending to the game was all anyone could talk about. A controversial play call to pass on the goal line by the Seahawks ended with a game sealing interception by Malcolm Butler. The play call has since been called one of the worst in history.
Fast-Forward to the present. With the draft approaching, many are thinking about their teams past failures and successes. How much will this play into the picks beginning on Thursday Night? We’ll just have to tune in to find out.