by Tuesday Morning Tailback
As the regular season ends and we anticipate the 11 elimination games of the playoffs, Tuesday Morning Tailback has come up with a list of observations from the 2013 season. Some of these you may find obvious, some profound, and some just plain wacky.
1. The Denver Broncos Have the Greatest Offense – Ever. This past week left absolutely no doubt as the Broncos became the first team to eclipse 600 points in a season while Peyton Manning broke the all-time single season passing yards mark. Manning also built on the passing touchdowns record he broke last week, padding it to an incredible 55 (the old record was 50). And just to shore things up, kicker Matt Prater broke the record for most extra points in a season, the same season in which he kicked the longest field goal ever. Still, the team must win three more or all this is for not.
2. St. Louis Rams Have the Brightest Future of the 20 Teams That Missed the Playoffs. If you look closely at the Rams’ season, you’ll see that they were much better than their 7-9 record would indicate. With impressive wins over the Colts and Saints and very tight losses to the Seahawks and 49ers, the Rams played with heart all year despite the fact that they had a backup quarterback and other key injuries most of the time. Add to this, the #2 overall pick which they’ll get from the Redskins along with their own first round pick at #13 and you’ve got a bright future in St. Louis.
3. Bill Belichick Really Does Know How to Coach. The odd man with the strange array of hoodies only added to his strong legacy this year when he led the New England Patriots to yet another AFC East Championship (that’s 11 in 14 seasons as coach) and the second best record in the AFC. This was in a year when the Patriots lost Wes Welker to free agency, Aaron Hernandez to a murder charge, Rob Gronkowski to another major injury and three key players on defense – Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, and Tommy Kelly. The playoffs will be tough but, even if they don’t go far, this has to be one of the greatest coaching seasons ever.
4. The Steelers Got Screwed. I’m no apologist for Pittsburgh, but I thought it was galling of the NFL to admit the rather minor mistake of missing an off-sides in the Kansas City-San Diego game, while ignoring the fact that an obvious fumble returned for a game winning TD was whistled dead. In either of those cases had the correct call been made, the Chiefs would have won the game and Pittsburgh would have made the final playoff spot instead of San Diego. Combine these gross mistakes with the bad calls in the Minnesota game, the overblown Mike Tomlin sideline incident, and another terrible whistle-dead call on an apparent Steelers touchdown in Baltimore on Thanksgiving night and there legitimately is much to gripe about in Pittsburgh.
5. The ‘Stick’ Will Be Missed. One of the last remaining classic stadiums in the NFL may have seen its last days. Candlestick Park, the terrible old stadium with odd corners that was never really built for football but saw more than its share of legendary action, will be replaced by yet another sanitized, revenue-generating facility in the Silicon Valley that regular fans won’t be able to afford. Now, I realize that the 49ers were one of the last holdouts with legendary, ancient stadiums, but as I wrote about in 2011, tradition means something in the NFL and it will ultimately suffer because of rapid re-generation.
6. Kyle Orton Is Exactly the Same Quarterback as Tony Romo. So, the Dallas Cowboys lost a close game late when their quarterback, who had a decent game and made some impressive throws earlier, choked with a late interception to end all hope. There’s nothing new to see here.
7. Those Shanahans Really Did Need to Be Fired. Near the beginning of this calendar year, I wrote a half-parody called Those Shanahans Need to Be Fired, which was really more about scapegoating and the city of Washington than the talents of Mike Shanahan and his son Kyle. Well, yesterday the axe really did fall after a dismal 3-13 season.
8. Changes Aren’t Permanent, But Change Is. That 3-13 Redskins season mentioned in #7 is one of several examples of 2012 playoff teams free-falling to the bottom. You’ve also got the Minnesota Vikings, Atlanta Falcons, and (worst of all) the Houston Texans, who finished with 14 consecutive losses. On the flip side, is the rapid rises of the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles, with Andy Reid leaving one for the either and both benefitting greatly.
9. Michael Vick Should Stay in the Doghouse. On that Eagles note, let’s hope that the Michael Vick “rehabilitation tour” has finally run its course. Please don’t make us roll over and beg for mercy.
10. Northern Tears Continue to Flow. Early in the season, we chronicled the incredible championship droughts of three once-great teams from about a half-century ago. Well, after all three showing signs of life midway through the season, the Detroit Lions blew a cakewalk to their division title by dropping their last four games, the Buffalo Bills refused to rise above mediocrity, and the Cleveland Browns continued to be self-fulfilling prophets of doom. Well, there is always next year.
11. Aaron Rodgers Is a Good Quarterback. I cannot express how impressive that 4th-and-8 play, with the game and season on the line, was by Aaron Rodgers on Sunday. Rodgers, who had missed 7 games with a shoulder injury and had played gingerly all game, went against the blitz and against the grain with no safety valve to launch the ball 50 yards in the air for the winning touchdown. All this in a winner-take-all game between the longest rivals, Packers and Bears. Wow!
12. NFL Red Zone Really is the Best. We kind of trashed Scott Hanson and NFL Red Zone because of their off week last week, but during this past Sunday with frantic action affecting playoff scenarios all over the place, the seven hours of commercial free football proved to be the best seat in the house once again.
13. Eli Manning Has Multiple Personalities. Someone ought to write a series called “The 10 Seasons of #10” chronicling the incredible roller-coaster career of Eli Manning. Has there ever been a quarterback who was twice clutch in Super Bowl championship runs but had some very shakey interception-infested seasons in between?
Now for the second season. Enjoy the NFL playoffs!
Tuesday Morning Tailback is a weekly article during football season which take a critical look at the NFL. We do this from the base belief that NFL football is the greatest game in the history of mankind, but some recent policies and the overall direction of the league has chipped away at this greatness. Our primary goal is to spark debate on these subjects, so please leave your own opinion on this article in the comment box below.