The final week of the 2012 NFL season was just as good as the first 16 were. With 16 division matchups on the schedule, it had it all: shutouts, blowouts, third-string quarterbacks, elimination games, records being chased and of course another opportunity for Tony Romo to choke. (He did). For the last time in 2012, your storylines from the week that was in pro football.
Adrian Peterson came within eight yards of tying and nine of breaking the NFL single-season rushing record, but with time running out in the game, Blair Walsh kicked a 29-yard field goal to break the tie and send the Vikings to the playoffs, ending Peterson’s regular season. Minnesota defeated the Packers, 37-34, for their first win against their division rivals since 2009. The loss also ended Green Bay’s 12-game division winning streak. Peterson did become just the seventh running back to ever rush for 2,000 yards in a season as he concluded the regular season with 2,097 yards on the ground. The Packers had won nine straight regular season finales before the loss. Aaron Rodgers threw four touchdowns in a game for the fourth time this year, including two to Greg Jennings. Walsh added to his NFL record with his 10th field goal of 50-plus yards on the season. Peterson finished the season with seven 150-plus rushing games, tying the NFL record. Minnesota has made the playoffs for the first time since 2009. The Packers, who finished the regular season at 11-5 and the Vikings, who finished 10-6, will play each other on Saturday in the Wild Card round.
The good news: the Colts won their regular season finale. The great news: Chuck Pagano was back on the sidelines to coach it. J.J. Watt failed to get any sacks and finished two shy of the NFL single-season record as the Texans lost to the Colts to fall all the way to the third seed in the AFC, missing the bye they had been in position for all season long. Watt finished with 20.5 sacks on the year. Houston has never won at Indianapolis – now 0-11 all-time with the 28-16 loss on Sunday. A career-long 70-yard TD pass from Andrew Luck to T.Y. Hilton on 3rd & 23 all but sealed the win for the Colts. Deji Karim returned a second-half kickoff 101 yards for Indy, their longest return since 1973. Andre Johnson tied the career record of 10-reception games set by Wes Welker last week with the 18th of his career. Reggie Wayne now has at least three catches in 64 straight games, extending his NFL record. The Colts became the seventh team to improve by nine wins in just one year, going from 2-14 in 2011 to 11-5 in 2012. Houston finished 12-4 after losing three of its last four games and will host the Bengals in the Wild Card round, while the Colts will travel to Baltimore.
The Chicago Bears have made a little history of their own as they became just the second team since 1990 to miss the playoffs after starting the season with a 7-1 record despite beating the Lions, 26-24, in Detroit and finishing with a 10-6 record. They have now missed the playoffs in five of the last six seasons. Matt Forte did rush for 1,000 yards for the third time in his career. The Lions finished a disappointing 4-12, but Matthew Stafford shattered the previous record of 691 pass attempts in a season and finished with 727. Calvin Johnson caught five balls for 72 yards and came up 36 yards short of the first ever 2,000-yard receiving season. It broke his streak of eight straight 100-yard receiving games and four straight 10-catch games, which were both NFL records. He finished the season with an NFL record 1,964 receiving yards. Chicago fired head coach Lovie Smith on Monday after a 3-5 end to the year and that has apparently prompted kick returner Devin Hester to consider retirement.
The Bengals handed the Ravens their fourth loss in five games with a 23-17 defeat on Sunday. A.J. Green needed nine receptions to break Marques Colston‘s record for the most receptions in the first two years of a player’s career (168), but only caught two balls for 26 yards as Cincy rested most of their starters. Carlos Dunlap returned a fourth-quarter interception 14 yards to put the Bengals ahead. Justin Tucker made 1-of-2 kicks on the day and finished the season 30-of-33 for the best success rate of any rookie kicker ever. Four Bengals sacks on the day got them to a franchise-record 51 for the season. They improved to 10-6 and will take on the Texans to open the playoffs on Saturday and the Ravens finished the year 10-6 as well and will host the Colts.
DeAngelo Williams had a day and a half as the Panthers closed out the season on a four-game winning streak, beating the Saints, who finished a very disappointing 7-9, by a score of 44-38 – the highest point total they put up all season. Williams had 21 carries for 210 yards and two touchdowns in the game and New Orleans missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Drew Brees did become the first quarterback to ever throw for 5,000 yards three different times. He also became the first QB to ever record 40 or more touchdown passes in consecutive seasons. The Saints’ defense gave up 530 total yards on the day to set the unfortunate record for the most yards given up by a team in a single season. With the 282nd yard they allowed on the day, they passed the 1981 Colts for the most allowed all-time. Carolina finished the season 7-9, missing the playoffs for the fourth straight year, but have retained head coach Ron Rivera for now. Cam Newton became just the third different quarterback since 1970 to lead his team in rushing as he finished with 741 yards on the year. He also broke the record for the most passing yards in a quarterback’s first two seasons and now has 7,920 for his career.
The Giants destroyed the Eagles, 42-7, on the road, but will be the seventh straight defending Super Bowl champion to either miss the playoffs or not win a playoff game the following year. Eli Manning threw five touchdown passes for the first time in his career - the first Giants quarterback to do so since 1980 – and improved to just 2-8 in his last 10 games against Philadelphia. He only threw the ball 21 times on the day. New York finishes with the same 9-7 record as last year. Stevie Brown came up with his eighth interception of the year, the most by a Giant since 1968. Fullback Henry Hynoski caught his first career touchdown in the season finale. Reuben Randle caught more touchdown passes in the first quarter (two) than he had in his career entering the game (one). In his return, Michael Vick accounted for 222 yards and threw one touchdown. The Giants scored three times as many points as they did in their two previous games combined. Philly finished the year 4-12 – the most losses for them since 1998. Andy Reid was let go by the Eagles on Monday morning after 14 seasons.
Josh Freeman broke the Buccaneers‘ all-time touchdown record in the final game of the season, a 22-17 win over the resting Falcons. He now has 78 in his career. It was the first home loss of the year for Atlanta. Doug Martin ran for 142 yards and a touchdown and finished the year with 1,454 yards, which was good for fifth in the league. Matt Bryant set a Falcons record with his 33rd field goal of the year. Matt Ryan set a team record with his 32nd TD pass of the season. The Falcons finish the year as the No. 1 seed in the NFC with a 13-3 record and the Bucs finished 7-9. The No. 1 seed in the NFC has lost its first playoff game in four of the last five years.
Third-stringer Thaddeus Lewis got the start at quarterback for the Browns in their season finale against the Steelers. He was the 18th different starting quarterback for Cleveland since 1999. Ben Roethlisberger threw three touchdown passes in the Steelers’ 24-10 win. Pittsburgh improved to 8-8 to close the year and the Browns fell to 5-11. Troy Polamalu picked off his first pass of the season in his final game. Roethlisberger improved to 7-0 in his career at home against the Browns. The Steelers missed the playoffs for the first time since 2009 after losing five of seven to end the year. Cleveland fired head coach Pat Shurmur and GM Tom Heckert Monday.
The Titans won two of three to close the year with a 38-20 win over the Jaguars in which they had four return touchdowns, including two punt returns from Darius Reynaud. Reynaud became the first player since Reggie Bush in 2008 with two punt-return TD’s in the same game. Tennessee also got two interception returns from Zach Brown. The four scores were the only ones for the Titans in the second and third quarters and all occurred back-to-back in the game. Not surprisingly, they became the first team in NFL history to return two interceptions and two punts for touchdowns in the same game. Chris Johnson came up 112 yards shy of becoming the fourth player to rush for 7,000 yards in his first five seasons as Tennessee closed out the year winning six games and losing 10. Jacksonville fired GM Gene Smith after a 2-14 season, their worst record ever.
The New York Jets put up only nine points in their season finale, a 28-9 loss to the Bills and finished the year 6-10. Mark Sanchez finished the season with the lowest QBR in the league at 23.4. C.J. Spiller had 131 total yards in the game and finished the season eighth in the league with 1,244 yards rushing. Sanchez completed less than half of his passes and finished a game with more interceptions (one) than touchdowns for the seventh time this season. Buffalo finished 6-10 and hasn’t made the playoffs since 1999. The Bills fired head coach Chan Gailey on Monday and the Jets fired GM Mike Tannenbaum.
Steven Jackson became the sixth running back in history to rush for 1,000 yards in eight straight seasons as he accomplished it in the first eight of his career, but the Rams fell, 20-13, to the playoff-bound Seahawks. He joined a select group of players to accomplish the feat, four of which are in the Hall of Fame. They are Barry Sanders, Thurman Thomas, Curtis Martin, Emmitt Smith and LaDainian Tomlinson. Seattle cooled down after averaging 50 points per game in their last three. Russell Wilson was able to tie, but not break Peyton Manning’s record for touchdown passes by a rookie with his 26th of the year. Seattle improved to 8-0 at home this season and did it for the third time in their history, including 2005, when they went to the Super Bowl. The 11-5 Seahawks will take on the Redskins in the Wild Card round, while the 7-8-1 Rams will play some golf.
Like Watt, Aldon Smith came up empty on the day in his quest to get the sacks record, but the 49ers beat the Cardinals, 27-13, to finish the year 11-4-1 and clinch their second straight NFC West title. Arizona lost 11 of 12 games to end the season at 4-12. Frank Gore set a new 49ers record with his 51st career rushing touchdown. Michael Crabtree‘s 172 yards were the most by a 49ers wide receiver in 10 years. He also became San Francisco’s first 1,000-yard receiver since 2003. Smith went four straight games without a sack to close out the regular season three short of the all-time record. Fourth string quarterback Brian Hoyer threw Arizona’s first touchdown pass in seven games. Arizona fired head coach Ken Whisenhunt and GM Rod Graves Monday.
Peyton Manning and the Broncos thrashed the Chiefs - no surprise there – by a score of 38-3 to wrap up the No. 1 seed in the playoffs as well as the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft for Kansas City. Manning finished with three TD passes on the day, passing Brett Favre for the most all-time three-touchdown games with 73. Manning finished the campaign with 37 touchdown passes, the most ever by a quarterback 36 years of age or older. Eric Decker caught seven passes for 76 yards and two TD’s, his fourth multi-TD game this year. The Broncos became the seventh team since the merger to win 11 or more straight games to close out the regular season as they finished with a 13-3 record. Kansas City finished 2-14. Denver is the AFC’s No. 1 seed for the first time since 1998, one of their championship seasons. The Chiefs fired head coach Romeo Crennel Monday.
Terrelle Pryor, another third-stringer, got the start for the Raiders in their season finale against the equally disappointing Chargers. Pryor threw a touchdown and ran for another in the 24-21 loss. Oakland lost eight of nine to end the season, while San Diego won for just the third time this year at home. Darren McFadden and Ryan Mathews each finished with an identical 707 rushing yards for the season. Oakland finished the year 4-12 and San Diego ended up 7-9. The Chargers won three of four to close out a subpar season, but fired head coach Norv Turner and GM A.J. Smith on Monday.
The Patriots improved to 12-4 slid up into the No. 2 seed and earned a first-round bye in the playoffs with a 28-0 win over the Dolphins at home in the return of Rob Gronkowski. The loss means Miami finished the season with a record of 7-9 and have four straight losing seasons for the first time since 1966-69, the first four years of their history. New England came up 32 points short of tying the NFL record for the most in a season, but did become the fourth team in history to score 550 in a season. Tom Brady threw at least one touchdown pass in his 48th straight game as he found Wes Welker early and Gronkowski late in the game. He also became the first quarterback in history to throw a touchdown pass in all 16 games for three consecutive years. New England set an NFL record for the most 1st downs in a season with 444. Rookie Justin Francis had three sacks on the day.
In the shocking news of the day, the Cowboys blew a lead and a chance get into the playoffs with a 28-18 loss to the Redskins in the winner-take-all game for the NFC East championship. Dallas fell to 2-11 in Week 17 since 2000. A costly Romo interception followed by a blow to the head penalty called on Dallas’ Jason Hatcher late in the game pretty much sealed the loss. In typical big game fashion, Romo finished with three interceptions to just two touchdowns. Redskins’ rookie running back Alfred Morris rushed for 200 yards and three touchdowns and finished with 1,613 yards on the year, breaking the franchise record set by Clinton Portis in 2005. He finishes the year as the second-leading rusher in the NFL and with the third-highest total ever by a rookie. Kai Forbath missed the first kick of his young NFL career after making his first 17 to start it. The Redskins won their final seven games of the regular season after starting 3-6, the third time a team’s won seven or more in a row with a rookie quarterback starting each of them. Robert Griffin III finished third in the league with a 102.4 passer rating. He would have been the first rookie QB to lead the league since 1969. This marked just the second time in the last 17 seasons that the Redskins have swept the season series from the Cowboys. Dallas finishes the season at 8-8 and was eliminated on the final night of the season for the second straight year. Washington finished 10-6 and will host the Seahawks in the Wild Card round after winning their first division championship since 1999. Before winning the title, Washington was one of just five teams to have not won one since 2002. The other four all had 10-plus losses in 2012 (Cleveland, Detroit, Buffalo and Jacksonville).
Every year from 1996-2011, at least five teams made the playoffs that didn’t make them the previous season. That streak ended this year as the only playoff teams not to be there last year are the Colts, Vikings and Redskins.
On a somewhat interesting side note, all five bird teams (Falcons, Seahawks, Eagles, Cardinals and Ravens) did not all win or all lose in the same week once this season. The last time it happened was Week 14 of last season when all of the teams won.
In the AFC, Wild Card Weekend looks like this: (6) Cincinnati at (3) Houston – Saturday 4:25 p.m. and (5) Indianapolis at (4) Baltimore – Sunday 1 p.m.
In the NFC: (6) Minnesota at (3) Green Bay – Saturday 8 p.m. and (5) Seattle at (4) Washington – Sunday at 4:30 p.m.
Playoff time. Enjoy.
Some information taken from ESPN Stats & Info.
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