While the confetti is settling in Arizona and the New England Patriots start their off-season celebration as Super Bowl XLIX Champions, NFL fans everywhere mourn the end of football season. Instead of moping until August, let’s take a trip down memory lane to revisit some of the greatest moments the 2014 NFL season had to offer.
Forget play of the year, the New York Giants Odell Beckham Jr. may have recorded the play of the century in a Week 12 match-up against the Dallas Cowboys. G-Men quarterback Eli Manning lobbed a pass up to newest wide receiver target near the end zone. After being mauled by a Dallas defensive back and drawing a pass interference flag, Beckham managed to haul in the ball using only his finger tips as he was falling to the ground. The play in the Meadowlands was the icing on the cake for the wide receiver, as this was just one of his many spectacular plays that earned Beckham the Rookie of the Year award.
No player had a better year on the defensive side of the ball than Houston’s J.J. Watt. The former Wisconsin Badger put together the season of his life to put his name in the NFL MVP conversation, racking up a whopping 20.5 sacks that led all defensive linemen and earned himself a third career Pro Bowl trip. Watt capped off the year named both a First-Team All-Pro and won his second NFL Defensive Player of the Year award in only three short seasons.
Seattle Seahawks running back and mystery media man Marshawn Lynch was up to his usual tricks in the 2014 NFL season. Football fans saw déjà vu in a Week 16 match-up against the Arizona Cardinals when Lynch went “Beast Mode” on a 79 yard touchdown run that looked an awful lot like his famous scramble from the 2011 Playoffs. Filled with stiff arms, shook tackles, and capped off with his infamous crotch grab celebration, Lynch’s 79 yard run reiterated the fact that he’s one of the best backs the league has seen in recent football history.
Although he just fell short of taking home is second Vince Lombardi trophy, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers had a season to remember. The four-time Pro Bowler put together another magnificent season on the field at the Frozen Tundra, where he finished the season with nearly 4,400 yards in the air, 38 touchdowns, and only five interceptions. Rodgers stellar campaign earned him his second NFL MVP award since 2011.
Deion “Primetime” Sanders found himself in some good company this season. The NFL’s most recent kick return hero, Devin Hester, accomplished one of the most spectacular feats in NFL history. The longtime Chicago Bear and current Atlanta Falcons special teams player broke Deion Sanders’ league record of most return touchdowns of all-time with a 62-yard touchdown in a September match-up against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. To cap off the record breaking play, Hester appropriately high stepped in to the end zone, much like Prime Time during his playing days.
Few players had bigger breakout seasons than Seattle wide receiver Jermaine Kearse. After the team released do-it-all wide out Percy Harvin, Seattle counted on Kearse to fill his shoes. The undrafted free agent out of the University of Washington did all that and more. Kearse reeled in two key touchdowns in the playoffs, including an iconic overtime touchdown catch in the NFC Championship Game that earned the Seahawks an appearance in their second consecutive Super Bowl.
In what was a wildly entertaining NFL season, there was no more appropriate way to the end the year than Malcolm Butler’s game-winning Super Bowl interception. With Seattle only a yard away from winning back-to-back championships, the no-name defensive back out of Western Alabama made one of the greatest plays in Super Bowl history. Butler jumped a slant route and made an incredible interception on the one-yard line to secure the Patriots an improbably Super Bowl victory.
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