Sure, there were shortcomings in Week 17. There are shortcomings every week. Games in New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Tennessee and San Diego meant less than a Kardashian wedding. Mike Carey’s officiating crew in Minnesota was so bad, it should be banned from the playoffs. And the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles could not possibly have been more horrendous than they were yesterday afternoon.
However, having said all that, there was some amazing stuff in the final Sunday of the 2012 NFL season. Adrian Peterson put on an MVP performance, carrying a career-high 34 times for 199 yards as he also carried the Minnesota Vikings to the playoffs. Peyton Manning threw three touchdown passes as he led the Denver Broncos to their 11th straight win and the No. 1 seed in the AFC. And three rookie quarterbacks — Andrew Luck in Indianapolis, Russell Wilson in Seattle and Robert Griffin III in Washington — all led their teams to victory and spots in the post-season.
Peterson was the biggest story. He needed 208 yards to break Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record of 2,105 yards. He finished nine yards short, but his final run of the game, the one that gave Blair Walsh a chip shot to win and put the Vikings in the playoffs, was exactly what his team needed at exactly the right time. If that run alone didn’t scream MVP – remember, the Vikings were 3-13 last season – nothing will.
“I know Eric Dickerson is feeling so good right now,” Peterson said after the game. “But God willing, I’ll get it next year.
“Ultimately we got the ‘W’ and that’s what was important. We said during the week, if the record happens, it happens. Don’t focus on it. We were focused on winning.”
Mission accomplished. Now it’s off to the playoffs. The post-season starts this coming weekend and here’s how it sets up:
In the AFC: Denver and New England have the byes, so on Saturday at 3:30, Cincinnati plays at Houston and on Sunday at Noon, Indy plays at Baltimore.
In the NFC, Atlanta and San Francisco have the byes. On Saturday night, Minnesota plays at Green Bay and on Sunday at 3:30, Seattle plays at Washington.
However, before we get serious about talking playoffs, let’s wrap-up the final week of the 2012 NFL season:
Minnesota 37 Green Bay 34
The Minnesota Vikings were 3-13 last year. This year, they’re in the playoffs. Adrian Peterson carried 34 times for 199 yards and a touchdown and caught a pass from Christian Ponder for another TD as the Vikings finished 10-6 on the season and claimed the final wild card spot. Ponder finished the game 16-for-28 for 234 yards and three touchdowns, but Peterson was the story. He finished the season with 2,097 rushing yards, just nine shy of Eric Dickerson’s NFL rushing record. Blair Walsh kicked the winning field goal with no time left on the clock. The Packers Aaron Rodgers went 28-for-40 for 365 yards and four touchdowns in one of the best games of the season, despite Mike Carey’s officiating crew, which, sadly, was a complete embarrassment to the game. The 11-5 Packers will play host to the Vikings in the opening round of the playoffs, Saturday night at 7 p.m.
Chicago 26 Detroit 24
Turnovers killed Detroit. Jay Cutler finished 18-for-31 for 257 yards and a touchdown, but it didn’t matter. With Minnesota’s win, the Bears were eliminated from the post-season. Matt Forte carried 24 times for 103 yards and touchdown as the Bears finished 10-6. Earl Bennett caught five passes for 109 yards including a 60-yard TD. For Detroit, Matt Stafford completed 24-of-42 passes for 272 yards, three touchdowns, an interception and a fumble as Detroit had four turnovers. Stafford became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw 700 passes in a season. Calvin Johnson caught five passes for 72 yards and finished the year with a single-season record 1,964 yards.
NY Giants 42 Philadelphia 7
Andy Reid was fired as head coach of the Eagles right after the game because his team went out with a whimper. The Giants kept their slim playoff hopes alive as Eli Manning went 13-for-21 for 208 yards and five touchdowns while Ahmad Bradshaw carried 16 times for 108 yards and a TD as the defending Super Bowl champion Giants finished 9-7 while Philly fell to 4-12, last in the NFC East. Note: When Chicago beat Detroit, the Giants were eliminated from the post-season.
Indianapolis 28 Houston 16
Houston will play host to Cincinnati this Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in the opening round of the AFC playoffs while Indy will play at Baltimore at Noon on Sunday. Colts coach Chuck Pagano returned to the sidelines to see his team improved to 11-5 this season after going 2-14 last year. Colts quarterback Andrew Luck went 14-for-28 for 191 yards and two touchdowns. This was a close one until Deji Karim returned a kickoff 101 yards for a third-quarter touchdown. T.Y. Hilton caught four passes for 111 yards and a TD. For Houston, Matt Schaub completed 24 of 36 passes for 275 yards while Arian Foster carried 16 times for 96 yards and a touchdown. Houston, 12-4, lost their final two games and finished as the third seed in the AFC.
Cincinnati 23 Baltimore 17
The Bengals rested their starters and still beat Baltimore. Andy Dalton went 10-for-15 for 78 yards and a touchdown as Cinci finished 10-6. The 10-6 Ravens will play host to Indy at Noon this Sunday while Cincinnati will travel to Houston at 3:30 on Saturday.
Denver 38 Kansas City 3
Peyton Manning was terrific again as 13-3 Denver won its 11th straight game over the horrendous 2-14 Chiefs. Manning went 23-for-29 for 304 yards and three touchdowns and jumped past Houston to get the top seed in the AFC. The Broncos will have the bye next week. Demaryius Thomas caught seven passes for 122 yards and a touchdown while Eric Decker caught seven passes for 76 yards and two TDs. Kansas City gained only 119 yards of total offense, but they will get the first pick in April’s NFL draft.
New England 28 Miami 0
Tom Brady went 22-for-36 for 284 yards and tow touchdowns while Stevan Ripley carried 20 times for 74 yards and two TDs as New England earned a first-round bye next week. The No. 2-seeded Patriots finished 11-5 while Miami fell to 7-9. Rookie Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill went 20-for-35 for 235 yards and no touchdowns.
San Francisco 27 Arizona 13
Colin Kaepernick completed 16-of-28 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns, both to Michael Crabtree on passes of 49 and seven yards as the Niners finished 11-4-1 and are the No.2-seed in the NFC. Crabtree finished with eight catches for 172 yards and two TDs. For Arizona, Brian Hoyer, the Cards fourth starting quarterback this year, went 19-for-34 for 225 yards and one touchdown as Michael Floyd caught eight passes for 166 yards and that one touchdown. The Cardinals finished the season 5-11 after starting the year 4-0. It was probably Ken Whisenhunt’s final game as coach of the Cardinals.
Seattle 20 St. Louis 13
Russell Wilson tied Peyton Manning’s record for most touchdown passes by a rookie with his 26th of the season as Seattle finished 11-5 and will play at Washington in the opening round of the playoffs this coming Sunday. The Seahawks finished as the only unbeaten team at home in the NFL this season. Wilson finished the game 15-for-19 for 250 yards and one touchdown while RB Marshawn Lynch carried 18 times for 100 yards. Wilson also carried 10 times for 58 yards and another TD. The 7-8-1 Rams played well defensively, sacking Wilson six times, but they couldn’t do enough offensively to finish with their first winning record since 2003. Sam Bradford finished 25-for-42 for 252 yards, one TD and one interception.
Tampa Bay 22 Atlanta 17
Atlanta had already wrapped up homefield advantage throughout the playoffs and didn’t give it much of an effort against a Tampa team that was playing for next year. The Falcons finished the season 13-3 while Doug Martin, “The Muscle Hamster” finished with 28 carries for 142 yards and a touchdown as Tampa finished 7-9. Matt Ryan went 28-for-44 for 238 yards and one TD for Atlanta while Josh Freeman went 19-for-35 for 22 yards and one TD for Tampa. Atlanta has the bye next week in the first round of the playoffs.
Tennessee 38 Jacksonville 20
This was a wild one as Tennessee became the first team in NFL history to have two players score twice on returns in one game. Darius Raymond returned two punts for touchdowns while rookie linebackers Zach Brown returned two interceptions for touchdowns. The Titans finished 6-10 while Jacksonville fell to 2-14 and lost 12 of their final 13 games. They’ll get the second pick in the 2013 NFL draft. The Titans set a dubious franchise record – most points allowed in a season, 465. Jacksonville quarterback Chad Henne finished 25-for-41 for 298 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions and it’s very likely Tim Tebow will be the starting QB in Jacksonville next season.
Carolina 44 New Orleans 38
Carolina won its final four games as DeAngelo Wlliams carried 21 times for 210 yards, including touchdown runs of 54 and 12 yards. His 65-yard gain set up the first of three one-yard scoring runs by Mike Tolbert. Cam Newton went 16-of-33 for 248 yards and no TDs and carried seven times for 34 yards as Carolina scored five touchdowns on the ground to finish the season 7-9. Drew Brees went 29-for-43 for 396 yards and four touchdowns and finished the season with 5,177 yards, the first NFL QB to pass the 5,000 mark three times. His four TD passes gave him 43 this season as he became the first player with 40 TD passes in consecutive seasons. Still, the Saints finished 7-9.
Buffalo 28 NY Jets 9
C.J. Spiller rushed for 59 yards and caught two passes for 72 yards, one a 66-yard catch and run for a touchdown as the Bills finished the season 6-10. Mark Sanchez started at quarterback for the Jets and went 17-for-35 for 205 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. The Jets lost their final three games of the year and finished the season 6-10. Rex Ryan’s job as head coach will be evaluated this week. Meanwhile, Chan Gailey could lose his job as coach of the Bills after Buffalo finished last in the Division for the fifth straight year.
Pittsburgh 24 Cleveland 10
Browns rookie QB Thad Lewis got his first NFL start and was so-so against a Steelers team that had no desire to lose its final game of the year. Ben Roethlisberger went 15-for-23 for 134 yards and three touchdowns for Pittsburgh while Lewis went 22-for-32 for 204 yards, one touchdown and one interception. The Browns finished 5-11, Pittsburgh was 9-7. Neither team is in the playoffs. Head coach Pat Shurmur was fired by the Browns on Monday morning.
San Diego 24 Oakland 21
The Chargers finished 7-9, missed the playoffs for the third straight year and it’s likely Norv Turner is done as coach in San Diego. Chargers wideout Michael Spurlock returned the opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown while Philip Rivers went 13-for-17 for 151 yards and two touchdowns. QB Terrelle Pryor got his first start for Oakland and went 13-for-28 for 150 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. The Raiders finished 4-12.
Washington 28 Dallas 18
Washington won the NFC East title and will play host to Seattle in the opening round of the playoffs next Sunday. After a 3-6 start, the Redskins won seven straight to finish the season and made the playoffs. Alfred Morris carried 33 times for 200 yards and three touchdowns while a banged-up rookie QB Robert Griffin III did as much as he had to do to lead Washington to the post-season. Tony Romo, who threw a late interception that cost his team the game, went 20-for-37 for 218 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions as Dallas finished 8-8 and out of the playoffs.