We’ve finally made it to the finish line! The 2014 NFL season has come to a close, but not without a few Suh stomps along the way. Behold: Those who survived live to play another week, while those not so lucky fell victim to the plague of Black Monday. We’re setting the over/under on Dan Snyder’s offer to Rex Ryan at $5 million, but before that, let’s take a look back at Week 17 in the NFL.
In what may have been the deciding factor in the MVP race, Rodgers re-injured his leg on a touchdown pass in the second quarter and left the game. He returned in the second half to lead the Packers to victory and their fourth-straight divisional title. Rodgers lead one drive of seven-plays and 60 yards for a 13 yard touchdown strike to Randall Cobb and then, as if not enough, he ran for another on a QB sneak from one-yard out. He finished with 226 yards on 17 for 22 passing and even overcame a leg stomp from Ndamukong Suh (who wasn’t penalized at the time, but received a one-game suspension that was later overturned). The Packers get a bye week for Rodgers to rest, but the wait will be worth it.
Although the Birds needed help to get into the playoffs for the sixth time in seven years, they rallied in the fourth quarter to score 17 points and earn a wildcard berth. Joe Flacco reportedly gave a halftime speech that was a little Knute mixed with the more common, “Let’s go fucking win this game!” Flacco only missed one pass in the fourth quarter, passing for 161 yards and two touchdowns in the final 15 minutes. The Ravens got some help as the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the San Diego Chargers and put the Ravens on the road to face an old rival for the next week…
…the Steelers beat the Cincinnati Bengals 27-17 in a late stretch to win their first AFC North title since 2010. Ben Roethlisberger was his typical self in deciding games, completing 24 of his 38 passes for 317 yards, two touchdowns and one INT. Antonio Brown grabbed seven receptions for 128 yards and a touchdown, while the Steelers defense sacked Andy Dalton three times and intercepted him twice. The Bengals still get to show up in the playoffs, but Big Ben and crew helped show the rest of the league where they’re at.
Kansas City Chiefs
Sure, the Chiefs had a dominant run game spearheaded by Jamaal Charles and was able to finish 9-7 despite losing Alex Smith for a portion of the year, but this team will go down in history for being the first in 50 years that did not have a wide receiver catch a touchdown all season. Yes, all season. This is a team coached by pass-heavy Andy Reid and Travis Kelche is a star tight end in the league, but what in the world does their playbook look like if you can’t get a touchdown out of the players that exist to only get touchdowns?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs had a 20-7 lead going into the fourth quarter and gave up 16 points to the lowly New Orleans Saints in the final minutes. Tampa fell to 2-14 and will get the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft. Complaints that the Bucs tanked in that last quarter to get the top pick are warranted, but why bother putting up 20 points in the first place? Why bother having any of the starters in there if they were just playing for the pick? The Buccaneers are highly dysfunctional and have a lousy team, surely they didn’t need to tank, but if they did, that’s even worse.
Dallas Cowboys legends
In a two-week period, three of the most favorite Cowboys players had their records broken. Last week Tony Romo passed Troy Aikman for most passing yards in a season, and in Week 17, DeMarco Murray passed Emmitt Smith’s single season Cowboys rushing record of 1,773 and Dez Bryant blew by the Cowboys record for most touchdowns in a single season previously held by Terrell Owens. Although the Cowboys have been on a tear this year and look to finally get over the hump this playoff season, the fact that Romo now holds records over the beloved Aikman is a little hard to swallow.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year… unless you’re a NFL head coach with a lousy record. Black Monday is usually a time for cleaning offices and this year was no differently. Mike Smith was dropped by the Atlanta Falcons after a 6-10 season following a 4-12 record the year before. He lead the team for five straight winning seasons before these last two, but playoff disappointments and Matt Ryan’s waning talent can only last you so long.
The Chicago Bears have missed the playoffs for the seventh time in eight years this season and the team was bad on both sides of the ball, thus coach Marc Trestman and General Manager Phil Emery were shown the door on Monday. Trestman was touted as an offensive wizard in the Canadian Football League but struggled in Chicago, going 13-19 in two seasons. Given how public the Bears struggle was, the firings were inevitable, but will anyone out there be able to turn Jay Cutler around?
Meanwhile in New York, Rex Ryan ended six years at the helm of the Jets. Joining him for the job search will be General Manager John Idzik, who did garner much of the blame for the team’s struggle this season as they brought on too many conflicting pieces and couldn’t hold any consistency week to week. But at least Ryan has that weird tattoo of his wife in a Jets jersey to keep him warm at night.
In the least surprising move of Black Monday, Jim Harbaugh and the San Francisco 49ers mutually parted ways after Harbaugh lead them to three straight NFC championship games and a Super Bowl appearance. Rumors surrounding Harbaugh’s season were swirling since last year’s draft and they just never stopped. Now Jim Harbaugh is off to return to the college game, joining his alma mater, the University of Michigan.