2012 Season In Review

RECORD-BREAKING 2012 SEASON HAD IT ALL!

Scoring at a 47-year high…comebacks galore…new teams making the playoffs and winning divisions…consistent teams excelling once again…records falling…rookies making their mark…and so much more!

The 2012 season really did have it all, including a fantastic finish.

Week 17 came right down to the wire as 10 of the 16 games played on the final day of the regular season had playoff implications. Sunday’s excitement was due in part to having 16 divisional games played on the season’s final day, a tradition instituted in 2010.

The NFL also arranged the schedule to ensure as many meaningful games as possible in each broadcasting window, resulting in the highest collective Sunday rating since at least 2006 (when the Sunday primetime package went to NBC). And the regular-season’s final game – game No. 256 of 256 – determined the NFC East division champion as Washington defeated Dallas in a winner-take-all matchup.

Each of the 12 teams still in Super Bowl XLVII contention can look back at the wild ride that was the 2012 regular season and appreciate how challenging the road to the playoffs was. Since the 12-team playoff format was adopted in 1990, at least four teams have qualified for the playoffs that were not in the postseason the year before. Indianapolis, Minnesota, Seattle and Washington accomplished the feat this year.

“You work the whole season to get here,” says Washington head coach MIKE SHANAHAN, whose Redskins became the fifth team in NFL history to qualify for the playoffs after a 3-6 start. “It’s a four-game season. There’s only one team that will be happy at the end of this season, and we want to be that team.”

Three of this year’s four “new” playoff teams finished in last place in 2011, combining for a 21-win improvement. Indianapolis (11-5) led the way with a nine-game improvement over last year’s 2-14 record, followed by Minnesota (10-6, seven-game improvement) and Washington (10-6, five-game improvement).

The 2012 season also proved that consistency is difficult, but not impossible, to maintain in the NFL, as the AFC became the first conference since realignment in 2002 that saw four repeat division champions – Baltimore, Denver, Houston and New England.

The Patriots became the second team in NFL history to win at least 10 games in 10 consecutive seasons, joining the 1983-98 San Francisco 49ers (16 consecutive seasons) as the only teams to accomplish the feat. BILL BELICHICK also became the eighth head coach in NFL history to reach 200 wins (including postseason), moving into seventh place all-time with 204 victories.

Two of the winningest quarterbacks in league history – PEYTON MANNING of Denver (13-3) and TOM BRADY of New England (12-4) – led their teams to the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in the AFC. Manning (154) surpassed Pro Football Hall of Famers DAN MARINO (147) and JOHN ELWAY (148) for the second-most regular-season wins by a starting quarterback in NFL annals.

Meanwhile, Brady became the first starting QB in NFL history to win 10 division championships. Manning captured his ninth division title, tying Pro Football Hall of Famer JOE MONTANA for second place all-time.

And two of the NFL’s most significant single-season records fell in 2012. DREW BREES of New Orleans threw a touchdown pass in 54 consecutive games, besting Pro Football Hall of Famer JOHNNY UNITAS’ previous record of 47. Detroit’s CALVIN JOHNSON led the NFL with 1,964 receiving yards, topping Pro Football Hall of Famer JERRY RICE’s record of 1,848 set in 1995.

The NFL is never short on surprises, and that leads to the excitement we witnessed in 2012:

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