The night before Super Bowl XLVII, the NFL will salute its best players and plays from the 2012 season with "NFL Honors," a star-studded football and entertainment event at the Mahalia Jackson Theatre in New Orleans. Just like last year, Alec Baldwin will host the proceedings, which will be broadcast on CBS at 9 p.m. ET on Saturday night.
One of the awards that will be presented at "NFL Honors" is the 2012 Play of the Year. There are 20 official nominees available for viewing here, but what is your pick?
Rice's fourth-and-29 miracle gave Baltimore a game it had no business winningI have to go with Ray Rice scampering for 30 yards (barely) on a fourth-and-29. Or, as Rice phrased it, "Hey diddle diddle, Ray Rice up the middle." That gave the Ravens a victory over the San Diego Chargers in a game they had no business winning.
I'll never forget when Jenkins saved the day for New OrleansWith all due respect to the plays on the official list, my pick for best play of the year is a little off the radar.
I'll remember New Orleans Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins chasing down Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Vincent Jackson from behind on a 95-yard gain for as long as I watch football. The play showed Jenkins' hustle and athleticism, and it made a huge difference in a game that the Saints won by seven points. The ensuing goal-line stand just made Jenkins' effort sweeter.
Ravens aren't AFC North champs without Rice's conversionIsn't the obvious call a check-down to your running back when the down and distance is fourth-and-29? On the run, Rice eluded five tacklers and powered through two more defenders to deliver the do-or-die first down. The play led to a game-tying kick from Justin Tucker as regulation expired, and the Ravens went on to win in overtime.
Remember, the Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals both finished the season at 10-6, with Baltimore taking the AFC North crown on a tiebreaker. What happens if Rice manages just 28 yards on that play?
Luck's game-winning TD pass at Detroit highlighted a fantastic rookie seasonIndianapolis Colts rookie quarterback Andrew Luck had a lot of great moments and engineered a lot of impressive comebacks, but the play that stands out to me is his 14-yard touchdown pass to Donnie Avery for a win at Detroit in Week 13. The Colts were down by 12 points late in the fourth quarter, and Luck was able to rally his team. This win made the Colts the runaway leaders in the AFC wild-card chase and cemented their amazing turnaround after a lost 2011 season.
Watching the play, it looks like Luck could have possibly reached the end zone on his own. But when Luck joined the set of "NFL.com/LIVE" at Super Bowl XLVII and reflected on how important the play was, he said the notion never entered his mind.
"Donnie is a lot faster than me," Luck said.
Forget fourth-and-29 -- Baltimore's most important play was actually a Pittsburgh TD"Best" play? Feh! I'm gonna go with "most important" instead. And since I'm sure at least a couple people have already covered Ray Rice's "28-yard" scamper (I don't care what the refs say -- he got a very generous spot), lemme point at another play from the Ravens' season that would've swung the AFC North ... and ultimately knocked Baltimore out of the postseason.
In the first quarter of the Ravens' Nov. 18 game in Heinz Field, Pittsburgh Steelers backup quarterback Byron Leftwich (in for the injured Ben Roethlisberger) left the pocket and ran 31 yards (in roughly 31 seconds) for a touchdown. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, Leftwich broke a rib or two on the play, which left him ineffective for the rest of the game and on the bench for the following week's contest in Cleveland. Third-stringer Chaz Batch was atrocious against the Browns in that one, costing the Steelers a second straight divisional win and essentially delivering the North crown to the Ravens.
Had Leftwich stayed healthy, Pittsburgh would've finished 10-6 and -- with the head-to-head advantage over the Ravens -- claimed the division. But of course, Leftwich did get hurt, the Ravens are in the Super Bowl and Steelers fans (like yours truly) are left to make excuses.