What an epic NFL season that just went into the books. It was a true joy writing about the wild events on NFL.com. From the emotionally powered Indianapolis Colts to the league's dazzling rookie quarterbacks to the victorious Baltimore Ravens, this was an amazing NFL season.
With Super Bowl XLVII now in the rearview mirror, I decided to take a look back at 47 -- make that XLVII -- of the most memorable aspects of the 2012 campaign.
1) Joe Flacco hoists the Lombardi Trophy. What a picture. Earlier this year, I wrote that I didn't trust the Baltimore Ravens quarterback. I didn't write that for shock value or to get extra clicks. Flacco had a very up-and-down regular season -- which is what made his flawless and dominant playoff run even more special.
2) Jim Harbaugh signals for holding on a fourth-down pass to Michael Crabtree near the end of Super Bowl XLVII. Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith didn't commit a penalty; it was a good non-call. The San Francisco 49ers coach should've been irate at himself -- and offensive coordinator Greg Roman -- for the four plays San Francisco called in that sequence. How do you not run with Frank Gore and Colin Kaepernick?
3) Kaepernick replaces Alex Smith and becomes a star. Think of the poise that the second-year quarterback showed with the Niners down 17-0 against the Atlanta Falcons, making brilliant throws in the NFC Championship Game. Think of the majestic divisional-round performance against the Green Bay Packers, when he ran for two touchdowns and threw for two more.
5) Adrian Peterson puts together what I will call the best season for a running back in NFL history. I say that factoring in the knee injury, the subsequent surgery and rehab, and the questions about his health. Though Peterson was on a snap count for the first few weeks of the 2012 campaign, he finished 9 yards short of setting a single-season rushing record. With Christian Ponder heading up the Minnesota Vikings' 31st-ranked passing attack, every team knew Peterson would be running -- and they still couldn't stop him. He willed the overachieving Vikings to the playoffs, carrying them to a stunning Week 16 win over the Houston Texans and making MVP-caliber plays to beat the Green Bay Packers in the regular-season finale.
9) The Falcons' title dreams are shattered after the team blows a 17-0 lead to San Francisco in the NFC Championship Game, with Niners defenders Ahmad Brooks and NaVorro Bowman delivering the final blows.
11) J.J. Watt swats down pass after pass en route to winning the Defensive Player of the Year award with the Houston Texans.
12) The Texans collapse down the stretch, losing the AFC's top playoff seed. Matt Schaub wound up with his first playoff win, but the New England Patriots remained Houston's kryptonite -- after embarrassing the Texans in the regular season, the Pats also ended their postseason run.
NFL HonorsThe NFLâs brightest stars come together for the second annual NFL Honors award show. Take a look some of the best photos of the night.
13) Peyton Manning comes back -- all the way back. Multiple neck surgeries forced him to miss the 2011 season, but in 2012, Manning resembled the Hall of Famer he had been before. The Denver Broncos' Manning-led rally on Monday Night Football in a Week 6 matchup with the San Diego Chargers was sensational; that was the night the AFC West was won. Denver didn't lose again in the regular season after that, and San Diego couldn't recover.
15) Robert Griffin III leads the Washington Redskins to their first home playoff game in two decades before winning the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. Griffin's NFL debut against the New Orleans Saints, in which he torched that defense, set the tempo for the entire season. His 76-yard touchdown run against the Vikings in Week 6 was one of the best plays of the year.
16) During their Week 17 broadcast of the matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and Redskins, NBC's Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth let the Redskins band and fans belt out "Hail to the Redskins," providing a moment that would give any football fan chills.
17) Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo puts together the most dominant stretch of his career.
19) Tebow, Tebow, Tebow. Blah, blah, blah. Though he is discussed nonstop, Tim Tebow is a total non-factor for the dysfunctional, clown-show New York Jets.
20) Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez loses the football after running into Brandon Moore, and the term "butt-fumble" enters the football lexicon.
26) Just days after Pagano's diagnosis, Luck propels Indy to a Week 5 win against the Packers, rallying the team back from a 21-3 deficit.
27) Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians steps in for Pagano and adroitly guides Indy to the playoffs. Those efforts land Arians -- who also gets the job as the Arizona Cardinals' head coach -- the NFL's Coach of the Year award.
28) We get to see a tearful Pagano address the Colts in the locker room after a win, talking about his fight against leukemia, about how he was going to coach again and dance at his daughters' weddings. Then, we get to see Pagano dance in the locker room with his players. That was the image of the year.
30) Bears quarterback Jay Cutler chews out his teammates and ignores his offensive coordinator. Offensive-line issues and injuries caused the Bears to collapse for a second straight season -- and cost former coach Lovie Smith his job.
31) Tom Brady humbles the Houston Texans. Houston had lost just once all season heading into a heavily anticipated Monday Night Football matchup with the New England Patriots in Week 14. But Brady put the game out of reach early, carrying the Pats to a 21-0 lead and finishing with four touchdown passes.
32) Though he had to deal with injured receivers and other players around him, Aaron Rodgers puts together another great season with the Green Bay Packers. A high point: Rodgers carves up Houston for six touchdowns on national television in Week 6.
33) Fourth-and-29? Hey diddle diddle, Ray Rice up the middle.
35) The following week, the Niners get smashed by the Seattle Seahawks, 42-13, in the most impressive win of 2012.
40) The underachieving, spiraling Lions' season is represented by receiver Titus Young's clueless behavior.
45) Wilson leads Seattle to a road victory over Chicago in Week 13. Seahawks general manager John Schneider rightly told me it was the defining game of his team's season, giving Seattle the confidence that it could beat a good opponent on the road.
47) In Week 4, the regular refs return to work to a standing ovation before a Thursday night game in Baltimore. I'm guessing most fans have forgotten about that by now.
Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.