Every game during the NFL season tells a story. GIFs -- pronounced "gifs", "jifs" or "gee-oafs" -- can do the same thing. Let's explain the world of Week 13 through GIFs.
Let's begin today with a celebration of Philip Rivers. The NFL's overlooked superstar went off in the thrilling comeback against the Steelers, completing 13 of his 16 second-half passes and leading the Chargers on their game-winning field goal drive in a 33-30 triumph at Heinz Field. Hey, QB1 -- should we go ahead and call this the Year of Phil?
Let's go? Sure! Rivers has been around forever, so it's easy to be a prisoner of the moment. But it's certainly fair to put Sunday night's epic comeback win in the conversation of the definitive Rivers victory. And the opponent matters here. Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger entered the league in the same year. Big Ben and fellow Class of '04 alum Eli Manning both have two Super Bowl rings. From a production standpoint, Rivers can hold his own with anyone in his era, but it's that absence of postseason glory that's kept his star from shining as bright. Hey, Phil -- you think you deserve to be left out of conversations on the greatest quarterbacks of your generation?
No, I didn't think so. What made this Chargers win so special was how different it was from so many Bolts outcomes in season's past. This is the team that always finds a way to blow it. But not Sunday night. These Chargers are different, and they have the look and feel of a very tough out in January.
Not sure if I can say the same for the Steelers, who have the look and feel of so many Pittsburgh teams in recent years, piling up points and victories before unforeseen adversity sabotages the season. Last year, it was a crushing home loss to the Patriots in Week 15 before an undressing at the hands of the Jaguars in the playoffs. Will this Chargers loss be the setup for another January failure in the Steel City? (This is the part where excited Ravens fans add, "If they even get to January.") Stay tuned.
Hey! That's unanimous Comeback Player of the Year and fringe MVP candidate Andrew Luck! That man is a treasure! He is the subject of one of sports Twitters most enduring running bits! Help him up! After the game, Jalen Ramsey explained that he's been pulling that old sike for years and later took to Twitter to explain himself further:
That's all fair. And, let's be honest, football fans can't have it both ways. You can't be angry when players from opposing teams chum it up before and after games, but also have an issue with Ramsey clowning Luck here. Speaking of Ramsey ...
That's Jaguars executive vice president Tom Coughlin celebrating Jalen Ramsey's game-ending tackle in DUVVVVAAAALLLLL's stunning 6-0 win over the Colts at the Big Chlorine Tank. This is a Top 10 GIF of the Year contender for a few reasons: 1) Coughlin's relentless enthusiasm for the sport even in the midst of a lost Jags season; 2) Jags executive Tony Khan joining the Chris Christie All-Stars; 3) Coughlin's overall constitution at the ripe old age of 72. That man is a fit senior citizen who will outlive us all.
On the subject of luxury box celebrations, things are significantly toned down on Patriot Way ... and why wouldn't they be? Sunday's 24-10 win prompted polite golf claps for the owner of an organization that might never ever stop winning. To wit: Sunday's victory clinched the Patriots' 18th straight winning season -- that's the second-longest streak in league history, behind the 1966-1985 Cowboys. The Pats are also closing in on their 10th straight AFC East title, which is both an impressive feat and an embarrassing indictment of the rest of the division New England plays in. Take it back further and the Pats have won every AFC East title since 2003 with the exception of one year. The only time they missed out? Yep, the 2008 season, when Tom Brady tore his ACL in Week 1 -- and those monsters still went 11-5!
The hardest job in America -- other than cleaning out port-o-johns after the county chili cook-off -- is definitely playing the position of "gunner" on punt coverage. This is the ultimate grunt work on a football team. That's Giants cornerback Antonio Hamilton, who probably grew up dreaming about being the next Darrelle Revis or Randy Moss. Maybe one day he'll get there. For now, it's dues-paying time.
While we're here ...
This is some elite teamwork. One play later, the Bears -- surely frazzled with their backs against their own goal post -- fumbled away the football to ensure a Giants win. Actually, the Bears would get the ball back and score 10 points in the final two minutes of regulation to force overtime before losing, but still ... way to go, special teams! Well, actually, Chicago got the opportunity to score the game-tying touchdown because the Giants' special teams failed to recover an onside kick. Whatever! Still a nice job on that one punt.
Until next week.