The Week 17 Wrap

Sunday night saw the final games of the decade played as Baltimore and Kansas City secured the top seeds in the AFC playoffs, while San Francisco and New Orleans did the same in the NFC.

With that in mind, I thought it would be nice to write up a special 'The Wrap' looking back on what has been a memorable NFL decade on both sides of the Atlantic.

So let's kick off with 10 of my most memorable moments from the past decade and these are in chronological order, not in order of importance.

The Beastquake run

I was sat in a hotel bar in Philadelphia with Greg Brady early in January, 2011, getting ready to call the Eagles-Green Bay Packers playoff game for BBC Radio 5 Live the next day. Many across America were moaning about the 7-9 division champion Seattle Seahawks hosting a playoff game against the 11-5 New Orleans Saints. But we soon became distracted from such chatter as Seattle's Marshawn Lynch took off on a tackle-breaking run for the ages that resulted in a touchdown. A run that caused a minor earthquake to occur in Seattle. It powered the Seahawks to a stunning 41-36 victory, proving they belonged in the postseason.

The best pass I have ever seen

Super Bowl 46 in Indianapolis was the first I covered on site for Sky Sports and it turned out to be a very memorable one as the New York Giants recorded a surprise 21-17 takedown of the New England Patriots. New York's game-winning drive featured the greatest pass I have ever seen thrown in person. We were sitting in the end zone, allowing for the perfect angle as Eli Manning dropped a dime on Mario Manningham for a 38-yard gain. Eli put the ball within three inches of the sideline and it was the only place he could put the pigskin in order to get a completion. It was sheer perfection as Eli delivered a second Super Bowl to the Big Apple.

The lights go out at the Super Bowl

A year later, I witnessed one of the more bizarre Super Bowls as the lights went out for 34 minutes due to a power outage in the Superdome. The Baltimore Ravens were leading 28-6 in the third quarter when the lights went out. It was not completely dark as the emergency lighting kicked in, but it was still pretty eerie and very surreal. We lost all contact with our control room at Sky Sports and we knew we had been kicked off air. I remember standing outside our studio and chatting with Mark Chapman, who was presenting for the BBC next door. We both very much doubted many at home would be with us for the duration of such a one-sided game when the lights did come back on. But those who did witnessed a classic as the 49ers came storming back. Baltimore held at their own five late in the game to win 34-31, allowing Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis to walk off into the sunset as a Super Bowl champ.

An old-fashioned beatdown

The Super Bowl moved on to New York at the conclusion of the following season - a 2013 campaign totally dominated by the Denver Broncos' high-octane attack led by Peyton Manning. We spent the week in the Big Apple wondering how Seattle could slow such an offense. We need not have bothered. The Seahawks scored a safety on the game's first drive, beat up the Broncos from start to finish and won 43-8. It was an old-fashioned, one-sided Super Bowl. The big concern had been about the weather and the NFL dodged a bullet by a matter of hours. I woke the morning after the game to a fierce blizzard that would have made for a very interesting contest had that storm rolled in the night before.

The interception heard around the world

Super Bowl 49 in Arizona featured the most stunning finish in NFL history - and there have been a few! Camped out at the New England one-yard line with just seconds remaining, Seattle chose to throw the football instead of handing it to the most physically imposing back in the game in Lynch. That alone was a shock but what followed was jaw-dropping. Unheralded rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler jumped the route and stole the football with an interception for the ages at the goal line. I was covering that game from the sideline for Sky Sports and was positioned, as luck would have it, right on the goal line in that end zone. I immediately reached for my depth chart as few of us had ever heard of Butler. New England won that classic 28-24 and Seattle were left with years of locker room unrest as a result of the play call.

The Comeback

The 2016 season looked as if it was going to end with a spectacular upset in Super Bowl 51 as the Atlanta Falcons roared into a 28-3 lead against the Patriots. That early domination included a pick six touchdown of Brady and it seemed like there was no way back for New England. But, of course, they found a way behind Brady's excellence and some timely big plays on defense. By the time New England had rallied to send the game into overtime, the Falcons were out on their feet. The Patriots won 34-28 despite never leading in regulation time and Brady was the star of the show as he was named the game's MVP for a fourth time.

The Minneapolis Miracle

The 2017 playoffs were full of drama - more on that below - and few games have ever ended in as shocking a fashion as the divisional round game between the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints. All hope seemed lost for the Vikings as they prepared to take the game's final snap from their own 39-yard line trailing 24-23. Case Keenum heaved up a prayer, Stefon Diggs caught the ball and when Marcus Williams, of the Saints, overplayed it, the receiver ran down the sideline to complete what became known as the Minneapolis Miracle. In our Sky Sports studio it was sheer pandemonium as Redzone's Scott Hanson nearly lost his voice as he screamed and hopped around like a small child on Christmas morning. He was not alone. It was a special moment as we saw the first playoff game in NFL history decided by a touchdown as time expired.

The Philly Special

New England were back in the big game at the end of those playoffs in frosty Minneapolis as they took on a plucky Eagles team led by backup quarterback Nick Foles. It was such a special night for Foles and the Eagles that a statue paying homage to their memorable victory now stands outside Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. In a breathless game in which the offenses combined for an NFL record 1,151 yards and there was just one punt, the Eagles ran out as 41-33 winners. But one play stood out above all others as the Eagles called 'The Philly Special' late in the first half, denting New England's spirit on a fourth down touchdown pass from tight end Trey Burton to Foles. On a personal note, this was the most fun I have ever had covering a Super Bowl for Sky Sports as I was sat next to the always-entertaining Josh Norman, who even decided to beat me up as I attempted to say goodnight to the viewers at the end of the game.

The Miracle in Miami

In December 2018, the Miami Dolphins had given the Patriots all they could handle - as has so often been the case in South Florida - but it appeared they were coming up short as they trailed 33-28 with the football at their own 31 with seven seconds remaining. Ryan Tannehill dumped a short pass over the middle to Kenny Stills and it was 'heave it around and hope' time. Stills lateralled to DeVante Parker who did the same to Kenyan Drake. The running back took the ball the final 52 yards to the end zone, aided by a great block from Ted Larsen on Patrick Chung to give Miami the 34-33 win. Dolphins fans especially enjoyed the sight of a lumbering Rob Gronkowski failing to make the tackle near the goal line. Gronk had been put on the field to defend a Hail Mary pass but he and Belichick got crossed up. In an interesting footnote, Tannehill, Stills and Drake would be gone from Miami by the following season.

A new NFL venue in London

The opening of Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in October 2019 further legitimized London and the UK as a key market for the NFL. The stunning new venue played host to an Oakland victory against the Chicago Bears and a week later the Efe Obada-led Carolina Panthers came to town as they defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers off the back of a Jameis Winston meltdown. The stadium blew fans, players, coaches and league officials away. I was stunned at how great the venue looked and you could have picked up that stadium and placed it anywhere in America and you would have felt you were at an authentic NFL event in the United States. I think the opening of Tottenham Hotspur Stadium has significantly moved the needle in league circles and we will be seeing multiple games - or potentially a franchise - heading our way for many years to come.

PLAYER OF THE DECADE -TOM BRADY, QB, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

His decline may be quite sharp in 2019, but there is no doubt in my mind that Tom Brady has been playing the best football of his illustrious career in this decade. Brady was voted to eight Pro Bowls in the decade, won three Super Bowls and threw for more than 500 yards and three touchdowns in one of those he lost against the Philadelphia Eagles. Brady was twice named the league's MVP and this decade has been the one in which he has cemented his case as the greatest player in league history.

COACH OF THE DECADE - BILL BELICHICK, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

A nod should go to John Harbaugh, of the Baltimore Ravens, Pete Carroll, of the Seattle Seahawks, and Andy Reid, of the Kansas City Chiefs, for consistently turning out winning teams. But there is no doubt, again, who gets this prize. It has to be Bill Belichick. This year alone he has coaxed 12 regular season wins out of a New England team that is really nowhere near the franchise's dominant level of the past. But some of Belichick's finest moments have delivered Super Bowl wins. He guessed correctly that Seattle might pass near the goal line, throwing an extra defensive back onto the field at the last moment. It was a genius move. The whole world was shocked at Seattle's play call - the whole world, except Belichick. In Super Bowl 51, he didn't panic and coached his team back to defeat Atlanta and in last year's playoffs, he was at his defensive best in shutting down Patrick Mahomes and Jared Goff in back to back games to secure another Super Bowl crown.

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