Ravens win Super Bowl
It seemed as if the National Football League was finally predictable. It seemed as if the analysts were hot on the game’s trends. It seemed as though the same handful of teams would be taking turns making their Super Bowl appearances for the rest of time.
Photo courtesy of espn.go.com
Then, like a thief in the night, the 2013 NFL season came and changed all of that.
With their preseason Super Bowl odds at 15-1, the Baltimore Ravens were far from the hot pick to be the Super Bowl winner when the ESPN writers and sports radio show hosts made their predictions back in August. Following the pattern of seasons since the turn of the millennia, it seemed that the Super Bowl was a place for the Bradies, Rodgerses, Mannings and Breeses of the league. The rule of thumb that was quickly rising to the forefront of NFL front offices was that if you wanted to win, you needed an elite QB.
The NFL was also starting to see many heartfelt, potentially uplifting stories continuously rise and fizzle away at the hands of the quiet, yet confident schemes of the likes of Bill Belichik, Tom Coughlin and Mike Tomlin. Think of the Sean Taylor Washington Redskins, Tebow’s Mile High Miracle and the Kurt Warner “almost comeback story” as just a few.
If these trends of football in the 21st century were a train moving full steam ahead, it is safe to say that the 2013 NFL season swiftly hopped aboard, pulled the e-break and found the nearest turntable.
We need not look any further than Super Bowl XLVII for clear evidence of these changes. The season finale saw a slumping Joe Flacco who was starting to earn the reputation as a mediocre-at-best caliber player take on a sophomore Colin Kaepernick who didn’t even have the starting job at the beginning of the season. Looking back, it’s tough to believe that Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning all fell at the hands of one of these two guys.
But besides the season ending up with two middling quarterbacks duking it out in New Orleans, it was also a Super Bowl riddled with storylines and inspiration. Having the Harbaugh brothers face off added a nice touch to the way the media approached the game while also revitalizing the idea of siblings competing in professional sports.
However, even more emotionally touching, was the improbable Super Bowl run made by the Ravens after 17-year veteran and lifetime team member Ray Lewis announced his career would go as far as his team this post season.
At the time, it seemed like the end was near. This Baltimore squad closed out their season losing four out of their last five games and it was looking like they would be backing their way into another disappointing postseason.
However, this strategic move by Lewis rallied his team and created a group that was motivated by more than an aloof coach and a superstar quarterback.
However, looking beyond the Super Bowl, headlines throughout the season were filled with new occurrences as well. Seeing three rookie quarterbacks in Robert Griffin III of the Washington Redskins, Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts and Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks carry their teams to the post season was a display of youthful talent the NFL hadn’t seen for a long time.
Likewise, the 2013 NFL season saw a New Orleans Saints team never really show up to play. After three superior seasons stretching from 2010-12, the Saints watched their record swell up to an elite 37-11 mark. With the same quarterback, under the same head coach, the Saints stumbled out of the gates losing their first four games and limped the rest of the way to a 7-9 finish.
The reason for these dramatic changes in the complexion of the NFL could simply be that there is no true pattern to the game after all. With a season stretching from September to February, it could just be a matter of sparking a little momentum at just the right time.