Image Credit: Senior Airman Carlin Leslie
The Kansas City Chiefs have won their second Lombardi Trophy after beating the San Francisco 49ers 31-20 in the Super Bowl, closing the curtain on another brilliant year of football in the NFL. A season that featured unpredictability, exciting new stars introducing themselves, beloved veterans saying goodbye and unforgettable moments, for better or for worse. As it was the NFL’s 100th season, the league had planned some events to celebrate the milestone. The opening game, instead of featuring last year’s champions, instead saw Green Bay beat Chicago 10-3, as the NFL’s longest rivalry. The league also included a tweak to the logo on team uniforms and started a public vote on the greatest play in NFL history. The winning play was ‘The Immaculate Reception’ from the 1972 AFC Divisional Playoff Game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders.
London continued to have its spot in the NFL limelight with four more games from the capital. The first two were hosted in Tottenham Hotspur stadium and saw the Raiders beat the Bears 24-21 and the Panthers beat the Buccaneers 37-26. Wembley hosted two games which saw the Rams beat the Bengals 24-10 and the Texans demolish the ‘home-team’ Jaguars 26-3. Recently, we had the news that the Jaguars plan to play two of their eight home games next season in London. This, alongside Commissioner Rodger Goodell previous mention of the help the NFL gave Tottenham Hotspurs in building exclusive NFL facilities into their new stadium means the prospect of a London franchise is getting bigger every season.
As with every season, the NFL said hello to new players and coaches and said goodbye to those leaving. Retirements were a big theme this year, with Colts quarterback (QB) Andrew Luck deciding to leave the game early due to injuries that accumulated over his career. Eli Manning called it quits after 16 years in the game and two Super Bowl wins and SB MVPs. However, the most surprising of the retirements was Luke Kuechly, who at 28, decided that his body had endured enough, and it was time to go. In a retirement video, the former Carolina Panther said "I still want to play, but I don't think it's the right decision''. Even with the old guard leaving though, 2019 saw exciting young players to take their place. Arizona Cardinals QB Kyler Murray and San Francisco 49ers Defensive End Nick Bosa picked up Rookie of the Year Awards. Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson had a breakout year that saw him win unanimous MVP, becoming the second player to win the award unanimously after Tom Brady in 2010. Among the many firings in the NFL, the most notable were Ron Rivera leaving the Carolina Panthers after nine years and Jason Garrett who has left the Dallas Cowboys after first joining the organisation as a player in 1993, and then re-joining as an offensive coordinator in 2007, eight years after leaving.
As per usual, once we got into the Play Offs, everything stepped up a notch. The most notable games, starting with the Wild Card, saw the Buffalo Bills extended their drought in the postseason to 24 years after blowing a 16-point lead against the Houston Texans to lose in overtime and the New England Patriots were knocked out by the Tennessee Titans. In the Divisional Round, the Chiefs overcame a 24-point deficit to beat the Houston Texans and in the Championship games, the Chiefs and 49ers won their Conferences against the Titans and Packers respectively to advance to the Super Bowl. In the Super Bowl itself, San Francisco got off to the much better start and looked like they had the game won when they were 20-10 up with just over six minutes remaining in the game. However, since comebacks were the theme of these Play Offs, Kansas City scored 21 uninterrupted points to win their second Lombardi, with a few controversial calls along the way. Most notable was the Damien Williams touchdown where many thought he was out of bounds before the ball crossed the line.
All there’s left to do now is wait for the next season of the NFL. The 2020 draft and the schedule release takes place in April, pre-season training starts in June and the season gets underway in September.