A short summary of the NFL season: The Panthers almost dominated, Aaron Rodgers cannot stop throwing perfect Hail Marys, Peyton Manning goes out winning a Super Bowl in the fashion of his brother, and not a single person in the NFL knows what a catch is yet.
A more accurate description may include the revelation that Rex Ryan’s defensive coaching prowess has been long overstated, or the overwhelming acceptance of the drastic changes in the extra point rules, among many other things.
With any NFL season taking place in this millennium, the story is largely told by the quarterbacks.
That is why Andy Dalton’s surprising acclimation from mediocre starter to the biggest Pro Bowl snub of the year is so important, and Ryan Fitzpatrick’s long awaited coming of age means the New York Jets can finally focus on other positions if they play it right.
Jay Cutler showed improvement as well, particularly in his footwork and decision-making, though the Chicago Bears were only able to pull six wins out of him.
The biggest quarterback story—especially locally—was Cam Newton. It was a breakout season for Cam, who dabbed his way to the top of the mainstream media hierarchy and took true leadership of the team at a time when star wideout Kelvin Benjamin was out with a torn ACL.
Other quarterbacks did not have such smooth rides. Colin Kaepernick fell apart mechanically and may have effectively proved his doubters correct in the process (His former teammate Alex Smith even averaged more rushing yards per game this year).
Andrew Luck iced over his promising start with an injury-riddled, interception plagued season in which the Colts looked better with a 40 year old Matt Hasselbeck under center.
It was also hard to watch the struggles of Peyton Manning for the large part of the year, but I am certain that will not be what he remembers most about this pivotal part of his life.
Beyond quarterbacks, 2015 was another campaign that proved the purportedly more offensive NFL has been severely overblown.
Most of the contenders this season were defensive squads—the bruising black and blue of the Panthers, the furious blitzing of the Broncos, the Cardinals, and the Bengals.
For teams like the Green Bay Packers and the New Orleans Saints, this may have been a rude awakening. The NFL is not a league where you can assemble purely offensive pieces together and be dominant—or in the Saints case, even halfway decent.
It makes sense then that the Super Bowl ended up being a clash between the league’s top defenses, the top rated Broncos and the linebacker led led Panthers squad.
Expectations were through the roof for the Panthers—who had had turned Bank of America Stadium into a slaughtering house for other contenders throughout the playoffs. Rumor had it they were not just going to beat the Broncos, they would crush them.
That was not the case this time. The Broncos played with more intensity and were better prepared for the matchup, playing with the extra motivation of trying to cap off a legend’s career. And for the third time in history, the league’s MVP quarterback fell to the league’s top rated defense.
In the middle of it all was another controversial replay call, when Jerricho Cotchery bobbled a pivotal Cam Newton pass to the ground and was able to seemingly come up with it. The original call was incompletion, and upon further review it stood.
Every season, it becomes less and less clear what a catch is. The fact that this came into play in the Super Bowl should get the gears turning—it is time to fix the catch rules.
Thankfully for the NFL, in this case it wouldn’t have mattered.
It was Von Miller who made the two biggest plays for Denver, strip sacks that led to easy touchdowns. It was actually those 14 points that decided the 24-10 game, the last of NFL football until next preseason.
For the Panthers, it isn’t the end. It may be tough to capture the 2015 spirit, but if they can then they will have this year’s team plus a real No.1 receiver in Kelvin Benjamin.
The most noticeably American form of entertainment escapism finally closes down for another few minutes—surely only to be rebooted with the same pre-season hype that had us so excited for 2015.