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Top 10 Moments That Affected The NFL In 2015

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2015 was a crazy year in the NFL as we saw an amazing Super Bowl finish, the end of an era, a ridiculous amount of high profile injuries and a few stories that you couldn’t have made up.  Here are the Top 10 moments that affected the NFL in 2015.

1. Malcolm Butler INT

The pick heard round the world.  Malcolm Butler changed the course of NFL history as he jumped a slant route and made a Super Bowl saving interception which helped capture Tom Brady his fourth ring.  The former undrafted free agent’s career has ascended as he was named to his first Pro Bowl this season.  Butler went from complete obscurity to a Super Bowl legend.

2. Tom Brady Defeats Roger Goodell in Court

The story that dominated the offseason was “Deflate-gate” and what the eventual outcome would be.  Tom Brady proclaimed his innocence (although we don’t fully believe him) and the commissioner’s witch hunt came up completely empty as he was defeated in a court of law.  Brady went on to have one of the best season’s of his career and has the Pats as an overwhelming favorite to get to another Super Bowl.

3. Peyton Manning versus Kansas City

Entering the regular season, we knew that Peyton Manning’s skills were beginning to deteriorate.  Father Time’s undefeated record bettered itself in Week 10 when the Broncos hosted the Kansas City Chiefs.  Manning had the worst game of his career as he went 5 for 20, for 35 yards with four interceptions before getting pulled.  One of the all-time greats hasn’t seen the field since and even if he returns for the postseason, that game marked the virtual end of his career.

4. Cam Newton’s Comeback vs. Seattle

Cam Newton was having a nice start to his season as the team was 4-0 entering their game in Seattle as heavy underdogs.  Newton engineered an amazing fourth quarter comeback in one of the toughest stadiums in the NFL for opponents as the Panthers overcame a 13-point deficit to defeat the two-time defending NFC Champs.  That helped propel the Panthers to a 14-0 start and their outspoken quarterback to what should be his first NFL MVP award.  Cam announced his presence as one of the very best in the game.

5. IK’s Punch Out

In one of the craziest stories you’ll ever see, or could even imagine, then New York Jets linebacker IK Enemkpali punched then starting quarterback Geno Smith and broke his jaw.  The argument allegedly stemmed from a $600 debt that Smith owed the linebacker.  As expected, Enemkpali was immediately waived and Smith lost his starting job.  The team performed well enough under now starter Ryan Fitzpatrick that they are a win away from the playoffs and there was no reason to go back to Smith.  Imagine how differently the Jets season could have been if that insane incident didn’t take place?

6. Chip Kelly Trades LeSean McCoy

Then Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly made an offseason power play to gain personnel power and it worked out so well that he was fired before the end of the season.  Kelly’s trade of Pro Bowl running back LeSean McCoy for Kiko Alonso didn’t single-handedly torpedo the team, but it was a symbol of the head coach being “smarter than the room” and the Eagles roster being significantly less talented than it was when he took over.  It’s a players league and Kelly thought he could dominate with his plays.  He’s a pretty good head coach, but he took a playoff team and made them a 6-9 team with his personnel moves.

7. Jay Gruden Chooses Cousins/End of RG3

Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden pushed all of his chips to the middle of the table when he chose backup quarterback Kirk Cousins to be his starting quarterback over former second-overall pick Robert Griffin, III.  Gruden’s decision looked shaky for the first half of the season as the inexperienced Cousins struggled with ball security.  Things began to click for Cousins in the second half of the Tampa Bay game where he led the team to a comeback victory from 24 points down.  Since, he’s been spectacular and the Redskins won the NFC East.

8. Andy Dalton Injury

Embattled Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton was having the best season of his career and was in MVP consideration for much of the first half of the year.  The Bengals looked like a legitimate Super Bowl contender….right up until their Week 14 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.  Dalton threw an interception and then broke his thumb while trying to make a tackle.  It’s unclear whether he will return this season and without him Cincinnati has virtually no chance to compete with New England in the postseason.

9. Rookie QB’s Hold Their Own

When Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota were taken No.’s 1 and 2 respectively in the 2015 NFL Draft, many believed that maybe one of the two might succeed.  As their rookie season’s come to a close, both have exceeded expectations.  Mariota defeated Winston in the season opener, posting a perfect 158.3 passer rating with four touchdowns.  Since then Winston has bounced back and had his team in the playoff picture in early December.  It appears that both selections were good and now the Bucs and Titans fan bases have reason for optimism going forward.

10. Bostick Drops Onside Kick

We start the countdown with one play and end it with one play.  Green Bay Packers tight end Brian Bostick dropped an onside kick which allowed Seattle one more chance in the NFC Championship Game.  The Seahawks scored and eventually won and advanced to the Super Bowl.  Bostick was waived.  If Green Bay played New England in the Super Bowl, it would have been one of the legendary quarterback battles in Super Bowl history and we might not be talking about Brady’s fourth ring.


About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.