The 2011 NFL season was filled with many exciting moments. It’s going to be hard to touch on every single moment, so let me list my top five favorite moments/storylines from the 2011 season.
Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow took the world by storm when he took over as starting quarterback. He took over a Broncos team that was 1-4 and transformed them into a playoff contender. At one point in the season, Tebow and the Broncos were riding a six-game winning streak filled with unbelievable comebacks. The most improbable comeback came against the Chicago Bears, when the Broncos rallied in the fourth quarter to tie the score, then captured a 13-10 victory in overtime.
The Broncos ended the regular season on a low note by losing three straight, but they made it into the playoffs where Tebow’s magic continued. The Broncos hosted the Steelers and won on an 80-yard touchdown play in overtime, the quickest score in NFL history. They lost to the Patriots the following week, but Tebow left us with a great season full of insane highlights.
2. Year of the Tight End
Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham amazed everyone this season with their incredible statistics. Gronkowski set an NFL record for most receiving yards (1,327) and receiving touchdowns (17) by a tight end in a single season. Graham, who briefly held that same record for receiving yards, fell only 17 receiving yards short. Graham did beat Gronkowski in one category, though: receptions (99). Both of these players were fantasy football studs and may have reshaped the tight end position for years to come.
3. This is a Passing League.
Among the top six single-season passing leaders, four are from the 2011 season. Before this season, only two players in NFL history had thrown for over 5,000 yards in a season. This year, we saw three players achieve that mark. Drew Brees (5,476), Tom Brady (5,235) and Matthew Stafford (5,038) all finished with over 5,000 passing yards, with Brees and Brady both breaking the previous NFL record.
Even more impressive, none of those quarterbacks won MVP. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers finished with a league-best 122.5 quarterback rating after throwing 45 touchdowns compared to just six interceptions. This season proved that the league is turning into a pass-first league.
4. Jerome Simpson’s Leap.
This moment was arguably the single most incredible act of athleticism NFL fans and analysts have ever seen. In a Week 16 bout with the Cardinals, Bengals receiver Jerome Simpson literally leaped over a defender as he crossed the goal line into the end zone. To top it off, he stuck the landing. It’s unlikely Simpson will return to the Bengals next season after being indicted on drug trafficking charges, but it doesn’t stop us from being amazed at his incredible touchdown leap.
5. Stevie Johnson’s Plaxico Celebration.
Buffalo Bills receiver Stevie Johnson is getting himself known for the wrong reasons. Last season, he revealed an undershirt that read “Why so serious?” This year, most will remember when he mocked Jets receiver Plaxico Burress by pretending to shoot himself in the leg. While it was legal, the celebration that followed got the receiver into trouble.
While mocking Jets receiver Santonio Holmes, Johnson went to the air and cost his team 15 yards with a penalty. Johnson waved his arms in the air, as if it was Holmes’ “flight” celebration, and was whistled for excessive celebrating. Personally, I thought the mocking was hilarious. If you’re dumb enough to shoot yourself in the leg, then don’t be surprised when people make fun of you.