5 NFL Players & Teams Who Choked Their Way Out of the Playoffs
The 2012 NFL regular season is just about in the books, and by this week's end, 12 teams will advance to the playoffs while 20 others will watch from the couch.
For some of these teams, the end of the regular season brings with it a merciful conclusion to another disappointing year, but for others it's especially bitter, as those teams not too long ago had legitimate postseason aspirations.
And so, as we bid farewell to the 2012 regular season, here's a look at a handful of players and teams that could use the Heimlich maneuver.
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The Pittsburgh Steelers are a postseason tradition, having made the playoffs in six of the last eight years and winning it all in Super Bowl XL and Super Bowl XLIII.
Back in Week 10, it appeared that the Steelers were set to make it seven of nine, as a four-game winning streak had the team at 6-3 and sitting pretty.
Then the bottom fell out.
Injuries—including one to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger—and locker room sniping caused the Steelers to drop five of six, and by the time they downed the hapless Cleveland Browns in Week 17 they were just playing for pride.
New York Giants
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Casual fans of the NFL who only glanced at the Week 17 scores would likely believe that the New York Giants were headed back to the playoffs with a chance to defend their Super Bowl title.
Those fans would be incorrect.
Granted, the Giants destroyed the Philadelphia Eagles 42-7 in the season's last game, but it was too little too late, as the Chicago Bears' win over the Detroit Lions eliminated the New York from postseason consideration.
The Giants are another team that faded badly down the stretch, and those looking for the reason why the G-Men missed the playoffs need look no farther than losses to the Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Ravens in Week 15 and Week 16.
The combined score of those games? 67-14.
Josh Freeman, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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It may seem strange to talk about Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman as a player who choked away a postseason shot.
However, it wasn't that long ago that the Bucs were in position to make a run at a playoff spot, as a four-game winning streak had Tampa sitting at 6-4 heading into a Week 12 showdown with the Atlanta Falcons.
That game was the first in what became a five-game losing streak (the team's second such slump of at least four games in 2012), and over that stretch Freeman was terrible, throwing four interceptions in a game twice and positing an average quarterback rating of under 70.
New Orleans Saints Defense
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If it's possible to choke away a chance at the playoffs beginning with the first game of the season, then the New Orleans Saints accomplished that dubious feat in 2012.
Sure, there were disruptions galore given the clouds of controversy that surrounded the team all offseason as a result of the "bountygate" scandal, but this was still a team that many predicted would compete for a playoff spot.
At least, until they saw the defense play.
The Saints lost their first four games due in large part to a defense that began the season on a historically awful pace, and while they got a little better as the season wore on, the Saints defense finished the 2012 campaign ranked dead last in yardage and 28th in scoring.
Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys
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Another December, another season ending in frustration and heartbreak for the Dallas Cowboys.
Fans and supporters of quarterback Tony Romo will no doubt point to the injuries that hit the Dallas wideouts in their loss to the Washington Redskins, or claim that the team never would have been in a position to win the NFC east without another solid season from Romo.
However, as has been the case throughout his 10-year career, Romo folded like a cardboard coffee table when the pressure was at its apex. He threw three interceptions, including an incredibly all-advised fourth quarter lob that killed any chance of a Cowboys comeback.
Romo may want to go ahead and leave the TV turned off on Monday.