Sunday evening will see the crowning of the ultimate postseason achievement in Super Bowl XLVII. But Saturday night of Super Bowl weekend was for recognizing those players and coaches who ascended to greatness during the regular season, as the NFL announced its major awards for 2012 at the "NFL Honors" program on CBS.
Hosted by Alec Baldwin, the NFL Honors ceremony was introduced last year to a rousing success. While awards were once announced via press releases, the NFL Honors program works to honor achievements throughout the league in a traditional awards-show-ceremony format.
Plenty of current and former players were in attendance for the ceremony at the Mahalia Jackson Theater, including awards favorites Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson, as well as legends like Deion Sanders.
Who won these prestigious awards? Here is a complete breakdown of Saturday's award winners, along with reactions and analysis from across the Twittersphere.
List of Award Winners
(All awards are given out by The Associated Press unless otherwise noted.)
Most Valuable Player: Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings
Most believed this one was coming down to Peterson and Peyton Manning, and CBS Sports' Will Brinson announced that it was the stud running back who escaped with the NFL's top award:
Adrian Peterson wins the 2012 NFL MVP Award. #NFLHonors— Will Brinson (@willbrinson) February 3, 2013
Peterson returned from major knee surgery this season, but he was amazingly still an unstoppable force.
"All Day" tallied a league-leading 2,314 yards from scrimmage—including a near-record-setting 2,097 rushing yards on 6.0 per carry—and 13 total touchdowns as he essentially carried the Vikings to a postseason berth.
It was one of the most jaw-dropping individual seasons of all time.
Offensive Player of the Year: Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings
CBS Sports' Will Brinson had the news:
Adrian Peterson wins Offensive Player of the Year. #NFLHonors— Will Brinson (@willbrinson) February 3, 2013
Just adding to the hardware.
Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans
CBS Sports' Will Brinson had the news:
JJ Watt wins Defensive Player of the Year #NFLHonors— Will Brinson (@willbrinson) February 3, 2013
Simply put, Watt was nearly unblockable.
In just his second season in the NFL, the former Wisconsin star led the NFL with 20.5 sacks and forced four fumbles in the process.
When teams actually stopped him from mauling their quarterbacks, he got his big paws up and deflected an amazing 16 passes.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins
There were three quarterbacks who easily could have taken home this award, but according to CBS Sports' Will Brinson, RGIII came out on top:
Robert Griffin III wins Offensive Rookie of the Year. #NFLHonors— Will Brinson (@willbrinson) February 3, 2013
The No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 draft completed 65.6 percent of his throws for 3,200 yards, 20 touchdowns and just five interceptions en route to a QB rating of 102.4.
He also established himself as one of the most dangerous offensive players in the league, as he rushed for another 815 yards and seven scores.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Luke Kuechly, LB, Carolina Panthers
CBS Sports' Will Brinson revealed Kuechly as the winner:
Luke Kuechly wins Defensive Rookie of the Year. #NFLHonors— Will Brinson (@willbrinson) February 3, 2013
The former Boston College stud started every game for the Carolina Panthers this season and racked up an amazing 165 combined tackles to go with one sack, eight pass deflections and two interceptions.
Comeback Player of the Year: Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos
CBS Sports' Will Brinson gave us the news:
Peyton Manning wins Comeback Player of the Year. #NFLHonors— Will Brinson (@willbrinson) February 3, 2013
Manning missed all of the 2011-12 season and nearly had to end his career because of four neck surgeries, but he looked like his old, dominant self as a part of a new team in 2012.
The veteran gunslinger completed a league-leading 68.6 percent of his passes for 4,659 yards, 37 touchdowns and just 11 interceptions. His 84.11 QBR also led the NFL.
In addition to the astounding stats, Manning led the Broncos to the NFL's best regular-season record.
ESPN Stats & Info noted that Peterson is the third Viking to ever win the major award:
Adrian Peterson wins MVP. He is 3rd Vikings player to win award (1971 Alan Page & 1975 Fran Tarkenton)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 3, 2013
While Peterson got the two major awards, NFL.com's Jeff Darlington was a little surprised he didn't get a trio of top honors:
Peyton is deserving, but Peterson not getting this award is... fascinating? RT @nfl: Peyton Manning is your 2012 AP Comeback Player of Year— Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) February 3, 2013
In addition to those awards, there will be a lot of debate about the NFL Rookie of the Year Award, which Robert Griffin III took home. NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal believed it was the correct choice:
RG3 was the right pick for OROY nfl.com/news/story/0ap…— gregg rosenthal (@greggrosenthal) February 3, 2013
The defensive player of the year, however, wasn't quite as close (via CBS Sports' Will Brinson):
Wow. JJ Watt got 49 votes for DPOY. Von Miller got 1.— Will Brinson (@willbrinson) February 3, 2013
Not only that, but Watt is still extremely young (via HoustonTexans.com's Nick Scurfield):
Look out, NFL.