The 2012-13 NFL season will be remembered for many things. Replacement referees. Rookie quarterbacks. A legend retiring as a champion. Two other legends returning from injuries to post epic seasons.
So what was the most memorable moment of them all? And for that matter, which 10 moments were the most memorable this season?
I'll answer those very questions. You might be surprised to see a few moments on this list the NFL would rather forget—there were quite a few controversies this year—but there were also some truly amazing plays and feats accomplished this year.
It was a year to remember, that's for sure. Let's take a look back at the moments we will remember for years to come.
You could argue that this play defined the seasons for both the Baltimore Ravens and San Diego Chargers.
Trailing by three and facing a 4th-and-29 with under two minutes remaining, the Ravens looked sunk. Then, Flacco dumped the ball off to Ray Rice near the line of scrimmage, and the odds looked even more stacked against Baltimore.
But somehow, someway, Rice squirmed past the Chargers, got a huge block by Anquan Boldin, a somewhat generous spot and the Ravens were back in business. The Ravens would tie the game in regulation and eventually win in overtime.
And thus was born the phrase, "Hey diddle diddle, Ray Rice up the middle."
After missing the entirety of the 2011-12 season, Peyton Manning signed with the Denver Broncos in the offseason after spending his entire career with the Indianapolis Colts.
While many people wondered how effective Manning would be after an entire season off, the legendary quarterback didn't disappoint. He finished the season with 4,659 passing yards, 37 touchdowns and just 11 interceptions.
He won Comeback Player of the Year and was the runner-up for MVP and Offensive Player of the Year. Oh, and he led the Denver Broncos to the AFC divisional round, where the team lost in overtime against the Baltimore Ravens.
Not too shabby, Mr. Manning.
The Denver Broncos were 70 yards and 31 seconds away from advancing to the AFC championship game. And in one fell swoop, Joe Flacco and Jacoby Jones ruined all of that.
Inexplicably, Jones was able to get behind the Denver secondary and Flacco unfurled a bomb, placing the pass over the outstretched hands of Rahim Moore and finding Jones, who would run into the end zone and send the game to overtime.
From there, the Ravens would win the game, 38-35, snatching away what appeared to be a sure win for the Broncos.
Was there a funnier moment during the NFL season?
As if the New York Jets season wasn't enough of a mess, Mark Sanchez famously pulled off the butt fumble during the Thanksgiving night game against the New England Patriots.
The Jets would get crushed in the game amidst a dreadful season, but the enduring image of the game, year and perhaps Sanchez's career will always be "the butt fumble."
Technically speaking, this is more of a series of moments than just one, but it was one of the central themes of the NFL season. In 2012-13, young quarterbacks were dominant.
Robert Griffin III won the Rookie of the Year Award and became a national icon with his highlight-reel rushes and by leading the Washington Redskins to the playoffs.
All Andrew Luck did during his rookie season was replace the legendary Peyton Manning and lead the Indianapolis Colts to the playoffs.
Despite being a third-round pick, Russell Wilson won the starting job for the Seattle Seahawks. He impressed with his smart decision-making and ability to scramble and nearly led the Seahawks to the NFC championship game.
And let's not forget about second-year man Colin Kaepernick, who took over for Alex Smith in the middle of the year, made the pistol offense a viable attack in the NFL and led the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl.
It was a good year to be a young quarterback, that's for sure.
A year after tearing his ACL and MCL, Adrian Peterson entered the 2012-13 season surrounded by question marks. Would he be ready for the start of the season? Would he be the same running back when he returned? Was he now injury-prone?
How silly we were to ever doubt him.
Peterson finished with 2,097 rushing yards, just nine short of Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record. For good measure, he added 13 total touchdowns, led the Minnesota Vikings to the playoffs and won both the MVP and Offensive Player of the Year awards.
We'll never doubt you again, Mr. Peterson. We've learned our lesson.
Ray Lewis was one of the greatest players of his generation, is arguably the best linebacker of all time and will always be remembered as a vocal, controversial and religious figure who tried to be a positive role model in his career.
He'll also be remembered for retiring as a champion after the 2012-13 season.
Sure, he didn't play his finest game in the Super Bowl. Sure, the two weeks leading up to the game included allegations that he used deer antler extract to recover from a triceps injury.
But needing a stand inside of the 10-yard line with the Super Bowl on the line, Lewis and his teammate stood strong and denied the San Francisco 49ers. It was a fitting end to a legendary career.
This was one of the best stories of the year. Chuck Pagano had to temporarily relinquish his duties as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts in late September, but the team and city of Indianapolis rallied around him.
The team went 9-3 under interim head coach Bruce Arians. Multiple Colts players, coaches and cheerleaders shaved their heads, and the slogan "Chuckstrong" was adopted to support the coach. His return for the final game of the regular season was one of the best and most emotional moments of the year.
Pagano's strength—and the support shown him by the organization and city—was inspirational.
If you're an NFL fan, you've heard enough about this story to last you a lifetime. In the end, Sean Payton was suspended for the year, Jonathan Vilma, Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith and Scott Fujita had their punishments vacated and the city of New Orleans will never be very fond of Roger Goodell.
It was one of the season's biggest and most drawn-out stories, and thankfully, it's now over. I think.
Dubbed the "Fail Mary," this play would define the tenure of the replacement referees in the NFL and eventually lead to the return of the league's regular refs.
While the replacement refs were widely criticized, nothing was worse than this call. It appeared to anyone with a set of eyes that Green Bay Packers defensive back M. D. Jennings came down with the interception.
But after much deliberation, the replacement refs ruled that Golden Tate came down with the ball, ruling simultaneous possession (which is awarded to the offensive player). What's worse is that the referees held up the call after reviewing the play.
And in the greatest indignation of them all, the NFL supported the ruling.
This game had long-term repercussions, eventually costing the Green Bay Packers a first-round bye and a home game in the NFC divisional round. It was the most embarrassing moment for the NFL during the regular season.
But not the most embarrassing moment of the year...
The most memorable moment of the 2012-13 season was one the city of New Orleans and the NFL would like to forget—the blackout during the third quarter of the Super Bowl that lasted more than 30 minutes.
One of the reasons this will always be so memorable is because of the audience that watches the Super Bowl, namely, a whole slew of people that aren't normally football fans. On the biggest stage in American sports, the lights went out.
The CBS crew seemed woefully incapable of ad libbing during the delay, Twitter erupted with jokes and snarky comments, and John Harbaugh memorably screamed at an NFL official during the delay. I've never seen anything quite like it.
And I'll never forget it.