Rob Gronkowski and the 10 Most Impressive Achievements in the 2011 NFL Season
The 2011 NFL season could very well go down as the equivalent to Major League Baseball's record-smashing 1998 season. Just replace baseball's steroid effect with that of the NFL's lockout.
2011 will be host to four of the highest single-season passing seasons in NFL history. Rob Gronkowski and Cam Newton have already put their stamp on some records, while Aaron Rodgers chases down some of his own. Eli Manning and Tim Tebow specialize in the fourth quarter, and the Green Bay Packers may never lose again.
Here are 10 of the most jaw-dropping achievements of the 2011 season.
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Cam Newton began his NFL career by setting the rookie record for passing yards in a game. Apparently, he was just getting warmed up.
Since Week 1, Newton has broken his own single game record, and set the rookie records for both total and rushing touchdowns by a rookie quarterback. With three games to go, only an injury will stop Newton from breaking Peyton Manning's mark for rookie passing yards and becoming the first frosh to throw for 4,000 yards.
Call Newton the anti-Tebow, as mechanically he looks as flawless as any quarterback we have seen throw a football. If we went into a lab and crossed Newton's ability with Tebow's winnability, we would have the perfect quarterback.
Newton may not be winning at a Tebow pace, but he has restored hope and excitement in Carolina.
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There is a reason why Herm Edwards has quickly jumped onto Tim Tebow's bandwagon. Because "You play to win the game," and that is all Tebow does.
The Tebow Express and its funky delivery cannot be stopped. The Denver Broncos are now 7-1 in Tebow's reign. He has five fourth quarter comebacks along the way, and statistically only Eli Manning can be argued as a better quarterback in the final period.
On the year, Tebow has 14 total touchdowns to only two interceptions. He is looking more and more comfortable passing the ball, throwing 40 passes in his most recent win against the Chicago Bears. Even the most ardent critics are starting to believe in the power of The Tebow.
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Perhaps the most overlooked performance of 2011 is the dominant season of Jared Allen. His Minnesota Vikings may stink, but Allen sure has been a force.
Allen leads the NFL with 17.5 sacks, has forced four fumbles and has an outside shot at Michael Strahan's sack record (22.5). If Allen does not win Defensive Player of the Year, it will because his Vikings cost him the necessary exposure.
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Rob Gronkowski has set the record for receiving touchdowns by a tight end, and the New England Patriots star has three games to put it out of reach for the next challenger.
Gronkowski has caught a touchdown pass in seven consecutive games and, with three to play, could conceivably get to 20. WIth another 203 yards receiving, "The Gronk" will hold the record for most receiving yards by a tight end in a season.
I almost feel bad that the rest of the AFC East has to face this 265-lb. freak twice a year for the next decade.
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Aaron Rodgers might have the greatest single season in NFL history, and the undefeated Green Bay Packers quarterback is a lock to win his first NFL MVP award.
Rodgers has 39 touchdowns to an incredible six interceptions. He has cooled off a bit, but still has a shot at Tom Brady's single-season touchdown record. He could best Dan Marino's record for most passing yards in a season and will almost undoubtedly set the mark for best quarterback rating.
With a scorching finish, Rodgers will have virtually every single-season passing mark to himself.
Green Bay Packers
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Aaron Rodgers is only half the story for the Green Bay Packers. This team is the most feared juggernaut since Tom Brady's New England Patriots in 2007.
There is not a team in the league that can match the firepower the Packers have on both sides of the ball. Greg Jennings should be ready for the playoffs, but in the meantime Rodgers will not miss a beat with the likes of Jordy Nelson, Jermichael Finley and Donald Driver. The offense is so talented they rarely feature bruising backs Ryan Grant and James Starks, who would both be 1,000-yard backs elsewhere.
The defense features two perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidates in Clay Matthews (four forced turnovers, six sacks, one touchdown) and Charles Woodson (two sacks, eight forced turnovers, one touchdown) capable of turning a game around on any given play.
Some point to a 31st-ranked pass defense and think they have found a chink in Green Bay's armor. That stat is merely a result of playing with such a big lead, and the Packers make up for it by leading the NFL in interceptions and defensive touchdowns.
If the Packers finish the job and bring home a second straight Lombardi Trophy, they will go down as the greatest team in NFL history.
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Lost in Tebow Mania is the job Von Miller has done for the Denver Broncos' defense. Miller has been a disruptive force for the Broncos, and should be a lock as the Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Miller has 11.5 sacks and two forced fumbles on the year. He has three games to catch Jevon Kearse's record for sacks by a rookie of 14.5. Just imagine how many Miller would have if his team ever held a lead before the last play of the game.
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I understand the Indianapolis Colts do not have Peyton Manning, but 0-13? Really?
Never in the history of sports has there been a team entirely built around one player. The Pittsburgh Penguins have been competitive without Sidney Crosby. The New England Patriots finished a game out of the playoffs without Tom Brady. The Chicago Bulls made it to the second round of the NBA Playoffs without Michael Jordan.
Some thought the Colts could win as many as four games without Manning, but that was before we all realized that even the defense is built around the living legend. Small, quick and built to get to the quarterback, the unit is meant to play with a quick lead, something they have not had in 2011.
If we learned anything this year, it is that Manning is the most valuable player to any team in the NFL.
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We all snickered when Eli Manning declared himself as one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL. Now, if it were not for Aaron Rodgers, we would be talking about the New York Giants quarterback as the MVP of the NFL.
Manning is set to eclipse 5,000 yards and 30 touchdowns passing. He has limited the turnovers that have plagued him in recent years, and has only 12 interceptions. Manning is in the top eight across the board for quarterback stats.
Manning has been better when it matters most, as he has produced 14 fourth-quarter touchdowns, one short of the NFL record.
Dan Marino's Record
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Holy shattered records, Batman! No fewer than four quarterbacks could break Dan Marino's single-season mark for passing yards in a season, which has stood for 27 years.
Only injuries can stop Drew Brees and Tom Brady from erasing Marino's record 5,084. Aaron Rodgers and Eli Manning would have to pick up the pace a bit, but have a good shot as well. Barring injury, 2011 will be the home of four of the six highest yardage totals in NFL history.