A year of hard work to avenge last season's defeat paid off for Team Fluff as it earned a dramatic 63-59 victory over Team Ruff in Puppy Bowl XVI.
In the game's final seconds, Crumpet gave Team Ruff the lead. Team Ruff may have spent too much time celebrating, though. Nobody accounted for Rocky Road as the German shepherd and samoyed mix was steamrolling toward the end zone for the decisive score.
Gina, a 12-week-old Labrador retriever and chow chow mix, earned herself a spot among the immortals as the Most Valuable Puppy.
Cafecito did his best Devin Hester impression by returning the opening kickoff 100 yards for the game's first touchdown. He received a helping hand from teammate Pip, who provided the lead block as Cafecito hit paydirt.
Bert immediately answered back for Team Fluff, though, to tie the score at seven all and set the stage for a back-and-forth—or in this case a bark-and-forth—affair.
Load management is taking over the NBA, and it was a feature of the Puppy Bowl too. Linus voluntarily sat himself on the bench in the first half, while Gina paused to contemplate the meaning of life. And nobody embraced load management more than Betty:
Upon taking over as head coach of the Buffalo Bills, Sean McDermott removed a pool table and video games from the team's locker room in order to establish the atmosphere. The Puppy Bowl went in the opposite direction, installing a ball pit in the Team Fluff locker room.
The results speak for themselves following Team Fluff's victory.
In addition to the complete lack of defense, ESPN's Bill Barnwell was taken aback at how the respective coaching staffs refuse to adapt to the times:
Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic thought of a way to improve next year's edition:
The NFL and NFL Players Association have yet to reach a firm agreement on the length of the regular season as part of their ongoing collective bargaining negotiations. Growing the Puppy Bowl into its own league would almost certainly have universal approval right out of the gate.
The Puppy Bowl is about more than just giving viewers an enjoyable distraction in the hours leading up to the NFL's Super Bowl. The event organizers pull the participants from animal shelters across the country. This year's puppy pool grew to a record 96 canines.
Longtime Puppy Bowl "rufferee" Dan Schachner told Us Weekly he has a soft spot for the dogs with special needs:
"Every year we try to show as many different dogs as possible, and one of the things we highlight is, look, puppies who are young and healthy and three months old, they're gonna get adopted pretty quick. The ones that have special needs—they might have three legs, which we have one of, blind, hearing impaired, cleft palate, that kind of thing—they do tend to languish a little bit longer in shelters. So we wanna get the word out, so we have five this year that have special needs."
Bumble was the first special needs dog to win MVP when he was honored at Puppy Bowl XV a year ago. Five special needs dogs were included in Puppy Bowl XVI, though none could outshine Gina.