The Super Bowl may have turned out to be the rather routine showcase for some familiar faces — like the fact that no one would have put more of a premium on offense than the Patriots would have — but there were several marquee storylines throughout the year.
The Washington Redskins were nowhere near as bad as conventional wisdom or Jason Pierre-Paul would have us believe (we’re talking about the Giants here, folks). But the 3-13 Giants season was a complete disappointment.
Just how bad did Washington finish? After ranking 13th in rushing offense and 10th in scoring offense in the regular season, it was a tepid sixth in both categories heading into the playoffs.
The New England Patriots also saw their quarterback return to action after he was forced to sit out all but one game in 2016 because of a partially torn ACL. But, so far, the 39-year-old Tom Brady hasn’t looked much like the postseason-bound QB who played in four Super Bowls. In two early-season games, he completed only half of his passes and had only four touchdown passes and three interceptions. In New England’s last three playoff games, he completed just 21 of 43 passes (58.2 percent) for 239 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Oh, and the Patriots went 1-2.
With so many names sure to be making headlines going forward, the highlight from the NFL’s top 10 most controversial calls this season came during Week 17 in San Francisco, where the 49ers won the final game of the season thanks to a questionable holding penalty on Redskins tight end Jordan Reed.
Reed wasn’t entirely blamed for the Redskins’ 27-21 loss — quarterback Kirk Cousins had dropped three critical passes, including one in the end zone — but he did help set up that fateful holding call against him. Washington snapped the ball at midfield with six seconds left in the first half and failed to move the ball out of its own end zone on a fake punt. 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman picked off Cousins to cap a quick 15-play, 72-yard drive that began just two plays before the holding penalty. The 49ers kicked a field goal to put them up 13-0 heading into halftime, and the Redskins got no closer than four points the rest of the way.
San Francisco became only the third team in NFL history to win after trailing by that many points at halftime (albeit the first since the Giants did it last season). But how did a fan base that loves George Kittle and the “Kittle Force” hate on Reed in the postgame?
[Updated at 9:37 p.m. on Feb. 3 to add a quote from the team's general manager, Howie Roseman.]
“That was kind of frustrating, because that’s one of our better receivers on the team, so I’m at a loss for words,” 49ers general manager Howie Roseman said of the Redskins’ late-game officiating. “Of course there’s reaction and a lot of emotion in there. But we’re not perfect; some of us were mistaken that we were.”
[Updated at 10:10 p.m. on Feb. 3 to add a photo gallery.]