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Chad Pemberton: Sunday without football invites a review of season

Feb. 15, 2013 @ 12:19 AM

This past Sunday was the first since September without NFL games to watch, and if you're anything like me, you probably found yourself glazed in front of the TV, slumped into a kind of sadness at the total lack of football.

Depression certainly isn't the right word -- it's too serious and medical of a term -- it's more like the kind of vicarious sadness you can experience over something that has literally no direct connection or bearing on your everyday life. Which is frankly an amount that is unreasonable and irrational and probably unhealthy -- but whatever.

So, for those of us still looking for our football fix, here are the most memorable moments from the 2012 season:

On Thanksgiving, after turning the wrong way on a handoff, Mark Sanchez ran directly into his own offensive lineman's backside and fumbled the football, which was returned for a defensive touchdown. This was the penultimate moment in a colossal meltdown by the New York Jets where the New England Patriots scored three touchdowns in a matter of 52 seconds. I haven't verified this through research, but suffice it say that this was the first "butt-fumble" in the history of the NFL.

Anyone who watches NFL RedZone will surely remember the three games from Week 6 that were decided (almost simultaneously) in a span of 11 seconds -- all of which were shown at the exact same time on the RedZone Channel.

Robert Griffin III of the Washington Redskins stamped out the Minnesota Vikings' chances of winning with a 76-yard touchdown run. At the exact same time, Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks was throwing a 46-yard game-winning touchdown to Sidney Rice against the New England Patriots. And mere seconds later Arizona Cardinals kicker Jay Feely, after tying the game 16-16 with a 61-yard field goal, hit the upright on a 39-yard attempt to win the game.

If I could replay any single moment from the season it would be Seattle receiver Golden Tate's game-winning non-catch against the Green Bay Packers in Week 3. This infamous reception (that wasn't really a reception) was the single most captivating moment of the season. Twitter exploded into a cacophony of disapproval, incredulousness, and downright hilarity as replays were shown on a perpetual loop with the infamous image of one referee signaling touchback, one signaling touchdown perfectly illustrated the hypocrisy and ludicrousness of the replacement referee enterprise.

It was funny in a sort of tragic way because sometimes it's easier to laugh than cry.

Even for the frostiest of hearts, the way coach Chuck Pagano's illness galvanized the Indianapolis Colts was a remarkable thing to witness. It's hard to pick the most indelible moment from this story, but Pagano's locker room speech after the Colts defeated the Miami Dolphins in Week 9 is certainly one that comes to mind.

Pagano says too many tender, heart-wrenching things to quote here, but I recommend watching the speech in its entirety on YouTube if you haven't seen it already.

Exactly one year after reconstructive knee surgery, Adrian Peterson rumbled and and juked and sprinted his way to a 27-yard gain in the closing seconds of Minnesota's season finale against the Packers. It was his 34th carry of the game (a career high), but those were the last yards of the regular season for him.

Minnesota won the game on a 29-yard Blair Walsh field goal, which earned them a Wild Card berth, but Peterson didn't break the single season rushing record. He fell nine yards short. Only that didn't matter -- not at the time, or now. Because this was proof that falling short and greatness can coexist.

On the morning of December 1, Jovan Belcher drove to the Kansas City Chiefs practice facility after killing his girlfriend and committed suicide in front of head coach Romeo Crennel, linebacker coach Gary Gibbs, and GM Scott Pioli. On a macro level, looking back on this unthinkable tragedy, this is America's horror story: guns and mental health and somehow football.

Chad Pemberton is a Marshall University graduate who follows the NFL and is writing about it for The Herald-Dispatch. Email him at pemberton@herald-dispatch.com.

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