Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks have exceeded expectations this season by securing a playoff berth after being written off when Russell Wilson was traded to the Denver Broncos last spring.
A team that the oddsmakers pegged to win five or so games in 2022 held their nerve to clinch the NFC's last remaining wild card berth on Sunday when the Detroit Lions beat the Green Bay Packers.
Carroll, who probably won't win Coach of the Year but deserves an honorable mention, relied on a core of talented young players and a reclamation project of a quarterback to get the nine wins that takes Seattle to the postseason.
"We've been through a lot and we have taken some shots and we've had to bounce back," the 71-year-old told KING-TV in Washington.
"The resolve has always been there. The juice that it takes to stay up and stay at your best has always been there, and it's really been a fun year,"
QB Geno Smith had a standout season for the Seahawks, setting franchise records for completions, pass attempts, completion percentage, and passing yards.
He also led the NFL in completion percentage, becoming the first Seattle quarterback to do so since Dave Krieg in 1991.
Despite not making the playoffs, the Lions can feel pretty good about their direction of travel under Dan Campbell, as a young team took another leap forward at Lambeau Field on Sunday.
Detroit's 20-16 win at the home of their NFC North rivals ensured they did the double over the Packers in 2022, kept Green Bay out of the postseason and potentially set in motion a chain of events that could have major offseason ramifications.
Rookies like Aidan Hutchinson and Kerby Joseph shone down the stretch as the Lions won eight of their last 10 games to finish with a 9-8 record.
Hutchinson, the team's first-round pick, sacked Aaron Rodgers twice, bringing his season total to 9.5.
Joseph, a third-round pick, intercepted the Packers QB for a third time this season and almost had another pick earlier in the game, but it was nullified by a penalty.
Rodgers fuelled retirement talk in the aftermath of the game when he refused to swap his shirt with Jameson Williams, telling the rookie wideout "I gotta hold on to this one".
The reigning back-to-back MVP admitted he's unsure about his future in a postgame interview, saying he needs to "figure out what is best" and that if this were to be his final game in the NFL, he "would have no regrets".
Running back Nyheim Hines brought the house down in Buffalo when he returned the opening kickoff of the Bills' 35-23 victory over the New England Patriots to the end zone.
The spectacular 96-yard touchdown scamper delighted team-mate Damar Hamlin, who was watching the game from the University of Cincinnati Medical Center after suffering a cardiac arrest in last Monday's canceled game with the Bengals.
Hamlin tweeted his response to that run and another 101-yard kickoff return from Hines in the second half, which helped turn a deficit into a win, as Buffalo regained their playoff momentum after a worrying week.
All the Bills players wore No.3 patches during Sunday's game in honour of Hamlin, and the safety's shirt number popped up in several ways throughout the game, as quarterback Josh Allen threw three TDs, Buffalo's defense had three interceptions and Hines' return was the team's first in three years and three months.
First up for Buffalo, who are -600 on the Money Line, is a wild card round clash with the Miami Dolphins, who jumped above the Patriots to secure the No. 7 seed with their 11-6 win over the New York Jets.
Today is the first day of the offseason for the 18 NFL teams who failed to make the playoffs. It is also the day that underperforming head coaches find out if they will keep their job or be let go.
This day, known as Black Monday, is when the first firings traditionally get announced, although there may be slightly fewer than usual this year because three coaches - Frank Reich, Matt Rhule and Nathaniel Hackett - were already shown the door by the Indindianapolis Colts, Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos during the 2022 season.
The Houston Texans wasted no time in dispensing with the services of Lovie Smith after their season ended with a 3-13-1 record.
Texans chairman and CEO Cal McNair announced later on Sunday night that the organization was "moving in a different direction".
Smith, however, did finish on a winning note after Houston rallied to beat the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday to move the team down from No.1 to No.2 in the 2023 NFL Draft order.
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