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NFL: Five Standout Moments of 2022

What a year it has been in the NFL as the Los Angeles Rams' NFL Championship win concluded one of the most exciting series of playoff games in recent memory at the start of 2022.

Article originally published on 30/12/2022

Then came one of the most dramatic off-seasons, full of blockbuster trades, quarterback switches and mega-money deals for wide receivers, who become the hot commodity on the market.

The regular season has not disappointed either with some classic games and surprise teams moving both in and out of contention - so here's our take on the five standout moments of the year.

1. The Kansas City Chiefs deny the Buffalo Bills in divisional round classic

This was the playoff game that redefined what it means to leave too much time on the clock. The league's two most explosive offenses went at it for almost 65 minutes with quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen duelling to deliver a combined 31 points after the two-minute warning of the fourth quarter.

With one minute and 54 seconds remaining, Allen hit Gabe Davis for a 27-yard touchdown to give the Bills a three-point lead.

Within 52 seconds, Mahomes had responded with a 64-yard TD strike to Tyreek Hill to restore Kansas City's four-point advantage.

Allen capped a six-play, 75-yard drive by hitting Davis again for a 19-yard score with just 13 seconds to go, but even that was enough time for Mahomes to drive the Chiefs into field goal range.

Harrison Butker made the 49-yard attempt to send the game into overtime as fans around the world stood gaping at their television sets/laptops/phones.

And then came the somewhat unsatisfactory ending, unless you are a Chiefs fan, as the hosts called correctly at the coin toss and drove down to score a touchdown which won the game without the Bills touching the ball again.

A couple of months later, the league changed the overtime rules for the playoffs to ensure that both teams get to touch the ball at least once - so this game literally changed the sport.

2. No-look pass keeps Rams' NFL Championship hopes alive

It takes some guts to attempt a no-look pass in the NFL, but to do it in the NFL Championship, when your team are down in the fourth quarter, and to complete that pass to the very receiver that everyone in the stadium knows should be the target takes something special.

Back on 13th February at SoFi Stadium, on a 2nd and 7 from the Cincinnati Bengals' 46-yard line, Matthew Stafford snapped the ball, dropped back to survey the field and looked right.

He'd already thrown two interceptions in the NFL showpiece, and who knows what his legacy would have been if this one was picked or even deflected for an incompletion.

But the Rams QB's ability to move defenders with his eyes and his specific location, and his faith in Kupp, won the day a he threaded the pass through tight coverage to hit his receiver between the numbers for a 22-yard gain.

A few plays later and the duo combined again - as they had been doing all season long - for the eventual winning score and the Rams had their Lombardi Trophy to show off in their shiny new stadium.

3. Rarely-seen scenario produces memorable finale to the 2021 regular season

Back in January, two teams with identical records after 16 games - the Las Vegas Raiders and the Los Angeles Chargers - were due to face off in a game where both would qualify for the playoffs if it finished as a tie.

Speculation in bars and on social media ran wild in the days before the Week 18 clash over whether the teams might actually try to engineer it and how.

But of course, league rules forbid any such collusion and both head coaches were adamant that they would play for the win - so what happened?

Well, the Chargers rallied from a 15-point deficit, converting six consecutive fourth-down attempts, to tie the game as time expired in regulation.

The Raiders cannot have been happy to be on the receiving end of some ridiculous plays, such as the 23-yard touchdown from Justin Herbert to Mike Williams on a fourth-and-21, but neither could the Pittsburgh Steelers who would have made it into the playoffs as long as one of the two AFC West rivals lost.

And they did, eventually, in overtime when Josh Jacobs 10-yard run on a third down got the Raiders into field goal range in the final minute of the extra period.

Daniel Carlson nailed the 47-yard attempt to send the plucky Chargers home and the Raiders and Steelers, who are 43/4 to make the playoffs this year, to the postseason.

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4. New England's un-Patriotic play draws howls of derision

For almost two decades, the New England Patriots were notorious for rarely miscalculating, avoiding bone-headed plays and forcing such brain-freeze moments from their opponents.

Bill Belichick got into the head of almost every quarterback and head coach he faced during the Tom Brady era when New England reached nine NFL Championships, winning six.

But the tide has turned around Foxborough as Belichick has endured three seasons of relative mediocrity without Brady to lead game-winning drives.

And the sort of mistakes the Patriots became synonymous for eliciting are now being made by them.

What happened at the end of New England's Week 15 game at Las Vegas really underlines that.

A botched lateral on the final play in regulation when the game was tied at 24 apiece gifted the win to the Raiders as an early Christmas present.

Instead of just running the ball until the tackle and taking the game to the extra 15 minutes, Rhamondre Stevenson cooked up a bizarre plan with Jakobi Meyers to freelance a lateral.

But the wide receiver didn't spot Raiders linebacker Chandler Jones lurking near Patriots QB Mac Jones who was stiff-armed and trampled on in a manner that instantly became meme-worthy as the last line of defence to the game-winning score.

5. Vikings stun Bills in 'game of the year'

The Bills appeared to be on their way to a solid make-up victory after losing to the New York Jets last week when they led 24-10 at halftime against the Minnesota Vikings, but then the 'game of the year' really burst into life.

Allen threw two crucial interceptions - the first coming on fourth-and-goal from Minnesota's 2-yard line and led directly to C.J. Ham scoring on a 3-yard run to cut Buffalo's lead to 27-23 with 4:34 remaining.

The Bills' defence then appeared to do enough for the win when they halted Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins for no gain on fourth-and-goal from the half-yard line with 49 seconds to go.

But on the very next play, Allen muffed the snap from center Mitch Morse and Vikings linebacker Erik Hendricks dived into the end zone to recover it for a touchdown.

Buffalo, 8/5 to win the AFC, forced overtime with a 29-yard field goal in the final two seconds of regulation, albeit assisted by some ropey officiating, but the Vikings would not be denied and won when Allen was picked off again as he attempted to respond to Minnesota's go-ahead FG.

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