2012 has provided many wonderful and memorable moments for the NFL and its fans. Eli Manning overcame Tom Brady and the shadow of his brother Peyton with a Giants Super Bowl win. Adrian Peterson overcame a torn ACL in six months and reestablished himself as the game’s greatest runner. And of course no fan could ever forget Golden Tate’s impossible “catch” that ended the short lived “replacement referee” era. However none of these wonderful games come close to the greatest NFL moment of 2012.
The greatest moments in sports are the ones that make fans think beyond the game being played. These types of games bring passion to the field and enable players to fight beyond their normal limitations. There was no better game that symbolized this thinking then on Sunday November 4th when the Indianapolis Colts took the field against the Miami Dolphins.
Entering the 2012 season, a Dolphins- Colts game would be nothing more than a bore to most NFL fans. The only entertaining aspect of this game would’ve been seeing two rookie Quarterbacks (Andrew Luck and Ryan Tannehill) going at it. Most sports analysts believed both of these teams would finish below .500 and thus this game would not be significant. Yet this game became the symbol of significance and persistence when November 4th came around.
In early October, Colts head coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with Leukemia. Football took a back seat to the true seriousness of life and thus became a spectator as Pagano was forced to leave his team and go into chemotherapy. The Colts locker room became stunned and the goals of an entire season shifted in an instance. It was like an ignition was lit underneath the team and a sense of determination awakened among both the veterans and rookies alike. The Colts were going to win as much as they physically could. Colts players and coaches felt the best way they could help Coach Pagano was by winning on the field.
After a month of no Coach Pagano, the Colts found themselves at 4-3 going into a home game against the Miami Dolphins. Before the game began, Colts players and coaches had an unexpected visitor in the locker room. It was none other than Coach Pagano himself. He had been recently going through his second round of chemotherapy and wanted to pay his men a visit. It was during that visit where Coach Pagano gave the Colts a speech that even the great Vince Lombardi would find inspiring.
Pagano told the Colts his dreams, to see his two daughters off when they get married to hoist the Lombardi trophy with them. Chuck told his team he would beat his cancer and that he would make his dreams come true. This inspired his players with passion from the heart; a weapon when used correctly will overwhelm any NFL opponent. The Colts knew they were going to win that day; not for themselves but for their leader (Coach Pagano) who fought so hard off the field, that he became an inspiration on it.
The real passion started in the second half for the Colts. After trailing 17-13 at halftime, the Colts came out and held the Dolphins to three 2nd half points. Quarterback Andrew Luck threw for an NFL rookie record 433 yards. Veteran Kicker and possible future hall of famer Adam Vinatieri hit a game winning 43 yard field goal with just under six minutes left. From there, the Colts never looked back and won the game against Miami 23-20.
Many broadcasters on ESPN were talking playoff chances for the Colts. Had this been a normal game, playoff concerns might have been on the mind of Colts’ players. However this was not a normal game. To the Colts players and coach, this game extended beyond the limits of football and became a symbol for living life itself. This wasn’t a win for just the Colts; this was a win for Coach Pagano. His team played with passion in their hearts and lent strength to a coach who had given them so much.
November 4th 2012 wasn’t the greatest game ever played. It wasn’t a Super Bowl game, or a playoff game. No player set records that will last forever in the eyes of the league. But this Football game became so much more than just a game. It became a symbol of hope and a message of family. Chuck Pagano brought his great strength to the Colts locker room and in return the Colts players gave their mentor, coach and friend Chuck Pagano a win. It wasn’t NFL game of 2012, but it was the greatest NFL moment of 2012. When fans realize the NFL is just a game, then it truly has served its purpose.