This was pride weekend in the NFL. Teams with little or nothing to play for, rose up in week 14 and found ways to win. It is a tribute to them and the league that they are still playing hard and showing how much they care about football.
The Carolina Panthers and their 2011 Rookie of the Year quarterback Cam Newton have had disappointing seasons. The Panthers went into Sunday’s game against the 11-1 Atlanta Falcons with a record of 3-9 and no chance of making the playoffs. This did not stop Newton from leading the Panthers to a 30-20 victory over the NFC South Division champion Falcons. Newton threw for 287 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 116 yards in 16 carries including a 72 yard touchdown run.
After being benched a week ago, New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez came back to lead his team to a 17-10 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. New York went into the game with a record of 5-7 and their playoff hopes waning. They left Jacksonville 6-7 and within one game of the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers for the final AFC playoff spot.
The San Diego Chargers had to watch the Denver Broncos clinch the AFC West title last Sunday. San Diego was expected to give Denver a run for the crown, but has played poorly all season. On Sunday, the 4-8 Chargers traveled to Pittsburgh in hopes of winning a regular season game there for the first time in 15 tries. San Diego led from start to finish and beat the Steelers much worse than the 34-24 score indicates.
Probably no team has had a more disappointing season than the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles began 2012 as a favorite to challenge for the NFC East title. After getting off to a 3-1 start, Philadelphia had lost eight straight going into Sunday’s game on the road against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Down by 11 in the fourth quarter, the Eagles came back to give themselves a chance to win with two second to play. Trailing 21-16 and needing a touchdown, rookie quarterback Nick Foles rolled out and hit Jeremy Maclin for a game winning score.
Four teams with losing records went into Sunday given little or no chance to win. Each was believed to be playing out the string. However, Carolina, the Jets, San Diego and Philadelphia had other ideas. Each gave their best and it was enough for them to win.
All proved that pride still matters in the NFL.