Thursday, January 10, 2013
By Dan Arkush, Executive editor
January 9, 2013
For the record, the 2012 Pro Football Weekly/Professional Football Writers of America All-NFL team could be unrivaled in terms of big-time, star-studded record breakers.
Start with Lions WR Calvin Johnson, who broke Jerry Rice’s single-season league record for receiving yards with room to spare (1,964 — 116 more yards than Rice registered for the Niners in 1995).
Completing the core of a team overflowing with megawatt star power are Vikings RB Adrian Peterson, who finished the season just nine yards short of Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record (2,105 for the Rams in 1984); Broncos QB Peyton Manning, who it seems sets a new league passing record every time he cocks his arm; and the trio of Texans DE J.J. Watt and OLBs Aldon Smith (Niners) and Von Miller (Broncos), each of whom made a serious run at Michael Strahan’s single-season sack record (221⁄2 for the Giants in 2001).
On a squad almost evenly split between 14 AFC selections and 13 NFC selections, one other characteristic sticks out: It’s a team also overflowing with winning players, as evidenced by the fact 21 of the 27 selections participated in this year’s playoffs.
Broken down by team, the 49ers set the pace with four selections, followed closely by the Broncos, Patriots, Seahawks and Vikings, each with three representatives. The Texans, Ravens and Bears each added two players to the mix, with five other teams providing one selection each — the Lions, Dolphins, Bengals, Chargers and Bills.
Broken down by draft round, there are 14 first-round picks, three second-round picks, two third-round picks, two fourth-round picks, two fifth-round picks, three sixth-round picks and one undrafted free agent (Dolphins DE Cameron Ware).
Peterson, Johnson and Watt were unanimous selections.
There are five players on the team who were not voted to the Pro Bowl — Vikings C John Sullivan, Seahawks CB Richard Sherman, Chargers S Eric Weddle, Niners P Andy Lee and Bills PR Leodis McKelvin, who was aced out because the Pro Bowl acknowledges only one kick returner from each conference.
QB Peyton Manning / Broncos Tightening his lock on a first-ballot ticket to Canton, the 36-year-old Manning was brilliant in his first season in Denver. Directing his team to at least 12 wins for the eighth time in his last nine seasons with the Colts and Broncos, he tied for the league lead with 10 100-plus passer ratings, tied for second in completion percentage (68.6) and became only the second player in league history (Steve Young, 1998) to throw for at least 300 yards and three touchdowns in four consecutive games.
RB Adrian Peterson / Vikings Defying modern medicine with his remarkable comeback from both a torn ACL and MCL suffered on Christmas Eve in Washington last season, PFW/PFWA’s league MVP and Offensive Player of the Year kept getting tougher to stop as the season wore on. Widely considered the NFL’s best pure runner in years, Peterson was a man on a mission in pursuit of a 2,000-yard season and Eric Dickerson’s treasured rushing mark. With Peterson setting a goal of 2,500 rushing yards for 2013, it would be a big mistake to rule out that possibility.
RB Marshawn Lynch / Seahawks Finishing third in the league with a career-high 1,590 yards on a career-high 315 carries, Lynch tied Peterson for the league lead in 100-yard games (10) and has reached the century mark in 17 of his last 26 games (including playoffs). Possessing a beastly talent for picking up extra yards after contact, Lynch became increasingly dangerous operating alongside rookie QB Russell Wilson in the read-option offense the Seahawks so successfully unveiled down the stretch.
WR Calvin Johnson / Lions Before he’s done playing, the odds are great the man they call “Megatron” could shatter every receiving record imaginable. In addition to breaking Jerry Rice’s record for most receiving yards in a season, Johnson set records for consecutive 100-yard receiving games (eight) and consecutive games with 10-plus receptions (four) and tied Hall of Fame WR Michael Irvin’s single-season record for most 100-yard games (11).
WR Brandon Marshall / Bears First-year GM Phil Emery hit the jackpot, as Marshall, obtained in a trade with Miami last March, provided a lion’s share of the Bears’ offense as Jay Cutler’s primary receiving weapon. Marshall tied for second in the league in catches (118) behind Johnson while scoring six more TDs (11), and he increased his value by making a concerted effort to be on his best behavior — both on and off the field.
TE Rob Gronkowski / Patriots They don’t make receiving tight ends any better than Gronkowski, whose red-zone chemistry with Patriots QB Tom Brady is a key element in the league’s most productive offense. With 11 TDs in his third season — despite missing five games with a broken forearm — Gronkowski became the first tight end in league history to register 10-plus TD catches in three consecutive seasons.
C John Sullivan / Vikings Peterson’s amazing season was far from a one-man effort, with the greatly underrated Sullivan throwing key blocks on many of Peterson’s big runs, the majority of which were right up the middle and to the right side. Playing next to a converted tackle (OLG Charlie Johnson) and a first-year starter who played his college ball at Division II Slippery Rock (ORG Brandon Fusco), Sullivan was the Vikes’ glue up front.
OG Mike Iupati / 49ers A starter in every game since being drafted with the 17th pick in the 2010 draft, this mellow Samoan is a much different breed of cat on the field, displaying a natural nasty streak that makes his physically imposing stature even more menacing on arguably the league’s best run-blocking O-line.
OG Marshal Yanda / Ravens Skilled and versatile, Yanda allowed zero sacks, according to STATS LLC. He also was a very effective run blocker — the Ravens averaged 4.83 yards running off right guard in the regular season, the eighth-best average in the NFL.
OT Duane Brown / Texans Equally good as a pass protector and run blocker, the extremely athletic Brown excels at getting to the second level for a Texans offense that ranked seventh in the league and produced a 1,000-yard rusher for the third consecutive season. In his five pro seasons, Brown has been penalized for holding only twice.
OT Ryan Clady / Broncos Clady had his best season statistically, and he did it in his contract year. Selected to his third career Pro Bowl, he allowed the fewest sacks (one) among tackles who started every game for their team this season. Like Iupati, Clady has yet to miss a game in his pro career.