Monday 18 December 2017

Pass masters set up gridiron feast

Eamonn Sweeney

Back in 1984, when RTE and Myles Dungan gave most of us our first introduction to the great game of American Football, Dan Marino was the star who caught the eye. Every week the Miami Dolphins quarterback launched passes into the stratosphere from where they would descend to be caught by, more often than not, wide receivers Mark Clayton and Mark Duper. You didn't need to know much about the sport to know you were witnessing a genius at work.

We mightn't have been experts on the game but our suspicion that something out of the ordinary was going on proved to be correct. Because the 48 touchdown passes Marino threw in that regular season would remain a record for 20 years until bettered by Indianapolis Colts' Peyton Manning. And the 5,084 passing yards he accrued wasn't improved on till last weekend when Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints beat it with a week to spare.

The remarkable thing about Brees' feat is that he probably won't be the only quarterback to overhaul Marino's landmark figure this season. Tom Brady of the New England Patriots merely has to throw for a measly 198 yards tonight against the Buffalo Bills to do likewise. And there's even a very slim chance of Brady moving past Brees if he should better the Saints quarterback's passing yardage by more than 190 yards tonight.

More remarkable still is the fact that Brees and Brady will probably lose out for Most Valuable Player honours to Aaron Rodgers, who has steered the Green Bay Packers to a league best 14-1 record and has set a record of his own this season by becoming the first quarterback in history to earn a rating of over 100 in 13 games. But while there will be plenty of debate about which of the mighty trio deserves the MVP award, few will argue that they are not already among the finest quarterbacks to play the game.

The regular season ends today and we seem set for a truly magnificent series of play-offs culminating in the Super Bowl on February 5 in Indianapolis. The Packers may be favourites to take the big prize for the second year in a row but nobody is writing off the Patriots or Saints. We have three of the greatest players ever, who've already won four Super Bowl MVPs between them but are currently at the very peak of their form, at the helm of teams who've amassed a 38-7 record this season and are a byword for explosive offense. January 2012 could very well be one of the greatest months in the history of the NFL.

Aren't you glad you kept watching Myles Dungan and Dan Marino 17 years ago all the same?

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