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Some offbeat awards for NFL season

By Barry Wilner

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 27 2011 3:06 p.m. MST

The official NFL awards will be handed out during Super Bowl week. The offbeat ones are being handed out now.

MOST MEMORABLE GAME

The season began with some sensational, down-to-the-wire matchups, including the overall opener, Green Bay's 42-34 win over New Orleans. It's also hard to forget Buffalo's wild 34-31 victory against New England in Week 3, or Detroit's stunning rally for a 34-30 win at Dallas in Week 4.

But for sheer impact, we have to go with two Tebow moments: Denver's 18-15 win at Miami in its sixth game and, seven weeks later, the 13-10 win over Chicago — both in overtime.

Against the Dolphins in his first start of 2011, Tebow was awful until it mattered. He sparked the Broncos by throwing two TD passes in the final 2:44, though, and ran in a 2-point conversion with 17 seconds to go, forcing OT. Denver won on Matt Prater's 52-yard field goal.

That ignited Tebowmania, and Denver kept delivering frantic rallies. But the magic seemed to run out against the Bears.

Not quite. After failing to score on their first dozen possessions, the Broncos erased a 10-0 deficit in the final 2:08 of regulation.

Tebow's 10-yard TD pass to Demaryius Thomas got them closer, and with Chicago trying to run out the clock, Marion Barber inexplicably went out of bounds. That saved enough time, 53 seconds, for Tebow to guide them in range for Prater's 59-yard kick to force overtime.

And with the Bears in field goal range in the extra period, Barber fumbled. From there, it was simply a matter of time before Tebow got Prater close enough, and Prater's 51-yard field goal won it.

We're still trying to catch our breath.

MOST FORGETTABLE GAME

Few games are more energizing to watch than great defensive battles. Cleveland's 6-3 victory over Seattle in October was not one of those.

Instead, it was virtually unwatchable.

Seattle was without QB Tarvaris Jackson, then lost RB Marshawn Lynch to a back injury — during pregame warmups. That the Seahawks even managed to score with 1:37 yards of offense was remarkable.

The teams combined for 15 penalties, three turnovers, and only Phil Dawson's two field goals of over 50 yards stood out.

PLAY OF THE YEAR

Arizona's Patrick Peterson, among the most exciting rookies to enter the league in a long time, has run back four punts for touchdowns, tying an NFL record. His 99-yarder to beat the Rams in overtime tops them all.

Peterson fielded the ball at the 1, avoided and then bounced off tacklers over the next 30 yards, then sped past everyone.

"I was like 'This team needs a play,'" Peterson said. "I decided to catch the ball and just run for my life."

BEST TURNAROUND

The shift from also-ran and nonplayoff team since 2002 began when the 49ers hired Jim Harbaugh from Stanford. He brought a fresh, competitive attitude, found a way to make QB Alex Smith more than functional, and had San Francisco believing in itself from Day 1 of training camp.

Runner-up: Denver, at 2-5 and headed for oblivion, revamped the offense to fit Tim Tebow's skills, and surged to the top of the AFC West.

WORST TURNAROUND

Tampa Bay went from 10-6 as the youngest team in the league to still young, but 4-11 and in total disrepair. Even the Bucs' best players regressed this year.

Runner-up: Indianapolis. Of course, Peyton Manning's absence put a huge disclaimer on this one.

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