Rodgers, Brees, Jim Harbaugh win AP awards

By Barry Wilner

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Feb. 4 2012 7:41 p.m. MST

"That's why when you sit back and watch him year after year, week after week, I am just proud to say that I love how he understands the game now," Lewis said.

In his first season as an NFL head coach, Harbaugh guided the 49ers to a 13-3 mark and the NFC West championship. They beat New Orleans in the first round of the playoffs before losing the conference title game to the Giants.

Stafford beat out six other players who received votes. He fought through injuries his first two seasons, then threw for more than 5,000 yards in 2011 to lead Detroit to its first playoff berth in 12 years.

Newton set an NFL record for touchdowns rushing in a season by a quarterback with 14 and became the first player in league history to throw for 4,000 yards and rush for 500. He helped Carolina improve from 2-14 to 6-10, throwing for 21 touchdowns.

"He set a standard, a very high standard, for any rookie quarterback coming in, and he wants to improve," Carolina coach Ron Rivera said. "He's gotten better in so many different areas. ... He's really taken his game to next level, and there's so much room for him to grow. He's got such a high ceiling."

The second Bronco to win the award — LB Mike Croel got it in 1991 — Miller made 64 tackles and had 11½ sacks despite missing one game and playing the last four contests with a cumbersome cast protecting his surgically repaired right thumb. He teamed with quarterback Tim Tebow to energize the Broncos, who rallied from a 2-5 record to the AFC West title and a playoff win over Pittsburgh.

AP National Writer Nancy Armour and Sports Writer Michael Marot in Indianapolis, Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton in Denver, and Sports Writers Janie McCauley in San Francisco, Larry Lage in Detroit and Steve Reed in Charlotte contributed to this story.

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