Every NFL season there are countless remarkable plays made by many of the league’s best players.
This season has been no different with bone-quaking hits, acrobatic catches, jaw-dropping touchdown runs plus many more.
Below is my list of the 2014/15 NFL top 10 plays of the year. (To see any of these amazing plays, log onto http://www.nfl.com/big-play-highlights to view)
1) ODELL BECKHAM JR (New York Giants)
Entering his rookie campaign as the Giants first-round pick, coach Tom Coughlin questioned Beckham’s dedication to performance when he struggled to overcome a hamstring injury.
Coach Coughlin’s query was either ill-informed or lit an almighty fire under the former LSU receiver as he produced twelve of the most dominant games ever seen in the NFL from a rookie.
He ended the season with phenomenal statistics (91 receptions, 1,305 yards & 12 TD) which landed him in the Pro Bowl but it was one catch in particular that has him atop this list.
Facing the superstar receiver Dez Bryant and the Dallas Cowboys, it wasn’t Bryant who opened SportsCenter because of a highlight reel play – it was OBJ.
Early in the second quarter of their week twelve match, quarterback Eli Manning heaved a high pass to the front corner of the end zone and asked Beckham to answer his prayer.
Beckham obliged, fighting off a pass interference from Cowboys corner Brandon Carr and reaching behind his head to complete what sports stars like LeBron James called ‘the greatest catch ever.’
Whilst that catch catapulted Beckham onto the American national and international scene, he routinely made circus catches throughout his first NFL season – which means we are in for a special career from OBJ.
2) JJ WATT (Houston Texans)
Watt this season re-established himself as the premier defensive football player in the NFL.
He solidified that statement by becoming the first player in the league history to have multiple 20-sack seasons and he received every vote in the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award.
Watt even added some offensive weaponry to his resume but it was this defensive play that landed him on the list at number two.
Lining up on the left edge opposed to EJ Manual and the Buffalo Bills, Watt exploded from his stance and realising Manual was about to throw the ball, he rose up and made a brilliant reflex catch just inside the Bills red-zone.
After completing the interception, the 196cm, 131kg defensive end charged toward his end zone, scoring a breathtaking 80-yard pick six.
3) BRENT GRIMES (Miami Dolphins)
Whenever a defensive back is opposed to superstar Detroit wideout Calvin Johnson a catch is usually completed.
This time was no different however this time it was not ‘Megatron’ making the miraculous catch.
Inside Ford Field and with Lions fans demanding quarterback Matthew Stafford find Johnson in the end zone, Grimes has other plans and made an unbelievable leaping, one-handed interception, much to the surprise of all in attendance.
Grimes – a Pro Bowl selection this season – is among the NFL’s best pass defenders but many defenders have struggled to contain Detroit’s number 81.
As Johnson ran his route to the back of the scoring zone, Grimes remained in front and exploded into the air, defying his 5-10″ frame to make the pick.
4) MARSHAWN LYNCH (Seattle Seahawks)
Arizona is regarded highly for its stout run defence – ‘Beast Mode’ decided to go wild on one particular play on December 21 when the Seahawks entered Cardinals home field.
Leading 21-6 early in the final quarter, Lynch ripped off a 79-yard score to put the nail into the Cards’ coffin.
Backed up deep into Seattle territory, the man they call ‘Beast Mode’ unleashed all his fury as he broke numerous tackles on his way to the end zone.
Pro Bowl corners Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie looked to have Lynch out of bounds before he erupted again and took off for the score.
Yet another display of ‘Beast Mode’ from the enigmatic Lynch.
5) ST. LOUIS RAMS SPECIAL TEAMS
Facing the reigning champion Seahawks poses many problems.
That means you need to pull off a few tricks to overcome their elite defence and savvy quarterback.
With Seattle on fourth down deep inside their own territory, punter Jon Ryan routinely let loose with a booming punt to release some pressure and lock the Rams down inside the 20-yard line.
St. Louis had other ideas!
As Ryan’s punt hurtled toward the 10-yard line, the Rams ‘return man’ set-up on the right side and his fellow special teams team mates appeared to set-up to block for his return.
What nobody except the powerless Ryan noticed was the ball had actually been kicked to the left-side of the field with only the speedy Tavon Austin in the vicinity.
Before the Seahawks could recover and get across to tackle Austin, he was past Ryan and on his way to the end zone.
Seattle have been well known for some of their innovative trick plays but on this occasion they had to take some of their own medicine.
6) JON RYAN (Seattle Seahawks)
When featuring the NFL’s top plays, a punter is rarely going to feature in the countdown.
Thanks to some desperation on Seattle’s behalf and a little wizardry from the Seahawks coaching staff – Ryan well and truly earns his spot at number six.
Down 16-0 late in the third quarter to NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, Ryan crouched down, ready to catch the long-snap and hold the ball for kicker Steven Hauschka to get the ‘Hawks scoring underway.
A three-point field goal wasn’t enough though and as Hauschka commenced his kick, Ryan ripped the ball away and run towards the left-side of the field.
Reserve offensive lineman Garry Gilliam – a former tight end – rumbled toward the end zone and as Green Bay defender AJ Hawk ran at Ryan, he lobbed the pass to Gilliam, scoring an unexpected touchdown and providing Seattle with incredible momentum in front of their parochial ’12th Man’ fans.
Seattle went onto to steal the match on overtime, thanks largely to Ryan’s trickery.
7) ROB GRONKOWSKI (New England Patriots)
When Gronkowski went down with a torn ACL and MCL in December 2013, some thought his career would be cut short – or at least hobbled – through a spate of injuries.
He had already suffered multiple arm and back surgeries and his physical style of play seemed disruptive to his durability.
‘Gronk’ returned one week one of 2014 with a bang – or a spike!
He had played every match and registered 82 receptions for 1,124 yards and a dozen TD’s.
One catch reaffirmed Gronkowski’s status as an elite playmaker in the NFL.
With Peyton Manning and the new and improved Denver Bronco defence in town, Tom Brady uncharacteristically threw a pass behind his intended target.
Fortunately, his target was the big number 87 and as he lumbered toward the goal line, he reached way back with his left hand and reeled in the pass.
Brady could be seen after the play saying, ‘how the **** did you catch that?’
Brady should be accustomed to brilliance from ‘Gronk’ but maybe that tells you all you need to know about the quality of the catch.
8) RUSSELL WILSON & JERMAINE KEARSE (Seattle Seahawks)
In the season’s most thrilling game, it was two of the league’s most unheralded players who made the decisive, game-winning, Super Bowl appearance-clinching play.
A local product of Seattle from the University of Washington, Kearse is known for making big plays but he is far from an elite level wideout.
Wilson – now globally recognised as a superstar – was a third round draft pick in the 2012 NFL Draft and projected to be backup QB, so he entered the NFL without any hype at all.
With the NFC Championship and a trip to the Super Bowl on the line, Wilson – who had thrown a career-worst four picks – stepped to the line of scrimmage and made one of the most clutch plays in recent memory.
Wilson had targeted Kearse on five occasions during the match – four ended in picks and one was incomplete.
Such is the belief Wilson has in his own ability and his team mates, he went right back to Kearse who got behind his opponent and caught a wonderfully-thrown lob to score the winner and send the ‘Hawks to another Super Bowl.
9) JULIAN EDELMAN (New England Patriots)
As a college athlete at Kent State University, Julian Edelman excelled as their starting quarterback for three seasons.
When the Patriots came calling with pick 232 in the 2009 draft, Edelman was transformed into a receiver.
With New England in a hole at home to Baltimore, legendary coach Bill Belichick and his staff drew upon Edelman’s QB skills for a piece of artistry that allowed the Pats to get back into the contest.
Edelman lined-up to the left and Brady threw him a screen pass, he caught it then heaved a pass along the sideline to fellow receiver Danny Amendola.
Amendola caught the ball unopposed and dashed to the goal line for the score, a 51-yard masterstroke.
10) DEVIN HESTER (Atlanta Falcons)
Devin Hester is entering the final stages of his illustrious career – but his first season with Atlanta had him breaking records.
In week three, Hester fielded a punt before taking it back to the house for a touchdown.
That 62-yard score was his 20th career punt return TD – seeing him break Deion Sanders record of 19.
En route to the end zone, Hester high-stepped his way down the sideline, emulating Sanders’ celebration every time he would score.
Returning a punt for a touchdown is a feat in itself, doing it 20-times and owning the NFL record earns you a spot on this list.
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