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Woody Paige: Manning, Brady and 8 more reasons the past sports year was the best

February 7, 2017 Updated: February 8, 2017 at 9:50 am

Shouldn't Feb. 7, 2016-Feb. 5, 2017 be extolled forever as the Year of the Horse, the Penguin, the King, the Cat, the Bear, the Tiger, the Fish and The G.O.A.T?

Goodyear is a blimp. Great year is what we've just finished witnessing.

In fact and indeed, that 364-day Sports Year was the best there ever was.

Lest you forgot:

It began a year ago when the Broncos beat the Panthers in Super Bowl 50, and Peyton Manning retired.

It ended when Tom Brady and the Patriots rallied from a 25-point deficit to shock the Falcons and the entire zodiac. Brady is not retiring.

In between were a cornucopia of sports events and results that amazed and astonished, flabbergasted and flummoxed.

How do you like them apples?

February - After Von Miller and the Broncos' defense thwarted Brady and the Patriots in late January, they shut down Cam Newton and the Panthers, allowing just one touchdown, to become world champions for a third time. John Elway shouted: "This one's for Pat,'' and Manning rode off into the sunset.

April - In the first buzzer-beater in more than 30 years in an NCAA Tournament final, Villanova outlasted North Carolina. The Tar Heels' Marcus Paige hit a 3-pointer as North Carolina came roaring to a tie in the waning moments. However, as Wildcats' forward Kris Jenkins lofted a 25-footer, and the ball was in midair, the horn sounded. The shot heard 'round the world gave Villanova a 77-74 victory.

May - Leicester City, which had never won anything, went off last season as a 5,000-to-1 shot to win the English Premier League title. The team's payroll was one-tenth of what top clubs paid out in salaries. L.C. had no stars and a coach recycled more than a dozen times. Leicester City beat the punters (gamblers) and all the big boys for the championship.

June - The Penguins and Sidney Crosby, stuck in the middle of the conference in the middle of the season, would go on a tear and ultimately win the Stanley Cup against the Sharks.

June - Down 3-1 to the defending champs in the NBA Finals, LeBron James proved to be The King as he led the Cavaliers to three triumphs, the last two in Oakland, to overcome the Warriors.

August - In the last race of his storied career, Michael Phelps won his fifth gold medal in Rio de Janeiro in the 4-by-100 medley relay. He also brought home a silver and finished with 28 Olympic medals overall - and a record 23 gold. America ended up with 121 medals; China was a distant second with 70.

November - After a 108-year drought, the Cubs won the World Series. But it wasn't easy in the seventh game. Chicago was ahead of Cleveland 6-3 in the bottom of the eighth inning, but the Indians dramatically tied the game, pushing it to an extra inning. The Cubs scored twice in the 10th, but barely held off the Indians, who went down swinging with one run.

January - Deshaun Watson sprinted right and threw a touchdown pass to former walk-on Hunter Renfro with one second left as the Clemson Tigers upset the Alabama Crimson Tide in the national championship rematch.

January - The Australian Open is to the other major tennis tournaments as Ringo was to the Beatles. But Down Under was On Top with the most meaningful Grand Slam finals in history. The Williams sisters, Serena and Venus, met on the women's side, and Roger Federer was matched against Rafael Nadal in the men's finale. Neither Roger, seeded 17th, nor Rafael (No. 9) was supposed to advance to the last day after being sidelined last year with injuries. Serena won her 23rd Grand Slam singles trophy, a record in the open era. The following day, Nadal and Federer were tied after four sets, and Nadal was up 3-1 in the fifth. But Federer rallied to win out, 6-3, for his 18th title, most in men's history.

February - In the second quarter the Falcons struck for 21 points, including an 82-yard interception touchdown off Brady. However, behind and seemingly done at 28-3, Brady pulled off a miracle of Old Testament proportions to force overtime. And the dreaded Patriots won again.

This actually is The Year of the Rooster? Cock-a-doodle-don't.

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