?"The first one, I tried to run with the ball before I caught it. Then things just cornballed."—Steeler receiver Yancey Thigpen, after dropping three passes on Dec. 11 against Philadelphia.
Comeback Players of the Year
?AFC: Cleveland linebacker Pepper Johnson. Cut by the Giants before the 1993 season and signed by the Browns, Johnson was anointed Cleveland's defensive quarterback by coach Bill Belichick, and he responded by leading the NFL's stingiest scoring defense both in tackles and in locker-room presence.
?NFC: New Orleans quarterback Jim Everett. Unloaded on the Saints in exchange for a seventh-round pick last March, Everett resurrected a floundering career with a season in which he will surpass 3,500 passing yards.
Free Agents of the Year
?AFC: Cleveland safety Bennie Thompson. A bottom-end guy (1994 salary: $202,500), Thompson was a top-end producer, tied for second in the conference in special teams tackles.
?NFC: Atlanta wide receiver Terance Mathis. Used sparingly for four years with the Jets, Mathis signed with the Falcons as the perfect quick receiver for the run-and-shoot. More than 100 catches later, he is the NFL's catch of the year.
Misdirection Play of the Year
Following the Giants' 13-10 win in Houston on Monday night, Nov. 21, one of the buses carrying the team to the airport was stuck in traffic. Coach Dan Reeves, who hadn't eaten in nine hours, saw a McDonald's up ahead off an exit ramp and decided to leave the bus with four Giant staffers for some burgers. At McDonald's, Reeves saw that the bus was moving again, and he rushed up the highway embankment to catch it—but he was too late. Reeves ran back to McDonald's, where he and his group found a cab and headed for the airport. The bus, though, headed back to McDonald's, looking for Reeves and Co. As a result the Giants did not arrive at Newark Airport until 7 a.m. "Boys," Reeves told his team, "this is probably the worst play I've ever called."