Top 10 Sports Games of 2015
These were the pulse-pounding, nail biting games that kept us on the edge of our seats for their entirety. These are the best games of the 2015 sports calendar year. The following list was put together based on these criteria: the importance of the game at hand and its subsequent outcomes, and the intensity and craziness factor of the content of the games themselves.
A few honorable mentions before we begin:
December 5- Big 10 Championship Game, #5 Michigan State vs. #4 Iowa
#4 Iowa came into the game with a 12-0 record, and was considered by many at the midway point of the season to be a shoe in for a college football playoff spot. Standing in their way, however, was #5 Michigan State, seeking their 2nd Big 10 title in three seasons. The game was nip and tuck for the first three quarters, until Hawkeye QB C.J. Beathard found Tevaun Smith for an 85-yard touchdown. However, with 33 seconds to go, Michigan State freshman LJ Scott punched the ball in from the 1-yard line to give Michigan State the 16-13 victory. The Spartans would go on to be the #3 seed, and face off against the #2 seeded Alabama Crimson Tide in the College Football Playoff Semifinal.
January 18- NFC Championship Game, Seattle Seahawks vs. Green Bay Packers
A game that looked like a sure victory for the Green Bay Packers suddenly became anything but. The Packers looked real good for a majority of the game, taking it to the defending Super Bowl Champions, leading 16-0 at halftime, and 19-7 with three minutes to go in the game. With 5 minutes to play, Seahawks QB Russell Wilson threw his 4th interception of the game, and it looked like the Seahawks chances to repeat were dashed. However, the Packers decided to play conservatively and run the ball, giving Seattle another chance, which they did convert on with RB Marshawn Lynch punching the ball in to make it 19-14. The Seahawks would recover the onside kick and score a touchdown and a 2-point conversion to make it 22-19 with only 1:25 left. The Packers would drive and kick a game-tying field goal as time expired on regulation, but in overtime, the Seahawks would win on a 35-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to Jermaine Kearse, and go on to play in Super Bowl XLIX.
October 3- #6 Notre Dame vs. #12 Clemson
Give Notre Dame one more shot at this game, and I think they would have beaten Clemson. Both teams came in undefeated (ND at 4-0, Clemson at 3-0), but things would go Clemson's way early, as they built up a 21-3 lead on the Fighting Irish heading into the 4th quarter, which became 24-9 with only 11 minutes to play. However, Notre Dame's QB Deshone Kizer orchestrated a massive comeback attempt, the first on a 3-yard touchdown run, and another on a 1-yard pass to Torii Hunter, Jr. with only 7 seconds left to make it 24-22 Clemson. Unfortunately for Notre Dame, they would miss the two-point conversion (their second of the day), and the Clemson Tigers would hang on for the victory. Clemson is currently the #1 team in the country, facing off against #4 Oklahoma the CFB Playoffs. Notre Dame would make its way to #8 and face #7 Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl.
The Top 10:
10. November 15- New England Patriots vs. New York Giants
As the NFL regular season draws to a close, this was one of the most intense matches of the year. The Patriots were unbeaten at 8-0, but had not beaten the New York Giants since 2007; since then, the Giants had beaten them 3 times, twice in the Super Bowl. The game was back and forth, with the Patriots eventually falling behind by 10 midway through the 3rd quarter. The Patriots eventually pulled ahead, 24-23, on a 75-yard pass from Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski. With 6 minutes to play, Brady brought the Patriots down to the Giants 1-yard line, where a touchdown would seemingly put the game away. Instead, Brady was intercepted, and the Giants moved down the field and seemingly scored the go-ahead touchdown with 2 minutes to play, instead, officials concurred that Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. had not maintained possession of the ball, and the Giants settled for a field goal. Brady was almost intercepted one more time which would have put the game away; instead officials ruled that the Giants defender also dropped the ball. The Patriots would continue the drive, with kicker Steven Gostkowski hitting a 54-yard field goal with 1 second to play to preserve the Patriots' 9-0 record, with a 27-26 win.
9. May 10- The Players' Championship, Final Round
This was quite possibly one of the most intense final rounds of a golf tournament ever played. With a stacked leaderboard including Sergio Garcia, who had won the event at TPC Sawgrass the year before, it came down to three men: Garcia, Kevin Kisner, who was with Garcia in the final group, and Rickie Fowler, who had trailed by 5 shots with only 6 holes to play. Fowler would play his last 6 holes at 6-under par (birdie, par, birdie, eagle, birdie, birdie) to tie with Kisner and Garcia at 12-under par. Garcia, in that final group, would make a 44-foot putt on #17 to remain tied with Kisner for the lead. The three men would go to a three-hole playoff of 16, 17, and 18 to decide the winner, with Garcia eventually being eliminated after missing a birdie putt on 17 and bogeying 18. Kisner and Fowler would play sudden death on 17, with Fowler landing his ball 5 feet from the pin and making birdie. Kisner would miss his birdie putt, thus giving Rickie Fowler his second PGA Tour win.
8. August 27- Little League World Series, U.S. Semifinal, Texas vs. California
When talking about sports, the Little League World Series often gets overlooked. However, ESPN decided to really step up the coverage this year, with most, if not all games this summer being broadcast. The United States semifinal pitted Pearland, Texas against Bonita, California, two teams that had met before in the second round of the U.S. bracket, lost, and reconvened a few days later. Texas led 4-3 after the first inning, but California, fueled by a 2-run home run by Jake Baptista, scored 3 to make it 6-4. California would later tie the game with an RBI single in the 4th and a home run in the 5th, and the game would head to extra innings. Finally, the tie was broken by California in the top of the 8th, as Baptista came through again with an RBI single to give California a 7-6 lead. In the bottom of the 8th, however (shown in the video above), Texas's Ben Gottfried tied the game with a solo homer, and Caleb Lowe followed up with a walk off 2-run shot win it. Texas, however, would go on to lose the U.S. Championship to Pennsylvania, 3-2.
7. September 26- #3 TCU vs. Texas Tech
Ever hear about those college football games where the top-5 school plays an unranked school and you think: "hmm... I think they could actually win that game," and that game turns out to be crazy intense and back and forth all day? This was that game. 3rd-ranked TCU faced off against Texas Tech, in a game that featured 11 lead changes, an improbable game-winning touchdown, and an almost impossible game ending. With Texas Tech leading 52-48, TCU moved down the field for one last drive. The Horned Frogs found themselves with a 4th and goal from the Texas Tech 4 yard line with only 30 seconds left. TCU QB Trevone Boykin threw a pass to John Doctson in the back of the end zone, which sailed too high and tipped off the receiver's hands. However, the tip was just enough for TCU receiver Aaron Green to haul it in for the score, putting TCU up, 55-52 with 23 seconds to play. Texas Tech, however, on the ensuing drive, managed to get the ball to only midfield. With no time left, Tech tried to lateral their way to the end zone, and they managed to get the ball down to the TCU 10 yard line before being run out of bounds, and the Horned Frogs held on for a well-deserved victory, to stay #3 at 4-0.
6. October 27- World Series, Game 1, Kansas City Royals vs. New York Mets
Game 1 of the World Series tied the record for the longest World Series game ever. In a wild, 14-inning slugfest, the Royals willed their way to a 5-4 win over the New York Mets. On the very first pitch from Mets starter Matt Harvey, Alcedes Escobar hit an inside-the-park home run to put the Royals on the board first. In the middle of the 4th inning, the game was interrupted by a power outage that blacked out Fox's telecast for a short time. With the Mets up 4-3 in the 8th inning, and Jeurys Familia in the game, I, for one, thought the game was over for Kansas City. Little did I know that Alex Gordon would come up with a dramatic, game-tying home run in the bottom of the 9th. The game wore on until almost 1:00 a.m, when, in the 14th inning, a sacrifice fly from Royals 1B Eric Hosmer just barely beat Mets CF Curtis Granderson's throw home, sealing the deal for Kansas City. The Royals would go on to win the Series in 5 games, their first since 1985.
5. June 16- The Belmont Stakes
I should include the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes on this list, but I chose the Belmont Stakes simply because it was the most glorious for American Pharaoh. The horse, driven by jockey Victor Espinoza, who had driven California Chrome to a heartbreaking second-place finish in last year's Belmont (one leg from a Triple Crown), became the first horse since 1978 to win the Derby, Preakness, and Belmont in consecutive tries. American Pharaoh took the race, even after a rocky start, wire to wire. All you really need to do here is watch the race replay, and let the electricity fill your body.
4. May 13- Stanley Cup Playoffs, Eastern Conference Semifinals Game 7, New York Rangers vs. Washington Capitals
The Caps built up a 3-1 lead on the defending Eastern Conference champions before losing the next two games. In a pivotal game seven, Alex Ovechkin essentially guaranteed a game 7 win for Washington, and, at least for the moment, appeared to make good on his promise by opening up the scoring in the first period. From there, it was mostly a game of defense, as both goaltenders combined for 72 saves on 75 shots. The Rangers tied the game in the second on a beautiful power play goal from Kevin Hayes. Both Washington's Braden Holtby and New York's Henrik Lundqvist took control of the game from there, as both turned away shot after shot in the third, sending the game to overtime. Finally, in the first overtime period, New York's Derek Stepan delivered the series-winning goal on a beautifully-drawn up faceoff play. Just a hard-fought game on all fronts by both teams, and a prime example of why playoff hockey is the best kind of hockey.
3. March 28- NCAA Men's Tournament, Midwest Regional Final, Kentucky vs. Notre Dame
Notre Dame, just as a rule, has a history of being grossly overrated and blowing it in big time games. The Fighting Irish's run to the Elite 8 of the NCAA Tournament in March, however, was no fluke. When the draw was announced that Notre Dame would be playing in the same bracket as the unbeaten Kentucky Wildcats, many felt that it was destiny that the two would meet for a chance to go to the Final Four. The game was nip-and-tuck, as the Irish kept the Wildcats at bay, leading for most of the first half. However, as time expired in the first half, Trey Lyles knocked in Andrew Harrison's layup to tie the game at 31 at the midway point. Notre Dame came out swinging in the second half, leading by as many as 6 points with a little over 6:00 to play, but Kentucky clawed its way back into the game, with Aaron Harrison hitting a long three with three minutes left to put Kentucky back up, 64-61. Notre Dame answered right back 90 seconds later, down 64-63, with a deep three from Jerian Grant to go up, 66-64. Kentucky's Karl-Anthony Towns evened the score at 66-66 with a quick bucket with 1:13 to go. The Wildcats would get the ball back after a Notre Dame shot clock violation, and Aaron Harrison took advantage of a Demetrius Jackson blocking foul, converting on the free throws to make it 68-66. Notre Dame had last possession, but a last-gas heave from Grant from the corner was well off, and Kentucky remained undefeated, and moved on to the Final Four. In a game that lived up to the hype, these were two teams with something to prove, and did not disappoint the fans.
2. July 5- FIFA Women's World Cup Final, United States vs. Japan
This game was over in the first 15 minutes. A note to the rest of the world- Do not even attempt to mess with the United States national any team on Independence Day weekend. Four years ago, the US Women's National team lost a heartbreaker to the Japanese in the World Cup final, as Japan broke a 2-2 tie in penalty kicks, converting on 3 to the 1 scored by American Abby Wambach. Well, the American women came to play against the Japanese, and came out swinging. In just the 3rd minute, Carli Lloyd put one in the back of the net, the fastest goal ever in a World Cup final. Lloyd would score again, this one coming three minutes later on another corner kick. In the 14th minute, Lauren Holiday scored on a mishandled header by Japanese defender Azusa Iwashumizu, putting the U.S. up, 3-0. Two minutes later, Lloyd scored her third goal of the match, this time from almost midfield, as the U.S. went up 4-0, showing an unstoppable wave of hunger and determination to win this match. Japan got lucky on a few shots, one of them being a fluke own goal, but the Americans showed firm resolve, putting Japan away, 5-2. This was the third World Cup title for the United States, and it was the ending of a highly successful career for Abby Wambach, who was playing in her final USWNT game.
1. February 1- Super Bowl XLIX, New England Patriots vs. Seattle Seahawks
Greatest. Super Bowl. Ever. Leading up to Super Bowl XLIX, Las Vegas set the odds for this game at a toss up; the most evenly matched Super Bowl ever. Coming off the strangest prelude to a Super Bowl ever, Tom Brady, amid all the deflate-gate controversy, led his New England Patriots to a 4th Super Bowl title. Standing in their way: the resolute but dangerous defending champion Seattle Seahawks. The game was pretty even in the first half. Brady threw an interception but also threw for two touchdowns. Seattle's QB Russell Wilson had a touchdown pass of his own to Chris Matthews, who had come out of basically nowhere for this game (and was basically never seen again after it) at the very end of the second quarter, and the game was tied 14-14 at the break. In the third quarter, however, it was all Seattle, as the Seahawks wore down the Patriots defense, highlighted by the rushing attack of Marshawn Lynch, who averaged 4.3 yards per carry in the game, and a 3-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to Doug Baldwin. The Seahawks led by 10 heading into the 4th. However, Brady, calm and collected as ever, orchestrated two fantastic drives, throwing a touchdown pass to Danny Amendola with 7:55 left to play, and another one to Julian Edelman with 2:02 left to play, to go up 28-24. Seattle, however, as you'd expect, wasn't done yet. In the blink of an eye Seattle was down near the New England goal line, highlighted by a long pass from Wilson to Lynch, and then a pass to Jermaine Kearse, which was batted up in the air and then caught, reminiscent of two plays the New York Giants used to beat New England in 2008 and 2012. However, it was New England CB Malcolm Butler who got the last laugh, as Wilson's pass attempt from the New England 1 was intercepted, essentially winning the game for the Patriots. While Pete Carroll's play calling and Tom Brady's role in deflate-gate remained in question for weeks to come, this game will go down in history as the best of the year, as well as one of the best of all time.
Which sports games did you enjoy this year? Let me know in the comments section down below. More countdowns to come before the year is out!
I enjoy making lists, countdowns, and making sense of the world that I see around me.