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Mark Andrews Wins 2021 Octopus of the Year Award

The Ravens’ All-Pro tight end discusses his new honor, a memorable Monday night win over the Colts, John Harbaugh’s penchant for two-point conversions and more.

The list of best games from the 2021 NFL season gets crowded quickly. Off the top of your head, you might come up with the Chiefs and Bills trading touchdowns late into the night in the divisional round. Or the Raiders and Chargers stretching the boundaries of potential playoff scenarios, nearly tying on Monday night in Week 18. Maybe even Tom Brady’s return to Foxborough coming down to the final play.

But let’s not forget about a Week 5 tilt that had about as much excitement as an October game can, and will go down as an all-timer for followers of a certain statistic: Ravens 31, Colts 25 in a Monday night comeback classic.

“All the stars kind of aligned that night,” All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews says eight months later.

The Ravens trailed by 19 points in the third quarter, then by 16 with under 10 minutes left. That’s when things turned. Andrews accounted for all 16 points himself, in nine minutes of game time and 23 minutes of real time. The frantic comeback, aided by a blocked Rodrigo Blankenship field goal attempt in between those Andrews TDs, culminated in the tying score(s) with just 39 seconds left. Lamar Jackson finished the night a sparkling 37-for-43 for 442 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.

Here are the Ravens’ final four drives of the game:

• Third quarter: Five plays, 75 yards, touchdown
• Fourth quarter: Six plays, 78 yards, touchdown (plus two-pointer)
• Fourth quarter: Eleven plays, 75 yards, touchdown (plus two-pointer)
• Overtime: Ten plays, 68 yards, touchdown

Andrews did more than his part, catching 11 passes in all for a career-high 147 yards, on a night he later revealed he was playing with a heavy heart.

His most impressive statistical achievement: the rare double octopus.

“I’m all about the octopus,” Andrews told me during Ravens minicamp in June. “Now that I know about it, and I’ve already had two of them, I’m going for more. I want more of ’em.”

Mark Andrews carrying an octopus emoji into the end zone against the Colts.

The MMQB’s most self-indulgent awards gala is back. Welcome to the third annual Octopus of the Year Awards!

For those of you who are new around here, I’m happy to catch you up. In 2019, I introduced the octopus. As I have now copied and pasted many times: An octopus is when the same player who scores a touchdown also scores the ensuing two-point conversion. No, being a quarterback and throwing the ball for a TD does not count. You must be the one who secures the ball in the end zone on both plays.

This is the fourth straight offseason in which I have written about this niche statistic, as I carefully lay down a paper trail of credit, just in case anyone ever gets rich off it. That first year, I dove into the origins and wrote up a bunch of fun facts and historical firsts (and I’ll once again update the team and player career leaderboards below).

Since then, things have grown more than even I anticipated. After the 2019 season, I wrote about how the octopus became a Super Bowl prop bet—when real bookmakers in actual casinos were sweating out six figures, making it the biggest liability Caesars had on the board.

The 2020 season was when the octopus took to TV. Scott Hanson began using the term on NFL RedZone, and he joined me in last summer’s column to hand the hardware over to Cam Akers.

So I was looking for something new heading into the 2021 season, and it hit me: Here in the time of Web 3.0—a term I absolutely understand and am definitely using correctly—we need to do more than just publish content; we need to build communities. So I reached out to Dave Mattingly, the creator of the delightful scorigami bot (which tracks the likelihood of games ending in unique final scores), and offered him a new project. Dave did an awesome job getting us up and running with a bot that now tweets after every successful NFL two-point conversion, letting the world know whether it was an octopus. We didn’t have to wait long to see how it worked, as Quintez Cephus got us on the board in Week 1.

From there, it was actually a down year for our eight-tentacled two-pointers. After there were 11 each in 2019 and ’20 (including the playoffs), there were only seven in ’21. Two of them happened to come in Week 18, meaning the expanded schedule saved us from a season with the fewest octopi since ’13. And with Andrews’s two coming on Monday night, and Dalton Schultz nabbing one on Thanksgiving, our pal Scott didn’t have many opportunities to shout them out on RedZone. Though we know he spent his Turkey Day in front of the TV.

Still, the bot started to grow a modest* following (*definitions may vary). Which, probably thanks to the secret algorithms of the internet, seemed to have a heavy mix of scorigami devotees populating the increasingly lusty replies. (Scorigami hive: I am one of you. You are welcome here.)

So will the octopus grow in popularity? It will if Andrews has anything to say about it. Because of one magical night, he has now thrust himself into position as a leader of the consortium. (I can’t believe, in all the years I’ve been writing this, I hadn’t googled what a group of octopi is called until just now.)

“Oh man, I’m super humbled to win the octopus award,” Andrews says. “I didn’t know it’s a thing, but it’s pretty cool.”

The recognition is a final coda on a game that was already among the most memorable of his career. Andrews revealed later that night that his grandmother had recently died.

“That game meant a lot to me,” he says. “And there was just something where I felt her presence. I felt her with me, and she was with me that whole game. And she was definitely with me for those plays.”

While the octopus has always been an avenue for an added dash of silliness for those of us who follow football minutiae, Andrews sounded genuinely appreciative to have another reason to smile about that night.

Football is a team sport, and players’ statistics are so often a product of their environment. So maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that this year’s award is going to a Raven. After all, John Harbaugh’s proclivity for attempting two-pointers in high-leverage spots was one of the most-dissected strategies of the whole season.

Turns out that’s another thing Andrews likes.

“As an offensive guy, you can’t ask for anything else,” Andrews says. “He has full trust in our offense and what we can do. I think that it gives us more confidence, just that he’s willing to go for it, put the ball in our hands to decide a game. You love that. You love the confidence. You love everything about it. And I can’t ask for a better coach, honestly.”

Of course, being down 16 to the Colts (as opposed to 14) made the decisions no-brainers. But given that Harbaugh called two-point conversions when trailing by one point in the final minute on two separate occasions last year, Andrews and his teammates may keep getting chances.

For what it’s worth, the Ravens’ eight two-point attempts tied for fourth in the league last season, but Andrews’s two that night were the team’s only successful conversions all year. That only adds to the improbability of what we saw.

I let Andrews know that Todd Gurley was the only other player with two in one game, his coming because an injury to the kicker forced the Rams to go for two all day one fateful afternoon in 2018. “That doesn’t count,” Andrews says, probably joking.

And I told him Gurley’s four total was the career record. “Only four? Yeah, I’m getting there,” he says, definitely not joking.

So we can probably expect Harbaugh to keep trying. And if Andrews is the one who scored the TD, don’t be surprised to see the Ravens’ leading receiver reminding his quarterback when it’s an octopus opportunity. Given his 107 catches for 1,361 yards last season, it’s probably the right call to look for him.

Andrews, by the way, is also well aware that because his exploits took place late on a Monday night, there were a whole lot of fantasy players who were either hanging onto the edge of their seats or woke up to find out he’d won them or lost them the week. Now if only our friends at ESPN and Yahoo would make it easy to add an octopus bonus, that would really drive home awareness. “You’ve got to think about the rarity of an octopus,” Andrews says, when first confronted with the idea. “I think any time you get in that rare air, you’ve gotta add some points. So I’m all for it.” You heard him; start petitioning your commissioners.

Before I let Andrews get back to his preparation for chasing Gurley’s record (and probably other goals he has, too), I offered up the floor and told him to imagine himself at the Oscars or the ESPYs. Here was his full acceptance speech before the band played him off:

“I just first off want to thank God. I want to be thankful for our head coach, going for two, thankful for Lamar, thankful for my teammates having the trust in me to go out there and make the plays and score an octopus. And obviously two octopi in that one game. I’m just extremely thankful. Thankful for you, Mitch, for awarding me this. And my parents and everybody else, man. This is awesome.”

You earned it, Mark. Maybe we’ll have real trophies by the time you catch Gurley.

Octopus of the Year may have been wrapped up in October …

… but that big night wasn’t the end of things in this department. The Super Bowl props were back, sometimes with more octopus Photoshops.

Our old pal Patrick Everson not only filmed himself placing an octopus bet at the counter, but diligently tracked books that offered it throughout the week.

And then he even wrote a nice story about me for (Patrick, if you did that just to get name-dropped here, it worked.)

In other relevant news, John Oliver put out a nine-minute segment about what an incredible creature the octopus is … and dedicated the first 30 seconds to why he feels the proper pluralization of the word is octopuses. Obviously this is one of the more divisive issues Oliver tackled this year, but at least it got people talking. (For the record: No. 1, We had a lengthy discussion before my 2019 piece ran, and my former editor Mark Mravic and I decided on octopi. It feels too late to go back now, and I’ve been quietly sucking up to the SI copy desk so that no one will overrule me. And No. 2, Merriam-Webster acknowledges it’s complicated, and says go with whatever you think will be understood by your audience. So get inked, John Oliver.)

By the way: Dave, our Twitter bot creator, submitted my favorite contribution to this discourse during that Ravens-Colts game, though you’ll have to click through for the punchline.

So where will this movement go next season? What octopus feats will I share in the summer of 2023? That’s largely up to Harbaugh, Jackson and Andrews.

As promised, below are updated leaderboards for players with multiple octopi in their career, followed by teams with the most in their history and then my accounting of every octopus in NFL history (new names this year include Cephus, Andrews, Schultz, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Danny Amendola and Michael Pittman Jr.).

Octopi by player

Andrews became the 27th player with multiple octopi in a career; only Gurley and Randy Moss have more than two.


Octopi by team

The Ravens and Lions were the two teams with two last season. Plus the Colts, Texans and Cowboys added one (only Dallas’s second ever).


Every octopus ever

Players in green have multiple octopi in their careers.

More From SI:
Introducing the Octopus: Our Favorite Two-Point Conversions
When Octopus Wrestling Was All the Rage
The Art of the NFL Superstar Social Media Unfollow
How the Ravens Are Fleecing the NFL Again