Blunders from Thursday through to Sunday.
The mistakes in Week 12 of the NFL season started early on Thursday and moved right on through to Sunday’s action.
The week got started with a frustrating interception from Matthew Stafford which snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Veteran quarterbacks Cam Newton, Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning would make similar mistakes on Sunday.
Meanwhile, coaches Mike McCarthy and Adam Gase found unique ways to blow winnable games. And while most of the notable blunders from Week 12 took place on the field, we even got one from the graphics team covering one of the games.
These were the most notable blunders from Week 12.
Lions turn likely win into loss with Matthew Stafford pick-six
With Thanksgiving’s game against the Chicago Bears tied late in the fourth quarter, the Detroit Lions got the ball just short of midfield. It seemed like the perfect chance for the Lions to take the lead and even pull the upset. But one play into that possession, Stafford made a terrible throw, which followed an even worse read. Eddie Jackson intercepted the pass and went in for the pick-six (watch here).
Stafford’s chance at redemption was squandered when he threw another interception in the end zone on the ensuing drive, ending the game.
This is a game that the Lions could have (and should have) won. For as much good as he brings to the table, these are mistakes that Stafford still makes far too often. It’s turned many winnable games into losses through his career.
Giants abandon Saquon Barkley
Following Sunday’s loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. complained that New York didn’t attack the injury-ravaged Philadelphia secondary enough.
However, we’re not sure that more Manning would have helped the cause. Manning attempted 37 passes on the day. Saquon Barkley, meanwhile, ran for 101 yards (including a 51-yard touchdown) on only 13 carries. That’s 7.8 yards per attempt. And the pass/run splits weren’t just a product of some garbage time passes. This was not only a close game, but the Giants spent most of it leading.
Barkley is an absolute star. He’s capable of scoring whenever he touches the ball, but isn’t all flash. Barkley has shown himself capable of picking up the tough yards, as well. New York continuing to limit his touches is the most confounding part of what’s been a rough season for the Giants. Sunday was more of the same.
Crucial mistake from Cam Newton crushes Panthers
The Carolina Panthers led the Seattle Seahawks 13-10 at halftime on Sunday. Carolina received the second half kick, marched down the field, and appeared ready to score. A touchdown wouldn’t have ended the game, but a 20-10 second half lead would have made the Panthers awfully tough to beat. But that drive came to a screeching halt when Newton was intercepted in the end zone by Bradley McDougald.
We’re not sure what Newton saw here. McDougald had Chris Manhertz blanketed. There was no margin for error. And with Tedric Thompson charging towards Manhertz and Austin Calitro short, there was virtually no chance for success. This was on first down. If Newton didn’t have a play, there was no harm in throwing the ball away. This mistake cost the Panthers at least three points, which ended up being the margin of the game. There’s also a distinct possibility that Seattle and Carolina will be battling for the final playoff spot in the NFC. The Seahawks now have that tiebreaker. This pass is a big reason why.
Jaguars implosion gets even worse
Josh Allen didn’t have a great game against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. That said, he did throw for a 75-yard touchdown pass (watch here) and ran for another score. But the Jacksonville defense only gets part of the blame for the loss to the Buffalo Bills. The Jaguars scored only 21 points. They also came away from a first-and-goal from the one with no points. Of course, the absence of Leonard Fournette (who had been ejected for his role in a brawl moments before), didn’t help Jacksonville’s cause.
While it matched two losing teams, everything that Jalen Ramsey said about Allen in the offseason gave Sunday’s game some unquestioned intrigue. And true to their 2018 form, the Jaguars absolutely imploded.
FOX graphic sends Saints to Los Angeles
Not all blunders occur on the field. On Sunday, we saw a rather humorous one that came from the graphics team. Fans tuning into Sunday’s game between the Seahawks and Panthers might have been surprised to see the “Los Angeles Saints” sitting atop the NFC standings.
ahhh those famous football teams we all know and love, the Los Angeles Saints and the LA Rams Rams pic.twitter.com/i5sli4EYXH
— mike shoro (@mike_shoro) November 25, 2018
Fret not, fans in the Big Easy. They’re still the New Orleans Saints.
While this typo gave us all a good chuckle, we do wonder how it happened. This wasn’t a commentator thinking quicker than his mouth could speak. It also wasn’t a slightly misspelled word. The Saints played on Thursday. The TV crew had literally three days to get this right. We only hope that the Saints take the field to Mötley Crüe’s “Saints of Los Angeles” the next time they take the field.
Eli Manning throws YOLO pick to end first half
In general, New York threw too much on Sunday. The most notable issue came at the end of the second quarter. The Giants had really dominated the first half, but the Eagles managed to close the gap to 19-11. New York, though, drove the ball deep into Philadelphia territory and appeared poised to answer. Then, Manning decided to throw a bomb to Beckham, who was well covered in the end zone. The ball was intercepted and the Eagles ran the rest of the first half clock out.
Manning could have thrown the ball away. He could have thrown an underneath route either to the sidelines or even the middle of the field. There was plenty of time left and the Giants had time outs. Just a field goal would have given New York momentum heading into halftime. More importantly, it would have given the Giants three more points. Squandering that chance was bad at the time and proved even more costly when the game ended.
Adam Gase’s abysmal fourth quarter play calling dooms Dolphins
In their final two possessions of Sunday’s loss to the Indianapolis Colts, the Miami Dolphins “gained” negative one yard. They ran the ball three times, including twice on third-and-10. Miami did call three passes, two of which were completed. But to give you a sense of what kind of passes we’re talking about, neither of the completed passes gained even one yard. It was the kind of play calling one might expect at the end of a blowout. But that was far from the case. The Dolphins were up seven in the first of the final two possessions and the game was tied in the next one.
There was no excuse for running on third-and-10, especially the second time. The game was tied and if the attempt was unsuccessful (which it was), time was never going to be an issue for the Colts. If anything, an incomplete pass might have worked in Miami’s favor, giving 40 more seconds for a potential last-ditch effort to tie or win. If the goal was to blow a 10-point fourth quarter lead, Gase and the Dolphins put on an absolute clinic. But with the goal being to win, Miami couldn’t have been worse.
Horrible Ben Roethlisberger interception seals loss
While the Pittsburgh Steelers had moments of brilliance (like this), Sunday’s loss to the Denver Broncos will ultimately be remembered for the missed opportunities. None sticks out more than Roethlisberger’s goal-line interception at the end of the game. Pittsburgh called for a run-pass option. Roethlisberger pulled the ball back and attempted to hit Antonio Brown in the end zone. But Denver’s Shelby Harris came through with the game-sealing interception. Now, an RPO was not the right call there. But that doesn’t exonerate Roethlisberger’s pass.
A good pass is one that will either be caught by its intended target or fall incomplete. This was the opposite. If Harris didn’t pick it off, Chris Harris likely would have. There was no way the ball was getting to Brown. The play just wasn’t there. The best-case scenario for Roethlisberger was for Harris (either one of them) to drop the ball. On fourth down, we could make some sense out of taking that risk and might focus a little more on the play call. But this was third down. That pass should never have been thrown.
Mike McCarthy does himself in with awful call in huge spot
The Green Bay Packers coach didn’t exactly have a great first half in Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings. As it turned out, he was just getting started. With the game tied in the third quarter, Green Bay faced a fourth-and-one from just short of midfield. In that scenario, the Packers didn’t need to go for it. But we’re not really second-guessing that decision. What we are questioning is the decision to bunch everyone up at the line and call for a run right into the middle of Minnesota’s stout defense. It didn’t work.
From that point, things only got worse for the Packers and McCarthy. The Vikings kicked a field goal to go ahead and scored a touchdown on their next possession. From that point on, Green Bay could muster only one field goal in a 24-17 loss. Whatever patience people had with McCarthy essentially vanished by the end of the game.
Even McCarthy knows he’s not doing a good enough job. It’s hard to imagine him staying on board if the Packers miss the playoffs again. And with Sunday night’s loss, the path to the postseason is incredibly murky for Green Bay.
Titans get too cute on critical play
Not unlike Sunday night’s game, a failed fourth down conversion was a huge play on Monday night. With the Tennessee Titans trailing 14-10 to the Houston Texans, and needing less than a yard on fourth down from inside the five, Marcus Mariota handed the ball to Luke Stocker, a tight end lined up at fullback. He was stuffed. One play later, Lamar Miller sprinted to a 97-yard touchdown to put Houston up 21-10 (watch here), which put the Titans behind the 8-ball for the rest of the night.
And while the decision to go for it can be debated, the call is what we’re really questioning. This was Stocker’s first career carry. Tennessee could have given the ball to Derrick Henry, who’s listed at 247 pounds. Using Marcus Mariota’s mobility would have been another option for the Titans. Stocker might have been a decent option on second or third down with a mulligan or two at their disposal. But on fourth down? Give the ball to someone more used to that situation.