The week started in weird fashion
Week 13 of the NFL season was full of upsets and near-upsets. Naturally, a week like that produced its share of glaring blunders.
The week started in weird fashion on Thursday when one of the league’s best players had one of the worst games of his career. The weirdness carried right on through to the weekend. A former MVP seemed to forget what team he was playing on. The New York Jets and Cleveland Browns continued to baffle us with how frustrating they can be. Meanwhile, officials around the league need to take a serious look in the mirror.
These were the most glaring blunders from Week 13 of the NFL season.
Bad look for the referees
The Indianapolis Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers each lost on Sunday. For reasons we’ll get in to, they can each blame themselves. But they both have solid complaints about the officiating, as well.
With the Colts driving for a potential winning score, Erik Swoope caught a pass and appeared to go out of bounds. Only, his forward progress was controversially ruled to have been stopped, the clock continued to run, and the game ended.
Officials missed another false start on Monday, this time to the benefit of the Philadelphia Eagles (and detriment of the Washington Redskins).
It’s also worth mentioning that Tennessee Titans lineman Taylor Lewan and Buffalo Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes both had profanity-laced confrontations with officials after their games. In Lewan’s case, it was after a win.
It was not a good weekend to be an NFL referee.
Big pick closes rare off night for Drew Brees
Drew Brees hasn’t had many rough patches in 2018. But Thursday night was a big one. With his New Orleans Saints trailing 13-10 to the Dallas Cowboys late in the fourth quarter, Brees had a chance to give a memorable finish to what had been a forgettable night. But the chance didn’t last long.
On the second play of what would be New Orleans’ final possession, Brees was intercepted by Jourdan Lewis. This wasn’t an especially great play by Lewis, either. Brees was just off target, throwing it well behind Alvin Kamara.
Brees has been spectacular in 2018. But his outing on Thursday night was a brutal one. The game-clinching interception was unquestionably one of the biggest blunders any player made in Week 13.
Matt Patricia retreats into his shell
Trailing 13-6 to the Los Angeles Rams and facing a third-and-goal from the 19, the Detroit Lions ran a conservative draw play. It did not go over well with fans attending, nor should it have. They were already well within field goal range. The extra eight yards meant next to nothing. Additionally, Matthew Stafford is a star quarterback. Or, he’s at least paid like one. Patricia needed to trust his quarterback to not turn it over there. Literally anything else would have ended with, at worst, the same result as the draw play.
Generally, a close game against an objectively better team is the time to be aggressive. Patricia didn’t do that. Not coincidentally, the game was not close at the end as the Lions lost by two touchdowns.
Colts refuse to accept gift from Jags
The Jacksonville Jaguars did everything they could to hand Indianapolis a touchdown on Sunday. The Colts just wouldn’t accept.
On one possession, the Jaguars defense committed one foul on third down (after the play, no less) and another on fourth. But Indianapolis came away with no points. In fact, since the Colts took a field goal off the board, the penalties worked to Jacksonville’s advantage.
What looked like another Jaguars’ implosion turned into an absolutely disastrous loss for Indianapolis, whose road to the playoffs is now a very bumpy one.
Browns get no points out of two massive plays
In the third quarter of Sunday’s loss to the Houston Texans, Baker Mayfield and Antonio Callaway connected on two passes for more than 70 yards. Amazingly, Cleveland came away with no points. The first — a 76-yard touchdown strike — was nullified by a penalty. The second, a 71-yard pass, ended with a Callaway fumble.
The Browns have made some clear steps in the right direction in 2018 and there’s genuinely a lot to be excited about. But sequences like this serve as a reminder that this can be a very frustrating team.
Bills just miss incredible end to surprising thriller
The Bills fell to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. Buffalo’s last-gasp effort fell just short, when Charles Clay — wide open in the end zone — couldn’t quite come up with a slightly underthrown pass from Josh Allen. Under normal circumstances, it wouldn’t be fair to criticize a quarterback (especially a young one) for slightly underthrowing a 40-plus yard pass across the field. But entering the NFL, Allen’s best skill was his arm strength. Really, there wasn’t a close second. Imagine a flame-throwing pitcher getting taken deep on an 87 mph fastball. That’s essentially what we had on Sunday.
On the other hand, Clay also should have caught the ball. There literally wasn’t a Dolphin within five yards of him. He had to dive for it, but barely. Combined, this was a rough blunder and a rather frustrating one for the Bills and their fans.
Cam Newton’s evil twin stole his uniform
This will tell you all you need to know about Newton’s performance. He threw four interceptions, three to Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive back, Andrew Adams. Newton completed only three total passes to Jarius Wright and Devin Funchess, his own receivers. And the picks were costly. The first two set the Bucs up with short fields, leading to 10 points. The other two both came across midfield, perhaps keeping the Carolina Panthers from scoring points.
Carolina continued its epic tailspin in losing to the Bucs on Sunday. And no player deserves more blame for Sunday’s loss than Newton. If the Panthers are going to turn this around, the former league MVP will need to get a lot better.
Bears doom themselves in New York
Sunday’s game against the last-place New York Giants appeared like a cakewalk for the Chicago Bears. Appearances can be deceiving. Chase Daniel threw two interceptions. One was a pick-six (watch here). The other deprived the Bears of, at least, a field goal opportunity.
In the fourth quarter, Taylor Gabriel fumbled from deep in his own territory, setting New York up for a field goal. Chicago did claw back and even forced overtime. But it wasn’t enough.
The good news for the Bears is that they got what should be a month’s worth of blunders out in one game. Time will tell if that actually ends up being true.
Jets find two ways to mess up great play
With the Titans trailing late in the game to the Jets, Marcus Mariota took off running but finished off his long run with a fumble. Strike one for New York came when Tennessee recovered the fumble. This was despite the ball falling right in between two Jets. Strike two came when New York was flagged for a facemask, giving the Titans great field position. Tennessee took advantage and scored the winning touchdown.
In an ever-turbulent world, we know one thing. The Jets will never run out of ways to lose games.
Steelers get a little too eager…three times
As Los Angeles lined up for the winning field goal, Pittsburgh absolutely imploded. The Steelers jumped offsides once, which resulted in a miss, giving the Chargers an untimed down. Amazingly, Pittsburgh blocked the next kick. But that one was nullified by yet another offsides penalty. Finally, Los Angeles made its third attempt. Though, true to form, the Steelers were offsides on that play as well.
While the Steelers have a legitimate gripe about the officiating, they still blew a 23-7 halftime lead and then repeatedly shot themselves in the foot at the very end.