Some significant and embarrassing blunders
Week 14 of the NFL saw a fair amount of sizable upsets. Not surprisingly, those upsets were aided by some significant, embarrassing blunders.
The New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers have been two of the NFL’s model teams for years. But on Sunday, both brought a heavy supply of embarrassing gaffes.
The San Francisco 49ers actually managed to botch victory formation — twice snapping the ball too early. But as bad of a blunder as that was, it doesn’t make our list. San Francisco’s opponent was simply not going to be out-blundered.
Meanwhile, the opening minutes of Sunday’s game between the Atlanta Falcons and Green Bay Packers highlighted a continued problem for the NFL.
These were the most embarrassing blunders from Week 14.
Jaguars showcase collapse for national audience
Being on “Thursday Night Football” in Week 14 gave the Jacksonville Jaguars a perfect chance to show what an absolute train wreck they’ve been this season. Jacksonville took full advantage of that opportunity. Derrick Henry punked the Jags with a 99-yard touchdown run (watch here).
But this was far from a one-run show — he ran all over the Jacksonville defense all game.
While the outcome of the game was no longer in doubt, the Jags finally made some plays and had no issue celebrating every little win in exuberant fashion. When Tennessee Titans tackle Taylor Lewan confronted Jalen Ramsey, Ramsey gave us an all-time flop. It was a perfect way to cap off a game that perfectly embodied what’s been an absolutely disastrous season.
Tom Brady’s lack of awareness costs Patriots points
Tom Brady is not a rookie. But the Patriots quarterback made a rookie mistake at the end of the first half of Sunday’s loss to the Miami Dolphins. Inside of the five-yard line with time running out in the first half and no timeouts remaining, Brady couldn’t take a sack. Unfortunately for New England, that’s exactly what he did. Brady had plenty of time to throw the ball away before Robert Quinn dropped him. Instead, he was sacked and time expired.
Brady acknowledged his mistake, saying that he thought the Pats had another time out. In the end, the mistake cost New England what should have been an easy three points. Those proved huge at the end of the game.
NFL referees still baffled by catch rule
The 2018 season has been a disastrous one for the referees. That showed up again on Sunday at Lambeau Field. On the game’s opening possession, Atlanta receiver Julio Jones was credited with two highly controversial catches. Green Bay coach Joe Philbin challenged both, and lost both. In the end, this might not feel like a big deal. While the Falcons did score on this drive, the Packers went on to win convincingly.
But this isn’t a no-harm, no-foul situation. We’re into the final three weeks of the regular season. The postseason is right around corner. And NFL referees are still hopelessly overmatched on one of the most fundamental plays — a catch. The NFL tries to simplify this every year and every year, it seems to get screwed up more. At this point, we can only hope that this doesn’t swing a big game over these next three weeks or even worse, a playoff game. But at this point, there’s little reason for optimism.
Bill Belichick sends wrong personnel on field for Miami Miracle
As bad as Brady’s gaffe was, it should have been a footnote. With only six seconds left, the Dolphins trailed 33-28 and were 69 yards away from the end zone. Miami got the miracle it needed (watch here). Kenyan Drake found the end zone when he beat a slipping Rob Gronkowski to the corner. But why was Gronk on the field while Devin McCourty was on the bench?
Yes, Gronk is roughly eight inches taller. But Ryan Tannehill wasn’t reaching the end zone from his own 31. This was always going to be a lateral play. Gronk, a tight end who has dealt with injuries all season, brings essentially nothing to the table in that situation. New England needed real defenders — like McCourty — out there. Miami deserves praise for executing and winning the game. But the Pats did themselves no favors on Sunday.
Chris Boswell performs moving tribute to Charlie Brown
Playing in the Bay Area, the longtime home of Charles Schulz, Boswell apparently felt that Week 14 was the perfect chance to pay tribute to the “Peanuts” creator. As he was attempting a 40-yard field goal to send the game to overtime, Boswell did his best Charlie Brown impersonation. The grass at the Oakland Coliseum gamely played the role of Lucy.
Boswell’s kick never got through the line. The play perfectly summed up Pittsburgh’s collapse. For an NFL kicker, it was not a good look.
Broncos bring dud of a game plan to San Francisco
The Denver Broncos were capable of keeping George Kittle in check. We know this because Kittle didn’t catch a single pass after halftime. But for two quarters he ran absolutely wild, catching seven passes for 210 yards. It’s not as though the 49ers have many weapons to worry about, either. Containing Kittle is the key. Vance Joseph and company didn’t seem to know that.
Denver’s offense wasn’t much better. Facing a big halftime deficit, the Broncos were forced to essentially eschew field goals and punts in the second half. The good news is that Denver failed on only two fourth down attempts. But those two stuck out as particularly awful. Both times, Phillip Lindsay was expected to make a man miss, despite catching the ball with no forward momentum. He had no chance. The Broncos were much in contention heading into Week 14. But the game plan looked like one dialed up by coaches just waiting to be fired.
Chargers in Los Angeles experiment takes massive hit
The Los Angeles Chargers defeated the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 14. The crowd attending the game, however, was incredibly sparse.
Without a contending team or a big fan base, the visiting Bengals had very few fans at the StubHub Center. The seats that have so frequently been taken by opposing team’s fans over the last two years were left empty. An NFL stadium that holds fewer than 30,000 seats couldn’t come close to being filled.
This was one week after the Chargers defeated the Steelers. That game showed what a fun team this really is and also established Los Angeles as a real Super Bowl contender. It obviously made very little difference in the home market. The Chargers moving to Los Angeles has been a bumpy experiment since Day 1. Week 14 might well have been a new low.
Mike Tomlin leaves Big Ben on bench in close game
Ben Roethlisberger missed a portion of Sunday’s loss to the Steelers with a rib injury.
When the game was over, Mike Tomlin said (per ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler) that Roethlisberger actually could have returned earlier. Tomlin opted against it because “we were in the rhythm and flow of the game.”
Joshua Dobbs is an unproven quarterback with virtually no NFL experience. Replacing him with Roethlisberger might have been worth disturbing the game’s “rhythm and flow,” given that Roethlisberger is a future Hall of Famer, and all.
Jared Goff and Sean McVay overmatched in Chicago
Goff was overmatched against the mighty Chicago Bears defense, going 20-for-44 for 180 yards with no touchdowns, four interceptions, and a 19.1 passer rating. But Goff was not the only member of the Los Angeles Rams to have a terrible night. McVay also struggled. Chicago did a fantastic job defensively against Todd Gurley, keeping him to 2.5 yards a carry. But he also only carried the ball 11 times. Even if Gurley was being kept in check, just one or two big plays could have made all the difference in a low-scoring game.
Gurley needed more attempts against that defense to make something happen. Instead, McVay opted to have his struggling quarterback throw it 44 times (he was also sacked three times). The Rams are obviously still in good shape. But if this game was anything more than just an off night from the quarterback and coach, the road to the Super Bowl is much more treacherous.
Kirk Cousins continues to shrink on big stage
Cousins was hopeless on Monday night. He finished the day 20-for-33 for 208 yards and only one garbage time touchdown. While he didn’t throw an interception, he did lose a fumble, which went for a touchdown (watch here). Excluding the meaningless touchdown, Cousins was at his worst in the rare moments where his Minnesota Vikings did threaten the Seattle Seahawks. It was just a lost night.
Much like Goff with the Rams, Cousins was abysmal in Week 14. But unlike Goff, it’s been a recurring theme in 2018. Cousins has yet to beat a team with a winning record. He is also 0-7 in his career on Monday nights.
More often than not, he’s fallen well short of what should be expected from a player paid like him.