The blunders are getting even more glaring…
While the NFL season is nearing its end, the blunders are not getting any less frequent. In fact, in some cases, they’re getting even more glaring.
We’ve said this far too often in 2018, but Week 16 was rough on the officials. Their errors continue to mar otherwise very good games. But the week wasn’t all about the gaffes. Cody Kessler managed to fumble a ball out of thin air — literally.
Amazingly, though, other quarterbacks managed to trump him. The Los Angeles Chargers were done in when a veteran player made a rookie mistake. The Detroit Lions lost largely because they have no idea how to defend a Hail Mary.
Week 16 featured its share of head-scratching, embarrassing blunders around the NFL. These were the most notable among them.
Another horrible week from the zebras
Poor officiating was a storyline in at least three of Week 16’s biggest games. While the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Houston Texans anyway, officials missed a blatant facemask by Jadeveon Clowney against Nick Foles.
In the New Orleans Saints victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, Joe Haden was called for an egregious pass interference against Alvin Kamara, which set up New Orleans’ first score.
In their Sunday night win over the Kansas City Chiefs, the Seattle Seahawks had a drive extended when Doug Baldwin drew a holding foul, despite falling completely on his own out of a spin move.
Sunday was rough on the referees. We’ve said that far too often this year. And as bad as the backlash is now, wait to see what happens if the problem isn’t fixed by the time the playoffs begin. We have less than two weeks and very little reason for optimism.
Collapse from Josh Johnson ends Redskins’ season
Josh Johnson had performed gamely on Saturday against the Tennessee Titans. But that changed at the end. Trailing by three and driving across midfield, Johnson threw a ghastly interception to Kevin Byard. Making matters worse is that Josh Doctson was wide open. A completion would have put the Washington Redskins in range to at least kick the tying field goal. Washington got one more chance, which ended with a pick-six as time expired. The situation makes it tough to blame Johnson too much for that. But his pass was nowhere near any teammate. Quite frankly, the Redskins needed more from him in crunch time.
Antonio Gates’ poor ball security dooms Chargers
While the Los Angeles Chargers were offensively inept through Saturday’s game with the Baltimore Ravens, they had a chance to win late. Los Angeles was already across midfield when Philip Rivers connected with Antonio Gates. Then Gates fumbled the ball. Baltimore’s Tavon Young scooped it took it to the house, putting the game on ice (watch here). Of course, the Ravens forced the fumble. But Gates made it easier for them by not securing the ball on his way down. It was a rookie mistake from a man who’s anything but a rookie.
Jeff Driskell and Bengals have impossibly bad first half
The Cincinnati Bengals actually put up a decent second half against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately for Cincinnati, the first half couldn’t have gone much worse. Quarterback Jeff Driskell suffered through two of the worst quarters we can remember, going 2-for-6 for three yards. Worse yet, the Bengals had a net passing total of negative-15. That’s not good. The Bengals aren’t exactly playing meaningful football right now. But even in meaningless games, stretches like that show what a poor place this team is in right now. Sweeping changes are needed.
Jameis Winston coughs up Tampa’s upset bid
If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hadn’t convinced themselves that they need a new quarterback already, Sunday’s loss to the Dallas Cowboys should have been the final straw. Dallas got one of its touchdowns on a 69-yard recovery of a Winston fumble (watch here). On that play, Winston held the ball for way too long, didn’t feel the pressure coming, and lost the ball upon being hit. The second lost fumble came when Winston and Bobo Wilson botched the exchange on an end-around. That set the Cowboys offense up with a short field. They took advantage, scoring what proved to be the game winner.
In many ways, Tampa dominated Dallas on Sunday. The Bucs easily gained vastly more yards (383-232), won the first down battle (27-16), and owned time of possession (35:19-24:41). They even committed fewer penalties — though the ones they did commit went for more yards. But Winston’s errors were just too critical to overcome.
Discombobulated Lions allow easy Hail Mary
The Detroit Lions dominated the first half of Sunday’s game with the Minnesota Vikings. But Minnesota took the lead going into halftime when Kirk Cousins found Kyle Rudolph on a Hail Mary (watch here). On the play, the Lions looked completely lost. Kenny Golladay — Detroit’s six-foot-four receiver — could have knocked the ball down or at least impeded Rudolph’s vision. Instead, he was behind Rudolph. None of the Lions in front of him even got off the ground. Of course, full credit goes to Cousins and Rudolph for making the play happen. But Detroit made the play about as easy as a Hail Mary can possibly be.
Baffling fake punt from Steelers makes things easy for Saints
The officiating didn’t help the Steelers on Sunday. But that alone doesn’t let them off the hook. And while a late-game fumble from JuJu Smith-Schuster sealed the win for New Orleans, we’re crediting the Saints for that play more than blaming Smith-Schuster. What’s hard to defend is when Pittsburgh led 28-24 and faced a fourth down from its own 42. The Steelers called for a fake punt. While Roosevelt Nix’s celebration said otherwise, he was stopped well short.
Not surprisingly, Drew Brees and the New Orleans offense took advantage of the short field and scored the winning touchdown. The obvious play there is to punt. That said, we do understand not wanting to give Brees the ball back. But if that’s the case, leave the offense on the field. In no way should such a big play be trusted to someone like Nix, while Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and Smith-Schuster are on the bench. The Steelers got too cute and paid dearly for it. Because of that, they could well end up watching the playoffs at home.
Nick Mullens throws the ball, and game, away in Santa Clara
The San Francisco 49ers had one final chance to upset the Chicago Bears. But an epic mistake from Mullens brought that to an end. Facing a fourth-and-four, Mullens and the 49ers needed to pick up a first down. But on fourth down, Mullens attempted a long pass towards Marquise Goodwin. Not only was Goodwin well covered, but the ball flew out of bounds. Making matters worse, Mullens had a wide open running lane to pick up 15-20 yards and get out of bounds. With more than a minute left, that was the play. The mistake not only ended the game, but let Allen Robinson off the hook for his massive mistake.