It’s easy to make fun of Andy Reid and his bad habits, but the truth is, he’s a supremely talented coach whose teams are fun and exciting in a way that stands out from the pack. This year, his Kansas City Chiefs got off to a 5-0 start by zigging while everyone else is zagging, and we’d love nothing more than to see him finally get that Super Bowl.
But man, when Reid falls back into those habits it’s extremely frustrating. You know all the talking points by now — he doesn’t run the ball enough, he burns his timeouts too early, yadda yadda. On Sunday, Reid seemed determined to fulfill every stereotype people have of him.
Granted, the Pittsburgh Steelers are a much better defense this year, and they did a good job shutting down Alex Smith and the Chiefs’ offense for the most part. The Steelers dominated time of possession and went into halftime up, 12-3. But it was more than a little curious that Kareem Hunt, the NFL’s leading rusher entering Week 6, had only four carries in the first half.
It was a bizarrely flat performance at home, and things got even weirder when the offense finally woke up in the third quarter. Smith drove the Chiefs down inside the red zone thanks to a couple of big plays to Hunt, who had 56 yards on two catches. The drive stalled out, though, with the Chiefs facing fourth-and goal from the 4-yard line. While I normally hate coaches kicking the field goal from that point, it’s defensible with a nine-point deficit, getting the score back within one possession. That’s fine, if not the most ambitious option.
Reid decided to go for it, and instead of giving the ball to Hunt — the league’s leading rusher, might I remind you — this happened.
That pretty much ended the Chiefs’ comeback attempt. They did score on the next drive to make it 12-10 Steelers, but getting no points here cost them the chance to take a lead. The Steelers eventually put the game away with an incredible fluke touchdown by Antonio Brown. As a final footnote, Hunt finished the game with just nine carries.
This is hardly the end of the world for the Chiefs. They’re still 5-1 and well in command of the AFC West. The Steelers are good whenever they decide to get out of their own way, so it’s not a shameful loss. The Chiefs can immediately right the ship when they face a spiraling Oakland Raiders team on Thursday.
Still, it was a jarring misstep for Reid, who’s done so much right this season. Let’s hope the Chiefs put that loss behind them and I don’t have to lead this column with Reid again. Stop doing this to me, Andy!
Of course, Reid was hardly the only coach to make big mistakes. Let’s run down the Week 6 list of shame.
Doug Marrone kicks a field goal on second down with the game on the line.
OK, so there’s a lot to unpack here.
The Jacksonville Jaguars and Los Angeles Rams had a wild start to their game, with LA housing the opening kickoff and Leonard Fournette taking the Jags’ first play 75 yards for a score. But from there, things settled down and became what you might expect a Jags/Rams game to look like. Jared Goff struggled from the pocket, Blake Bortles was Blake Bortles, the defenses were good, and so on.
With the Rams holding a 27-17 lead in the final minutes, the Jags were in desperate hurry-up mode. They got down to the Rams’ 36-yard line with 1:12 left and Doug Marrone called his second timeout.
Nothing unusual about that situation, right? It’s second down, the Jags still have a timeout left, and they need two scores regardless. Most coaches would just keep trying for the touchdown and take their chances on the onside kick ... but Marrone is not most coaches. He sent out his special teams unit for a 54-yard field goal instead.
I should reiterate that — the Jaguars tried a 54-yard field goal on second down, 10 points behind, with 1:12 and a timeout left. Oh, and the kicker, Josh Myers, already missed a field goal earlier in the day. He’s easily one of the worst kickers in football, but the Jags keep trotting him out for some reason.
There’s “we’re trying to hide Bortles in the offense,” and there’s “we have so little faith in Bortles that we’re trying a field goal on second down instead of letting him go for a touchdown.” Naturally, Myers missed the kick by about 50 miles and the Rams comfortably knelt out the clock.
How did Myers feel about the whole ordeal, by the way?
Jaguars PK Jason Myers on his misses: "It feels great, dude. It's fucking awesome, man."— Mark Long (@APMarkLong) October 16, 2017
The Jags are still tied for first place, because AFC South.
Mike McCarthy wastes his challenges
I’ll try not to pile on the Green Bay Packers, whose season is flipped upside down with Aaron Rodgers breaking his collarbone. But that doesn’t mean I’ll go easy on Mike McCarthy, who was careless with his challenges in a close game. I’ll let the Star-Tribune explain here:
McCarthy challenged a 20-yard completion to [Adam] Thielen, who clearly got a hand and an elbow down inbounds. Per NFL rules, a coach has to win two to get a final one. In the second half, McCarthy was unable to challenge a third-down catch in which Jerick McKinnon clearly used the ground to trap the ball. Harrison Smith’s interception in the fourth quarter was another play that might have been overturned had McCarthy not used up all his challenges.
The Packers are now handing the keys to Brett Hundley, who will be making his first NFL start next week. They also need to avoid unforced mistakes like the blown challenges if they hope to stay in the playoff race. The Vikings have already taken first place in the NFC North, so McCarthy has zero margin for error from here out.
Raiders probably should’ve let the Chargers score
“Let them score” is one of those things desperate fans yell at the TV when a loss is imminent and they’re on their eighth beer. But there’s a sliver of logic to the strategy, one that the Oakland Raiders could’ve applied against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Clinging to a 16-14 lead, the Raiders punted away to the Chargers with four minutes left, pinning them back at their own 8-yard line. Instead of getting a stop, the defense gave up huge chunk yards, letting Philip Rivers drive the Chargers down to the 26-yard line at the two-minute warning. Letting LA score here would force the Raiders to need a last-minute touchdown, but at least they’d give Derek Carr a chance to win it and still had all three timeouts left. Instead, the Chargers bled the clock in the red zone as Oakland burned its timeouts, setting up a walk-off field goal without Carr touching the ball again.
Now on a four-game losing streak, the Raiders’ dream season is quickly becoming a nightmare. They’re in must-win territory when they face the Chiefs Thursday.