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Falcons and Saints even competed over which coach could make dumbest decision of NFL Week 14

There were some big coaching gaffes this week, but the Saints-Falcons rivalry takes top honors.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Falcons came back to beat the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night, improving to 8-5 and jumping back into the playoff picture. It was doubly impressive that they won despite so many mistakes, including three interceptions from Matt Ryan. Head coach Dan Quinn also made a bone-headed error at the end that could’ve cost the Falcons the game.

After Atlanta took a 20-17 lead, Drew Brees drove the Saints down into field-goal range with just two minutes left. It had the look and feel of a vintage Brees comeback, especially with Alvin Kamara in concussion protocol. The Saints’ drive stalled at the 24-yard line, setting up fourth-and-1. However, offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk got called for holding on the previous play, which would’ve pushed them back 10 yards.

Accepting the penalty seems like a no-brainer, forcing the Saints into a long third down and potentially a 50-yard field goal attempt that would’ve only tied the game. But Quinn made a baffling choice to decline, meaning that the Saints needed only 1 yard to continue the drive. Sure enough, Sean Payton went for it and Brees got the first down on a sneak.

Luckily for Quinn, Deion Jones saved him from certain doom by picking off Brees in the end zone, sealing the win. The Falcons are now back in the wild card picture, and the Saints missed a chance to salt away their Southern rivals in the division race. But Quinn came way too close to blowing it, adding more misery on a Falcons team that’s taken a big step back from last year’s Super Bowl run.

So that was the biggest coaching mistake of Week 14, and it happened way back on Thursday. Let’s take a look at the other major gaffes of the week.

Sean Payton doesn’t help his team’s cause

Oh, you thought that was the only mistake on Thursday? Despite the backbreaking interception, the Saints weren’t dead yet. They still had two timeouts with 1:30 left and could have gotten the ball back if the defense forced a three-and-out.

The Falcons ran Devonta Freeman for just 4 yards in two plays, so things went according to plan. But apparently the officials didn’t hear Payton call his last timeout. He ended up running onto the field to yell at a ref, triggering a 15-yard penalty for sideline interference and a Falcons first down. Just like that, the Saints were out of timeouts and Atlanta kneeled out the clock.

At some point, we should probably think about an automated system for coaches to call timeouts, so stuff like this doesn’t happen. (Why are we still making them run around the sidelines and make frantic hand signals in 2017?) Still, coaches running on the field is a huge no-no, and Payton should’ve known better. It was not an inspiring performance by the Saints, all things considered.

Mike Mularkey possibly blows the game on a bad fake punt

If you watched the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, you would hardly guess that they’re in contention for a division title. The Titans fell to 8-5 after a dismal game against the Arizona Cardinals, with Marcus Mariota continuing to play poorly. (It was later revealed that he played through a knee injury.) One of the key turning points was a failed fake punt attempt in their own territory:

The Cardinals scored a field goal on the ensuing drive, turning a 7-3 Titans lead into 7-6 and ultimately swinging the game down the stretch. Arizona came away with a 12-7 win, but the Titans’ final drive might’ve gone differently if they needed only a field goal instead of a touchdown to win.

As it stands, the Week 17 contest with the Jacksonville Jaguars (9-4 after a convincing win over the Seattle Seahawks) looms large right now.

Chiefs somehow save the Raiders from a delay of game

The Kansas City Chiefs handled the Oakland Raiders pretty easily, getting a 26-15 win over a Raiders team that almost completely no-showed. Yet despite snapping a four-game losing streak, Andy Reid still had his moments.

Check out this strange sequence with the Raiders going for it on fourth down. The play clock got close to zero, and Oakland is clearly panicking to get the play off...but Kansas City calls the timeout instead:

It looks like Reid didn’t like what he saw on defense, as you can see him chewing out defensive coordinator Bob Sutton. Still, if they waited another second or two it probably would’ve been a delay of game, and they get extra time to talk about the play anyway.

The Raiders scored a touchdown on the next play, making the final score look somewhat less embarrassing. The Chiefs will take any result they can as they try to get their season back on track, but this was still a bizarre situation that didn’t really need to happen.

Chuck Pagano counts down the days until Black Monday

The Indianapolis Colts/Buffalo Bills snow epic was many things, but “good coaching” wasn’t one of them. We could go on about Sean McDermott, who made the excruciating decision to punt on fourth-and-1 from the Colts’ 41-yard line in overtime. That could’ve been disastrous if the Colts had any semblance of a dangerous offense, but the bigger mistake might’ve happened in regulation, where the Colts had a chance to win with an Adam Vinatieri field goal.

Indy had the ball at the 28 with 52 seconds left, setting up a potential 43-yarder. That’s a risky proposition in blizzard conditions, but instead of trying to get one more play and move the ball closer, the Colts let the clock run all the way down to six seconds before Jacoby Brissett spiked it. Vinatieri pushed his kick wide left, and Indy lost in OT.

The Colts are now 3-10, their worst season since 2011, and with Andrew Luck facing real questions about his future. Whoever replaces Pagano will have an unenviable task of turning this ship around.

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