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Ranking the 9 dumbest mistakes you might have missed from NFL Sunday in Week 8

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Jameis Winston was benched for being his most Jameis Winston, Hue Jackson doesn’t know how to use timeouts, and the Steelers don’t know the rules of football.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

NFL players don’t always get credit for making smart decisions on the football field. But we should applaud Todd Gurley when he gives up the chance at an easy touchdown because he knows the Rams can just kneel out the clock. Or Seahawks punter Michael Dicksondon’t call him “Big Balls Dickson” — when he decides to audible and run for a first down because he saw a gap.

Or sometimes they do the opposite, like how Stefon Diggs stopped running a route, leading to Kirk Cousins throwing a gimme pick-six that put the game out of reach.

We’re not here to pick on Diggs, though. That was a simple miscommunication that he took the blame for immediately after the Vikings’ loss to the Saints.

But we would like to highlight a few of the lowlights, those “what are you doooooiiiiing” brain farts that we saw around the NFL in Week 8. Here are the nine dumbest, courtesy of some NFL refs, coaches (Hue Jackson, obviously), and most of all, Jameis Winston.

9. Buffalo called timeout in a game between the Ravens and Panthers

Pete Morelli’s been officiating NFL games for over two decades now. At this point in his career, you’ve got to figure games just kind of blur together — especially by the time Week 8 rolls around.

So it’s not that surprising that he forgot which teams were playing during his Sunday assignment between the Baltimore Ravens and Carolina Panthers, neither of which are in Buffalo:

Buffalo. Baltimore. They both start with “B.” I get it.

But it’s been over a year since Morelli officiated a Bills game. Next time, he should probably double-check which cities are playing before he says something like “San Diego Chargers” or “St. Louis Rams.”

8. Tampa Bay made things so easy for Joe Mixon

The Buccaneers really aren’t good at anything defensively, but they’ve been especially terrible at stopping the pass. So that’s probably why they spent most of the day against the Bengals dropping extra players into coverage.

That didn’t work, though. Andy Dalton still finished with 280 passing yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. But the big beneficiary of the Buccaneers’ commitment to slowing Dalton was running back Joe Mixon.

Sometimes running backs face eight- or nine-man boxes, but most of the time it’s just seven. Against the Buccaneers, Mixon ate up six-man boxes that were ill-equipped to slow him down.

It’s a pick-your-poison situation for a Buccaneers defense that’s probably going to get picked apart, no matter what. But consistently putting six or fewer defenders in the box is a strategy that’s never going to work.

7. The Ravens wiped out of a gutsy fake punt due to an illegal shift

Everybody thinks they’re Sean McVay these days, so there’s not a lot of shock value when a team tries a fake punt at its own 10-yard line. It’s a little more unexpected that it would happen while that team was leading by seven points and in the first quarter, but hey, we’re all about coaches being more aggressive.

The Ravens did it early against the Panthers — and it worked. Fairly easily, too. Anthony Levine Sr. gained seven yards on fourth-and-1 and it looked like the Ravens were cooking.

And then it was nullified because of an illegal shift:

The Ravens punted after that, and the Panthers, who were perhaps a bit peeved, tied it on the next drive. Baltimore never sniffed a lead again, thanks to even more boneheaded plays — like this facepalm Joe Flacco interception — that followed.

But this was the moment when the dumbassery started.

6. Hue Jackson didn’t use a timeout for the latest in the NFL officials’ anti-Browns campaign

Cleveland’s record with the referees this fall has been ... well, let’s say less than charitable. A Week 1 roughing call helped give Pittsburgh the extra points it’d need to turn a loss into a tie. Two bad calls likely cost the Browns a win against Oakland. Two weeks ago, a missed false start call gave the Chargers the easiest touchdown they’ll score all season and contributed to a line judge getting fired.

And on Sunday, officials gave the Steelers two extra yards after third down for what appears to be no explainable reason:

Those extra yards turned fourth-and-2 into fourth-and-inches. The Steelers went for it instead of kicking a field goal and got the first down. One play later, a touchdown pass to Antonio Brown made it 14-6 Pittsburgh in the final seconds of the second quarter.

Browns head coach Hue Jackson couldn’t challenge the spot since there were less than two minutes left in the half, but he could have spent a timeout — he had three left — to give replay officials an extra opportunity to examine the bogus spot. He decided not to, and can’t really remember why:

...

5. Eli Manning’s interception in the red zone was terribad

Manning has struggled tremendously this season. After giving the Giants nothing in the red zone last week against the Atlanta Falcons, Manning followed it up with a horrible interception in the red zone against Washington.

Manning stared down Odell Beckham Jr. on the play, but even though the pass was telegraphed, Beckham would’ve had a chance to make a play on the ball if it had been remotely accurate.

To make matters worse, Evan Engram was running wide open toward the back of the end zone on a corner route.

The Manning era has produced some great moments for Giants fans, but it looks like the book is about closed on that one.

4. Green Bay fumbled away Aaron Rodgers’ chance to give us greatness

Rams head coach Sean McVay all but dared Aaron Rodgers to beat him when he ran twice facing second-and-20 deep in Packers territory, effectively settling for a 34-yard field goal that gave Los Angeles a 29-27 lead with 2:04 to play. That was set to give the two-time MVP enough latitude for what could have been his third game-winning drive in seven Green Bay games.

Instead, Ty Montgomery, who had averaged 23 yards per kick return on the afternoon to that point, decided to run back a kick that landed two yards deep into his end zone. This was not the plan, as head coach Mike McCarthy would later opine. Montgomery got all the way to the 19-yard line before fumbling. The Rams recovered, and any chance of a meaningful Rodgers two-minute drill was squashed.

That didn’t just prevent the Packers from a shot at their biggest win of the season — it also kept the Los Angeles defense from facing its biggest challenge of the season. McVay put his faith entirely on a unit that had frustrated Rodgers in stretches and gave up big plays to the veteran quarterback in others. A big stop in the final two minutes would prove that defense was truly of championship caliber.

Instead, it was the Rams’ special teams that stood up, turning Montgomery’s bad decision into a game-ender. And preventing us from see what could have been another epic Rodgers comeback.

3. Hey Steelers, a free kick is not the same as a punt

A free kick after a safety isn’t a play that teams get to practice often, but the returners on the field should still probably make sure they know the rules. When the Steelers’ Ryan Switzer got confused and let the ball drop, it left the Browns with the easiest recovery ever on what essentially became an onside punt.

The Browns were not able to advance the ball, so diving on it was the right call. But the Steelers’ blunder set up Cleveland with a short field and the Browns took advantage with a quick, four-play touchdown drive.

2. The 49ers’ final play vs. the Cardinals was ... something

The Arizona Cardinals MIGHT be the worst team in football ... and the San Francisco 49ers have lost to them twice. In a battle for suckage supremacy, the 49ers and Cardinals tried their best to lose Sunday’s game, but it was the 49ers who were ultimately successful. In losing.

And they did it in spectacular fashion.

After allowing a Cardinals go-ahead touchdown with 34 seconds left, the 49ers had a big 19-yard completion that put them near mid-field. They were trying to get into Robbie Gould’s field goal range, and had a timeout to spare to get in range for the tie.

They did not need the timeout.

Because that happened. And if you missed Sunday’s game, I assure you most of it looked like that play. It was an ugly, sloppy affair that looked like it might end 15-3 until the fourth quarter.

1. Jameis Winston deserved his benching so hard

It’s only fitting the Sunday before Halloween would bestow a little extra magic on the NFL. FitzMagic, to be specific.

The veteran quarterback got back into the Buccaneers’ lineup Sunday and nearly led the Buccaneers back from oblivion with a stirring fourth-quarter comeback. His heroics were the result of some truly awful play from starting QB Jameis Winston.

Winston threw four interceptions before being benched in favor of the journeyman backup. His second was the absolute beauty you see above.

His final attempt of the afternoon turned into a 21-yard pick-six for rookie safety Jessie Bates. That pushed Fitzpatrick into the game, and he led his club back from a 34-16 fourth quarter deficit to tie the game with just over a minute remaining. The Bengals would go on to win with a walk-off field goal, but the difference between the former Heisman winner and the veteran Harvard graduate was stark.

Winston has only played 13 quarters of the 2018 season. That hasn’t stopped him from tying for the league lead with 10 interceptions. If he played every game of the season, without suspensions or benchings, that would put him on pace for a 49-pick campaign. Amazing.