This year’s Thanksgiving games turned out to be a bust, more effective than a half-pound of turkey and a bottle of red win to induce sleep. And with the Chiefs and Rams both off this week, it was fair to wonder where we’d find a little entertainment with so many seemingly lopsided matchups this Sunday.
You just have to adjust your expectations. With games like the Jaguars-Bills and Browns-Bengals, Sunday turned out to be pretty darn entertaining, a great day for anyone who likes to lulz at the expense of someone else’s favorite team.
Here are the lows from Sunday that left us anywhere from bewildered to bent over laughing.
12. The Broncos offensive line imploded at an awful time
Denver led 24-17 with a little more than five minutes to play when Case Keenum lined up for a vital third down. Gaining four yards meant salting time off the clock and potentially extending a game-sealing drive. A Steelers stop meant punting the ball back to Pittsburgh and giving Ben Roethlisberger the chance to lead his club back for a game-tying touchdown with plenty of time left on the clock.
And the Steelers didn’t just get a stop — they demoralized the Broncos’ blockers in the process.
Alexa, show me the wanton destruction of the Broncos' offensive line pic.twitter.com/MrHnAzjNiz— Christian D'Andrea (@TrainIsland) November 26, 2018
That forced a Denver punt that gave Pittsburgh the ball at its own 44-yard line with 4:26 to play.
11. Marvin Lewis gave away a timeout for no reason
Shocker that the guy who hired his ol’ friend Hue Jackson would also be bad at coaching. But that’s nothing new. Lewis decided to make an ill-advised challenge after Nick Chubb clearly converted a fourth down for the Browns.
Marvin Lewis is challenging the spot on the field after Cleveland converted the 4th down.— Cincy Jungle (@CincyJungle) November 25, 2018
The announcers were so dismissive once the red flag came out that Rich Gannon simply said, “Yeah, he’s not going to win that one” and moved on.
Gannon was right. The call stood, and Chubb scored a touchdown three plays later to put the Browns up 28-0.
10. The Vikings couldn’t get out of their own way early
There are worse ways to start a game than the Vikings’ first two drives against the Packers. But not many, short of turning the ball over. Facing a third-and-1 from their own 34-yard line, the Vikings decided, for some reason, that a fullback dive was the best play call. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t work, even though C.J. Ham came soooo close to that first down:
Then Mike Zimmer called a timeout, either to see if it was worth a challenge or to make a decision about whether to go for it on fourth-and-inches, or both. The Vikings didn’t challenge (good choice), but they did line up to go for it — and then they got penalized for 12 men on the field and had to punt anyway.
Their second drive wasn’t much better. On first down, Kirk Cousins connected with Stefon Diggs, who was tackled for a loss by his own teammate, thanks to Jaire Alexander ramming Adam Thielen into him:
Jaire Alexander runs Adam Thielen into Stefon Diggs pic.twitter.com/AVLTm8YoYC— Mike Woellert (@Mike_Woellert) November 26, 2018
On third down, Cousins and Aldrick Robinson weren’t on the same page and he threw the ball to a wide-open nobody.
Luckily for the Vikings, they woke up and scored on their next two drives.
9. Then the Packers told the Vikings, “hold my beer”
In the shocker of the day, the Packers had a fourth down at midfield and Mike McCarthy ... didn’t punt?! It’s true: He actually decided to go for it, perhaps learning a lesson from last week’s loss to the Seahawks.
Now it’ll probably never happen again.
In a tie game in the third quarter, Aaron Jones almost picked up a first down, coming up just inches short on third down. The refs took a while to spot the ball, so with the play clock winding down, McCarthy took a timeout. In that time, maybe he could have figured out that all he needed to do was quarterback sneak it. Instead, he loaded the box and ran Jones up the middle:
This cannot be your play call on 4th and inches when you have Aaron Freaking Rodgers. By bunching everyone close together, McCarthy is choosing to run into a 10-man box. This is a choice. pic.twitter.com/qBZD5JbMwe— Riley McAtee (@Riley_McAtee) November 26, 2018
The Packers turned it over on downs and the Vikings used the favorable field position to get their first lead of the game. They never trailed — or tied — again.
8. Antonio Brown: not a quarterback
The Steelers had pushed into Broncos territory when they dialed up the perfect trick play. Ben Roethlisberger’s backward pass to Antonio Brown shifted 10 members of the Denver defense to the right side of the field, leaving running back Jaylen Samuels wide open down the left sideline. Any pass within five yards of the streaking Steeler would have resulted in a walk-in touchdown.
Here’s what Brown delivered:
Three plays later, Chris Boswell would have his 48-yard field goal attempt blocked, meaning Brown’s awful pass would leave Pittsburgh’s first drive in a seven-point loss was a fruitless one.
7. The Jets gave Tom Brady an extra down
On third-and-2, Tom Brady’s deep throw to Julian Edelman fell incomplete. On the play, running back James White got flagged for a rare offensive pass interference, setting up what should have been an easy decision for the Jets. But this is the Jets; nothing is easy.
It should have been fourth-and-2 from the Jets’ 24-yard line. The Jets chose to accept the penalty, however, and the Patriots got another chance on third-and-12. Guess how that turned out?
Brady found Rob Gronkowski for a 34-yard touchdown. Instead of a likely 7-3 lead for the Jets (assuming the Patriots made the field goal on fourth-and-2), they tied it up 7-7.
the Jets had to choose between forcing the Pats into 4th-and-2 at the 24-yard line or accepting an OPI penalty that made it 3rd-and-12 from the 34. They chose the latter and gave Tom Brady an extra chance to burn the Jets.— Christian D'Andrea (@TrainIsland) November 25, 2018
never give Tom Brady an extra chance to burn the Jets pic.twitter.com/FDsHd0Guin
Even in the best case scenario, the Jets would have turned a 42-yard field goal attempt into a 52-yarder. Which seems like a nice challenge, but the Patriots roster Stephen Gostkowski, who has made 71 percent of his 50+ yard attempts over the course of an All-Pro career and 79 percent from 40-49 yards.. So the reward for New York was a negligible few percent on a field goal try and the risk was getting torched by a Hall of Fame quarterback.
And in true Jets fashion, fate landed on the latter. The Patriots scored one more touchdown for a 27-13 win.
6. The Giants decided to take it easy with a lead
Success is truly frightening to the New York Football Giants. That’s the only excuse we can think of.
With a 19-11 lead over the Eagles to start the second half, the Giants decided to give Saquon Barkley a break. All he had done in the first half was roll up more than 100 yards and two touchdowns. He touched the ball a grand total of FIVE times in the second half. Why? Head coach Pat Shurmur said after the game that he wanted “spell him a little bit.”
They didn’t press their advantage in the passing game much either, despite the fact that the Eagles secondary was wrecked. Don’t think Odell Beckham Jr. didn’t notice.
Odell Beckham: “Knowing they were struggling (with injuries) in the secondary, personally I would’ve loved to attack them. But that wasn’t in our game plan.”— Ralph Vacchiano (@RVacchianoSNY) November 25, 2018
The Eagles went on to win 25-22.
Getting conservative with a slight lead is the wrong thing to do in any game, but it’s impossible to justify in a game against a division rival. But, in Shurmur’s defense, if you’ve already won two games in a row, you obviously need to be cautious with the speed of things, you know, too much of a good thing and all that.
5. Everything Hue Jackson
Bringing back Jackson was a terrible decision all around for the Bengals. With their new assistant to the head coach focused on the defensive side of the ball, Cincy has now allowed 59 points in their last two games, including a 35-20 loss to the Browns this week.
While we’re on the subject of Jackson, his decision to bury Nick Chubb on the depth chart before the Browns canned him is even more mystifying after this week. The rookie running back had 128 yards from scrimmage this week and a pair of touchdowns.
In three games without Jackson on the sidelines, Chubb has rushed for 345 yards (including 176 last week against the Falcons) and three touchdowns, while adding another 82 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
Oh yeah, and he can do this:
4. Adam Gase called two terrible drives when it matter most
The Dolphins had a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter. Not huge, but enough that a smart team should be able to hang on to win. Enter Adam Gase.
Indianapolis claws back into it, kicking a field goal to cut its deficit to 24-17. This was Gase’s response on the next drive, starting with 8:26 left in the game at their own 25:
First-and-10: Ryan Tannehill, incomplete short right.
Second-and-10: Tannehill, incomplete short middle.
Third-and-10: Kenyan Drake tackled for a loss of 5.
If that seems backwards to you, it is. The Dolphins ran the ball well, and then decided to start a pivotal drive with two passes from Tannehill and no runs? And then on third-and-long they try to run it up the middle?
The Colts tied it up on the next drive, 24-24.
Gase got aggressive when he needed to get conservative on the last drive. Naturally he overcompensated on the next one.
With 4:20 left and backed up at their own 6, the Dolphins ran it on first down, up the middle for no gain. Tannehill threw it to DeVante Parker on second down for no gain, so it’s third-and-10. Definitely time for a draw play!
That’s exactly what happened, and guess what, it didn’t work. The Dolphins got 4 yards out of Drake’s run up the middle.
The Colts kicked a last-second game-winning field goal on the next drive.
And why did Gase go that route on his final disastrous third down?
Adam Gase: We were backed up so we decided to run it on third down at the end— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) November 26, 2018
Situational coaching at its worst!
3. Riverboat Ron folded and the Panthers’ secondary imploded at the worst possible time
Carolina held a 27-20 lead with 3:39 to play when Russell Wilson dropped back to pass on fourth-and-3. An incomplete pass could effectively have clinched a big home win for the Panthers. Instead, fill-in cornerback Corn Elder got roasted on a deep route, tying the game at 27-all as the final whistle approached.
That was brutal, but not fatal. Carolina got the ball back with a chance to string together a game-winning drive.
Starting at their own 21-yard line, the Panthers moved the ball down to the Seahawks’ 34 in under two minutes of clock time and seven plays. They had fourth-and-4 with 1:22 on the clock, and the game tied. Time for Riverboat Ron, right? Wrong.
Instead of going for it with Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey, each having a tremendous day, Maverick folded, calling in the field goal team.
Unfortunately for the Panthers, Graham Gano’s 52-yard attempt slid wide right, putting the pressure back on their beleaguered defensive backs.
And how’d that work out for them?
Seattle kicked the game-winning field goal after that. That’s three losses in a row for the Panthers, who once seemed like a lock for an NFC Wild Card spot.
2. Ben Roethlisberger brain farted the game to the Broncos
Ben Roethlisberger torched the Broncos in the face of fierce pressure when he delivered a perfect deep ball to JuJu Smith-Schuster for a 97-yard touchdown. Two passes later, he’d land on the opposite end of the spectrum.
Roethlisberger blanked a wide open tight end and then misfired when targeting a covered Antonio Brown on third-and-3, gifting Denver a momentum-shifting interception in the process. The Broncos scored a game-tying touchdown two plays later.
He wasn’t done, either. After leading the Steelers down the field on a potential game-tying drive, this was what Roethlisberger threw a pass into on third-and-goal:
It was picked by defensive lineman Shelby Harris with just over a minute left to seal the win for the Broncos.
1. Pretty much everything the Jaguars did was dumb
But let’s break it up into the dumbest thing, you know, keeping with the theme here.
Jalen Ramsey gets beat, does dumb thing
If you’re going to call a quarterback “trash,” you have to shut him down. Trash quarterback Josh Allen (not a totally inaccurate assessment, btw) completed a 32-yard pass to Kelvin Benjamin on the Bills’ first drive of the game against the Jaguars. Defending Benjamin — Jalen Ramsey, the one who dubbed Allen “trash” in the first place. Ramsey picked up a facemask penalty on that play too, pushing the Bills from their own 36 to the Jags’ 17 on the play.
Two plays later the Bills scored to get a 7-0 lead on the Jags, a team with their own trash quarterback problems.
Cover some guys!
The Bills’ second touchdown was a really easy one, thanks to a confused Jags defense. Robert Foster catches a deep shot from Allen, who made the throw with the pocket all but collapsed around him, for a 75-yard touchdown.
The Jags had four guys covering nobody, despite two receivers running deep routes. See for yourself:
This is sadly becoming a thing for the Jaguars defense. It’s the second week in a row they’ve allowed a touchdown pass of 75 yards or more. Antonio Brown caught one for 78 yards last week. They didn’t allow any completions for 75 yards or more last year.
The Bills made it 14-0 after that score, but Jacksonville actually made a game out of it. Leaning on Leonard Fournette, the Jags quickly scored a pair of touchdowns to even it up in the second quarter.
Don’t worry. They got back to doing dumb stuff soon enough.
Sure, let Blake Bortles throw the ball
The running game was working, so why not abandon it and get Bortles more involved in the game plan. Can’t let the Bills be only team with a trash QB!
On the first drive of the second half, Fournette picked up 7 yards on first down. Bortles threw it incomplete on second, and they passed again on third. Needless to say, it didn’t work. But we got to see this beauty of a pass.
How is this an NFL quarterback pic.twitter.com/yvpf0Myp2N— Adam Stites (@AdamStites_) November 25, 2018
Tom Coughlin is sitting in the next booth over. After that brutal Bortles pass, he just bowed his head in disbelief and shook it— Sal Maiorana (@salmaiorana) November 25, 2018
We are all Tom Coughlin ... well, except for actually having the ability to do something about Bortles at quarterback.
It just got dumber and dumber from there. They almost had a touchdown. That was immediately followed by a huge fight that resulted in the Jaguars losing their best player. They almost salvaged that sequenced with a touchdown, but that one got called back because of a holding call. Then, the kicker missed an easy field goal, his first miss inside the 50 in 28 attempts.
And just for the final indignity ...
Jaguars punt at fourth-and-4 at midfield while losing by 7 with 9 minutes left in the fourth quarter.— Michael David Smith (@MichaelDavSmith) November 25, 2018
But let’s be real, everything you do is dumb when Blake Bortles is your starting QB.