This Sunday in the NFL had a face only a mother could love. Just a few days after the Saints lost to the Cowboys in a messy 13-10 game on Thursday night, we got an even lower-scoring game between the Colts and Jaguars. In Cody Kessler’s first start since Blake Bortles’ benching, Jacksonville held on for a 6-0 win.
Yes, SIX POINTS in the year 2018, when every team is practically floated 21 points just for showing up.
Even the Rams and Chiefs — both of which still put up points Sunday — had to fight much harder than they should’ve had to against two teams that we all usually just laugh at (the Lions and Raiders, respectively).
We had a plethora of choices, but somehow we narrowed this week’s list down to the 10 dumbest mistakes. Here they are, from Mike McCarthy’s swan song to the Bills reclaiming their rightful throne as the king of the brain farts.
10. Mike McCarthy went out on a very Mike McCarthy note
We spent more than a few column inches last week pointing out how bad the Packers are right now. Maybe we should have saved it for this week, because nothing says “we are officially a bad team now” like losing 20-17 AT HOME to the hapless Arizona Cardinals.
And there’s no one backbreaking decision that sealed their fate. It was just more stuff like this from head coach Mike McCarthy, er, ex-head coach.
It was third-and-10 at the 50 early in the first quarter, and Aaron Rodgers wasn’t throwing the ball. Nope. The Packers handed it off and ran it up the middle for no gain.
Mike McCarthy is trying to get fired pic.twitter.com/rcRIvR74kj— Christian D'Andrea (@TrainIsland) December 2, 2018
That’s what giving up looks like.
Is anyone really surprised by McCarthy getting fired this week?
9. Hey look, an extremely Eli INT
The Giants did end up beating the Bears this week, thanks in part to some truly #elite quarterback play from Odell Beckham Jr., two picks from linebacker Alec Ogletree, and 125 rushing yards from Saquon Barkley.
Eli Manning did his part too, mostly by not screwing up too much. He did throw one of those really boneheaded interceptions that he’s had a real knack for over the years. Just watch.
Eli Manning throws an absolute dart to Bears CB Kyle Fuller. pic.twitter.com/w6vuvjYnfQ— Field Yates (@FieldYates) December 2, 2018
8. The Falcons are out of ideas
Trailing by just three points, the Falcons had a third-and-1 at their own 34-yard line midway through the third quarter. It’s a situation where they can dial up just about anything they want, just about.
The one play that maybe isn’t the best in that spot: a deep shot on a direct snap to a wide receiver. And that’s exactly what Atlanta called at that moment, a snap to Mohamed Sanu, who tried to find Julio Jones on the deep left side of the field.
It was waaaaaay overthrown. Jones never had a chance to catch it.
That was the first incomplete pass of Sanu’s career. He had previously been 6-for-6 in his career with three touchdowns. He was the only player in NFL history with with six or more attempts to have a perfect passer rating and completion percentage.
The Ravens kicked a field goal on the drive after that, and from there, the Falcons never had a chance to win it.
7. Antonio Callaway had two big plays on the same drive that both got erased
It’s hard enough to get one 70-yard catch in a game. It’s even harder to get two of them. But it really takes something special to have two plays of 70 yards or more on the same drive and have both of them wiped out.
Trailing 26-7 late in the third quarter against the Texans, the Browns were running out of chances to stage a comeback. But on second-and-11 Baker Mayfield fired a deep shot to Callaway that sure looked like a 76-yard touchdown. It was, except a holding penalty negated it.
Not to be deterred, the Browns tried again two plays later. Callaway caught the ball at the 43 or so, and was on his way to a 73-yard touchdown. But he fumbled it at the 2.
This could not have been more Antonio Callaway unless he also dropped the ball three times somehow: pic.twitter.com/VwBNtYNkU7— Rivers McCown (@riversmccown) December 2, 2018
That ol’ Browns magic we know and love isn’t dead after all.
6. Raven Greene dropped what would have been a game-changing interception
What’s worse for the Packers: the fact they lost to a formerly 2-9 Cardinals team to snuff out their playoff hopes, or that they lost to a rookie quarterback who thought this was a good idea?
Josh Rosen put this ball on a platter for rookie safety Raven Greene late in a 17-17 game, but the undrafted free agent couldn’t turn Rosen’s mistake into prime field position for Aaron Rodgers. Nine plays later, Arizona would kick a field goal that wound up as the game’s winning points.
5. You can’t run from Aaron Donald
It was first-and-10 late in the fourth quarter. The Lions were trying to push the ball onto the Rams’ side of the field, trailing 16-13 and with a real shot to beat the NFC’s best team. That’s when the Matthew Stafford magic kicked in.
Aaron Donald broke through the offensive line. Stafford was dancing around with the ball, trying to find someone to throw it to. He tried to turn and run from Donald, without much though for ball security. It didn’t work. It never does.
Donald brought him down for a 13-yard loss, and better yet, forced a fumble that the Rams recovered deep in the Lions’ side of the field. The Rams scored three plays later.
Aaron Donald is going to win Defensive Player of the Year againpic.twitter.com/L7RaueJ7wx— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) December 2, 2018
4. Fourth downs are hard ... for the Colts
After last week’s meltdown, how would the Jaguars respond? Well, it looked like the Jags responded with another one when they gave the Colts a new set of downs from the Jags’ 5-yard line after a roughing the snapper penalty on Indy’s second-quarter field goal attempt.
The Colts failed to turn into any points at all thanks in large part to really strange call on fourth-and-1. After three straight passing attempts, the Colts dialed up another one: a shovel pass to Jordan Wilkins. Head coach Frank Reich defended the call, pointing out that they’ve practiced that play for those situations. He also said they’d practiced the passes to Andrew Luck lined up as a wide receiver earlier in the season, so maybe they should have dialed up that one instead.
Or, better yet, in this game, maybe calling in the field goal team was the way to go there. Sure, normally, being conservative is bad, but with a final score of 6-0, it was clear that ANY points were hard to come by.
The Colts were blanked on three fourth-down attempts by the Jaguars defense.
This one is going to cost the Colts, maybe even taking them out of the playoff race. You could probably go all the way back to another fourth down call from Reich, back in Week 4 that resulted in an overtime loss to the Houston Texans.
3. Jon Gruden strikes again
Maybe Jon Gruden didn’t have time to brush up on the league’s challenge rules before his big disappointing coaching comeback this season.
With seven seconds left in the first half, the Chiefs had just scored a touchdown, a 6-yard catch by Travis Kelce that, in fairness, did look slightly questionable. Gruden challenged it.
The problem with that is two-fold. First, coaches can’t challenge scoring plays called on the field. Second, they can’t challenge anything inside the two-minute mark of the first or second half.
That cost the Raiders a timeout, which wouldn’t have really helped them much anyway. It’s just fun to watch Gruden struggle.
2. The Steelers went offsides THREE TIMES during the Chargers’ game-winning field goal
It’s possible that the Chargers found an amulet that caused them to swap bodies with the Steelers, a la Freaky Friday or Vice Versa or Like Father, Like Son or that episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer with the Buffy-Faith switcheroo — whichever reference you prefer.
There’s no other way to really explain how the Chargers, of all teams, got so many lucky breaks against the Steelers, of all teams.
It’s almost impossible to only highlight ONE mistake; there were many, by the Steelers and the officials. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about that ending.
Other than the Bucs and the Vikings during the playoffs, the Chargers are the most kicker-cursed team in the NFL. So when it looked like they were setting up for a game-winning field goal as time expired, we knew how this would end: with a missed kick.
And when rookie Mike Badgley, the Chargers’ sixth kicker in two years, lined up for the 39-yarder, that’s exactly what happened. The Chargers will forever be damned — but wait! There was a flag.
Joe Haden was called for offsides. Badgley had a chance at redemption, a chance to wash away the sins of all the other Chargers kickers before him.
His second attempt was blocked.
But wait — another flag! This time, Artie Burns was called for offsides.
So on the third try, now a 29-yarder, Badgley nails it — and yes, the Steelers were called for offsides again.
The aggressiveness was obviously part of the Steelers’ plan, but it was so unnecessary. The only tactic they needed in this case was to just let the Chargers be the Chargers.
Instead, they gave the Chargers permission to break free from a hex that has plagued them — unless all night, the Steelers were really the Chargers and the Chargers were really the Steelers.
1. The Bills got into comeback range, promptly vomited all over themselves
Buffalo had several chances to win Sunday’s game against the Dolphins. But whenever the Bills got close, they found a way to be their own worst enemy. This cycle began early in the third quarter when rookie quarterback Josh Allen completely blanked a wide open Zay Jones on what could have been a game-tying touchdown.
And then Sisyphus’ boulder gained momentum. Back-to-back sacks with under six minutes to play forced Sean McDermott to attempt a 55-yard field goal in a 21-17 game on fourth-and-23. It went wide left. But that didn’t sink Buffalo’s comeback hopes; this did.
That’s a wide open Charles Clay failing to connect with Allen on what would have been a lead-taking touchdown with 53 seconds left to play. Instead, the ball fell to the turf and the Dolphins took over on downs, securing a 21-17 victory for the home team.
That’s the Bills team we all know and ... love?