There weren’t many surprises Sunday in the NFL. The best teams (Patriots, 49ers, Saints, Packers) kept winning. The worst teams (Bengals, Jets, Falcons) kept losing. With Washington dropping its Thursday night game and the Dolphins probably doing the same on Monday night, Week 8 stands to be our chalkiest one yet this season.
Despite the lack of drama on the scoreboard, there was plenty of it on the field — mostly of the humiliating variety. It started when the Jaguars and their fans spent most of the day mercilessly teasing Sam Darnold, the Job (biblical version) of the NFL.
It continued on, with the Titans and Bucs trading self-inflicting turnovers, the Chargers and Bears trying to gift-wrap a win for the other team, and the risk-averse Broncos getting called out by the expert in all things boring, Joe Flacco.
However, the biggest “STOP HITTING YOURSELF” lowlight of the day came from the most predictable source. The Browns dug themselves into an early hole against the Patriots with a three-turnover sequence, each increasingly more embarrassing than the one before.
And somehow, the mistakes this week didn’t end there.
10. The Falcons had little interest in trying to beat the Seahawks
You’d think in the middle of a 1-7 season, Falcons head coach Dan Quinn would be coaching for his job. But Quinn was oddly conservative down 3-0 early against the Seattle Seahawks. Facing a fourth-and-1, Quinn opted to try for a 51-yard field goal. The Falcons missed it, and Seattle countered with a touchdown drive to go up 10-0.
What’s worse might be how unprepared the Falcons’ defense was on the touchdown:
On the other hand, Quinn might be doing exactly what he’s supposed to be doing — tanking so the Falcons can draft Ohio State DE Chase Young:
did y’all see chase young yesterday? dan quinn is doing a fine job— Harry Lyles Jr. (@harrylylesjr) October 27, 2019
9. Melvin Gordon blocked the wrong guy, then had to make a touchdown-saving tackle
Gordon’s spent the past four weeks shaking off the rust accumulated in a contract holdout. It’s safe to say there’s still a little bit of corrosion left to work through. When quarterback Philip Rivers pointed out an oncoming Bears blitz deep in his own territory, Gordon stepped up to handle the onslaught — and picked up the wrong guy.
Rivers makes a pre-snap adjustment to counter the Bears' oncoming blitz. Melvin Gordon picks up a player who's already being blocked instead of the free man, and Rivers throws off his back foot for an easy pick— Christian D'Andrea (@TrainIsland) October 27, 2019
at least Gordon got the touchdown saving tackle? pic.twitter.com/4J9gsoNnuL
Seconds later, Chicago was rumbling toward the end zone after an interception.
At least Gordon’s make-up effort on the tackle was worthwhile. The Bears settled for a field goal four plays later, and the Chargers ended up with a one-point win.
8. Bruce Irvin gave the 49ers the underrated fuel they’ll use for months
It can get hard to keep playing the disrespected card when wins are piling up. The Patriots somehow managed to act like they were the Cinderella story of 2018 on their way to a sixth Super Bowl win in the 21st century. But that took a special amount of delusion to pull off.
The 49ers are 7-0 and just one of those wins was within a touchdown. A 51-13 destruction of the Panthers in Week 8 was their most impressive performance to date. At some point, it’ll be trickier for San Francisco to find bulletin board material if it keeps laying opponents to waste.
That is, unless there are more guys like Bruce Irvin on the docket. The Panthers linebacker refused to give the 49ers much credit immediately after he was handed a 38-point loss.
I asked Panthers end Bruce Irvin just how good this 49ers team is. “They’re OK. They’re OK. They’re not world-beaters,” he said. My guess is SF will use this as another log on the motivational fire.— Jim Trotter (@JimTrotter_NFL) October 27, 2019
There’s a solid chance both the Panthers and 49ers will make the playoffs. If we get a January rematch, you better believe there will be plenty of talk about Irvin’s Week 8 comments. Even if there isn’t, the 49ers will probably cling to his “not world-beaters” description for the rest of the year.
7. The Broncos burned a timeout because the battery in Joe Flacco’s headset died
It was a bit confusing when Joe Flacco walked off the field as the play clock wound down late in the third quarter against the Colts. Instead of directing traffic for a first-and-20 play, he opted to burn a timeout after a fruitless huddle. It was a decision that didn’t make much sense on the surface, until the CBS broadcast team got the inside scoop. Flacco couldn’t hear any of the plays coming in from the sideline because the transmitter inside his helmet had died.
Flacco’s midgame maintenance meant the Broncos were forced to use a valuable timeout late in a tight game during a drive with limited prospects. And it wasn’t as though the veteran QB missed much once he finally got his headset fixed — the play he missed turned out to be a fairly predictable 6-yard screen to tailback Phillip Lindsay.
The Colts took a 15-13 lead late, giving the Broncos the ball back with 22 seconds — and no timeouts.
Speaking of Flacco ...
6. The Colts indulged Joe Flacco’s Lamar Jackson cosplay
Flacco has played in the NFL for roughly 12 years. He entered Week 8 with 822 career rushing yards — or 4.8 per game. He is not a mobile quarterback.
So when he does this to you, it’s time to reexamine your defensive philosophy.
i take back any nice thing i've ever said about the Colts defense pic.twitter.com/swMx1bxbIM— Christian D'Andrea (@TrainIsland) October 27, 2019
That scramble helped set up a 29-yard field goal and bumped up Flacco’s career average to 4.9 rushing yards per game.
5. Three Bengals defenders could’ve had an easy pick and whiffed
Cincinnati dropped to 0-8 on Sunday, losing 24-10 to the Los Angeles Rams in London. Late in the fourth quarter, the Cincy defense nearly picked off a Jared Goff pass attempt to Cooper Kupp. But in classic Bengals fashion, even three defenders couldn’t make the play. No seriously, this ball bounced off three different guys’ hands before falling incomplete:
Not sure what else there is to say about this other than, Go Bengals?
4. The Browns’ own offensive lineman forced a fumble with his foot
Yes, it appears as if the Browns are officially back to the same team we constantly make fun of. During their 27-13 loss to the Patriots, Cleveland literally forced its own fumble. In the first quarter down 3-0, Browns guard Joel Bitonio inadvertently kicked the ball out off Nick Chubb’s hands, and Dont’a Hightower recovered it and took it to the house for a touchdown:
Only the Cleveland Browns....— Jake Burns (@jake_burns18) October 28, 2019
One the most reliable ball security RBs getting stripped by his own pulling guard's foot.
Bitonio's foot literally slides down the ball & pulls Chubb's hand off the ball for a split second...all you need in driving rain.
TD return, bc, of course. pic.twitter.com/UbMO8fGkLK
If it makes you feel better, Browns, at least the Patriots do this sort of thing to every team they face.
3. Breshad Perriman made one helluva tackle (on his own running back)
A draw up the middle out of shotgun on third-and-goal from the 4-yard line doesn’t leave much room for error. Especially if the play’s most dangerous tackler is already a couple yards behind the line of scrimmage and streaking toward the tailback:
If you own Breshad Perriman at WR in an IDP league, do you get a point for a tackle on this play? pic.twitter.com/Dt0ZApbT3U— DK Nation (@DKNatn) October 27, 2019
That’s Breshad Perriman, signed away from the Browns to bolster the Buccaneers’ wideout position in 2019, coming down the line in motion with the horrific timing needed to completely derail a vital play before it could even begin. Dare Ogunbowale lost two yards after getting smoked by his own teammate.
Tampa was forced to settle for a 24-yard field goal seconds later, in a game it lost by four.
2. The Bears went into victory formation, then lost
The Bears know a thing or two about missed field goals. They were embroiled in one of the weirdest kicker battles this past offseason after Cody Parkey missed a field goal that ended the Bears’ season in the playoffs. They eventually settled for Eddy Pinero, who so far has been pretty dang effective this season.
Perhaps too effective. From the Chargers’ 21-yard line with 43 seconds left on the clock and a timeout in their pocket, the Bears elected to take a knee. There was plenty of time to run a couple of plays, even just simple runs to try and make it a bit of an easier kick.
Nope. Matt Nagy, showing what appears to be a significant lack of faith in his own offense, called the “victory formation” kneeldown. You can guess what happened next: Pinero’s field goal was no good, sailing wide left:
The Bears lost to the Chargers, 17-16, as a result.
1. The referees cost the Bucs a game-winning TD on a bad fake field goal by the Titans
Not only do we have a dumb mistake by a football team, we’ve got one from the referees, too. Leading by four points with less than four minutes remaining, the Titans were in field goal range, enough to put them up by a touchdown. Instead, they ran a fake field goal that went extremely poorly.
And the Titans kicker or holder got destroyed on the rush attempt! pic.twitter.com/z8B9K0tZvZ— Geoff Schwartz (@geoffschwartz) October 27, 2019
They picked up no yards on the play and fumbled. It was recovered by the Buccaneers, who took it all the way back for a touchdown that would have given them the lead.
But the the referees blew an early whistle, which ultimately prevented the Buccaneers from advancing the football. Early whistles are among the most frustrating things in the NFL (and keep happening to NFC South teams).
Although the Buccaneers had another couple opportunities to win the game, it still feels like the referees cost them a win on Sunday. Meanwhile, the Titans are lucky that they were saved from their own terrible decisions — for the second week in a row.