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Ranking the 10 dumbest mistakes from a thankfully silly Sunday in NFL Week 11

Jon Gruden went to the locker room too early, the Broncos’ poor clock management proved costly, and yep, even the refs don’t know what PI is.

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

If NFL Week 10 was defined by the unexpected, Week 11 was all about a return to normalcy. And just like Warren G. Harding’s presidency, this week did not lack any drama whatsoever.

It started on Thursday, when a brawl between the Steelers and Browns turned into Myles Garrett getting served an indefinite suspension for hitting Mason Rudolph with his own helmet. It continued on Saturday, with Colin Kaepernick deciding to hold his own workout rather than meet the NFL’s weird and unreasonable demands.

So yeah, the week was already A LOT before we got to Sunday. Luckily, that’s when the NFL decided to chill and give us some good old-fashioned goofiness. Most of Sunday’s dumbest mistakes were of the light-hearted variety, a nice reprieve from the more serious NFL happenings leading up to it. (The rest? All we can say is the refs are at it again.)

Overall, it was an enjoyable Sunday of football. Well, except for anyone who tuned in for the rock fight between the Bears and Rams on Sunday Night Football. We’re sorry. Next time, just watch Watchmen instead. That’s what we should’ve done.

Our poor viewing choices aside, here are the other lapses in judgment around the NFL in Week 11:

10. The Ravens tried a fake field goal (not well, mind you)

John Harbaugh has Lamar Jackson at quarterback, which means he’s got way better options on fourth-and-4 than a fake field goal carry from a tight end. And yet, Jackson stayed on the bench as the Ravens failed to fool Houston with a fake field goal from 55 yards out.

Mark Andrews lost two yards on the ill-devised play, making it just the fourth time in 14 attempts the Ravens had gone for it on fourth down and failed to convert.

Luckily for the Ravens, they didn’t end up needing those points against the Texans after going on to cream them 41-7.

9. Jon Gruden thought the first half was over when it wasn’t

The Bengals missed a field goal near the end of the first half against the Raiders. Apparently, Oakland head coach Jon Gruden thought that was the actual end of the half.

Not exactly! There were four seconds left on the clock and Gruden’s team had to run a play. But Gruden had already jogged off into the tunnel by himself:

Gruden eventually realized the half wasn’t over, and jogged back out. Derek Carr took a knee, and Gruden turned right back around to go into the tunnel again: Little things like the game clock are of little concern to the man!

Obviously, that’s an exaggeration. Mistakes happen. Fortunately, the potential negative effects are ... dunno, Carr going crazy and throwing a Hail Mary instead of a kneeldown, because what else do you do when your coach is gone? Think how surprised Gruden would be if he left briefly, came back, and his team had another touchdown! Or the other team had one ...

OK, that’d be unlikely. But admit it, you could totally see the Raiders doing that.

8. The 49ers had yet ANOTHER touchdown called back

Trailing the Cardinals in the second half, the 49ers got a touchdown out of tight end Ross Dwelley to take the lead.

Or, uh, they would have taken the lead if the touchdown counted. Instead, it was called back due to a holding penalty on Weston Richburg. The 49ers are very used to this kind of thing, as they have now had seven (7!) touchdowns called back due to penalties this season.

No, really. They had three of them in Week 1 against the Buccaneers, one against the Bengals, one against the Panthers, and one in each game against the Cardinals this season. Two were offensive pass interference calls, four were holding calls, and one was an illegal formation.

It’s worth noting that the holding on Richburg was questionable:

And there was another one on him later in the game that made no sense (and it came immediately after the Cardinals got screwed on a bad call, so ... balance?), but still. This is officially a trend for the 49ers.

They would go on to beat the Cardinals in a game that went down to the wire, and it’s because it went down to the wire that this trend is problematic. The 49ers haven’t lost any of the games in which they’ve had a touchdown called back, but there have been some close calls. Eventually, sloppy play in and around the red zone could bite them.

7. Taven Bryan cost the Jaguars by not falling on a fumble

We can only imagine the dreams that 300-pound players have about scoring touchdowns. It had to be what Jaguars defensive tackle Taven Bryan was thinking when a fumble bounced across the turf right in front of him. Instead of falling on it and securing a possession for the Jaguars deep in Colts territory, he tried to scoop it up. You can guess how that scenario ended.

The mistake by Bryan erased a chance to take over just outside the red zone late in the first half. The Jaguars forced a punt one play later, but got the ball on their own 23-yard line — essentially making it a 50- to 60-yard error. Nick Foles throwing an interception on the very first play of Jacksonville’s ensuing drive didn’t help much either.

6. Sam Darnold showed he needs to learn when a play is dead

A big reason the Jets drafted Darnold with the No. 3 overall pick in 2018 was because he thrives in chaos and keeps plays alive. Sometimes, though, he does that a little too much.

The Jets were in control from start to finish against Washington, so there was no reason for Darnold to force a throw into traffic when a screen play fell apart. Especially a throw downfield when he had a defender in his face.

The Washington offense stalled immediately, but was still set up close enough to kick a 44-yard field goal and get on the scoreboard. The interception was Darnold’s 10th of the year in only seven games.

His four touchdowns showed why the future can still be bright for Darnold, but the turnovers have to stop eventually.

5. Kyle Allen’s first of four INTs was a horrible decision all around

Sunday was not Kyle Allen’s day. The second-year Panthers quarterback threw for 325 yards, but he also had zero touchdowns and four interceptions in a 29-3 loss to the Falcons.

The first of those picks came in the first quarter, and well, it set the tone for the whole game:

It’s the first quarter and you’re only down 3-0. Next time, just throw it away.

The Falcons’ defense came into the game with just two picks, while Allen now has nine interceptions in the last four weeks (cc: Cam Newton).

4. O.J. Howard launched himself back into Bruce Arians’ doghouse

Howard had 565 receiving yards in 10 games last season, but he’d fallen out of favor with his offense under new head coach Arians this fall. He’d been held out of the end zone and had only 2.2 catches per game until Week 10, when he emerged for a season-high seven targets, four receptions, and a touchdown.

Any argument that made about his place in the Buccaneers’ lineup was quickly undone on Sunday.

The Saints turned this opportunity into a touchdown one play later, giving them an early 13-0 lead. Howard didn’t see a target the rest of the day.

3. The officials failed to call PI on Marlon Humphrey ... twice

Deshaun Watson got bold facing fourth-and-2 at the Baltimore 33. He launched a pass to his single-covered All-Pro wideout, then waited for DeAndre Hopkins to make a play. Except he couldn’t, because cornerback Marlon Humphrey was draped all over him.

Officials didn’t see any pass interference on the play, so Houston coach Bill O’Brien threw a challenge flag in hopes they’d reconsider. As is tradition, they did not, and instead of getting a first down at the 1-yard line, the Texans ceded the ball to the Ravens at the 33.

Hopkins voiced his displeasure with the non-call after and will likely face a fine for doing that — even though he’s very, very right.

2. The refs flagged a Cardinals linebacker for getting tackled

Pass interference is a disaster in 2019. Not because officials are any worse at figuring out whether or not they should throw the flag, but because there’s now an option to challenge and it’s mostly pointless. In almost all cases, a replay review doesn’t overturn the call on the field (the Hopkins play on this list is a perfect example).

That’s probably why Kliff Kingsbury didn’t challenge the very silly defensive pass interference call on linebacker Joe Walker.

His crime on the play was getting tackled by 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk, apparently.

Kingsbury actually pulled off the rare successful challenge of pass interference earlier in the game. If he pulled it off again, he would’ve received a third challenge, but that was a risky proposition early in the third quarter with so much game left to play. The decision paid off when Jimmy Garoppolo threw an interception a few plays later.

1. The Broncos wasted so much clock at the end of the game

Minnesota came back from a 20-0 deficit to take a four-point lead against Denver with 6:01 left. The Broncos returned the ensuing kickoff to the 40-yard line, leaving them with more than enough time for a 60-yard drive for a game-winning touchdown.

Somehow, though, the Broncos ran out of time despite the Vikings never touching the ball again.

In the first four minutes of the drive, Denver ran 11 plays (two were erased by penalties) and got 30 yards. That’s rough clock management, but hey, the Broncos still had one timeout and only needed 30 more yards in the last two minutes. That’s when they had the great idea to go even slower.

Just look at the huge 20-30 second chunks of clock disappearing between plays after the two-minute warning.

The last play of that time suck was a clutch first down by Brandon Allen, followed by the Broncos casually allowing nearly 20 of the last 30 seconds of the game tick off the clock.

In the last 10 seconds, the Broncos threw three passes to the end zone and all of them were incomplete. The running game wasn’t an option because Denver wouldn’t have time to stop the clock. There also wasn’t time for a fourth-down try.

An argument could be made for trying not to score too fast, but it’s a significant problem if you aren’t leaving yourself time to score at all in the first place.