Just when you think this NFL season couldn’t get weirder, a day like Sunday happens. It started off with a t-shirt beef between the Steelers and Browns. It ended with the Texans beating the Patriots for just the second time ever and the first since a meaningless Week 17 meeting 10 years ago.
In between, the Dolphins, who some thought could be a historically bad team, won their third game of 2019. The Bengals won a game, officially ending all hopes for (or dreading of) an 0-16 season. And Washington is somehow still alive in the NFC East race.
Week 13 didn’t just deliver unexpected outcomes. It also gave us some plays that were bat-fecal crazy. There was DeAndre Hopkins’ reverse option pitch to Deshaun Watson, the Dolphins’ punter-to-kicker touchdown, and the Titans’ blocked field goal turned touchdown that helped them conquer the Colts for only the fourth time in their last 23 tries.
Frequently throughout Sunday, we were all left looking like Jon Gruden during a trip to Oz:
Me thinking about how much food I've eaten since Thursday and how little I've worked out pic.twitter.com/Am9IKE3edw— Morgan Moriarty (@Morgan_Moriarty) December 1, 2019
Luckily, we can take comfort in one constant each week in the NFL: There will always be dumb mistakes. Here are our top 10 from this Sunday:
10. Antoine Bethea couldn’t handle Allen Lazard’s 30-degree angle
Late in the first quarter, the Giants fell back into quarters coverage for a second-and-1 play against the Packers in their own territory. That put pressure on Bethea’s shoulders to handle wideout Lazard from his position near the slot.
Bethea was not ready for this pressure.
Allen Lazard really hit 'em with the ...uh, slight change in direction pic.twitter.com/SEJlxO5o5A— Christian D'Andrea (@TrainIsland) December 1, 2019
9. Tahir Whitehead got two penalties on the same play to give the Chiefs a first down
The Raiders didn’t have much of a chance in Kansas City after falling behind 21-0 at halftime, but they were still clinging to hope when they backed the Chiefs into a third-and-11 situation in the third quarter. Oakland needed a big play to shut down Kansas City and jump start its comeback. Whitehead was hell bent on getting it on an inside blitz.
And in the process, he gifted the Chiefs a fresh set of downs.
Tahir Whitehead with the rare offside/late hit double after the refs blow the play dead on 3rd down pic.twitter.com/lmC3749xsM— Christian D'Andrea (@TrainIsland) December 1, 2019
Whitehead jumped offside, and his unimpeded run at Patrick Mahomes forced officials to blow the play dead. The linebacker didn’t hear that, though, and while Mahomes chucked the ball away, Whitehead shoved the QB to the turf — earning a predictable 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty that granted Kansas City a free first down. Three plays later, the Chiefs would kick a 50-yard field goal on their way to a 40-9 win.
8. Two roughing the passer penalties cost the 49ers dearly
The Ravens are the last team in the league you want to give free yards to on defense. Lamar Jackson with more opportunities is a bad time for everyone not named Lamar Jackson. And while the 49ers and Ravens combined for a fantastic game that both teams should feel good about, there were moments where San Francisco’s role players messed up big time.
In the second quarter, the 49ers made a great third-down stop, but rookie linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair was called for a deflating penalty after hitting Jackson late. That roughing the passer flag turned a likely field goal attempt into a first down. The Ravens went on to score a touchdown four plays later.
Less than 10 minutes after that, Sheldon Day was also called for roughing the passer when he went low on Jackson:
Sheldon Day gets called for RTP pic.twitter.com/lSi0194b6V— GoatWorldSports ⚾️ (@GoatWorldSport1) December 1, 2019
Baltimore wound up kicking a field goal on the drive.
The game was eventually decided on, yup, a Ravens field goal.
7. Jacoby Brissett made some extremely backup throws
Brissett has been solid in his first year as Andrew Luck’s successor in Indianapolis. His steady presence behind center, even as his receiving corps was shredded by injury, was a major factor in his team’s presence in the playoff race.
But on Sunday, Brissett gave the football world two big reminders why he was regarded as a high-value backup and not a starter before August. The first was a high pass that saw Brissett take entirely too long to make a decision in a clean pocket, then rush a bad decision once a defender broke into his airspace.
That set the Titans up inside the Indianapolis red zone, where they’d settle for an easy field goal that tied the score at 17. Brissett’s second pick was equally damaging. The big-armer passer overthrew his target in double-coverage while trying to spark a comeback from a 24-17 deficit late in the fourth quarter. Logan Ryan slid over to make an easy catch, and three plays later Indianapolis trailed by 14.
Brissett’s two interceptions led to 10 Titans points in a pivotal AFC South matchup. Now the Colts are 6-6 and facing an uphill battle on their path to the postseason.
6. Daniel Jones kept mixing up the Packers and his own teammates in the snow
It was a snowy afternoon at MetLife Stadium. Perhaps a North Carolina native like Jones wasn’t quite used to the blustery conditions, because the rookie quarterback seemed to think the Packers’ cornerbacks were his teammates all day.
His second one even worse. It was directly to Darnell Savage, with no Giants receiver in the vicinity:
His third pick of the game came later in the fourth quarter, and either he overthrew Slayton just enough so Tramon Williams could go up and grab it:
Or it was a perfect throw to Williams, whom Jones mistook for his own teammate.
The Giants dropped to 2-10 on the season with the loss, but at least you can chalk up some of Jones’ miscues to his inexperience. The same can’t be said for ...
5. Nick Foles threw an interception you’d expect out of a rookie
The Jaguars haven’t won a game with Nick Foles — an $88 million offseason acquisition — starting at quarterback. They did win four of the eight games sixth-round rookie Gardner Minshew started, but he was sent back to the bench when Foles returned from a shoulder injury. The logic was presumably that the 30-year-old veteran quarterback would make fewer mistakes and give the Jaguars offense some more stability.
The Buccaneers capitalized on the turnover with a touchdown. Foles’ day got worse with a fumble on his next two drives, including one that was picked up and returned for a touchdown. After that, three consecutive three-and-out drives.
Foles was benched at halftime with the Jaguars trailing 25-0 and it’ll likely be for good. Minshew took over in the second half and suddenly the Jacksonville offense looked halfway competent again.
4. The Browns could’ve used the mysterious absent Damarious Randall
So it’s hard to say if it was Kitchens’ dumb mistake, or if it was Randall’s, or if it was some combination of both. What we can say is that the Browns sure could’ve used Randall on the field against the Steelers — especially after losing safety Morgan Burnett to a torn Achilles two weeks ago.
Pittsburgh’s rookie quarterback Devlin Hodges completed passes of 28, 30, 31, and 44 yards against the Cleveland secondary. Some of those throws were into traffic, but the Browns defensive backs couldn’t make a play.
The Browns had a chance to get back to .500 and climb back into playoff contention. Instead, a 20-13 loss may have ended their season. Not having Randall on the field was costly, regardless of who deserves the blame.
3. The Chargers false started twice on the most important play of their afternoon
Los Angeles trailed 20-17 with just over two minutes to play when it faced a crucial fourth-and-1 from its own 34-yard line. Gain a yard and the Chargers’ comeback chances would remain intact.
On the team’s first try, Melvin Gordon appeared to pick up the first down on a pitch, only for the play to be whistled dead thanks to a false start:
Malik Reed sympathetically patting Melvin Gordon on the head while explaining his fourth-and-1 run doesn't count because of a false start is an extremely nice way to break that news pic.twitter.com/jYSc8mCnk6— Christian D'Andrea (@TrainIsland) December 2, 2019
That set up fourth-and-6, and it appeared the Broncos had given those five yards right back when a Denver defender jumped offside off the right side of the LA line the following play. But his neutral zone infraction came at the same time left tackle Russell Okung flinched, and since Okung was on the opposite side of the line, that meant the false start superseded any offside call.
Fortunately for Los Angeles, Mike Williams made a ridiculous play to haul in a 38-yard pass on fourth-and-11 to erase those back-to-back penalties. That led to a 46-yard Michael Badgley field goal that tied the game with just 14 seconds before the end of regulation.
Somehow, the Chargers avoided pulling a complete Chargers ... until they did.
2. Casey Hayward gave the Chargers a loss everyone knew was coming
The Broncos had two options when they got the ball back from the Chargers at their own 28 with nine seconds left in a tie game. They could kneel out the clock and play for overtime, or they could give Drew Lock, making his NFL debut, the chance to make a big play.
Denver chose the latter, and Hayward — a former All-Pro and one of LA’s top defensive backs — gave Lock all the help he needed.
here's the penalty that set up the Broncos' game-winning field goal with 3 seconds to play pic.twitter.com/9ic2KaTLNs— Christian D'Andrea (@TrainIsland) December 2, 2019
Hayward failed to track the ball, running into intended receiver Courtland Sutton and drawing a pass interference flag that gifted the Broncos 37 crucial yards. One play later, Brandon McManus’ 53-yard field goal parted the uprights to claim a 23-20 win and send the Chargers spiraling to 4-8 on the year.
1. Once again, the Panthers couldn’t get the job done at the goal line
Carolina lost 29-21 to Washington, and a big reason the Panthers lost was what they did on the goal line late in the game. With 27 seconds left and trailing by eight, the Panthers had fourth-and-goal following two Christian McCaffrey stuffs and an incomplete pass. Quarterback Kyle Allen dropped back to pass and despite having Jarius Wright wiiiide open in the end zone, he took a sack.
The GIF of this play is simply hilarious:
Here’s fourth-and-the-season for the Panthers. pic.twitter.com/VresISdjTj— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) December 1, 2019
The live version is just as incredible:
This is now the FOURTH of the Panthers’ seven losses that has ended on a goal-line stop. They also lost to the Bucs, Packers, and Saints in similar fashion. To falsely paraphrase Einstein, maybe they should stop expecting a different result.