Endings are hard to get right. Well, except maybe if you’re Damon Lindelof (yes, even the Lost finale). Goodbyes are even harder.
Although we have to close the book on another NFL season, and an entire decade now, we can take comfort in two things:
1) the playoffs are coming, and
2) the last Sunday of the 2019 season went out with a bang.
The Patriots got Fitzmagic’d AT HOME and missed out on a first-round bye for the first time in 10 years. Christian McCaffrey became the NFL’s third ever 1,000/1,000 player. Jameis Winston became the NFL’s first ever 30-30 quarterback. The 49ers and Seahawks battled to the 1-inch line to wrap up the playoff picture.
Despite those surprises, there were other moments that felt like a tribute to the 2010s as a whole. The Titans fulfilled their 9-7 destiny, the Lions blew it against the Packers, the Seahawks screwed up at the 1-yard line, and the Browns fired another coach.
So much of what happened Sunday was stressful, thrilling, and incredibly stupid. In other words, it was the perfect way to send out 2019.
Before we head into 2020, let’s take a look at the final dumbest mistakes of the regular season:
7. The Bengals couldn’t even celebrate a win right
The Bengals had already secured the top pick in the draft last week. Then they went ahead and won a meaningless game in Week 17, just for the heck of it.
After taking the final kneeldown to beat the Browns and double their win total, the Bengals managed to bungle their celebration.
That’s running back Joe Mixon taking off his helmet to fling it up in the air. But he wasn’t paying attention and he bowled over a referee with the dang thing. The ref went to the ground immediately. Whoops!
At least Mixon went on to apologize on Twitter.
I will always apologize for a mistake however unintentional and accidental. To the ref I’m sorry I never saw you coming. Will never apologize for my excitement when the Bengals win!! #WhoDey already thinking about 2020 season— ⚡️Primetime!!!⚡️ (@Joe_MainMixon) December 29, 2019
Now let the Joe Burrow countdown begin.
6. Lol, the Chargers used a linebacker to cover Tyreek Hill
The Chargers had just scored a touchdown to cut their deficit against the Chiefs to 24-21. The Chiefs, who needed a win and a New England loss to lock down a first-round bye, were looking at third-and-7 late in the fourth quarter.
That’s when the Chargers inexplicably assigned rookie linebacker Drue Tranquill to Tyreek Hill, one of the fastest receivers in the NFL. His nickname is “Cheetah,” after all. The result was a complete mismatch, and a gain of 47(!) yards:
Fire yourself when you cover Tyreek Hill with a LB pic.twitter.com/zSD3kGfNk1— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) December 29, 2019
Five plays later, the Chiefs scored to go up 31-21 and snag that No. 2 seed.
We don’t think any future opposing defenses will try that again anytime soon. Or at least they shouldn’t.
5. Sam Darnold wasted a scoring chance by taking a bad sack
The Jets didn’t need much offense to get out in front of the Bills. With Josh Allen on the bench and Matt Barkley under center, Buffalo was shut out in the first half of Week 17. That could’ve meant a 10-0 hole at halftime, if Darnold hadn’t messed it up.
With just a little over 10 seconds left, the Jets should’ve had two more shots at the end zone before a short field goal. An ill-timed sack by the Bills’ Trent Murphy killed that opportunity.
Darnold has to get the ball out of his hand fast or feel the pressure coming. He did neither and the Jets settled for a 34-yard field goal try, which Sam Ficken missed. Despite an eventual win for the Jets, a matchup against Buffalo’s backups shouldn’t have been this difficult.
4. David Blough and Danny Amendola gifted the Packers a short field
Blough is an undrafted rookie who was thrust into the Lions’ starting quarterback role thanks to injuries to Matthew Stafford and Jeff Driskel. As such, he’s prone to ... uh, teachable moments. Like this one, where in a quest to protect a 20-13 lead with eight minutes to play in the fourth quarter, he uncorked this unanswered prayer.
David Blough, where was this pass supposed to go? pic.twitter.com/tTyIzzb4th— Christian D'Andrea (@TrainIsland) December 29, 2019
Not only did Blake Martinez (two career interceptions before Sunday) return Blough’s pick near midfield, but a stupid late hit penalty on Danny Amendola — who took his frustrations out on Kevin King by blasting him after the whistle — set up Aaron Rodgers at the Detroit 40-yard line. Seven plays later, this game was tied.
The Packers went on to win, despite once again never leading against the Lions.
Oh hi, in case you missed it, the New England Patriots lost to the Miami Dolphins. During the second quarter with his team trailing 3-0, Brady threw a pick-six to safety (and former Patriot) Eric Rowe:
That was the first time in Brady’s playing career that he had ever thrown a pick-six against the Dolphins, a team he’s faced 35 times. It also was his first pick-six since 2017, and the 14th of his career.
And in a game that was ultimately decided by three points, it’s that kind of mistake that’s the difference — not just between a win and a loss, but between a first-round bye and having to host the Titans in the Wild Card Round.
2. The Browns only had 10 men on defense at the goal line
The Browns fired Freddie Kitchens just hours after losing 33-23 to Cincinnati. This didn’t help his case. In the first quarter, the Bengals went up 14-7 on this touchdown run, aided by the Browns only having 10 men on defense:
10 men on defense. Generally a situation where you'd want to call timeout. Oof. https://t.co/VvbwTgGpPi— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) December 29, 2019
Mixon took it right up the middle for an easy touchdown in what turned out to be a 162-yard game for him. Here’s another look at the play — just, yeesh:
Even worse is Kitchens had called a timeout literally the play before and the defense was still a mess. Usually, most teams don’t screw up something that simple in Week 17.
On the other hand, that sums up another coaching era that Browns fans would love to forget.
1. The Seahawks’ delay of game penalty probably cost them the NFC West
Sunday night’s 49ers-Seahawks game will go down as one of the best Week 17 finales in league history, with San Francisco winning 26-21 to earn the NFC’s No. 1 seed. The game came down to the wire, and a late penalty might’ve cost Seattle the win and the division title.
With 23 seconds left on the 49ers’ 1-yard line, the Seahawks spiked the ball with no timeouts. Head coach Pete Carroll wanted to put running back Marshawn Lynch in for what could’ve been an easy goal-line score. Lynch, in his much-celebrated return to Seattle, had already scored on a 1-yard run earlier in the quarter. Another chance to do that, in this situation, wouldn’t just help the Seahawks take the NFC West crown, but it’d also give Carroll a chance to rectify the most infamous moment in the franchise’s history.
Then, miscommunication doomed them as the Seahawks tried to substitute Lynch on the field when he either wasn’t ready to go or no one let him know.
When Lynch got on the field, there were only 10 seconds left on the play clock. That didn’t give the Seahawks much time in the huddle and they got hit with a delay of game penalty. Take a look at how much time runs off the game and play clock:
Changing a personnel package is a pre planned, pre orchestrated event. The Seahawks were total chaos. That is squarely on the OC/HC pic.twitter.com/EX2XcKdHiC— Steve Sandmeyer (@SteveSandmeyer) December 30, 2019
Head coach Pete Carroll admitted the mistake after the game:
Pere Carroll says going from no-back previous play to bringing in Marshawn Lynch from the 1 created hesitation, led to regrettable delay of game penalty that changed everything at the end for #Seahawks pic.twitter.com/a1W90vJTtg— Gregg Bell (@gbellseattle) December 30, 2019
That penalty backed them up to the 6-yard line, and instead of a punch-in score, Russell Wilson threw two incomplete passes, and then one last pass to Jacob Hollister that was ultimately short of the goal line.
Maybe one of these days the Seahawks will figure out what to do with Lynch at the 1-yard line. Maybe one of these days they won’t pay a steep price for a goal-line failure. Sunday was not one of those days.