It looked a lot like a Patriots blowout over the Ravens on Monday night until a surprising pair of New England special teams gaffes turned a 23-3 lead into 23-17 in a matter of 1:30. Alas, the Patriots held on for the 30-23 win and now the Steelers have sole possession of the AFC North. Speaking of the AFC North, we continue to purposely avoid mention here of the Browns, who are basically a junior varsity NFL team. Speaking of educational institutions for young people...
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The Los Angeles Rams feature a “middle school offense”
In case you missed it, 2015 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Todd Gurley described the Rams’ offense in such terms after another disastrous Rams offensive performance in their eighth loss in their last nine games.
In the week leading up to the Falcons’ 42-14 beatdown, MMQB.com’s Albert Breer reported that the dysfunction at Rams headquarters was described internally as “Rams Junior High.” With overmatched rookie QB Jared Goff at the helm and less than 72 hours to prepare for the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday night under interim head coach John Fassel, the Rams may as well as throw out now-fired head coach Jeff Fisher’s playbook and resort to schoolyard football.
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The Arizona Cardinals field goal unit stumbles
It’s been a long season for the Cardinals and kicker Chandler Catanzaro. Albeit during a rainstorm, Catanzaro missed on his first extra point attempt wide left. On a 41-yard field goal attempt in the second quarter, he hit the right upright. Then, after a fourth quarter touchdown to try and pull the Cardinals within four, the field goal unit collapsed up the middle and allowed defenders to get their arms up and knocked down the extra point try, which Dolphins safety Walt Aikens returned for a two point conversion.
Ironically the one successful field goal try was a 56-yard make for Catanzaro. To summarize: the Cards field goal unit lined up four times for a maximum 8 points and it resulted in a net of 1 point for Arizona.
The Denver Broncos running game sputters again
The defending champs’ Achilles heels have been its rushing defense and its own rushing attack, especially since C.J. Anderson went down for the season with a knee injury. The starting job became rookie Devontae Booker’s to seize but several Gary Kubiak votes of confidence later and a dismal 3.4 average yards per carry, the Broncos claimed free agent Justin Forsett.
Forsett joined on a Monday and on Sunday, he out-touched Booker. Of course, both were highly ineffective, combining for 9 carries and 18 yards rushing against a Titans defense missing its best defensive lineman, Jurrell Casey (foot). Worse, Forsett fumbled on his first carry in a Broncos uniform.
The Bills rushing defense makes the wrong kind of history
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell broke a variety of yardage records in a snowy game at Buffalo with 236 yards rushing, 298 total yards (more than the entire Bills team) and three touchdowns. That 236 is also the most the Bills have ever surrendered in franchise history.
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Dak Prescott and Dez Bryant get shut down by the Giants
60 days after the Cowboys' first and previously only loss of the season, Prescott stumbled in the worst game of his young career with only 165 yards passing on 37 attempts (17 completions). Prescott also found Giants defenders twice in the 10-7 loss, doubling his interception total from two to four. He targeted Bryant seven times, resulting in one fourth-quarter completion for 10 yards before Janoris Jenkins forced a fumble that the Giants recovered. The New York Giants might be the Cowboys’ Kryptonite.
Giants left tackle Ereck Flowers and Eli Manning can't get it together
Sometimes we look at poor performances in wins. The offensive line has been a weak spot for the Giants all season and it showed on national television when Flowers repeatedly got beat around the edge, including one play where Cowboys DE Benson Mayowa jumped on Manning and stripped the ball before Flowers so much as got a hand on him.
Of course earlier in the game, Manning fumbled all on his own when the ball simply fell out of his hand when a wide receiver ran free toward the end zone. Fortunately for Manning and the offense, if he throws it to Odell Beckham Jr. enough, good things happen.
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Russell Wilson plays catch with the Green Bay Packers
Despite having recovered from the leg injury that limited him earlier in the season, Wilson struggled through one of his worst games as a pro at Green Bay due to poor execution, missed throws and some goofs by his pass catchers. It amounted to a whopping five interceptions in the 38-10 loss as the Packers, left for dead a few weeks ago, have climbed back into the NFC playoffs picture. Those five INTs by Wilson would be the most by any QB this season if not for Ryan Fitzpatrick’s six INT debacle debacle at the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 3.
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The Seahawks defense was pretty terrible, too
That loss certainly isn’t on the offense alone. Playing without the Legion of Boom’s glue man, injured Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas, the Seahawks came undone as Aaron Rodgers picked them apart with an economical 18-of-23 passing performance for 246 yards and three scores. Those Wilson turnovers made for a lot of short fields. Rodgers made an early exit as a calf injury flared up, finishing with a near-perfect 150.8 passer rating.
The Colts’ offense and offensive line fall apart
One week after torching a lifeless Jets defense, the Colts faced a hungry Texans defensive front at home and got their lunches eaten. The Texans sacked Andrew Luck only once (when tight end Dwayne Allen was left to block Jadeveon Clowney alone) but registered a whopping 13 QB hits with a combined seven coming from Whitney Mercilus (4) and Clowney (3).
Colts right guard Joe Haeg got worked pretty badly and Indianapolis lost its best offensive lineman, left guard Jack Mewhort, to a season-ending knee injury. The Texans’ 22-17 win secured the team’s first ever season sweep of the Colts.
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The Rams organization, dysfunction to the max, an act in several parts
Since Jeff Fisher is now out, tied for the record for all-time coaching losses, which is both frustrating and hilarious, let’s take one more shot at the Rams, who fired a coach less than 10 days after his contract extension was announced. Most of the things Fisher did this season to get fired were summarized in this post by my colleague.
I’ll add that relentless excuse-maker Fisher probably shouldn’t have blamed the team’s failures on the front office and a guy suffering through personal difficulties (Tre Mason) and another (Stedman Bailey) who got shot in the head. “We’ve had some unfortunate things take place with some high picks in Stedman Bailey and Tre Mason and those kinds of things you don’t anticipate” Fisher said. “But we’re moving forward.”
Unbelievable. So we’ll close with this maxim from Benjamin Franklin. “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.”