With a special focus on coaching blunders this week.
I’m very happy that Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Roberto Aguayo nailed that game-winning 38-yard field goal after missing wide left on a 46-yarder and hitting the upright on a 33-yard try on Monday night. If that last kick failed, head coach Dirk Koetter may have personally cleaned out Aguayo’s locker before the overtime session. But the kick was true, the defending NFC Champion Panthers are nearly buried at 1-4 and there’s plenty of misery from Week 5 to recap so let’s get to it.
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What, if anything, is Jeff Fisher thinking?
Just when Fisher started to silence his many critics, the Rams coach went out and made two completely boneheaded late-game decisions against the Bills. The first self-defeating call came with just under six minutes left in the game after a 13-play Rams drive lasting over eight minutes. The Rams trailed 23-16 at the time. On fourth down at the Bills’ four-yard line, Fisher sent out the field goal unit...so they would still need a touchdown to win the ballgame. How does this happen?! If you don’t convert, the Bills are still pinned deep in their zone and it becomes a field position game.
You know when Jeff Fisher does like his chances on fourth down? When the Rams punt unit is on their own 23-yard line on a 4th-and-5 with 3:47 remaining and two-time Pro Bowl punter Johnny Hekker is on the field. The Bills had prepared for the fake, sniffed it out and swarmed Rams up-back Bradley Marquez (who took the direct snap) well short of the first down. The Bills scored three plays later to take a 30-19 lead, effectively ending the game.
“I know you guys are curious about the punt,” Fisher said on Monday. “I’d do it all over again if I had the opportunity. They made the play, we didn’t. But that’s the way we are wired, that’s our fabric and that’s taken us a long way.”
A long way to to perpetual 7-9 seasons.
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Todd Bowles also suffered a brain fart
Second-year Jets head coach Todd Bowles apparently went to the Andy Reid and Jeff Fisher school of late-game management. On a 4th-and-2 with the Jets trailing the Steelers by 11 points midway through the fourth quarter and the ball at about midfield, Bowles sent out the punt team. The Jets still needed two scores and had the whole playbook open to try to convert but opted to give the ball back to the Steelers offense which had completely outmatched the Jets defense. And that’s exactly what happened on the ensuing Steelers drive: Pittsburgh marched the ball 79 yards on a 12-play touchdown drive, collecting four more of its 30 first downs on the afternoon, leaving only 1:46 left on the clock. Game over.
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The Miami Dolphins offensive line gets steamrolled
The O-Line took a big hit before the game even started when starting left guard Laremy Tunsil reportedly slipped in the shower and re-injured his ankle. Left tackle Branden Albert was already ruled out due to illness. So backup guard Billy Turner was forced to start at left tackle as backup Dallas Thomas started beside him. Both got brutalized by the Titans as QB Ryan Tannehill was sacked on 6 of his 24 dropbacks -- at times before he had time to do anything except contemplate his existence. (Just take a look at these two plays).
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If only Vic Beasley could battle with Broncos RT Ty Sambrailo every Sunday
The man the Falcons drafted No. 8 overall in 2015 showed up on Sunday. The Falcons have been lacking a pass rush since John Abraham left town in 2013 but they got a huge helping of it when Beasley ran over and around second-year tackle Sambrailo, racking up 3.5 sacks, two QB hits, eight tackles and stripped the ball twice from Broncos QB Paxton Lynch. If starter Donald Stephenson (calf) can’t go on Thursday against the Chargers, the Broncos have got to get Sambrailo some help or move him back inside to guard.
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Paxton Lynch bears blame, too
It didn’t help Sambrailo that Lynch was slow-footed in his first career start and slow to go through his progressions. Lynch took six sacks in total and didn’t do a good job of protecting the football. He’s got an extremely strong arm but lacks accuracy at times. It’s looking like Trevor Siemian will be back under center for the Broncos-Chargers game on Thursday, so Lynch can lick his wounds and study up.
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Brock Osweiler and Texans offense but mainly Brock Osweiler
Statuesque as Lynch appeared on Sunday, the Broncos are probably grinning right now that the Texans outbid them for Osweiler on a 4-year, $72-million deal with $37 million guaranteed. A late touchdown somewhat disguises a horrible outing by Osweiler in which he completed 19 of 42 passes for 184 yards and absorbed four sacks. The Texans converted just once on third down in 13 tries.
Indeed the Vikings have a formidable defense and a noisy new stadium, but that doesn’t excuse Osweiler from missing open receivers and holding the ball too long. He’s looked shaky all year and after five games, ranks 29th out of 31 qualified passers in yards per attempt (6.03) and QB rating (70.6). Worse,the official NFL account dissed him for an interception when he heaved the ball into a sea of Vikings.
USA TODAY SportsGreg M. Cooper
The Chargers find yet another way to blow it in the fourth quarter
Having already used “repeated fumbles deep in our zone” and “full-fledged defensive meltdown,” the San Diego Chargers turned to its field goal unit against the Raiders for its latest soul-crushing late-game blunder. San Diego maintained a 5-point lead late in the fourth quarter before falling behind by 10 but had a field goal try to tie the game at 34 with 2:00 remaining. The kick never got airborne after rookie holder Drew Kaser mishandled the snap.
"Just when you think you've seen it all," head coach Mike McCoy said, "something like that happens." And now the animated Philip Rivers, who has witnessed too many scenes like this, but does not curse, sounds like he’s on the brink. "If I didn't have my faith or my family, I don't know how people do it," Rivers said. "I would literally be a lunatic. I know I get crazy some, but I would be out of my mind. Because I was having these thoughts of coming in here and screaming and hollering and saying things I don't say."
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New York Giants left tackle Ereck Flowers falls short on the field and off
Flowers suffered through an ugly game against the Packers in which he got beat for a sack, surrendered seven total pressures and got flagged for a holding penalty. He wasn’t the only Giants lineman who disappointed but Flowers made matters worse after the game when he shoved an ESPN reporter who approached him at his locker. Flowers later apologized. The 6-foot-6, 329-pound former first rounder needs to do a better job staying in front of pass rushers or else Manning will be spending more time flat on his back.
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Marc Trestman and Baltimore Ravens offense flatline
The pass-happy Trestman is now the former Ravens offensive coordinator, having been fired on Monday after a 16-10 loss that saw Joe Flacco throw the ball 46 times despite strong winds in Baltimore and also despite having success in the running game with 118 yards on 19 carries (6.2 average) against a porous Redskins rushing defense.
Injuries and a lack of talent or depth at wideout have played a role but the Ravens just couldn’t find an offensive identity under Trestman. Quarterbacks coach Marty Mornhinweg will take over as head coach John Harbaugh hopes this midseason shake-up will end like it did in 2012 -- with a Super Bowl win -- when the Ravens dismissed Cam Cameron after a Week 14 loss and installed then-QB coach Jim Caldwell as the new OC.
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The Tennessee Titans punt coverage unit gives up another one
Last Monday, the Titans fired veteran special teams coach Bobby April after Tennessee surrendered a backbreaking 67-yard punt return touchdown to the Texans’ Will Fuller. This week against Miami, the nearest Titan was still 10 yards away when Dolphins return man Jakeem Grant fielded a Brett Kern punt; Grant then juked the gunner and burst up the sideline as five more Titans, including Kern, wiped out or got blocked trying to take Grant down. The Titans managed to overcome the play (the Dolphins aided in this) but have got to stop the bleeding on special teams.