Sorting the Sunday Pile, Week 13: Seven horrendous losses on an ugly day define multiple NFL seasons
The NFL proved ugly in Week 13, so let's rank the seven worst losses from the week that was
You cannot lose games in the NFL and expect to win. Trent Dilfer's oft-mocked quote doesn't pass the "say it out loud" test, but it actually makes a little bit of sense, especially after a Week 13 where we saw a host of just horrific losses from various NFL teams, both good and bad.
Some of these games this past week will end up costing people their jobs. Some certainly cost playoff spots. Let's look at the worst losses from a bloody week that was in the NFL.
Easily the worst loss of the day. The Eagles are a would-be playoff team who just saw their primary competition, the Dallas Cowboys, morph into a turkey on Thanksgiving day against the Bills at home, falling to 6-6 and opening the window for Philly to stomp right back into the division race, despite a two-game losing streak out of the Eagles' bye week.
Philly was more than willing to oblige the Cowboys interest in keeping the division alive and took an early lead against a two-win Dolphins team. Up 10-0 after a first-quarter Jake Elliott field goal, the Eagles just needed to keep their foot on the gas, run downhill with Miles Sanders and limit Ryan Fitzpatrick from doing Ryan Fitzpatrick things. Then DeVante Parker, who is in the midst of a monster breakout season, decided to steal Jalen Mills' soul on fourth down.
Maybe double team the only weapon the Dolphins have at receiver? I don't know. Credit to Parker who just beasted up and stole the ball before sprinting into the end zone. But a stop there for the Eagles and this game probably ends. Instead, it was suddenly 13-7 and the Dolphins had life. You don't want to give a two-win team life at home in a kitchen sink/YOLO game. Do that and you're inviting them to pull off the extremely rare placekicker to punter touchdown pass.
This toss from Matt Haack to Jason Sanders only looked like the Colts infamous "worst fake punt ever" -- instead it turned out to be a thing of beauty, the first ever punter to placekicker (or vice versa) touchdown pass of the Super Bowl era. It gave the Dolphins a 14-13 lead and made them believe. Doug Pederson claims the Eagles were ready, but it's hard to imagine that's the case.
Philly would rip off 15 unanswered points and take a 28-14 lead, but the Dolphins just went back to the Parker well. Over and over again, Parker burned the Eagles, finishing with seven catches for 159 yards and a pair of scores. After the Eagles led 28-14 in the third quarter, the Dolphins ripped off 23 unanswered points of their own.
The Eagles never recovered. Can they recover to make a run this season? They're 5-7 now. The schedule is easy, but how much easier can it be than drawing the Dolphins? The Eagles get the Giants twice, the Redskins once and the Cowboys in Week 16, which is basically looming like a play-in game for the title. Technically Washington can still win the division -- that feels unlikely, but with how the Eagles coughed up a lead in this spot on Sunday, anything is possible.
There were some bad losses in Week 13, and Jason La Canfora and Jared Dubin join me on the Pick Six Podcast to break down the worst ones, plus Monday night's big Vikings-Seahawks matchup. Listen below (and for a breakdown of all Sunday's action, check the Pick Six Superfriends on our earlier Monday pod below that) and subscribe here for daily NFL goodness.
2. Panthers to Redskins
If this is the end of Ron Rivera's run in Carolina, we're probably going to look at Week 13 and peg it as the day the music died. Carolina's loss to the Redskins didn't just snuff out their flickering playoff hopes, it also just looked so bad as it all unfolded. Like the Eagles, Carolina had a substantial lead in this game. The Panthers scored twice -- quickly -- in the first quarter, opening up a 14-0 lead and looking prepared to trash a questionable Washington team.
Kyle Allen was making crisp throws, Christian McCaffrey was running the ball well and Carolina was on cruise control against a two-win team that vastly prefers to run the football, starting a rookie quarterback on the road against a veteran defensive coach. Then the wheels came off, completely.
Despite holding a two-score lead in this situation, the Panthers allowed the Redskins to rush for 8.3 yards per carry over the course of the game. Adrian Peterson and Derrius Guice combined for 228 yards on just 23 carries. The Redskins ripped off 29 unanswered points by simply running the football down Carolina's throat while trailing by two scores. Of those points, 15 came in the fourth quarter, as the Panthers were completely and utterly helpless to stop Washington. In the final frame, the Redskins ran the ball 11 times for an average of 10.6 yards per carry. It would have been higher, but Guice was ruled down on the one-yard line and had to punch in the touchdown on the ensuing play. Shaq Thompson is having a great season, but he won't want to watch the film of this run.
Rivera's calling card is his defense. The Panthers, despite revamping the defensive front this offseason in an image crafted by Rivera -- Brian Burns was added in the draft, Gerald McCoy and Bruce Irvin were signed in free agency -- are one of the worst run defenses in football. Carolina now gives up 5.3 yards per carry (worst in the NFL), 137.5 rush yards per game (fourth-worst) and has allowed 22 rushing touchdowns (by far the most in the league).
This was a 4-2 team with playoff hopes when the Panthers returned from London. A four-game skid has sent Carolina reeling to 5-7 and likely ending all hope of Rivera retaining his job. He'll find a new gig quickly. Rivera could quickly stabilize a teetering franchise like the Giants, for example. But with David Tepper wanting to put his own imprint on the $2 billion purchase he made recently, there is all but a guarantee of Rivera and his boss parting ways at this point in time.
That was a fun week or so of wondering if the Browns could manage to make a playoff run in the AFC. At 5-7, with the Steelers on deck, the Cardinals waiting and the Bengals on the schedule twice, it wasn't that crazy of an outcome to envision. Unfortunately for Freddie Kitchens, this one might linger a bit after Pittsburgh stormed back from a 10-0 deficit to put the Browns' playoff hopes down the drain to Duck Hodges.
Kitchens is under even more pressure thanks to the dumbest possible in-season storyline: the Browns coach decided to wear a "Pittsburgh Started It" shirt to the movies on Friday night with his family, had a fan snag a picture and watched it go viral. Steelers players made it clear the shirt motivated them out of the fracas from Week 11.
Did the Browns lose because of the shirt? No, of course not. They lost because they're a sloppy, unorganized team riddled with bad decision making. So maybe they did lose because of the shirt, only in a metaphorical way.
Wear the shirt after the game. Or don't wear the shirt. Use the shirt as a teaching lesson to your daughters as to why you can't wear it out in public, not without your jacket zipped up. And not while going to a movie, Mr. Rogers, about someone who was born in Latrobe, PA.
Again, it's not the shirt. It's what goes into the decision to wear the shirt. The Browns were outcoached and outmaneuvered on Sunday, with Mike Tomlin making adjustments on both sides of the ball to keep the Browns out of the end zone for the third and fourth quarters. After a slow start, the Steelers found the end zone twice, including a Devlin Hodges touchdown pass to James Washington that resulted in an incredible catch by the second-year wide receiver.
Tomlin absolutely needs to be in the discussion for Coach of the Year. No one's done more with less this season. Tomlin lost Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell this offseason, saw Ben Roethlisberger go down with a season-ending injury in Week 2, and has been missing JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner for various stretches of this season.
The defense is carrying this team and Tomlin deserves credit for orchestrating what looks like a playoff run for the surprising 7-5 Steelers. It looked like he might find himself on the hot seat as early as Week 3 when the Steelers were winless. Now we have to wonder if he can steal a playoff game. It's the best coaching job of the season so far.
4. Jets to Bengals
This was a largely meaningless game for the Jets. They were 4-7 coming in. The playoffs were a pipe dream. Adam Gase has already been given a vote of confidence for 2020. But the effort displayed for this matchup was beyond reprehensible out of the Jets.
Cincinnati was 0-11 with Zac Taylor desperate enough for his first win that he would go back to Andy Dalton at quarterback. It worked, with Dalton playing fine -- 22 of 37 for 243 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions -- enough that Cincy could muster 22 points. Dalton broke the record for most all-time passing touchdowns by a Bengals quarterback (shoutout to the coaching staff for initially benching him on his birthday one teeter shy of that record, sheesh) and Taylor got a Gatorade bath for picking up his first win. They wanted this one a lot more than New York, which is why it should be concerning.
Gase apparently skipped Thanksgiving with his family to grind on Bengals tape. The result was a six-point effort for New York on a day where the offensive approach was inexplicable. Everyone knows the Bengals weakness lies in stopping the run. You can go to any sports website and look up NFL team stats and figure that out in between slicing some turkey and pouring some gravy.
Five minutes on Sports Info Solutions makes it pretty obvious where the Bengals are truly vulnerable:
Outside runs vs. Bengals
Inside runs vs. Bengals
Look, this is some pretty basic-level analysis, right? Cincy has Geno Atkins, don't run at him. Take a look at the film, take a look at the numbers and it's clear you can get outside on the Bengals. These numbers don't include QB runs either: add in Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray rushing and it spikes up to nine touchdowns and 5.9 yards per carry over the course of the season.
So what did Gase do with Le'Veon Bell in the ground game? Plowed him right up the middle, obviously!
Bell finished the game with 10 carries for 32 yards. It's doubly infuriating when you look at what Bell did in brief action in the passing game against the Bengals.
Five targets, four catches, 35 yards. He averaged seven yards per target and 8.8 yards per catch! Get him outside in space and let Bell go to work. Or just run him up the middle over and over and let your season wither and die on the turf in Cincinnati. Either way. Both sound fun.
The Jets converted 7-of-17 third downs (41%, the Bengals went 5-of-14), finished the day with 271 yards (the Bengals had 277), had 15 first downs (the Bengals had 18), engineered four drives of 50+ yards (Cincy had two), held the Bengals to 1.8 yards per carry and still managed to lose 22-6. That's downright impressive.
Cincy is the first team since the 1977 Buccaneers to enter a game 0-10 or worse and still win by 15+ points. The Jets are the first team in NFL history to lose to multiple teams who are 0-7 or worse in the same season (they also lost to the 0-7 Dolphins in Week 9).
This could rank higher if the Pats weren't 10-2 and still holding onto the second seed in the AFC with multiple winnable games on the docket. However, there's plenty of reason to panic in New England on Monday after the Pats lost to the Texans 28-22, with Bill Belichick losing to Bill O'Brien for the first time in five tries.
The initial reason for concern if you're a Patriots fan is the lack of offensive explosion. Right now the Pats are just flat out bad on offense. There's no one to scare you -- the Texans doubled Julian Edelman and forced Jakobi Meyers and a banged-up Mohamed Sanu and Philip Dorsett to beat them. When Tom Brady had time, his guys weren't open or they weren't going to the spot he needed them to find. New England hasn't had a deep threat game for a while now, but they are really lacking in firepower. Double up on Edelman and Brady is put in a bad spot.
He took a very uncharacteristic five shots of 20+ yards or more down the field on Sunday night, connecting on two of them, including one for a late touchdown to Edelman. The Patriots scored twice in the final five minutes of the game, making this look like a much closer affair than it was.
What's odd is the Patriots appeared to be taking control of this game early, with Houston going three-and-out to start the game and New England promptly marching 69 yards on 14 plays, many of them impressive rushing attempts, to set up a field goal. No touchdown was a major blow here with how the Pats have played on offense. Brady's interception on the next drive was killer -- a forced, bad pass from Brady was snared by Bradley Roby and it helped set up a Houston score. Another Texans touchdown made it 14-3 and the Patriots were toast. They seemed to panic and start bombing the ball down the field instead of grinding out Houston via the run game.
Deshaun Watson got comfortable and mixed/matched his aerial attack perfectly. The Texans went to DeAndre Hopkins when the Patriots played zone or when he drew Stephon Gilmore in the slot. Otherwise Watson was looking to get Kenny Stills or Will Fuller in single coverage. O'Brien outcoached Belichick in the first half, using Duke Johnson out of the backfield and getting him lined up on Kyle Van Noy and Dont'a Hightower. Belichick countered by putting Jamie Collins on Johnson and it worked, but the damage was done.
No one needs another "Time for Pats to Panic??" column. Those are an annual tradition and they end up looking stupid. But this does feel a little different. The offense is disjointed. Detirement is off the table for Rob Gronkowski now, so unless Antonio Brown is cleared by the NFL, there isn't a clear answer for saving them in 2019. Brady isn't washed, but he can't elevate the pieces around him the way he did, say, in 2006. New England's ground game has improved, but the defense has now struggled against the two good offenses -- Houston and Baltimore -- it's played, thanks to their multiple offensive weapons.
Just to pile on a bit here too: if the Chiefs beat the Patriots this week in Foxborough and the Bills run the table (by beating both Baltimore and New England), Buffalo could win the AFC East. I don't think the Pats will lose two more games, but there just isn't a clear answer on offense right now. Lose to the Chiefs and their chances of getting a bye/home field are going to shrink dramatically.
The Pats know the score, OK? They need to get the first or second seed, regroup for two weeks, win two playoff games (at least one at home) and then have two weeks to play the NFC champ. It just feels dramatically harder with the Chiefs/Ravens/Texans making them look vulnerable over the last month.
6. Colts to Titans
Derrick Henry is morphing into a man child in front of our eyes. The Titans running back continues is on an absolute tear over the last month or so, putting up crazy numbers since Ryan Tannehill took over as the starting quarterback in Week 7. And his last 16 games are even more impressive.
Derrick Henry since Week 7
Derrick Henry last 16 games
Henry went on a tear like this to close the season in 2018, so it's fair to wonder what happens if he pours it on this year. Henry's got the Raiders next week (23rd in rush defense DVOA), the Texans twice (13th) and Saints (seventh). It's hardly a guarantee he slashes against those teams. But Tannehill's emergence has opened up a ton for Henry, as most rushing quarterbacks do for running backs.
Tennessee has surged to 7-5 and, in the process of hammering the Colts on Sunday, bypassed a now 6-6 Indy team. The Colts look like they're being dragged out to sea with the late-season NFL tides, victims of injuries and disastrous special teams.
Adam Vinatieri is one of the all-time great kickers, but the Colts refusal to flip him out has been perplexing. He's now 17-of-25 on field goals (68 percent) and 22-of-28 on extra points (less than 75 percent). The latter number is wild, even with the kick being moved back. On Sunday, Vinatieri made a 28-yard field goal, missed both of his extra point tries, had one field goal blocked and then had another field goal blocked to the house to give the Titans the lead.
Ryan Tannehill, who is playing some great football right now, hit the Colts with a complete kill shot a few minutes later.
At one point in third quarter of this game, Indy led 17-7. They were about to go up 20-17 late in the game on the blocked box try, a 46-yard attempt by Vinatieri. This thing flipped quickly, and it might flip the playoff race for these two franchises.
Jacoby Brissett didn't help, either, throwing two just terrible interceptions. I wouldn't be surprised if we ended up finding out he's more injured than we've known. He doesn't look right. With Marlon Mack and T.Y. Hilton missing, there's not enough offense to go around as the Colts fight to stay in the playoff hunt. Houston and Tennessee look too strong.
No one's getting fired as a result of this situation in Indy, but there will be questions asked about various positions as the Colts drift further from the playoffs.
7. Jaguars to Buccaneers
This game, on the other hand, may have signaled the end of the Doug Marrone Era in Jacksonville. It's entirely possible Tom Coughlin and Dave Caldwell are out as well, although how the Jags finish and what Shad Khan decides to do this offseason could always change.
Jacksonville decided to bench Gardner Minshew for Nick Foles ahead of Week 11 against the Colts and it backfired spectacularly. The Jags managed to score 36 points over the two and a half games with Foles in at quarterback. That's unacceptable given his price tag and how Minshew looked. The Jaguars should have continued to evaluate the younger player but felt compelled to try and justify the hefty contract they gave Foles this offseason.
With him under center against Tampa Bay, the Jaguars managed to open up the game with three straight turnovers. Foles threw an interception on his first drive and the Bucs marched down the field for a touchdown to make it 7-0. Two plays later, Foles was strip-sacked and rookie Devin White scooped the ball up and went 14 yards for the score. Jacksonville drove all the way down to the Bucs red zone on the next possession when Foles was again sacked and fumbled. The game was basically over after that, with crazy winds whipping in Jacksonville and the Jags offense completely lethargic. The Jags would punt four times before half when Minshew came in with the Bucs leading 25-0.
The long-term decision making in Jacksonville the quarterback position has snuffed out any window this franchise had. Foles' big contract was the unnecessary solvent for the unnecessary extension for Blake Bortles. The Jags drafted Leonard Fournette instead of taking Deshaun Watson, who they liked in the draft process, or Patrick Mahomes.
Cleaning up the mess likely will be someone else's job.
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