15 biggest disappointments of NFL Week 12
Thanks to the Thanksgiving holiday, Week 12 of the NFL season was spread out a bit more, with three games on Thursday. It did nothing to dampen the action, however, with the playoff picture in both conferences generally growing more muddled and more exciting as we head toward the business end of the season.
That doesn’t mean there weren’t disappointments — in fact, there were a number. Here are 15 of the biggest from the weekend.
The Bengals giving up 35 points to the Cleveland Browns can’t be pinned solely on Jackson. They were bad defensively before he got there and his arrival hasn’t changed much. But Jackson appears here mostly because of how thoroughly embarrassing this day was for him. He was trolled by one of former players during the game, and criticized by another after the game. He was brought in to help give the Bengals an advantage against AFC North teams, and instead he’s become the common denominator in the Browns and Bengals’ respective losing ways.
How can a team quarterbacked by Aaron Rodgers continue to be so bad on offense? After trading touchdowns with Minnesota early in the game, the Packers failed to produce any points on their following six drives. They only got four first downs in that six-drive span. That included punting on a 4th-and-4 from Minnesota’s 41, and going for it on 4th-and-inches with a predictable run up in the middle instead of a QB sneak that has an extremely high conversion percentage. Most coaches would be killing for a quarterback like Rodgers, with whom they could get creative. Instead, we’re seeing this team held in the teens in points. That should not be happening.
Captain Munnerlyn, CB, Panthers
On 3rd and 5 with the Seahawks at their own 47, Munnerlyn blew the coverage on Seattle wide receiver Tyler Lockett, resulting in a 43-yard gain that put Seattle firmly in field goal range in a tie game with under a minute to go. That was bad enough, but Munnerlyn’s decision to pursue and tackle Lockett was probably a tactical error. Letting the Seahawks score wouldn’t have been ideal at that juncture, but with a field goal from that short distance nearly guaranteed, giving Cam Newton the ball back with a minute left and a chance to tie would have been better than letting Seattle run down the clock and kick the game-winning field goal as time expired.
Graham Gano, K, Panthers
Munnerlyn wouldn’t have been in the same situation if Gano had been able to convert a few plays earlier. A 52-yard try is never easy, but Gano had the distance, missing wide to the right. That would have given Carolina a three-point lead. On top of last week, in which Gano missed an easy field goal and an extra point, the failures are starting to pile up, though he’s built enough of a resume that his job is secure. It was still a contributor to another very tight loss.
Blake Bortles, QB, Jaguars
We’ve just about reached the point where it’s more surprising when Bortles isn’t brutal. He threw for just 127 yards and two interceptions to one touchdown and was sacked three times. Frankly, the Jaguars would have been fully justified in benching him for Cody Kessler. They didn’t, and the Jaguars didn’t win. The Jaguars have lost seven straight, their quarterback is not NFL-quality, and if the Jaguars don’t know that by now, it’s unclear if they ever will.
New York Giants’ second-half offense
The New York Giants scored 19 first-half points against the weakened Philadelphia Eagles. Eli Manning was finding success throwing the ball, and Saquon Barkley was proving very difficult to stop. Then, for some reason, it all changed after halftime. Manning threw for 58 yards over the last half-hour of action, while Barkley had five touches during the second half as the entire gameplan seemed to change. One star player even called them out for it after the game. It’s unclear what happened, but it cost them the game, as the Eagles came back for a 25-22 win.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers
Roethlisberger did all he could to get the Steelers over the line against Denver, but high-profile mistakes cost him. While he completed 41 passes and threw for 462 yards, all of that only led to 17 Pittsburgh points, and he only threw one touchdown. The two interceptions stood out, particularly one bad one late in the fourth quarter in the end zone with Pittsburgh knocking on the door with a chance to score a game-tying touchdown. Roethlisberger’s stat line doesn’t leave much to be desired, but he wasn’t sharp enough in the clutch moments.
Nick Mullens, QB, 49ers
After such a promising start to his NFL career, Mullens came hurtling back to earth against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He took four sacks, threw two interceptions, and struggled with his accuracy all day. This isn’t the Oakland Raiders on a short week anymore, and it’s becoming apparent that Mullens isn’t going to be even a stable short-term option, though the 49ers admittedly have nothing to play for. The fact is, he’s not an NFL starter, at least not consistently.
Miami Dolphins’ late-game execution
The Dolphins held a 24-14 lead with 13:36 left in their game against Indianapolis on Sunday, but after that, everything went wrong. After allowing a field goal, Miami had the chance to run some clock with eight and a half minutes left, but the drive lasted just 43 seconds before they punted. The Colts promptly went 89 yards and scored, and Miami’s response was again feeble — backed up to their own six, they again went three-and-out, and Indianapolis got good field position and took advantage by driving for a go-ahead field goal. Miami could have won this game, but the offense and defense both broke down in the last ten minutes of the game, and they blew a ten-point lead in the process.
Brandon Parker, OL, Raiders
The Oakland Raiders continue to struggle on all sides of the ball, but they managed to do something really rare on Sunday: allow three consecutive sacks to the same player on three consecutive plays. The beneficiary was Matthew Judon of the Ravens, who feasted on Derek Carr for much of the afternoon. The primary culprit appeared to be Brandon Parker, who has struggled a lot lately and continued to do so on Sunday. Carr has to be wondering what he has to do to get some protection.
James Conner, RB, Steelers
The Steelers went to the air a whole lot in this one, which meant Conner’s role was reduced. He wasn’t even wildly effective in the passing game, catching four balls for 42 yards to go with 53 yards rushing. It’s not a bad day, but after some of the numbers Conner was putting up earlier in the season, he’s fallen off in the last two weeks or so. The Steelers will simply be looking for a bit more out of him both running and passing going forward.
Josh Rosen, QB, Cardinals
It’s been an up-and-down season for every rookie quarterback who has started the bulk of the season, but Rosen seems to have had the bulk of the lows without the highs of his peers. Contrary to hopes, Byron Leftwich has done little for his stats, and the team almost doesn’t seem to trust him. He completed just 12-of-19 passes for only 105 yards against the Chargers, and while he was facing a good opponent, this is pretty much in line with where he’s been, even against lesser teams like the Raiders. He’s gaining valuable experience, but little else.
Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions
Stafford’s two late interceptions against the Chicago Bears were a mixed bag. The first, a pick-six that put the Bears ahead by a touchdown, was entirely on the quarterback, a bad read that he telegraphed. The second, in the end zone late, came down to tight end Michael Roberts not doing his part. Either way, the record will show that Stafford turned the ball over when the Lions needed points. It’s why they’re not an NFC contender right now — big mistakes at the worst possible moment.
Atlanta Falcons’ running game
Facing off against the New Orleans Saints, the Falcons were always going to be passing the ball a lot. Even keeping that in mind, it was hard to imagine just how weak the Atlanta run game turned out to be on Thursday night. Tevin Coleman led the team with eight carries, but those went for just six total yards. In fact, the Falcons’ leading rusher was quarterback Matt Ryan, who accounted for 16 of the team’s 26 total rushing yards. It’s hard enough to beat the Saints. It’s even harder when you’re doing it without even giving them a ground game to think about.
Adrian Peterson, RB, Redskins
With Alex Smith out for the season, Washington has to reconsider their offensive strategy. Peterson has had a lot of success throughout much of the season, but Dallas wiped him out on Thursday, limiting him to 35 yards on just 12 carries. It’s not entirely his fault — the offensive line’s depth is being severely tested — but the fact is, this is not the same run game as they had earlier this season, and Peterson is suffering for it. The move to Colt McCoy is only going to make this worse.