15 biggest disappointments of NFL Week 14
Week 14 of the NFL season featured one of the games of the year in Dallas, but there was much more going on other than that. Upset losses imperiled some teams on the playoff bubble and one contender previously expected to cruise into the playoffs is suddenly looking a lot shakier. All in all, the business end of the season is proving as excited as expected.
Here’s a look at the 15 biggest disappointments of NFL Week 14.
Jared Goff, QB, Rams
The Chicago Bears are a very good defensive team, but there’s no real excuse for what the Rams failed to do Sunday night. Los Angeles was dreadful on offense in pretty much every aspect, Todd Gurley included, but the real nightmare was Goff. The star quarterback managed just 180 passing yards while being picked off three times, having completed less than half of his passes. The vaunted Los Angeles offense failed to find the end zone even once, which was the difference between themselves and a Chicago offense that wasn’t much better. The Rams, however, came in with high expectations as one of the best units in the league. That unit managed only 13 first downs and 195 total yards. They were simply awful, especially at quarterback.
The Redskins were in trouble the moment they had to start Mark Sanchez in this game, and the fact that they lost to the New York Giants isn’t shocking in context. Few, however, could have foreseen a 34-0 halftime deficit coming. Sanchez was terrible and Josh Johnson was slightly better, but the defense showed no fight or ability to hold off a Giants team that has looked very weak at times this season. It was as if the back-to-back injuries to Alex Smith and Colt McCoy had defeated the team mentally, and the performance they turned in Sunday had all the hallmarks of a team that has checked out for the season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ special teams
The Tampa Bay Bucs blew a big opportunity against the Saints on Sunday, and they can point to their special teams as the biggest reason. First off, Cairo Santos missed a pair of field goals. The first came when the Bucs were up 7-0 in the second quarter. Santos missed a 46-yard kick then. Then after the defense forced a fumble after halftime, the Bucs failed to capitalize because Santos missed a 40-yard field goal. NFL kickers need to make their kicks from that yardage. Then the big game-changer was a blocked punt later in the third. Tampa Bay was up 14-3 at the time, but the Saints scored after the blocked punt, which set in motion their comeback that included 25 unanswered points.
Lamar Miller, RB, Texans
After back-to-back 100-yard games, the Indianapolis Colts figured out how to stop Miller from running all over them. The Texans running back was held to 52 total yards, 33 rushing and 19 receiving. He did manage a touchdown on the ground, but it did little to mask the overall weakness of his performance. It’s not a coincidence that the Texans saw their nine-game winning streak come to a halt in a week where Miller couldn’t get it going.
It might be time to grow concerned in Pittsburgh, as the Steelers lost their third straight game. This one was the worst yet against an Oakland Raiders team that has long been out of the playoff picture. There are some excuses for Pittsburgh’s offense, as James Conner got hurt and a Ben Roethlisberger injury sidelined him for a lot of the second half. However, there’s no excusing Chris Boswell slipping on a game-tying 40-yard field goal attempt, nor is there any excuse for the 354 total yards Oakland put up, plus Derek Carr’s first 300-yard game since September. The Steelers have to right the ship quickly.
Miami Dolphins’ special teams
The Miami Dolphins pulled off a win against the New England Patriots on the “Miracle in Miami” play. The game might not have come down to that if the Dolphins could simply execute in special teams. The Dolphins were up 7-6 in the first quarter when they were punting from their 33 and had their punt blocked. The Pats got the ball at the 18 and turned it into a touchdown to take a 13-7 lead. Then just before halftime, Miami punted from its 13 and had the punt tipped. The Pats got the ball at the 15 with 30 seconds left in the half. They should have gotten at least 3 points out of it, but Tom Brady took an inexplicable sack with no timeouts left to end the half.
Denver Broncos’ coaching
The Broncos surprisingly lost by six to the lowly San Francisco 49ers in a potentially fatal blow to their playoff hopes. A big part of the defeat was a whole group of very questionable decisions made by Vance Joseph and the Denver staff. That often manifested itself in a curious reliance on the run game. Denver turned the ball over on downs on two consecutive fourth quarter drives, the first ending on a Phillip Lindsay run on 4th and 3 that fell short. The second was a short pass to Lindsay on another 4th and 3. Even when they scored, it was a grind, as they threw three incomplete passes from the 49ers’ one-yard line before finally punching it in. Add in a bad challenge that cost them a timeout and you have a poorly-managed game — magnified in a one-score defeat.
Cleveland Browns receivers
Cleveland’s receivers made some nice plays on Sunday. Breshad Perriman had a 66-yard play and Jarvis Landry broke a 51-yard play. But they also made some big mistakes in the game. Both Landry and Rashard Higgins lost fumbles. Higgins’ fumble gave Carolina the ball at the 17 and led to an easy touchdown. Landry lost a fumble right after halftime in Cleveland territory and was lucky a penalty pushed the Panthers out of field goal range and didn’t cost the Browns points. Higgins also had a bad drop on a third down before halftime that was the difference between Cleveland getting a touchdown and field goal on the possession.
Zay Jones, WR, Bills
Zay Jones had two drops for the Bills on Sunday and arguably a third. Jones’ first drop came late in the first half on a first-and-10 at Jets 30. The pass could have set the Bills up in good field goal position, but Jones dropped the ball. The Bills ended up attempting a 49-yard field goal that was blocked right before halftime. The second came on a 2nd-and-20 in the fourth quarter with the game tied at 20. Then late in the fourth quarter, Jones dropped a pass in the end zone on a third down. The catch would have been a tough one to make at the edge of the end zone, but it’s one a good NFL receiver makes. Buffalo settled for a field goal after that. They ended up losing the game.
Stephen Gostkowski, K, Patriots
The bulk of the attention in New England’s defeat to the Miami Dolphins will go to the miraculous final play and New England’s failure to contain it. However, that play would not have been possible had their normally reliable kicker done his job. Gostkowski missed an extra point, a glaring failure in a game the Dolphins ended up winning by a point. However, the Patriot kicker also missed a 42-yard field goal. Had he converted both of those kicks, the Patriots would have had 38 points, and the complexion of the entire game changes. The misses left the door open, and Miami squeezed through it.
Cam Newton, QB, Panthers
There is no hiding the fact that Newton is not healthy, and it is essentially costing the Panthers their season after such a promising start. Newton threw for 265 yards and failed to reach the end zone, throwing one interception mostly because he and the staff were unwilling to let loose and throw downfield. Newton doesn’t look like he’s going to get any better the rest of the season, which is probably the end of Carolina’s playoff hopes.
DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans
The Colts essentially limited both Lamar Miller and Hopkins and beat the Colts with it. Hopkins caught a touchdown, but was limited to just four catches for 36 yards. The Colts harassed him with double teams virtually all day and he never came particularly close to getting going. Hopkins’ lack of production essentially sealed Houston’s fate, as the Texans were held to 21 points for their first defeat since Week 3.
Alvin Kamara, RB, Saints
The Saints leaned on the passing game to make a comeback against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, meaning Kamara’s carries were limited. However, he has not been as explosive in the passing game either. Against Tampa Bay, Kamara was held to 51 yards on 12 carries to go along with 36 yards on five catches. It’s a second consecutive underwhelming outing for Kamara, and it’s no coincidence that the New Orleans offense has stuttered some during those weeks.
The refs in Dallas-Philadelphia
Officiating decisions are magnified in close games, and that was certainly true in Dallas on Sunday. With 2:55 left in regulation, Carson Wentz hit Dallas Goedert for an apparent 75-yard touchdown to tie the game that was ultimately nullified by a phantom offensive pass interference call. An ensuing Dallas roughing the passer call felt like a makeup attempt. Philadelphia ended up scoring on the drive, but only after another minute had come off the clock, meaning the game could have been very different if not for the penalties — and truly awful had the Eagles not overcome it to score the game-tying touchdown.
Arizona Cardinals’ offense
The Cardinals are playing out the string, and it showed Sunday as they were outclassed by a depleted Detroit Lions squad that isn’t a whole lot better than they are. Josh Rosen attempted 41 passes but managed only 240 yards, and his lone interception was a pick-six to Darius Slay. David Johnson was held to 49 yards on the ground. They outgained the Lions 279-218 but couldn’t find the end zone and only came particularly close once. Any Byron Leftwich offensive renaissance appears to be over, and this unit needs a lot of work.