The NFL regular season is over, and we know the 12 playoff teams that will be chasing the Super Bowl this year. For others, Sunday brought the bitter end, or raised new questions heading into the most important stretch of the season. It’s those teams who will be left licking their wounds — some even while preparing for another game next week.
Here are ten big disappointments from the final week of the NFL season.
Referees, NFL at end of Seahawks-49ers game
There’s no way around it: the referees on the field missed a blatant pass interference by San Francisco on 3rd-and-goal at the end of “Sunday Night Football.” The refs missing the call is bad, but what was equally bad — if not worse — was the lack of a booth review. The NFL now has the ability to intercede and correct a badly missed pass interference call such as this one, yet they failed to act. The Seahawks came up short on 4th-and-goal (a good call by the officials), but the missed pass interference was a game-changer. That was the difference between the 49ers having the top seed and the Packers getting it; the difference between the Saints getting a bye and having to play in the wild card round; and the Seahawks having the fifth seed rather than the third.
Pete Carroll, Seahawks coaches
The NFL and referees missed a pass interference on 3rd-and-goal, but that doesn’t absolve the Seahawks’ coaches from their mistakes. Seattle inexplicably took a delay of game penalty on 2nd-and-goal in the final minute. How did they have a full play clock to execute a play and make that error in that situation? Because of the penalty, the ball was moved back from the one to the six, and they had to sub out Marshawn Lynch from the goal-line package. Seattle was unable to get in on three straight pass plays after that and did themselves no favors in the 26-21 loss.
Andrew Luck made the shocking decision to retire just before the start of the 2019 season, and there has been plenty of talk about him potentially returning at some point because he is still so young. However, the Indianpolis Colts are not relying on that.
Luck spent some time around the Colts facility during the season, but team owner Jim Irsay recently told Ian Rapoport of NFL Media that Indy is not expecting the 30-year-old to come out of retirement.
“Going into the offeason, we have to proceed as if Andrew is officially retired,” owner Jim Irsay told NFL.com recently. “So that’s how we operate now.”
According to Rapoport, the Colts may not be sold on sticking with Jacoby Brissett as their starting quarterback. Brissett has been good in spurts this season, but he has not played all that well during Indy’s current four-game losing streak. Not having TY Hilton on the field for the majority of that certainly did not help.
Brissett is owed a guaranteed $7 million in 2020 and can make up to $8 million in incentives, so his contract is team-friendly. Despite that, Rapoport expects the Colts to explore the quarterback market “significantly” in the draft.
All indications have been that Luck has no intention of returning to the NFL, which makes sense given that injuries were his reason for retiring. Much like Rob Gronkowski, Luck seemed concerned about his quality of life going forward. That is a lot different from a player who retires because they question their passion for the game.
There are only four weeks to go in the NFL regular season, which means we’ll be watching a lot of huge games in the weeks to come. With bye weeks finished and everybody in action the rest of the way, every game is big in some way, even if the outcomes only affect draft position. Sunday was no different, effectively kicking off the stretch run of the season.
Here are 10 big disappointments from Week 13.
New England Patriots
The Patriots entered Sunday night with the best record in the league at 10-1 and the No. 1 defense. But they looked nothing like the best team in the league during their loss at Houston. The offense struggled to get anything going for most of the game, with Tom Brady taking sacks and complaining about his receivers’ inability to get open. The defense allowed four touchdowns in what was their worst performance since the Baltimore loss. Even kicker Kai Forbath missed an extra point. The Pats are 2-2 in their last four and their 22 points (mostly in garbage time Sunday night) was their high mark during that span. Brady seems to have seen this coming.
The Eagles looked like a disaster, particularly on defense, against the lowly Miami Dolphins. They were victimized by one of the better trick plays we’ve seen, sure, but Miami also put up 409 yards of total offense on them and totally deserved to win the game. Add in lingering concerns about how good Carson Wentz really is, and the Eagles have a lot to think about. Losses like this tend to cause a reckoning in Philadelphia.
The NFL officials explained why the Houston Texans retained possession on what appeared to be a Deshaun Watson fumble late in the team’s 20-17 win over the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday night.
The Texans had the ball with just under two minutes left in the game. Deshaun Watson rushed to the right on a 2nd-and-9 play and had the ball knocked out by Colts linebacker Darius Leonard for a clear fumble.
What wasn’t so clear was who recovered the ball. An official on the field signaled Texans ball after the pile got sorted out.
The Texans called a timeout with about 50 seconds left as they faced a 3rd-and-3 (after nearly a minute had run off the clock from the time after the previous play began). At that point, there was speculation the officials would review the play, but they did not do so. Indianapolis did not have any timeouts left and could not challenge.
The NFL’s officials Twitter account later said the Texans retained possession because there was no clear evidence of a Colts recovery.
Instead of Indy getting the ball back with about 50 seconds left down 20-17 and with no timeouts, Houston retained possession and was able to run out the clock on a huge 20-17 win that gave them the lead in the AFC South.
The Indianapolis Colts broke out one of the more memorable celebrations we’ll see this year after a touchdown in Sunday’s game.
The Colts gave the ball to offensive lineman Quenton Nelson to try to bust through the defense in a goal line situation. He was initially ruled to have done so, which sparked off a tremendous end zone celebration involving the whole team involving a Nelson keg stand.
The bad news? The touchdown was overturned on replay and did not count. We still got the celebration, though.
Look, spontaneous touchdown celebrations are great. But sometimes, the best ones turn out to be the rehearsed ones that require the entire team to be on the same page. This is a clear example of the latter category working to perfection.
Adam Vinatieri is still struggling to convert extra points, and the Indianapolis Colts may be looking into the possibility of replacing the future Hall of Famer down the stretch.
The Colts were planning to host some free-agent kickers for workouts on Tuesday, ESPN’s Dan Graziano reports. While they have not yet decided if they will move on from Vinatieri, they are obviously weighing their options.
Vinatieri missed another extra point in Sunday’s loss to the Miami Dolphins, giving him a whopping six misses on the year. The 46-year-old missed three all of last season, two in 2017 and none in 2016. Vinatieri has also converted just 73.7 percent of his field goals this year, which is his lowest mark since 2003.
The latest extra point that Vinatieri missed may have had a major impact on Sunday’s game, as the Colts were down 16-12 late and had to try to put together a touchdown drive to win at the end. Had they only needed a field go to send the game to overtime, they may have been able to take a different approach.
While one of Vinatieri’s recent misses appeared to be the result of a bad hold, there’s no question he is finally showing signs of age. The Colts stood behind him earlier in the season when he strongly hinted at retirement, but they may have changed their minds as he continues to struggle.
The NFL is back, and so are the letdowns. For every exciting winner on Sunday, there was a loser — unless you’re the Detroit Lions or Arizona Cardinals, who managed to tie. The week had its fair share of goats, from teams with high expectations falling flat on their faces to a cavalcade of blown double-digit leads in second halves around the NFL.
Here are the ten biggest disappointments of NFL Week 1.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers
Woof. What an ugly season opener for the Steelers. They were skunked in the first half and fell behind 20-0. They mustered very little in the second half and only got their points thanks to a poor decision by Mike Tomlin. Tom Brady ate up their zone defenses, utilizing deep threat Phillip Dorsett for four catches, 95 yards and two touchdowns. Pittsburgh’s offense lacked punch, running the ball for just 32 yards and throwing for 255. It’s almost as if losing Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown made them worse.
2. Cleveland Browns
After an offseason of hype and aspirations of a division title, this was absolutely not how the Browns envisioned things going in Week 1. They were outcoached and outmatched by the Tennessee Titans, who picked off an overwhelmed (and hurt) Baker Mayfield three times. Perhaps the biggest issues for the Browns were their offensive line and the team’s discipline. Mayfield was sacked five times and the Browns took a remarkable 18 penalties for a total of 182 yards. Six of them resulted in first downs. That can’t happen on a team that expects to contend.
Andrew Luck made the shocking decision to retire last month, and the quarterback is certainly young enough that he could take some time off from the game and return at some point in the next few years. The Indianapolis Colts do not expect that to happen, however.
While there was initially talk that some within the Colts organization are hopeful Luck will change his mind about retirement in the future, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported on Sunday that the team “strongly” believes Luck has played his last game in the NFL. One Colts official said the team was shocked Luck retired but would be “even more shocked if he ever came back.”
Luck did not entirely rule out a return to football in his farewell press conference, admitting that he “can’t see the future” but made his decision with a very clear mind. At least one person close to the four-time Pro Bowler said he would be stunned if Luck’s retirement was temporary.
The Colts have chosen to not seek reimbursement of the significant sum of money Luck would have been contractually obligated to pay them back, and they undoubtedly did that to maintain a good relationship with the 29-year-old in case he ever does return. However, they recently signed Jacoby Brissett to a two-year extension and are focusing on the future.
Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay recently turned down a record offer for the franchise, according to a report.
According to Joel A. Erickson and Nat Newell of the Indianapolis Star, Irsay was recently offered $3.2 billion for the Colts, but turned down the offer. It is unknown who the prospective buyer was.
A team spokesperson told the Star that the Colts are not for sale.
A $3.2 billion sale would have been unprecedented. Not only would it have surpassed the Carolina Panthers’ record $2.3 billion sale price, but it would have been the most expensive sale of any North American sports franchise.
Irsay’s family has owned the Colts franchise since 1982, when they were still based in Baltimore. Irsay himself has been the team’s controlling owner since 1997 despite some significant personal issues in recent years. He has deep roots in the community, and he’s not prepared to give that up.
The offer also underlines just how valuable NFL franchises are — even ones that are currently going through a bit of a bumpy period on the field.
The Indianapolis Colts are entitled to a significant amount of money back from Andrew Luck now that he has decided to retire, but they are not going to create a situation where there could be tension between the former No. 1 overall pick and the franchise.
The Colts have reached a financial settlement with Luck and will not seek to recoup any of the money he could have potentially owed them, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Luck would have been contractually obligated to pay back a total of $24.8 million stemming from a pro-rated amount of his $32 million signing bonus from 2016 and $12 million in roster bonuses he was paid when the new league year began in March, but the Colts are letting him keep it all.
Luck dealt with numerous significant injuries throughout his NFL career, and the Colts clearly want to show that they appreciate all he went through. Irsay applauded Luck for leaving what he estimated to be close to $450 million on the table by walking away from football, so the owner is letting him keep the $24.8 million as what Schefter describes as a “parting gift.”
We know Colts fans didn’t treat Luck all that well with their reaction to his shocking retirement decision, but the team deserves credit for showing him a great deal of respect.