THE NFL REPORT

NFL Week 15 observations: The good, bad and ugly

Marcus Peters and the Chiefs put it on the Chargers. Chiefs.com

Week 15 saw the return of one of the NFL’s faces as Aaron Rodgers returned for the Green Bay Packers to face the Carolina Panthers and Cam Newton. Another heavyweight bout was played as Tom Brady and the New England Patriots faced Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Let’s get into this week’s action…

The Good

-The Jimmy Garoppolo era of the San Francisco 49ers has started with a third consecutive win by a score of 25-23 over the Tennessee Titans. The Titans kicked a field goal to go up 23-22 with 1:07 left in the game. All the time behind Brady as a backup, plus Kyle Shanahan calling plays, allowed Garoppolo to lead the 49ers on a game winning drive as Robbie Gould kicked go-ahead field goal as time expired.

-The Minnesota Vikings locked up the NFC North with a 34-7 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. Case Keenum solidified himself as the Vkings quarterback with another great performance going 20 of 23, for 236 yards and two touchdowns. Perhaps the best part was seeing former Vikings starter Teddy Bridgewater get his first regular season game action in 714 days. The reaction of not only the crowd, but also his coaches and teammates was pretty damn awesome. It got a bit dusty and my allergies may have acted up.

-Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy eclipsed the 10,000 rushing yards mark in their 24-16 win over the Miami Dolphins. At 29, “Shady” still has some juice left in the tank as he looks every bit as elusive as he did when the Philadelphia Eagles drafted him in the second round out of the University of Pittsburgh in 2009. While he’s not mentioned as one of the all-time greats, I’d like to see where he ends up once he hangs up his cleats. Oh, and that win keeps his Bills squad in the No. 6 seed spot in the AFC.

The Bad

-Rodgers made his return for the Packers, but it was spoiled by the Panthers defense. They got three interceptions off of the future Hall of Famer as he tried to keep his team’s playoff hopes alive. They still had a shot to tie the game after pulling within a touchdown and recovering an onside kick, but Geronimo Allison fumbled at the Panthers 28 with 1:50 left in the game. The Packers will miss the playoffs now for the first time since 2008.  

-In the Oakland Raiders/Dallas Cowboys game Sunday night, referee Gene Steratore used an index card to measure a very important fourth down on the Cowboys game-winning drive. The NFL is a multi-billion dollar industry which uses technology all over its organization. Why haven’t they figured out a more technologically advanced way to figure out what’s a first down? That was akin to our government used smoke signals to communicate.

-The Los Angeles Chargers played the Kansas City Chiefs for the lead in the AFC West and a clear shot at a playoff spot. The Chargers have come a long way since starting 0-4, and appeared to be hot enough to overtake the faltering Chiefs. They not only lost 30-13, but gave the Chiefs four turnovers to boot. Quarterback Phillip Rivers picked the wrong day to throw three picks. Now they’ll need tons of help and weird scenarios in order to get a wildcard spot.

The Ugly

-In a battle for the No. 1 seed in the AFC, the Patriots beat the Steelers 27-24. But it’s the way they lost that landed a mention in The Ugly. Down by three, the Steelers got a 69-yard catch and run by Juju Smith-Schuster down to the 10 yard line. Jesse James appeared to have caught the game winning touchdown, but it was reversed as the refs say he didn’t maintain possession when he hit the ground crossing the goal line. After a 3 yard gain, they appeared to want to down the ball, but Roethlisberger faked it and tried to thread the needle on a slant to Eli Rogers that was tipped then intercepted by Duron Harmon. Game over.

-The Washington Redskins beat the Arizona Cardinals in a game in that featured a combined 11 punts, three turnovers, 15 penalties, and seven field goals. The Redskins won mainly because of a fumble recovery and return to the 6 yard line by Preston Smith set up the first of their two touchdowns. That, and Blaine Gabbert remembered he is a 1st round bust by going 16 of 41 for 189 yards and an interception. I’d rather have rewatched the blizzard game from last week than to watch this one.

-The Seattle Seahawks fell to the Los Angeles Rams 42-7. I looked at this game as a potential passing of the torch and expected to see a bit of a dog fight. However, the Rams beat the snot out of the Seahawks allowing a paltry 149 total yards of offense with the aid of only two turnovers. The Rams came into Seattle, smacked the Seahawks around, and took their lunch money, as well as control of the NFC West. There’s a new big dog on the porch, and they appear ready to sit there for a while now.

The catch rule, measuring for first downs, touchdown/not a touchdown, helmet to helmet collisions…the list continues to grow as far as the problems the NFL has yet to fully solve or figure out. While earlier this season, people had their panties in a bunch over anthem protests, the league has many more issues at hand they need to deal with. Some of these rules need to be clarified and made simple (the catch rule). Some, they need to apply their vast billions into better technology in order to better officiate the game (first downs and touch downs). How about bringing in former players to help re-write some of these rules? This would help ease tensions between the players and a commissioner that have a rocky relationship. Plus, it just makes damn good sense. But why would the NFL do anything that makes that much sense?

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF O'BRIEN'S COACHING

Not my job: Texans no match for the Ravens

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

The Texans fell to the Ravens 33-16 in a game they had a shot at winning. Most of you reading this will probably think I'm crazy for saying that. I assure you, I meant what I said. One of the reasons they didn't was because Bill O'Brien made a few questionable decisions that cost this team.

The first was the 4th & 1 decision. Deciding to go for it was bad enough. They were down 3-0 near the end of the first quarter with the ball on their own 34-yard line. This is not a situation that calls for a gamble or statement play. The play call itself was okay I guess: a play action bootleg with two short options. It was read and played perfectly by the Ravens defense. Deshaun Watson had nowhere to go with the ball and had to throw it at Darren Fells' back before getting sacked. That led to a quick Ravens touchdown and an early 10-0 deficit. I seriously think he has PTSD after that playoff loss to the Chiefs when it comes to fourth down calls. Bumbling Bill strikes again!

When they got the ball back, they scored a touchdown thanks to more play action passes and pre-snap motion. It was as if Bumbling Bill realized his offensive line was outmatched by the front seven they're opposing. Sure Watson is mobile and looks like a magician escaping sacks, but misdirection helps throw the defense off and keeps Watson from breaking into 177,000,000 pieces. Oh, and the quick reads were a good idea as well. Too bad Bumbling Bill went away from that and opted for longer developing routes. Or will he blame it on Timid Tim Kelly? Or was Waiting Watson holding onto the ball too long? I blame all three.

Also, can we stop starting drives with the predictable run, run, pass combo please? First down should be play action rollout with Watson having the ability to choose to run if it's there. More run/pass/option plays need to be called as well. Incorporate more things that we saw when Watson was on his way to winning rookie of the year before his knee was sacrificed for the Astros.

Credit where it's due: the end of the first half to get a field goal with a minute and change left was good to see. Typically, these situations tend to make Bumbling Bill come out. I liked the quick slant to Cobb with no timeouts. They were able to spike the ball and get the field goal up.

The game was still within reach at 23-13 in the beginning of the fourth quarter. On a 4th & 1, they gave up a 30 yard touchdown run on a direct snap to Mark Ingram. I saw gaps on both sides of the defensive line pre-snap. Sure enough, Ingram got a lead block from the Ravens human plough of a fullback and that effectively put the nail in the coffin at 30-13. I know the tendency is to quarterback sneak or run up the middle, but don't leave gaps along the defensive line trying to stack the middle. First time defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver will take the L on this one.

Overall, I'll give O'Brien and his coaching staff a C- this game. Mistakes were made that could've cost them a legit shot at winning, but the Keke Coutee fumble return for a touchdown wasn't their fault. The play calling menu was brought to us this week by Craft Pita via the "What's Eric Eating" podcast. Tune in next week for another "Not my job!"

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