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Winners and Losers of NFL Week 15 – The Ringer

Each week of the 2022 NFL season, we are going to have fun the electrical performs, examine the colossal blunders, and clarify the inexplicable moments of the newest slate. Welcome to Winners and Losers. Which one are you?

Winner: An All-Time-Nice Soccer Week

I’m sorry, we simply couldn’t get to all of the winners and losers in a single column this week. We wrote a whole separate put up concerning the biggest comeback in NFL history on Saturday, which allowed me to dedicate my consideration to one of many wildest Sundays in current reminiscence, a maelstrom of comebacks and thrillers highlighted by the one worst game-losing play I’ve ever seen in all my years watching this magnificent, idiotic sport.

Twelve of the 15 video games this week had been determined by only one possession; 5 had been received with scores on the ultimate play of the sport, together with three time beyond regulation walk-offs. There have been three 17-point comebacks, probably the most in a single week in NFL historical past. There was snow, there was chaos, and there was this:

That’s Patriots extensive receiver Jakobi Meyers throwing a last-second lateral move on to Raiders defensive finish Chandler Jones, who promptly stiff-armed Pats quarterback Mac Jones and romped 48 yards to the top zone to beat his former group. Frenzied multi-lateral performs typically finish in defensive touchdowns … however usually, these scores simply add factors to the successful group’s whole, with few implications outdoors of playing. This play truly turned a tied sport right into a Pats loss. It’s the second time in NFL historical past {that a} last-second multi-lateral play has resulted in a walk-off game-winning landing … and the opposite was additionally in opposition to the Patriots, when the Dolphins went 69 yards for an offensive TD in 2018. Invoice Belichick may be the teaching GOAT, however as soon as guys begin pitching the ball to different guys, Belichick’s ineffective.

A lot stuff occurred Sunday that I simply should record it: Tom Brady blew a 17-point lead in about 13 minutes of sport time; the Chiefs someway went to time beyond regulation with the Texans; the Jaguars got here again from 17 down in opposition to the Cowboys and received on a pick-six in time beyond regulation; the Giants beat Washington in a vastly vital playoff positioning battle due to this jarring cease on the 1-yard line:

And you recognize what? Let’s watch the Patriots factor once more: It doesn’t get previous.

Loser: The Dumbest Factor I Have Ever Seen on a Soccer Discipline

I simply wish to break down the ultimate ridiculous play within the Patriots-Raiders sport in full:

First, the context:

  • The Patriots, notably, had been tied with the Raiders. They didn’t want to attain a landing to win. They’d outscored the Raiders 21-7 within the second half, and as much as that time, the one landing that they had allowed after halftime may or may not have actually been a touchdown. Whereas it could have been good to win in regulation, there was no must do something ridiculous. (They did one thing ridiculous.)
  • Even when Pats WR Jakobi Meyers felt the necessity to throw this ball, he had higher choices. Fellow receiver Tyquan Thornton was proper subsequent to him; tight finish Hunter Henry was just a few yards away. As a substitute, he tried to throw to Mac Jones, who was 20 yards behind him and 30 yards throughout the sphere.
  • Meyers, to his credit score, has taken full accountability for the failure. He says the Patriots’ coaches instructed the group to play for time beyond regulation. “I assumed I noticed Mac Jones open,” Meyers mentioned.
  • I assumed.
  • I noticed.
  • Open.

That’s actually the dumbest a part of this dumb factor: Meyers was attempting to throw a move to Mac Jones, one of many least athletic quarterbacks in the whole NFL, a three-star recruit popping out of highschool whose shirtless photos from faculty have been mocked. (Lest we would have liked a reminder of Jones’s lack of athleticism, a designed run for Jones a couple of minutes earlier had been an abject disaster.) Jones was trailing behind the whole play, with all of the Raiders between him and the top zone. Meyers was apparently banking on this slow-ass QB single-handedly defeating the whole 11-man protection, with no blocking assist or different teammates close by to dump off one other lateral to. Did Jakobi Meyers assume that Mac Jones was some form of hybrid of Derrick Henry and Justin Jefferson? And would a hypothetical Justrick Henfferson truly be capable of make this play?

It’s additionally value stating that Meyers’s throw was horrible. Meyers was a highschool quarterback, which most likely gave him the undeserved confidence to assume he might full this move whereas on the transfer and throwing throughout his physique whereas getting hit. It didn’t find yourself inside 5 yards of Mac. Even when Chandler Jones wasn’t there to intercept the move, Mac Jones most likely wouldn’t have caught it. It turned out being a clear pick-six, but it surely might’ve additionally been a scoop-and-score fumble return.

And now the enjoyable half … speaking about Mac Jones’s sort out try:

  • I believe … I believe … I believe he’s attempting to attract a cost? He’s getting his toes set outdoors of the restricted space, he’s dropping to the bottom on the first whiff of contact, he’s seeking to the ref for a sign, he’s seeking to Coach Okay on the sidelines for approval. He’s not attempting to make a sort out, that’s for rattling positive.
  • Mac Jones doesn’t try to make use of any of his physique weight to cease the bigger Jones, who’s beginning to rumble upfield. There’s a nominal try from Mac to arm sort out on the ballcarrier’s legs, however he by no means will get a grip. It doesn’t even appear to be Chandler Jones tries exhausting to place Mac on the bottom—he merely places a hand on Mac’s head and gently flattens him, like somebody attempting to push away a nipping 10-pound canine with out hurting them too badly.

It was a horrible choice, a worse throw, and a pathetic effort. At each single juncture, the Patriots made the fallacious alternative, turning an inconsequential play into an all-time disaster. There was no world wherein Meyers’s move labored out, however I’m so grateful for the precise, baffling methods wherein it failed.

Winner: The Eagles’ Sardine Sneak

Generally soccer is difficult, and typically it’s only a bunch of dudes shoving each other. The 13-1 Eagles are good at each—they run a complicated, intricate offense led by a spectacularly versatile quarterback. That offense can be extraordinarily good on the shoving.

Jalen Hurts didn’t throw any touchdowns Sunday in opposition to Chicago, breaking an eight-game streak of throwing TDs. As a substitute, he merely threw for 315 yards and ran for 3 touchdowns in a 25-20 win; it was simply the third sport wherein a participant had 300 passing yards and three dashing touchdowns in NFL historical past. (The other two gamers to tug it off: Dak Prescott and Congressman Jack Kemp.) However Hurts didn’t actually “run” for all three of these scores. He had one landing that truly concerned operating—a 22-yard rating on which the Bears hit the fallacious hole on a security blitz, leaving the whole subject in between Hurts and the top zone utterly devoid of human beings.

However the different two TDs had been one-yard scores out of a QB sneak–unique formation. He didn’t run into the top zone—he was pushed.

The QB sneak stands out as the defining play of this dominant Eagles group. Hurts has 28 conversions on third- or fourth-and-1 this 12 months; no person else within the NFL has greater than 17. Hurts might need probably the most highly effective legs of any quarterback ever to play the sport—he competed in powerlifting competitions in high school, and his squatting movies in faculty went viral. The Eagles even have an incredible offensive line anchored by heart Jason Kelce, who was caught telling the Cowboys “you recognize what’s coming!” earlier than a profitable sneak just a few weeks in the past.

However this formation takes issues to a brand new stage. Hurts takes a snap from beneath heart with three teammates lined up mere inches behind him, packed in like sardines in a can or clowns in a automobile. They’re too shut for an efficient handoff or a dropback move: They’ll solely push. The Eagles aren’t the primary group to run sneaks out of such a crowded formation—I noticed Kansas State doing it a few years ago, and “have all people push ahead” is mainly the only soccer idea, so it’s most likely been used earlier than—possibly even, like, 115 years in the past. The Eagles didn’t begin being this apparent about their sneaks till the previous couple of weeks: On QB-sneak touchdowns in opposition to the Cardinals and Commanders, there have been three gamers behind Hurts, however they had been operating misdirection to distract the protection. I assume the Eagles determined to cease screwing round and make these gamers helpful.

Hurts now has 13 dashing touchdowns, the second-most within the NFL this season (behind Detroit RB Jamaal Williams) and the second-most in a season by any QB ever—Cam Newton had 14 in his rookie year.

However I believe the Eagles can do even higher. In any case, they nonetheless had slightly-built WR DeVonta Smith on the sphere for these sneaks, cut up out extensive doing completely nothing. Sub him out of the sport and put a fourth participant behind Hurts. And as a substitute of operating backs and extensive receivers, they need to simply put a nostril sort out, two backup offensive linemen, and a center linebacker behind Hurts. And they need to begin operating this play each single down, as a substitute of really taking part in offense. If the Eagles have 11 guys push ahead, who can cease them?

Loser: Again-to-Again Prime-Time Ref Blunders

The Giants beat the Commanders 20-12 due to an exhilarating goal-line stand: a crushing sort out on Taylor Heinicke on the 1-yard line by Kayvon Thibodeaux, relentless stress on a 3rd all the way down to pressure a hurried throw by Heinicke, after which a move breakup by Darnay Holmes to seal the win on fourth down. However two of these performs in that goal-line collection featured questionable rulings by officers, and one was a transparent miss. The Giants’ fourth-down cease truly featured some blatant move interference by Holmes, a botched name that NBC guidelines analyst Terry McAulay confirmed on air:

The Giants ought to’ve been flagged there, and the Commanders ought to’ve gotten 4 extra photographs on the finish zone.

The opposite officiating situation is extra difficult. On third-and-goal from the 1-yard line, Washington truly did attain the top zone, with RB Brian Robinson powering into the top zone for a probably game-tying landing—just for the rating to be referred to as again on account of an obvious miscommunication between an official and a participant. Washington WR Terry McLaurin was flagged for unlawful formation on the play, the primary penalty referred to as on him all season, which pushed Washington again to the 6-yard line and made their probabilities of successful rather a lot more durable. And to know why he was flagged—and why it’s uncommon—that you must know a bit bit about soccer’s guidelines:

On each play, the offense must have seven gamers on the road of scrimmage. The 5 gamers within the center on the road are ineligible to catch passes, which is why groups have 5 offensive linemen. The 2 gamers on the surface are the “ends” who’re in a position to catch the ball—they was referred to as tight ends and cut up ends, however now we are saying tight ends and extensive receivers. It’s helpful for the protection to have the ability to establish the 2 ends, which permits them to rule out sure pre-snap motions and trick performs. Nevertheless, the offensive gamers don’t all the time line up instantly on the road of scrimmage, even when the foundations say they need to. Offensive tackles prefer to play a skosh again to chop off edge rushers extra simply, giving the O-line a definite curve; receivers like a little bit of area when taking part in in opposition to press protection—and apart from, they’re standing about 20 yards away from the ball and don’t all the time line up precisely proper.

So officers have a tendency to offer them a little bit of leeway. When outdoors receivers get set for a play, they usually examine with one of many officers to substantiate that they’re shut sufficient to the road of scrimmage to keep away from a penalty. You’ll see this dozens of instances each sport: A receiver will level over to the sideline, and more often than not the official will give them the A-OK. In the event that they’re manner off the road, the official will allow them to know they should step up. Sometimes, refs throw the flag provided that a receiver forgets to examine with them and strains up unusually far behind the road of scrimmage.

However McLaurin checked with the official on the road of scrimmage! Replays clearly confirmed him trying over to the facet after which scooting ahead. The official seems to point that McLaurin is sweet to go—something McLaurin said in his postgame interview he believed occurred. McLaurin’s alignment didn’t present a aggressive benefit, and he clearly tried to be in compliance with the official, however the ref received his flag-throwing arm prepared and pulled the set off as quickly because the ball was snapped.

It feels much less excusable than the common officiating controversy. It wasn’t that the official didn’t see the play clearly, or didn’t interpret a rule accurately. It wasn’t a missed name a lot as a breach of soccer etiquette, and it could have price Washington the sport.

Winner: The Jacksonville Jaguars

In Week 15 of the 2021 season, the Jaguars fired City Meyer, the pinnacle coach who (allegedly) kicked certainly one of his gamers, (allegedly) didn’t know who Aaron Donald was, and (positively) danced with a random girl that was not his spouse in a bar in Columbus, Ohio, after skipping the group flight house after a loss. The group was 2-11, properly on their option to incomes the no. 1 choose within the draft; the man they’d drafted with the no. 1 choose earlier that 12 months, Trevor Lawrence, was tied for the league lead in interceptions.

In Week 15 of this season, the Jags moved to inside one sport of the AFC South lead after one of many best wins in franchise historical past, a 40-34 time beyond regulation win in opposition to the playoff-bound Cowboys. At one level, Jacksonville trailed by 17. Jacksonville DB Rayshawn Jenkins sealed the win with a walk-off pick-six of Dak Prescott; it was the team’s first game-winning overtime touchdown since 2005.

Jenkins was across the ball all sport, ending with 18 tackles and two interceptions, making him the first safety with 18 tackles in an NFL game since 2012 and the first player in the Pro Football Reference database with 18 tackles and two picks in a game. After the sport, Jenkins was requested the distinction between final 12 months and this one, and he boiled it down to at least one factor: teaching. He didn’t particularly say something about City Meyer, however (allegedly) Meyer was the coach of the group final 12 months, after they sucked ass.

Lawrence, in the meantime, threw for 4 touchdowns, together with a bunch of gorgeous bombs. Final week, tight finish Evan Engram led all non-quarterbacks within the NFL in fantasy scoring; this week, it was Jacksonville extensive receiver Zay Jones, who caught three touchdowns from Lawrence. For the reason that begin of November, Lawrence has had 14 touchdowns and one interception.

Between the Lions and Jags, the 2 groups with the worst information within the NFL final 12 months are firmly within the playoff hunt with three weeks to go, led largely by their younger stars. What a distinction a 12 months makes.

Loser: Tom Brady, Once more

In additional than twenty years of hating on Tom Brady, I’ve usually needed to accept fake failures and discover small comforts in conditions when Brady was in any other case superior. Like making enjoyable of him for dropping the Tremendous Bowl after main the primary group to go 18-0 in NFL historical past, or for dropping a move in a Tremendous Bowl the place he threw for greater than 500 yards. In 2022, although, we get legit causes to make enjoyable of Brady nearly each week. On Sunday, his Buccaneers blew a 17-0 lead in opposition to the Bengals—and Brady was the first motive for the loss.

Brady dedicated 4 turnovers Sunday for the primary time since 2011, all within the second half on 4 consecutive drives. He threw two interceptions for the second straight week: One was a lobbed duck after he received hit, whereas the opposite was a straight-up unhealthy throw.

Brady additionally misplaced two fumbles, together with one wherein the ball slipped out of his hand on a routine handoff.

Three of the turnovers gave Cincinnati the ball in Tampa Bay territory, leading to three fast scores. With Brady shortly turning the ball over on these Tampa Bay second-half possessions, the Buccaneers defenders ran out of gasoline and gave up 34 unanswered factors.

The Bucs at the moment are 6-8; it’s the primary time a Brady group has ever misplaced eight video games in a season. They’ll must go 3-0 down the stretch for him to keep away from his first dropping document ever as a beginning QB. Brady is thirty first amongst qualifying quarterbacks in yards per try, wedged between Baker Mayfield and Kenny Pickett. It’s a good time to be a Brady hater—however I’ve gotta admit, it’s a bit much less enjoyable when it’s this straightforward.

Winner: The Alley-Oopterception

Sunday’s video games might have proven the foolishness of randomly hurling a ball in varied instructions on a soccer subject—however a lateral led to the interception of the 12 months within the Chargers-Titans sport. Titans rookie CB Roger McCreary tracked a deep ball by Justin Herbert, and leapt to catch it—however realized he wasn’t going to land inbounds. So he tossed it to his teammate, security Joshua Kalu, who caught the ball and tapped his toes inbounds—a uncommon two-man interception:

It’s a shocking feat of focus and consciousness by each gamers. McCreary seemingly retains his eyes on the ball the entire time, however he’s truly taking note of all types of issues. He’s conscious that Chargers receiver Mike Williams isn’t going to have the ability to make a play on the ball, and that he can probably make a choose relatively than simply break up a possible landing. He’s conscious of the approaching sideline, ensuring to leap earlier than both of his toes goes out of bounds so he could make the play. He’s conscious of Kalu’s presence, and is aware of that his alley-oop has a possible recipient. He additionally appears to know that his toss must be backwards—you possibly can’t simply throw footballs forwards, even if you’re within the course of of creating a leaping interception out of bounds. And he’s seemingly conscious that Williams isn’t going to attempt to catch his pitch to Kalu, turning a possible choose right into a landing. McCreary calculates all of that, after which Kalu makes a spectacular play as properly. In a millisecond, his mind processed that McCreary is pitching him the ball, and that he must get each toes down inbounds to make the interception depend.

After the sport, McCreary said that he had thought about making this exact play, making him both a soccer innovator who imagines never-before-seen highlights or a large liar. Both manner, he and Kalu had the imaginative and prescient to improvise—and execute—the interception of the 12 months.

Loser: A Non-Stroll-Off

With the Buccaneers’ loss to the Bengals and the Panthers’ loss to the Steelers, the dream of a sub-.500 NFC South champion crept even nearer to actuality on Sunday. Imagine it or not, the Falcons might have moved right into a tie for first place within the division with a win over the Saints—sure, these Falcons, those which might be extraordinarily unhealthy, even in response to their very own loyal followers.

Atlanta put their hopes on rookie QB Desmond Ridder, making his first NFL begin after the choice was made to bench Marcus Mariota. These hopes ended when Ridder ran out of bounds close to midfield after an 18-yard scramble with the sport clock expired, in essence voluntarily ending the sport and giving the Saints a 21-18 win. Whereas nearly each different sport this week ended with a game-winning rating, this one ended with a participant actually operating off the sphere with no time left—not a walk-off win, however a run-off loss.

This exact scenario happened with a backup quarterback in a Georgia Tech game earlier this 12 months—apparently, it’s an issue localized to groups from the Atlanta metropolitan space. The Falcons’ loss means the dream of an NFC South wherein each single group finishes with a 6-11 document is alive and properly.

The Falcons didn’t simply lose due to this play, but it surely was a becoming capper on a disappointing debut for Ridder. He went 13-for-26 for 97 yards, solely barely surpassing the passing output of Saints tight finish Taysom Hill, who was 2-for-2 for 80 yards. However it’s a tricky look—QBs ought to know stuff like “How a lot time is on the clock?” or “Will this motion trigger my group to lose actually one hundred pc of the time?” It actually would’ve been higher for Ridder to lateral the ball backwards 20 yards throughout his physique to a ready defensive participant—that try truly would’ve given the Falcons a greater likelihood at successful than operating out of bounds.

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