We’re in the final quarter of the NFL season, and Sunday’s games did not disappoint. The highlight was an unexpected shootout in New Orleans, but there was a lot to watch across the league and a lot of standout performances.
There were also some underwhelming performances. Here is a list of those who fell short in Week 14, some unexpectedly, others at a very bad time.
Referees in the Patriots-Chiefs game
The performance of the referees in Sunday’s game in Foxboro was nothing short of baffling. The clearest issue was an officiating crew costing the Patriots two touchdowns with missed calls. One came on a blown whistle to stop what would have been a defensive score, which has been a repeat problem this season. It’s disappointing seeing this continue to happen this late into the season, and the errors are consequential, too, though some would say it’s karma for the Pats.
Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks
Wilson has been putting together an MVP-caliber season for the Seahawks this year, but he fell short of that standard on Sunday night. For the first time this season, Wilson failed to throw a touchdown in a game. He was 22-of-36 for 245 yards and an interception in the 28-12 loss to the Rams. Wilson was sacked five times in the game. Seattle failed to keep pace with the 49ers in the NFC West and is now a wild card team.
It’s hard to fathom what happened here. A week after a thoroughly impressive showing against the New England Patriots, the Texans got buried early by Denver and were behind 31-3 at halftime. They were torched by Drew Lock, who was finding whatever he wanted in short and medium-range passes and letting guys run after the reception. Houston took advantage of what was essentially a prevent defense to make the final score look closer than it was in the second half. They’ve lost control of their AFC South destiny and now face serious questions after a dreadful performance.
Jack Doyle, TE, Colts
Doyle got a nice new three-year contract extension during the week and proceeded to have a miserable go of it on Sunday. Targeted six times, Doyle caught just two of them for 27 yards. He had a key third-down drop on the Colts’ final drive of the game that cost the team a first down in what ended up being a three-point loss. Doyle will have better games in the future and certainly earned his extension, but this wasn’t a pretty day for him.
New England Patriots’ offense
The concerns that arose over New England’s offense last week are even more pronounced now. Though the Patriots staged a late rally that nearly tied the game, they were held to 278 total yards of offense by a Kansas City defense that few would call elite. Brady himself threw for just 169 yards. The team’s lack of big weapons is clear. Unless one free agent signs, it might be too late for them to add players who can help. The Patriots are going to have to work very hard to turn this into a successful unit before the playoffs.
Donte Jackson, CB, Panthers
Jackson was torched for a 93-yard touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, which was bad enough in a 40-20 rout. After the game, though, Jackson essentially blamed his defensive coaches for bad playcalls that put him in that position. Stuff like this needs to be worked out behind the scenes if there are real issues, and it’s a really bad look for Jackson to be saying this in public as the season goes down the drain.
Gardner Minshew, QB, Jaguars
Minshew’s return to the starting quarterback role did nothing to help the hapless Jaguars. He threw for just 162 yards, relying heavily on checkdowns to get what yardage he did manage. Though he threw for a touchdown, he averaged just 4.4 yards per completion. That’s not remotely good enough for an NFL starter and shows that Jacksonville’s problems run deep. Minshew is almost certainly not the answer to their problems.
Kyler Murray’s protection
The Cardinals actually played the Pittsburgh Steelers fairly close in Sunday’s game, but the difference came in the matchup between Arizona’s offensive line and Pittsburgh’s pass rush. Kyler Murray was sacked five times and pressured on numerous other occasions, often leaving him no time to make reads or stay in the pocket. He passed for 194 yards, 2 touchdowns and 3 interceptions in the 23-17 loss. The reality is Murray is not going to be able to reach his potential until his offensive line starts getting him the time that he needs to do his thing. It’s been an ongoing problem all year long.
Derrius Guice, RB, Redskins
You have to feel for Guice, who just can’t get his body to cooperate in order to stay on the field. The Washington running back broke a 23-yard run during Sunday’s game against the Packers and then once again injured himself. He’s had two knee surgeries in his young career so far, and while this MCL sprain seems less significant than those injuries, one of the biggest disappointments is seeing a talented young player once again let down by his body in a game.
New Orleans Saints’ defense
The 49ers were not supposed to put up 48 points on the New Orleans defense. Jimmy Garoppolo threw for 349 yards, and the Niners added another 162 on the ground in their wildly entertaining victory over the Saints. The biggest disappointment from New Orleans’ point of view came on the final drive when they had San Francisco at 4th and 2 outside of field goal range. Get the stop and they win, but George Kittle destroyed them with a huge play, aided by some poor discipline. That play will haunt the Saints. This could have been their game.