NFL

NFL AM: A Historically Entertaining Day Of Football

on

NFL football is a lot like pizza.  Even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good.

The NFL product has come under scrutiny this year and rightfully so.  The bad teams seem to be especially bad; TV ratings are down and the casual fan doesn’t seem to be as excited about the game as in recent seasons.

The National Football League needed a rebound and that’s exactly what everyone received on Sunday.  Out of the dozen games played, just two had double-digit margins.  In that, we saw some truly unbelievable finishes.

The Worst Loss Ever?

Today is a tough day to be a New Orleans Saints fan.  Following an 0-3 start to the season, New Orleans was down 23-17, and 32 yards away from beating the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos and moving to 5-4, just one game behind the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC South.

Then quarterback Drew Brees found Brandin Cooks, who twisted and turned his way into the end zone for a would-be game-winning score.

Pending the extra point.

Since the league moved back extra points last season, it’s no longer the foregone conclusion that it used to be, but it’s still a play with a 94 percent probability.  Rookie kicker Will Lutz hadn’t missed an extra point all year long (in 29 previous attempts).

The worst thing that can happen is that he shanks it and you’re tied with a chance to win in overtime with a future Hall of Fame quarterback, right?

Wrong.

Denver’s Justin Simmons perfectly timed his leap over the center to block an extra-point kick that would have given New Orleans a late lead.  Then Will Parks ran it back 84 yards for a defensive 2-point conversion, and the Broncos left the Superdome in stunned silence.

“It took me a few tries to actually time it up and make sure I cleared him,” Simmons said. “[It took] all week, from Wednesday all the way until game day.”

“I knew he had hops. In practice, you can see him catch picks during scout[-team work], he’s about 42 inches in the air,” added Parks. “But this time he jumped about 45 inches to get the block.”

This is just another example of how supremely well-coached teams tend to make big plays when necessary.

De-Ja-Vu?

Nearly two years ago, the New England Patriots defeated the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX which was one of the greatest game’s anyone has ever seen.

Of course, the game came down to a horrifically bad play call when Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was intercepted by Malcolm Butler.

Instead of running the ball with the great Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks offensive coordinator Darell Bevell made the head-scratching call.

Fast forward to Sunday night and it was New England in the same situation facing a fourth down with time running out, down seven points.  Instead of running the football with Legarrette Blount, the Patriots decided to throw a low-percentage fade to Rob Gronkowski.  In a one-on-one situation, Gronk is one of the most unstoppable forces in the game, but he pushed down Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor, possibly the only defensive back big enough to compete physically with the Patriots polar bear, and couldn’t regain his balance.

“He was playing off me … pretty far, farther than usual,” Gronkowski said about Chancellor. “You don’t usually see that. A fade, I had to go up to him and initiate a move. I just wanted get on top of his toes, that is what you are taught. I just got up on his toes too much.”

The defensive stop and subsequent victory doesn’t erase the Super Bowl loss, but it did make for a certain amount of redemptive satisfaction.

“When it got down to it, when you get a chance to win a game on the 1-yard line , there ain’t nothing like it in football,” said coach Pete Carroll, whose Seahawks worked on defending that exact play at the end of Friday’s practice. “It’s one of the great challenges that a team and a defense gets. And our guys just came through, and hung in there, and just fought for every inch and let us walk away with the win.”

The Boys Win A Thriller

In the best game of the 4 o’clock eastern slate, the Dallas Cowboys rallied to score two touchdowns in the final two minutes of the game to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, 35-30.

The most high profile rookie tandem in the NFL added to their growing lure as quarterback Dak Prescott threw for over 300 yards for the first time as a pro while posting a quarterback rating of 121.7.

Running back Ezekiel Elliot was dominant as usual, rushing for 114 yards with a pair of touchdowns, and caught two passes for 95 yards and another touchdown.

With nine seconds left in the game and the Cowboys down 30-29, Elliot took the football 32 yards to the house.

“It parted like the Red Sea,” Elliott said about his game-winning score. “All I had to do was run.”

Prescott marveled at his fellow rookie’s exploits.

“I was just shaking my head like `Wow,” the young quarterback said. “We were just trying to get us in position to get in good field goal range and Zeke said otherwise.”

The Cowboys moved to 8-1 and it doesn’t look like they’re going to slow down anytime soon.  The quarterback “controversy” seems to be put to rest for the immediate future.

“I think the longer (Prescott) plays like this, the more we have a chance to have another win,” owner Jerry Jones said. “Everybody here wants to do one thing and that’s win. There’s nobody that would introduce any other issue or any other consideration than doing what it takes to win the game.”

Rivers Mistake Haunts Chargers

In another example of grasping defeat from the jaws of victory, San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers’ fourth interception fell into the hands of Miami Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso who took it back 60 yards to the end zone for a Dolphins win.

“I haven’t had a game like this that I can remember,” Rivers said. “I hate it for the guys in there.”

After an already shaky game, Rivers was trying to save the day by leading the team down the field for a game-winning field goal before Alonso made the big play.

“I mean, that’s my first touchdown on defense ever, like high school, college,” Alonso said. “I felt good.”

The Chargers playoff hopes were dim entering the game with a 4-5 record and the loss all but finishes those.  Meanwhile, the Dolphins won their first road game of the season and moved to 5-4 and are in the wildcard conversation.


About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.