Tuesday Afternoon Football: Week 14
Week 14 of the 2018 NFL season was as crazy and intense as any week yet. There were incredible finishes, once-in-a-lifetime game-winning plays, incredible individual performances, and even more. This week’s edition of Tuesday Afternoon Football is a little different than any other weeks to this point so we can accurately represent one of the best weeks of the season. With that being said, let’s jump into it.
Miracle Final Play Sinks New England in Shocking Fashion:
Of all the action that took place this week, by far the most insane piece of that action came on the final play of the New England Patriots-Miami Dolphins game on Sunday afternoon. Now, it is well known that playing in Miami has always been tough for the Patriots under Bill Belichick, and that was no different this weekend.
While it looked like they were going to shake their South Beach demons, they ended up blowing the game on a last-second, once-in-a-lifetime play that resulted in a walk-off win for the Dolphins. The Patriots had a 33-28 lead before the final play of the game, and what ensued on that final play can only be described as a beautiful explosion of chaos.
The play has now been dubbed “The Miami Miracle”, and it was a traditional end-of-game play where the team that is down throws a lot of laterals that ultimately leads nowhere, but the Patriots defense fell apart and allowed Kenyan Drake to run into the end zone for the game-winning score.
While the play itself was miraculous (and I’ll have it linked here), the reason it happened was dumbfounding. The New England Patriots were using Rob Gronkowski, their Hall of Fame tight end, as a free safety so he could catch or knock down a hail mary attempt through the air. That in itself isn’t an abnormality, teams do that all the time as receivers have better hands than cornerbacks and safeties, and the Patriots did it earlier this year with Josh Gordon against the Bears, but using Rob Gronkowski was clearly the wrong call.
Gronkowski has played in 10 of the team’s 13 games, and looks as if he might be on his way out of the league, he’s on his last legs. Having him out there as a free safety against a Miami team that has best been described as “Fast”...probably isn’t the best call. His attempt to tackle Drake at the goal line was actually hilarious, and he looked like DeMarcus Cousins rehabbing from his torn achilles when he was lumbering towards Drake.
This wasn’t the only mistake of the game for the Patriots though, their mistakes cost them the game. I mean, if you block the opposing team’s punt two times in a game, the only way you are losing that game is if you do it to yourself. More importantly though, was that Tom Brady cost his team three points at the end of the first half, and his team lost by one-point.
At the end of the first half he had gotten his offense down to the Miami two-yard line with just 14 seconds left, and they burned their last timeout when they got there. Brady, who was shockingly-unaware that his team had no timeouts left, got sacked on the next play and there was no way to stop the clock for a last-second chip-shot field goal for Stephen Gostkowski.
All in all, it was a truly strange performance from the Patriots, who usually are the team that is the least error-prone team in the NFL.
Will this cost them a shot at the Super Bowl? No. Will they miss the playoffs? No. Will they lose the AFC East? No. Are they still being led by the greatest Coach-QB tandem of NFL history? Yes.
Are we allowed to worry about the Patriots chances heading into the playoffs after this truly strange season full of more drama and issues than normal? Absolutely.
Week of the 200-yard Player:
I’ve done some digging, and I can’t seem to find a week in NFL history that had as many 200+ yard rushers/receivers than Week 14 of the 2018 NFL season. This weekend was home to three of the most incredible single-game performances from skill position players that I have seen this year, and there was a player that nearly cracked that 200-yard barrier, so there were almost four different players with over 200 yards rushing or receiving.
The three players who had over 200 yards: Derrick Henry, Amari Cooper, and George Kittle.
Henry had the most impressive performance, at least in my eyes. On Thursday Night Football, he ran the ball 17 times for 238 yards and four touchdowns. His touchdowns weren’t all short runs up the middle either, he had a three-yard touchdown, a 16-yard touchdown, a 54-yard touchdown, and a 99-yard touchdown. The Tennessee Titans looked like they were handing the ball off to Tecmo Bowl-Bo Jackson, and he carried the team to a 30-9 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Now the Jaguars are still terrible, but that shouldn’t take away from what Henry did, because this was easily the most impressive performance from a running back to this point this season.
Amari Cooper has been a godsend for the Dallas Cowboys, and has absolutely been worth the first-round draft pick that they sent to the Oakland Raiders to acquire him. I have to eat some crow here, and I mean I might have to eat an ostrich-sized crow, because I said that this trade was bad and essentially locking them into another five-plus years of Dak Prescott/Mediocre quarterback play. So, here’s that: I’m sorry, Cowboy fans, I was wrong.
That being said, Amari Cooper was ABSURD on Sunday. He caught 10 passes for 217 yards and three touchdowns. He just torched the secondary of the Philadelphia Eagles, and this game likely sealed the outcome of the division, I can’t see the Eagles or Redskins taking this thing from the cowboys at this point.
Cooper has now played in six games for both the Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders this year, and the difference in production is STAGGERING. Cooper caught 22 passes for 280 yards and one touchdown in six games for the Raiders, and has 40 catches for 642 yards and six touchdowns with the Cowboys. Looking back at it, the misuse of Amari Cooper by Jon Gruden and the Raiders was criminal. Also, as it turns out, a mediocre quarterback like Dak Prescott can look pretty good when he is given a bonafide No. 1 receiver to throw to.
The final 200-yard performance of the weekend came from George Kittle, the Tight End of the San Francisco 49ers. He caught seven passes for 210 yards and a touchdown, and he did it all that in just the first half. He ended the game just four-yards short of the all-time record for most yards in a single-game held by Shannon Sharpe, and he easily could have broken that record if he was thrown to a single time in the second half. He was simply incredible, and this is just the icing on the cake for what has been the coronation of the new king of Tight Ends in the NFL.
Kittle is on pace to break the single-season receiving yards record for tight ends this year (he already has 1103), a record that was held by Rob Gronkowski. He is second in the entire NFL in YAC (yards after catch), and is only behind Christian McCaffrey. He has 200 more YAC than Travis Kelce, who is second among tight ends. Kittle has more YAC than all but three tight ends have total yards. He has been downright dominant this season, and imagining him playing with a starting-caliber quarterback instead of CJ Beathard and Nick Mullens makes 49er fans across the globe salivate like a dog who smells steak.
Those three players had INCREDIBLE games this weekend, all having more than 200 yards. An honorable mention here: TY Hilton, who caught nine passes for 199 yards. Hilton was a big part of the Indianapolis Colts knocking the Houston Texans down after their nine-game win streak.
This week was home to some of the most ridiculous individual performances this season.
A look at the MVP Race:
The MVP race for the 2018 NFL season has been as tightly-contested in many people’s eyes as any race ever, regardless of whether or not it was a part of sports or politics. The debate has raged on about who the best player has been this year.
Is Jared Goff just a product of Sean McVay’s system? He was pretty bad with Jeff Fisher.
Is it finally time for Drew Brees to win his first MVP? The numbers say he is as good as ever.
Is Patrick Mahomes II only doing this well because of the weapons he has around him? Is he this good because Andy Reid is the best offensive-minded head coach of his generation?
Is Andrew Luck not only the comeback player of the year but also the MVP after returning from his time as professional football’s bigfoot?
They all have their arguments, the stats back up their claims, and there are several other players who are definitely worthy of discussion, but to me, the choice is clear.
This year’s MVP is Patrick Mahomes II, he has been the clear-cut best player in the league this season. He has done things that I have never seen on a football field, and I’m not just talking about his no-look pass from this Sunday.
He is basically a rookie this year after playing in just one game last year, so if this was professional baseball he would also be the runaway favorite for Rookie of the Year as well. In 13 games so far this year he has led the Chiefs to an 11-2 record. He has completed 66.8% of his passes for 4,300 yards, 43 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. He is having a season for the ages. He won’t break Peyton Manning’s single-season touchdown record, but he will get damn close.
Here are the key stats for all the players mentioned above, and I threw in Deshaun Watson as well, because his nine-game winning streak should put him in that conversation. Mahomes blows all of the other players out of the water in nearly all statistical categories, and his team also has one of the most prolific offenses in the history of the NFL.
The choice is clear, Patrick Mahomes II is the NFL MVP, and it shouldn’t be particularly close.
Update from the front of the Jimmy G Hype Train:
CK Collusion QB of the Week: I could give this award to the Washington Redskins franchise because both of the quarterbacks they used this week were truly awful. Mark Sanchez started the game for them and completed 6/14 passes for 38 yards and two interceptions. He was worse than Nathan Peterman at his worst point this season. This award will not go to Sanchez this week, and it will instead go to Josh Johnson, who actually put up decent-enough numbers (11/16, 195 yards, one touchdown, and one interception), but hadn’t thrown a football in an NFL game since 2011...so the argument that Kaep is too rusty to be signed is now invalidated and I can’t wait to here the next excuse.
Loser of the Week: The Pittsburgh Steelers lost this week to the Oakland Raiders, who are actively trying to lose, and they lost because they got their game-winning field goal blocked. Not only was their field goal blocked, but the Raiders looked like they wanted them to score and win, they let the Steelers get into scoring position on a hook-and-ladder play. The Steelers lost, 24-21, and have now lost three-straight games.
Breakout Player of the Week: Derrick Henry, who ran for 238 yards and four touchdowns. That’s all the explanation necessary for this week’s winner.
MVP of the Week: Amari Cooper was the reason the Dallas Cowboys beat the Philadelphia Eagles this week, and he is the reason that the Cowboys escaped mediocrity and will likely win the division. His 217 yards and three touchdowns this week absolutely warranted the weekly MVP award.
The Good, The Bad, and The Odd:
The Good: 200-yard rushers and receivers. George Kittle, Amari Cooper, Derrick Henry, and even TY Hilton were the best part of Week 14. They were simply spectacular.
The Bad: The New England Patriots decision making. The amount of dumb decisions and mistakes the Patriots made would be astounding for any team, but because this was the Patriots all the mistakes seem like a much bigger deal.