The Miami Miracle, Patrick Mahomes’ amazing throws ... retired NFL lineman Geoff Schwartz takes a look at Sunday’s highlights and what they mean for the rest of the season.
This Sunday is why we love football. It was wild. Last-second wins, heartbreaking losses, seasons ended, coaches saving jobs, coaches losing jobs, the MVP race is tightening up, and more.
We had four remarkable endings to games yesterday, all unique and all of them awesome.
Bill Belichick’s rare unforced error
The Dolphins scored the longest walk-off touchdown in NFL history with their hook and lateral ... and lateral and lateral touchdown! The 69-yard play finished with Kenyan Drake beating Rob Gronkowski (yes, that Gronk) into the end zone for the 34-33 victory.
For reasons that can’t be explained, the Dolphins own the Patriots in Miami. Tom Brady is now 7-9 there. The Dolphins have had multiple coaches, quarterbacks and personnel over the seasons, so it’s not like they’ve had one particular recipe to beat the Patriots. Maybe it’s the heat? Who knows.
What I do know is Bill Belichick made a rare late-game decision that cost his team. One quality of Belichick’s that I’ve always admired is his ability to force teams into making late-game errors while the Patriots remain steady. Well, yesterday, it was Belichick who made that error. The ball was on the 31 and would have taken a 70 yard pass to reach the end zone where Gronk could have knocked it down. So, it was a curious decision to have Gronk back there and one that ended up costing them the last opportunity to tackle Drake before he scored.
Stat lines can be misleading
Look at Dak Prescott. Dak threw for 455 yards and still played average. He doesn’t make tough or impressive throws very often. Throwing multiple go routes to Amari Cooper against fifth string cornerbacks isn’t that impressive.
Amari Cooper, who’s now caught six touchdown passes in a Cowboys uniform, has been impressive. He’s given the Cowboys offense a downfield threat which was sorely needed. Even the final play of the game was impressive for Cooper, but not for Dak. The Cowboys were in overtime, and had driven down the field inside the red zone. It was third down and Cooper ran an in breaking route. Dak threw the ball late and not close to Cooper. An Eagles defender jumped the route, tipped the pass, but Cooper still caught it for the touchdown. The Cowboys won 29-23, taking a firm lead in the NFC East.
The Steelers … oh my
The Steelers have now lost three in a row, including some late-game collapses. The latest happened Sundday against the lowly Raiders in Oakland. Starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger left the game shortly before the end of the first half for a rib injury. The Steelers were up 14-10 at halftime and used backup quarterback Josh Dobbs to start the second half.
Guess what? The Steelers offense wasn’t any good and the Raiders eventually took the lead 17-14.
Big Ben reentered the game with roughly five minutes left in the fourth quarter and led the Steelers down the field to retake the lead, 21-17, with 2:55 left. Following that touchdown, the Raiders calmly marched down the field to retake the lead, 24-21, with under 30 seconds left. Following the kickoff, the Steelers ran their own hook and ladder for 48 yards and into field goal range for Chris Boswell to tie the game. It was a perfectly executed play. Boswell proceeded to slip as he was attempting to kick the game-tying field goal and it got blocked. The Raiders win.
Why Ben Roethlisberger was unable to play in the second half until the Steelers needed him? The post game quote by Mike Tomlin left me scratching my head.
“We were waiting to see if he was gonna be able to come back in. He was. He probably could’ve come in a series or so sooner, but we were in the rhythm and flow of the game. He was ready to go when he got back out there.”
What rhythm and flow? The offense in the second half with Dobbs in the game went punt, turnover on downs, interception and punt. So if Big Ben was healthy, he should have played. If he wasn’t, then just say we knew we’d get a single drive if needed, but otherwise he could not have played. Poor judgement for a team desperate to win.
The Ravens scored a touchdown to go up 24-17 with just about four minutes left.
Then, on fourth-and-9, Patrick Mahomes got flushed out of the pocket to his right and fired the ball across his body to a streaking Tyreek Hill down the middle of the field. Hill caught it. Only one other quarterback in the NFL can make that throw. It was remarkable. The Chiefs eventually tied the game.
The Ravens and Lamar Jackson got the ball back with a minute left and a chance to drive into field goal range for Justin Tucker. But a miscommunication upfront led to a failed block against Chiefs pass rusher Justin Houston who stripped Jackson and removed the fumble himself. That set the Chiefs up in field goal range for the game-winner.
But alas, Harrison Butker missed it. He got a second chance and nailed a field goal in over time to give the Chiefs the win.
Few thoughts from this game.
Mahomes is ridiculous and he hasn’t even started a full season yet. Win or loss, this game was outstanding for his growth because he saw an excellent defense that showed him looks he hadn’t seen before — free rushers at the quarterback, receivers not open and tiny windows to complete his passes. This is how the playoffs will be.
Injuries are starting to pile up for the Chiefs, and I hope that’s not an issue for them on Thursday night against the Chargers. If the Chiefs win on Thursday, which would be their 10th in the row against the Chargers, would all but lock up the No. 1 seed throughout the playoffs.
Lamar Jackson and the Ravens offense isn’t sustainable. I’ve said this before. He’s just so up and down as a passer. One beautiful throw followed by a duck. He often throws late behind receivers and even when a ball is caught, it might still be off the mark.
The reason this offense is working is that they are playing the worst rushing defenses in the NFL. The last four opponents have been, in order, the Bengals, Raiders, Falcons and Chiefs — 28th, 29th, 31st and 32nd in rushing defense. Guess who they play this weekend? The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 30th in rushing.
The Bears are exciting
The Bears defense is legit, super legit. They are the first team to slow down the Rams offense, completely shut it down, beating them 15-6. I’ll have more thoughts on the Bears defense later this week.
As excited as I am about the Bears defense, their offense has struggled. Mitchell Trubisky, coming off a shoulder injury, looked awful on Sunday night. On top of that, the Bears have struggled to run the ball over the last month of the season. If their offense could match their defense, look out NFC.
Don’t overlook the Saints defense
Big win for the Saints on the road. I’m salty the Bucs couldn’t cover 10 points at home up 14-3, but credit the Saints for dominating them in the second half.
We often overlook the Saints defense but they are playing well this season — 10th in points per game and first against the run. While their offense hasn’t been quite the same down the stretch, their defense can propel them to the Super Bowl.