First Down, Fourth Down: Jets’ collapse, RGIII’s show, Jim Schwartz’s miscue
How do you even put into words what happened to the Jets on Thursday night? Does “LOL” count?
Off a win over St. Louis last Sunday, the Jets came home for a holiday matchup with their arch-rivals — a must-have game if they were to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. Instead, the Jets delivered a nightmare performance.
In a span of 52 seconds, New York went from down 7-0 and still very much in the game to trailing by 28. The manner in which that collapse occurred fell somewhere between the macabre and the hysterical.
The avalanche of errors started when the Jets failed to cover New England RB Shane Vereen in the flat, giving Vereen a clear path to an 83-yard touchdown. Forty-three seconds later, Mark Sanchez turned in one of the worst (and most hilarious?) plays you’ll ever see, turning to hand the ball to a running back that wasn’t there, before sliding into the backside of his offensive lineman and fumbling. The Patriots’ Steve Gregory scooped up the loose ball and waltzed into the end zone.
([si_launchNFLPopup video='80c2f23e623a4450b1a0df08e0573a6c']Video proof of that mess[/si_launchNFLPopup].)
Joe McKnight then coughed up the ensuing kickoff, the ball sailing out of his hands and right into the arms of New England’s Julian Edelman. He, like Gregory, scored, giving the Patriots 14 points in nine seconds.
All told, the Jets turned the ball over five times in an embarrassing 49-19 loss. Their playoff hopes? From dim to dead. Their pride? Gone.
Who else starred (First Down) and flopped (Fourth Down) on Thanksgiving? A few choices:
First Down: Robert Griffin III (and his receivers).
At halftime of the Redskins-Cowboys game, FOX’s Jimmy Johnson made a pitch for Robert Griffin III as this year’s NFL MVP. And you know what? He might be on to something.
It’s almost out of the question, because the Redskins remain under .500 and RGIII had a couple of subpar game prior to a Week 10 bye. That said, if there remained doubters out there, Thursday’s four-touchdown torching of Dallas should win them over — despite the terrible INT Griffin tossed in the fourth quarter.
Don’t overlook, however, the effort Griffin received from his receivers. The Washington pass-catching unit has had more than its fair share of issues with drops in 2012, but it was sensational in this must-win game. Four different players caught TDs, including a seemingly healthy Pierre Garcon, who saved Griffin from an interception or incompletion by reaching back behind him to snag a dart out of the air.
Fourth Down: Jim Schwartz, NFL officiating and the rule book.
The Lions had plenty of chances to win Thursday after Justin Forsett’s controversial touchdown run, but, man … what a train wreck.
SI’s Tom Mantzouranis covered the play in-depth here, but the short version is this: Forsett was tackled after a short gain on a run play, no official blew his whistle or ruled him down, Forsett took off and ran to the end zone, and Jim Schwartz threw a challenge flag when he shouldn’t have. That last moment is key — all scoring plays (and turnovers) are automatically reviewed, except when a coach challenges before a booth review is called. In that case, for whatever ridiculous reason, a booth review is no longer allowed.
So, Forsett’s “touchdown” stood and the Texans closed a 10-point deficit to three. A similar situation occurred last week when Atlanta coach Mike Smith challenged a fumble, negating the automatic review.
Despite the rule being a total head-scratcher, Schwartz’ ought to know it. His admission that he was upset with the call and reacted hastily might add fuel to the fire for those who blame the Lions’ emotion-driven mistakes on their head coach.
But let’s be honest here. It’s bad enough that the officials missed the call on the field (the same crew also forced a review later by ruling an interception on a pretty clear incompletion), and it’s even worse that the NFL has a rule which eliminates the entire purpose of replay — to get the call right.
First Down: The Andre Johnson-Calvin Johnson showdown.
Last week, Andre Johnson and Jacksonville wide receiver Justin Blackmon engaged in a thrilling back-and-forth. Thursday, Johnson and his namesake, Detroit’s Calvin Johnson, headlined the show.
Andre Johnson did not find the end zone, but he had 188 yards receiving on nine catches, including a key 23-yarder on the Texans’ game-winning drive. Calvin Johnson, meanwhile, scored for the third consecutive week and finished with 140 yards on a whopping 17 targets.
There were plenty of offensive stars in Houston’s 34-31 overtime win, but you don’t often get to see two of the best players in the game going at it.
Fourth Down: Brandon Pettigrew.
The Lions’ tight end has built a reputation for having somewhat unreliable hands, and he lived up to that billing Thursday. Pettigrew did have eight receptions for 74 yards and a score. Late in the fourth quarter, though, he dropped a pass that would have put Detroit in field-goal range with a chance for the win. Then, in overtime, he fumbled and turned the ball over, again right on the end of field-goal range.
Of course, Jason Hanson missed a 47-yard try to win it in OT, so Pettigrew’s mistakes may have been moot. As it was, Pettigrew’s inability to get the job done late just laid the foundation for a miserable day for home teams — all three (Detroit, Dallas and the Jets) suffered frustrating defeats.
First Down: Stuffing.
The best Thanksgiving side, hands down. If it wasn’t so horribly bad for you, I would eat it every day of the year, especially if someone provided a little gravy to drop over top of it.
Fourth Down: Cranberry sauce.
I nearly incited a Twitter riot (a twiot?) during the Houston-Detroit game when I asserted that this was the worst Thanksgiving Day food. Apparently, lots of people enjoy the stuff. I am not one of them. I’m not just talking about the canned stuff, either — a homemade concoction is just as unpalatable for me.
First Down: New England’s second-quarter outburst.
The Patriots owe the Jets a basket of mini-muffins or something for their participation in a second quarter that was hard to believe. After the first 15 minutes of the Thanksgiving nightcap passed scoreless, the Patriots still ripped off 35 points before halftime, falling just six shy of the NFL’s all-time record for most points in one quarter (41, shared by the 1945 Packers and 1950 Los Angeles Rams).
New England already this season set a team record for most points in a half (45, vs. Buffalo) and tied the franchise record for points in a game (59, last week vs. Indianapolis).
Fourth Down: The Cowboys’ second-quarter doldrums.
On the opposite end of the spectrum from the Patriots’ scoring explosion, the Cowboys watched Washington run off 28 straight in the second quarter Thursday. Over its last seven games, Dallas has now been outscored 71-19 in the second and has scored just one touchdown.
The Cowboys had a chance to steal back some momentum late in the second quarter, after Washington opened a 21-3 lead. Instead, Tony Romo fired the first of two awful interceptions, opening the door for a late Griffin-to-Santana Moss TD.