Week 14 Takeaways: 49ers’ Offensive Masterpiece, NFL Officiating Just Offensive

Plus, Patriots offense remains a problem, drama keeps building for Browns, Colts implode, Jaguars quit, Drew Lock stakes his claim to be the Broncos’ next QB, and more P.I. review madness.
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George Kittle celebrates win over Saints

Reacting and overreacting to everything that happened in the Week 14 Sunday afternoon games...

Things That Made Me Giddy

Kyle Shanahan’s Masterpiece: Other coaches will look at the misdirection designs Shanahan rolled out in New Orleans and weep. On the rare off-day for his defense, Shanahan’s offense put up 48 points, 516 yards, and 8.2 yards per play against a very good Saints defense in the Superdome. These were two of the highlights, but just about everything Shanahan called turned into gold on Sunday.

George Kittle After the Catch: You want your playmakers to make plays at the biggest times, and Kittle delivered with the 39-yard catch-and-run(-and-run-and-run, with a 15-yard facemask penalty tacked on) to set up the game-winning field goal.

This Time, Chiefs Heat Up Brady: Granted, it’s a lesser version of the Patriots offense, but it was good to see Steve Spagnuolo dial up blitz after blitz unlike last January, when Bob Sutton sat back and let Brady pick his secondary apart.

The Kids Call It the Breeland Breakup: Biggest play of the game, fourth down in the final seconds, single coverage on the best receiver on the field, he played this one perfectly.

Drew Lock’s Onions: The play below, rifling it at the back of the defender’s helmet on a third-and-long in the red zone, is a thing of beauty. His best throw came later, on a third-and-9 in the second quarter, effortlessly dropping one in between a corner and safety for a 37-yarder to Tim Patrick.

Matt Judon Will be a Wealthy Man Soon: Another sack-and-a-half in Buffalo for the Ravens free-agent-to-be EDGE, giving him 8.5 on the year. DC Wink Martindale creates some nice opportunities for his guys, and Judon is taking advantage of every one of them.

Rich Scagarello, Still a Magician: Denver’s first-year offensive coordinator generated offense with Brandon Allen earlier this season, and he had Drew Lock cooking in Houston.

The Bounceback of Kendrick Bourne: He killed the Niners in the Monday night loss to Seattle, but he’s been much sharper since. Bourne came up big in New Orleans with a tight-red-zone box-out touchdown against Marshon Lattimore on a third-down early on, and another short TD when he lit Eli Apple ablaze (though, to be fair, what receiver hasn’t done that this season).

Jacoby Brissett Late in the Down: It was another uneven day (featuring some poor ball placement) as Brissett continues to play with a Week-2-of-the-preseason group of wideouts, but it was one that also featured some big-time throws to no-name receivers. This TD to Zach Pascal was gorgeous:

The Elusive Diontae Johnson: Oh, and he also had an 85-yard punt-return TD.

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Regrets

So Now We’re Calling Everything Pass Interference on Reviews?: How does this work now? You can only call pass interference on a booth review if the team has a first-year coach? Is that why the Bengals and Dolphins got jobbed on late-fourth-quarter non-calls reversed to pass interference?

Of All the NFL’s Terrible Ideas, the Challenge System Is the Worst: It’s not up to a coaching staff to officiate this play correctly. Two officials combined to rule N’Keal Harry out of bounds, a call everyone on the planet could see was incorrect both in real time and immediately after. A sky judge system that removes the NFL theater of sponsored replay could have corrected this in about 12 seconds. Instead, the Patriots were out of challenges and out of luck, settling for three instead. A system that can’t get this right, when anyone on their couch can immediately see it is wrong, is an objectively broken system.

Patriots Offense Lights It Up for Two Minutes and 26 Seconds: And then reverted to their true form. New England opened the game with a five-play, 83-yard touchdown drive. After that, they had 195 yards of offense on 57 plays (3.4 per) and came up short.

Josh Allen Streaky Bad: He’s been streaky good the past couple weeks, but with the Ravens giving him plenty to consider pre-snap (and, then, post-snap), he was off-the-mark all day against Baltimore (17-for-39 for 146).

The Righteous Indignation of Brian Flores: It was 100% warranted; the pass interference called on a review, on a third-and-18 late in East Rutherford, would have never been called in the first 12 weeks of the season. But the standard has suddenly changed. The replay overturn was the difference between a must-have fourth-and-18 in the final minute and a first down for the Jets, who kicked the game-winner field goal soon after.

Malik Hooker Is a Mess: He’s the highest-pedigree guy on the Colts’ defense, but the safety is being absolutely toyed with by opponents of late. He’s a risk-taker, and opposing quarterbacks are moving him out of the play with their eyes on a regular basis.

A Bills Busted Coverage: You don’t see many of them! Safety Jordan Poyer had two tight ends lined up in front of him and chose wrong, allowing Hayden Hurst to get behind him for a 61-yard touchdown early in the second half.

Kyler Murray Trying to Get the Edge: He is not able to beat a defensive back around the corner, yet the Cardinals keep drawing up plays that ask him to do so.

Colts Defense Breaks, Breaks Back, Then Breaks Again and Again and Again: The safety play is suddenly a huge problem for the Colts, and Matt Eberflus’s secondary looks more dysfunctional every week at a time you’d think they would be coming together. Darius Leonard had two interceptions among their four takeaways. But Indy also allowed 542 yards of offense, 38 points, and blew a 14-point lead in the final 20 minutes in Tampa.

Return of Minshew Mildness: Twenty-four completions for 162 yards in a 35-point home loss for Jacksonville. But he has a mustache, so it was exciting.

Jameis Winston and the Linebacker Level: No one loses track of linebackers more often than Winston, who was picked off twice by Darius Leonard on Sunday, including one that Leonard took back for a touchdown.

The Atrociousness of This Kyler Murray INT: This is either an absurdly poor decision and worse throw, or he told Josh Shaw to take Steelers minus-3.

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Moments We’ll Tell Our Grandkids About

This Ryan Tannehill Deep Ball: All arm, high arch, perfect placement as the pass-rush bears down on him.

This Jordan Berry Decision: It’s definitely not a called fake punt, it’s just a matter of whether Berry didn’t think he could get the kick off after a low snap, or if he actually thought he could run for a first down.

Chase Edmonds Sticks the Landing: This is another dicey fake punt from the Cardinals, but Edmonds saves the day by tightrope-walking right after landing.

Tre’Davious White’s Reading Material:

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What We’ll Be Talking About This Week

Nobody Likes Anybody Else in Cleveland: Now the quarterback is throwing the training staff under the bus. He might be right, but saying it out loud doesn’t do anyone any good. (UPDATE: Mayfield wrote on a social media comments section that he didn’t intend to throw the training staff under the bus when he threw the training staff under the bus.)

Drew Lock Gives ‘Em Something to Think About: After a lackluster day against the Chargers last week, Lock was every bit as good as the stat line in Houston. He was in complete command of another Rich Scangarello gem of a gameplan, and mixed in some eye-popping throws. If he looks like this over the last three weeks, John Elway won’t have to scout quarterbacks this draft season.

Doug Marrone Shouldn’t Coach Another Game: Get him out of the building like you should have done this time last year. The Jaguars have been a tire fire for the past 14 months, and at the moment no one seems interested in playing for Marrone.

Falcons Defeat Panthers: In game of organized football.

What to Do About Pass Interference Reviews: The standard is now completely different than it was in the first three months of the season, and I don’t think anyone aside from Sean Payton would object to the rule being scrapped altogether. If they don’t, when it comes playoff time, are they going to enforce it like they did September through November or like they have in December?

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