NFL morning after: Credit the bad teams that keep competing

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If you watched the Dolphins-Jets game on Saturday night, you saw a team that had quit: The Jets simply didn’t look like they were competing, didn’t look like they cared, didn’t look like professional football players.

I hate watching games like that. It feels like such a waste. If you’re a Jets fan, and you pay a small fortune for season tickets, and that was one of the eight home games your team gave you, you should be furious. Especially considering the previous home game, a Monday night loss to the Colts, was just as ugly. It’s one thing to pay your hard-earned money to watch your favorite team lose. It’s quite another to watch your favorite team fail to even compete, which is what the Jets are doing.

But the Jets aren’t the team I want to talk about today. I’m more interested in the teams that aren’t very good, don’t have anything to play for and are still playing hard. Those are teams I find myself feeling a lot of respect for at the end of the season.

I’m talking about a team like the Bears. They’re not a good team, by any stretch of the imagination. They weren’t even a good team when they had their starting quarterback, Jay Cutler. They’re certainly not a good team now that they’re down to their fourth-string quarterback, Matt Barkley. But they played very hard in yesterday’s loss to the Packers, with seemingly nothing to play for. They took a good Packers team down to the wire, kicking a game-tying field goal in the final minutes before ultimately losing on a Packers field goal as time expired. The Bears easily could have quit on this season, but in their last five games they’ve played hard every week: They’re just 1-4 in their last five games, but the four losses were all one-possession games against teams competing for a playoff spot. And the win was a 20-point beatdown of a terrible 49ers team (a team that really has quit on the season). The Bears are not a good football team, but they are a competitive football team.

And I’m talking about a team like the Jaguars. I’ve said plenty about what a bad coach I think Jacksonville’s Gus Bradley is, and I think he deserved to be fired after the game, but he had his last-place team coming out playing hard yesterday against the first-place Texans. Jacksonville jumped out to a 13-0 lead in the second quarter before falling to earth and ultimately losing 21-20. Bradley was saddled with a bad quarterback in Blake Bortles, and he didn’t do enough to build a defense that can win despite the bad offense, and for those reasons firing him was appropriate. But I respect that his team is still treating these games like they matter.

It gets a little sad at this time of year to think about how little football we have left: In two weeks, the regular season will be over. We should enjoy every one of these remaining games. But there’s nothing enjoyable about watching the teams that look like they’re not really trying anymore, the way the Jets looked Saturday night or the way the Rams looked Thursday night. I can’t say the Bears and the Jaguars have been particularly fun to watch this season, but I can say they made their games yesterday more fun than I was expecting. I give them credit for that.

Here are my other thoughts from Sunday:

Randy Moss is still bitter toward Colin Kaepernick. The most interesting thing I heard during the hours of Sunday morning pregame shows was Moss, on ESPN, talking about how he still resents Kaepernick, his teammate on the 49ers in 2012. Moss pointed out that on the 49ers’ last drive of their Super Bowl XLVII loss to the Ravens, he got open in the end zone for what could have been a game-winning touchdown — except that Kaepernick never looked in Moss’s direction. “That was my dad gum Super Bowl ring!” Moss shouted. I had forgotten about that play, but Moss will never forget that play. It was fascinating to hear an all-time great player talk about how bitterly he resents a missed opportunity. For all the great moments of Moss’s career, that’s a low moment he’ll never get over.

Tucker is terrific. On a rainy day in Baltimore, Ravens kicker Justin Tucker didn’t just make a 53-yard field goal, he made it with several yards to spare and dead center between the uprights. He later drilled a 47-yarder and went 3-for-3 on extra points. For the season, Tucker is now Tucker has missed just one of his 59 kicks, and that one came when New England’s Shea McClellin leaped over the line to block his field goal. Tucker is a perfect 10-for-10 on field goals 50 yards or longer, and not only does he make those kicks but he makes them look easy: I don’t think I’ve seen a single Tucker kick this year that wouldn’t have been good on the narrower goal posts they use in arena football. With 10 field goals beyond 50 yards this year, Tucker is tied for an NFL single-season record. What Tucker is doing is extraordinary.

A big year for LeGarrette Blount. On Sunday Blount scored his 15th rushing touchdown of the season, making him the first player since Arian Foster in 2012 to score 15 rushing touchdowns in a year. It’s hard to remember this now, but before the season there were reports that Blount was in danger of getting cut. Instead, he’s been a very important player on a Patriots team that’s competing for a championship.

Jordan Howard looks like a special player. Howard, the Bears’ rookie running back, had 90 yards rushing and 23 yards receiving yesterday. It was his eighth game this season with at least 100 yards from scrimmage. No one expected this kind of performance from Howard when he was selected in the fifth round out of Indiana in this year’s draft, but he’s been excellent. In fact, for as great as Ezekiel Elliott has been in Dallas, I think Howard would be having the same kind of year if he were playing in a good offense like the Cowboys’, instead of like a bad offense like the Bears’.

The Packers’ secret weapon. Ty Montgomery was a wide receiver until a few weeks ago. Yesterday, at his new position of running back, he had 16 carries for 162 yards and two touchdowns. It’s incredible what Montgomery is doing at a new position. The Packers could still miss the playoffs, but they could also be one of the most dangerous teams in the NFC if they make it, and Montgomery’s addition to the offense is a big part of the reason.

Texans should admit their mistake. Houston coach Bill O’Brien did the right thing by benching Brock Osweiler during Sunday’s win over the Jaguars. But after backup Tom Savage led the Texans to a come-from-behind win, O’Brien said he hasn’t decided who his starter will be going forward. That’s ridiculous. It’s obvious that the Texans made a mistake when they signed Osweiler to a four-year, $72 million contract this offseason, and the sooner they admit that mistake, the sooner they can move on. Savage should start the rest of the season, and in the offseason the Texans need to decide whether Savage is the man to lead their team, or whether they need to acquire yet another quarterback. Osweiler is not the answer.

Credit Pederson for a gutsy call. With the Eagles trailing 27-20 and four seconds remaining, Carson Wentz scored a touchdown to bring the Eagles to within a point of the Ravens. Instead of kicking the extra point and playing for overtime, Eagles coach Doug Pederson went for the two-point conversion and the win. It didn’t work, the Eagles failed to convert and the Ravens won 27-26, but I liked the decision anyway. Entering Sunday’s games, two-point conversions were successful 48.9 percent of the time this season, while extra points were successful 93.7 percent of the time. So a two-point conversion gave the Eagles a 48.9 percent chance of winning, while an extra point gave them just a 46.9 percent chance of winning, if you assume they’d have a 50-50 chance of winning in overtime. Mathematically the move made sense, and it also made sense from the simple perspective of an Eagles team that had no realistic chance of making the playoffs: If your team isn’t going anywhere, take some chances and play for the win. The coaches who do that are the coaches I respect.

56 responses to “NFL morning after: Credit the bad teams that keep competing

  1. Bears-Packers games are always tough and hard played.

    One thing both teams were playing for — the Packers yesterday tied the all-time series between the teams at 94-94-6 — first time it has been tied since 1933! The Bears have held the advantage for a long long time.

    Going into yesterday, the Packers lead the Bears in scoring for the series, 3,505 to 3,504. They’ve now increased that advantage to four points.

    How’s that for being competitive!?

  2. For the Bears, I have to say that my respect for Coach Fox has really grown this year. He hasn’t lost the team, and that says everything. I’m especially ecstatic that we aren’t tanking. Myles Garrett may be the next Julius Peppers… but it doesn’t make sense to lose the respect of 52 players just to draft one. That’s not how you build a winning culture.

    Fans get this too – every Bears fan wanted the win yesterday.

  3. The Bears mgmt has a real dilemma with John Fox. Yes the team is competing and the culture is clearly different than the hot mess Trestman left. On the other hand, with yesterday’s loss he is now guaranteed a worse record his 2nd season than he had the first. As a Bears fan I have been waiting this season for that “turning point” game – a win over a quality opponent where all phases show they are finally “getting it”. That win hasn’t happened this year and unless they can knock off the Redskins on Saturday, it won’t (I don’t consider the Vikings a “quality win” at those point).

    So if you’re anti-Fox you say, you look at the number of games the Bears could have won but didn’t and you say, he doesn’t have what it takes to teach the team how to win. If you’re pro-Fox you point to the fact that a number of these “winnable” losses are due to young players making mistakes who wouldn’t / shouldn’t be out there if more of the team’s starting talent were healthy or not suspended. Which compared to the Trestman days of games lost due to overpaid veterans not giving a damn, is a form of progress.

    I wouldn’t want to be their GM this offseason. Fox, Cutler and Jeffery constitute three very difficult decisions with big implications either way, the roster needs upgrades at DB, DL, OT and TE, and they need to solve for the ridiculous number of player games lost to injury that have been a trademark of the Fox regime so far. The Bears seem to be heading in the right direction but .500 is probably the ceiling for them next year even if everything goes well this offseason.

  4. If you watched the Dolphins-Jets game on Saturday night, you saw a team that had quit: The Jets simply didn’t look like they were competing, didn’t look like they cared, didn’t look like professional football players….

    Sheldon Richardson even filmed a now infamous video before the Dolphins game that clearly indicated he was not interested in playing in the game.

    I would be beyond furious with Richardson if I was associated with the Jets in any capacity.

  5. Mad respect to the historic Chicago Bears and their fans. Without them, the Packers wouldn’t be part of the greatest rivalry in all of sports and us fans wouldn’t get to enjoy it. We may talk a little smack back and forth during game week but it’s always respectful. A certain other fan base could learn a little something here.

  6. It’s wrong to say the Jets quit. They are just not a good football team. They gave up freaky big plays at the start of the 3rd quarter, but other than that it was a competitive game. Just because a team loses by a lot does not mean they quit. Can you name a specific play that backs up your point?

  7. .
    Every Sunday night Rodney Harrison reminds us that in the prevent defense nobody gets behind the safety. He’s ALWAYS deeper than anyone else. And every Sunday night he shows us teams that just don’t get it.

    The Bears had a rookie corner covering Jordy Nelson alone, with time running out, and the game on the line. That’s the new definition of insanity.
    .

  8. Years after retiring, Moss is reminiscing about what could have been.

    I wonder if he’s ever asked himself what would have happened if he didn’t take plays off and just played when he wanted to play.

    You reap what you sow.

  9. San Diego belongs on the list of teams that haven’t quit as well. No Chargers fan here but can’t help but wonder what Rivers might have done in his career with a better organization.

  10. xargscutgrep says:
    Dec 19, 2016 6:20 AM
    For the Bears, I have to say that my respect for Coach Fox has really grown this year. He hasn’t lost the team, and that says everything. I’m especially ecstatic that we aren’t tanking. Myles Garrett may be the next Julius Peppers… but it doesn’t make sense to lose the respect of 52 players just to draft one. That’s not how you build a winning culture.

    Fans get this too – every Bears fan wanted the win yesterday.

    ———————————
    John Fox can make a really bad team look really competitive. Unfortunately he also makes a great team just really good. He’s obviously a good motivator, but that’s about where it stops. He has no killer instinct and his football style is stuck in the 90s. So don’t get too hopeful Bears fans, you do not want this guy around long term.

  11. I would be beyond furious with myself if I was stupid enough to pay a small fortune for season tickets for any team. Last I checked no football team is forcing people to buy tickets. The occasional live experience is nice, but the best way to see a game is seeing it from your couch at home.

  12. Has anyone talked about how the Chargers could have called a timeout and made the Raiders kick a FG and kickoff with 12 seconds left? But they let the game end instead?

  13. #Tuckerforthewin

    Tucker should probably be in MVP consideration. I don’t care what anyone says or how you feel about kickers, it is a definite game changer when you get to the 40 and know you are coming away with points. The Ravens could easily be 3-4 games worse without him.

    Keep it up JT!

  14. david johnson set an nfl record of 14 100 yd games from scrimmage on a losing team. no mention of that.

  15. Notice how the Vikings weren’t mentioned anywhere? Hahaha – what a dumpster fire those quitters are! I can’t believe they would quit on the future HOF coach Zim! UNREAL! There was seriously Viking fans chirping yesterday morning about how this team could turn it around and no one in the NFC would want to see them in the playoffs. I kindly pointed out how terrible that offensive line is (yet highest paid) and offense in general is (worst in football by a country mile) and I got ridiculed. How’d that work out for you chumps?!? Packers by 21 next week! Woooooooo

    #RunTheTable #SuperBowlBoundGreenBayPackers

  16. saints737 says:
    Dec 19, 2016 9:26 AM
    Moss should be more bitter at the ’07 Patriots collapse.

    THAT was his SB Ring opportunity
    ==========================

    Losing to the team that played better on that particular Sunday isn’t collapsing, it’s football. The Giants D deserves credit for beating that NE team. The Pats didn’t ‘collapse’ in that game, the Giants won it.

  17. I can’t believe the heroic Minnesota Vikings effort from yesterday wasn’t noted in the article above. Despite being destined for oblivion for the 56th season in a row, those heroic Nordic warriors battled valiantly against the fierce Ponies from Indianapolis, only to surrender in a nip and tuck battle 34-6.

    SKOLOLOLOL!

  18. The dreadful Santa Clara York Niners certainly won’t be mentioned in this article. For the second year in a row a team has completely quit on Chip Kelly. How this clown still has a job coaching in this league is shocking

  19. Even in the loss, Matt Barkley may have just won himself a starting job somewhere. He showed a lot of good stuff out there. He’s got some things to clean up, but coaching as a starter and experience will take care of that.

  20. maust1013 says:
    Dec 19, 2016 10:02 AM
    saints737 says:
    Dec 19, 2016 9:26 AM
    Moss should be more bitter at the ’07 Patriots collapse.

    THAT was his SB Ring opportunity
    ==========================

    Losing to the team that played better on that particular Sunday isn’t collapsing, it’s football. The Giants D deserves credit for beating that NE team. The Pats didn’t ‘collapse’ in that game, the Giants won it.
    ==========================

    You were 18-0, beating teams at a historic rate, Brady broke the record for TD passes in a season as did Moss in receiving, and had previously beaten said Giants team in the regular season.

    14 Points. It was a choke job, no doubt about it.

  21. Highest scoring offense in NFL history Vs a Giants team that was 17th in scoring defense and wasn’t taking the ball away (22nd).. the Giant offense was craptastic too (14th points, 16th yards)

    Biggest choke in NFL history, bar none!

  22. jimmysee says:
    Dec 19, 2016 6:17 AM
    Bears-Packers games are always tough and hard played.

    One thing both teams were playing for — the Packers yesterday tied the all-time series between the teams at 94-94-6 — first time it has been tied since 1933! The Bears have held the advantage for a long long time.

    Going into yesterday, the Packers lead the Bears in scoring for the series, 3,505 to 3,504. They’ve now increased that advantage to four points.

    How’s that for being competitive!?
    – – – – – – – – –

    Close, yes. But don’t forget that BOTH of these franchise were AWFUL for about 25 years, from the Lombardi era of the 60s to the start of the Brett Favre era in ’92, with the exception of the Bears for a few years in the mid-80s with Jim McMahon and Walter ‘Sweetness’ Payton.

  23. Very nice and well done sir !
    An interesting summation of a wide view of football involving much of an otherwise broadly unspoken minutia .
    I particularly enjoyed the observations of teams whose casual appearance of laying down belies the meaning , or any understanding of the meaning of “Sport” ; versus the fighting spirit found within .
    The desire and competition amongst teams , a thing Commissioner Goodell is , sadly , unlikely to distinguish intelligently , as his grip on school boy physics demonstrates . I suggest the Commissioner is as likely to be mistaking a last place team for a champion as his ability to offer a valid understanding of the meaning of “Sport” , which , among his many impenetrable actions , are demonstrated weekly through the submission of his “even” handed justice .

  24. So Randy Moss is mad at Kaepernick for not throwing him the ball….but when Kaep was disrespecting the national anthem Moss was proactive about it. Hey Randy…perhaps you should have slammed Kaep while you had a chance…

  25. But but but, the Vikings were supposed to be the NFC North champions again and were fiercely fired up under the greatest coach in the NFC, Zimmer!

  26. Anyone in the media or are the fans going to give McCarthy any credit for keeping his team competitive – focused after that rough stretch with the injuries and losses piling up, his team could’ve easily have quit on the year…

    Yet they kept fighting and got healthy and are now a pretty tough squad late in the year.

    He even moved a WR to RB.

    To think he was on the hot seat (yet Bruce Arians and Sean Payton somehow are never on the hot seat for flopping lately).

  27. saints737 says:
    Dec 19, 2016 10:36 AM

    maust1013 says:
    Dec 19, 2016 10:02 AM
    saints737 says:
    Dec 19, 2016 9:26 AM
    Moss should be more bitter at the ’07 Patriots collapse.

    THAT was his SB Ring opportunity
    ==========================

    Losing to the team that played better on that particular Sunday isn’t collapsing, it’s football. The Giants D deserves credit for beating that NE team. The Pats didn’t ‘collapse’ in that game, the Giants won it.
    ==========================

    You were 18-0, beating teams at a historic rate, Brady broke the record for TD passes in a season as did Moss in receiving, and had previously beaten said Giants team in the regular season.

    14 Points. It was a choke job, no doubt about it.
    ==========================

    Please. The Giants defense had a monster game. They accurately anticipated the snap count and pressured Brady all game. Props to them. Still the Pats were winning the game with a little more than 2 minutes left; and still it took a crazy scramble by Eli (and no in the grasp call) and an amazingly athletic catch on a helmet for them to get the good ahead score. Not really a collapse. But whatever makes your hate taste sweeter.

  28. As a lifelong Packers fan I have gained even more respect for the Chicago Bears after yesterdays game. It was bitter cold, and after 3 quarters your offense had managed just 2 scoring drives and the defense was repeated gashed for big plays. Yet the Bears played as if this game was the Super Bowl X 3. No quit in that team and I’m more than a little concerned that despite their record, this is a team on the rise and will be right in the mix for the playoffs next season. Small consolation I know. But for a 4 point Packer advantage after 194 meetings, both teams are exactly where they started decades ago, I think both George Halas and Vince Lombardi along with every other coach and player from all those contests would approve.

  29. xargscutgrep says:
    Dec 19, 2016 6:20 AM
    For the Bears, I have to say that my respect for Coach Fox has really grown this year. He hasn’t lost the team, and that says everything. I’m especially ecstatic that we aren’t tanking. Myles Garrett may be the next Julius Peppers… but it doesn’t make sense to lose the respect of 52 players just to draft one. That’s not how you build a winning culture.

    Fans get this too – every Bears fan wanted the win yesterday.
    _____________________________
    They don’t think like this in Indianapolis! The Colts tanked an entire season just to draft Andrew Luck and the “fans” loved it! They even had “Suck for Luck” t-shirts made up and sold them by the 1000’s!

    The Colts team and their fans have no pride and no self respect. We should expect nothing less from a team that has been caught piping in phony crowd noise, tampers with their own footballs and those of their opponents’, hides broken ribs and lacerated kidneys from their injury reports, purposely loses games to get the the #1 pick (twice!), and has a drugged out boozehound for an owner.

  30. The NFL needs to recognize the two worst teams each season with The Toilet Bowl! Let them play at season’s end and give the winner a chromed miniature toilet trophy. This year’s teams would obviously be CLE and SF. It would be great for their disappointed fans who have nothing much else to get excited about.

  31. There are 3 competitive teams playing meaningful football in the NFCN.

    And then there are the classless, hapless, tasteless, shameless, fruitless, heartless, gutless Vikings.

  32. “But the Jets aren’t the team I want to talk about today.”
    =======
    Apparently, no one in the media wants to talk about the Dolphins causing them to quit and sweeping a division rival. Earning a spot into the playoffs. With a back up QB and a first year coaching staff. Go ahead, keep ignoring the Fins. They aren’t going away anymore.

  33. You guys don’t know football. The Vikings didn’t quit. They just didn’t show up yesterday. They thought the game was a gimme. Big difference. They’ll play these next two hard and probably sneak in at 6. Watch

  34. Don’t forget, the Eagles first quit on Chip Kelly on Thanksgiving Day last year (i.e prior to December)…the Eagles matched the Lions’ first touchdown, and then let Detroit score the next 38 points…

  35. The Bills are still playing hard, now that they’re playing bad teams again. Must be a confidence thing. They crush bad convincingly but consistently falter against teams with winning records, which is maddening to watch.

    I think they needed a signature win this season so that they could prove to themselves they had what it would take to make a real run going down the stretch. They were in position to beat the Raiders and do just that, but they crumbled. Oh well.

  36. justintuckrule says:
    Dec 19, 2016 12:50 PM

    You guys don’t know football. The Vikings didn’t quit. They just didn’t show up yesterday. They thought the game was a gimme. Big difference. They’ll play these next two hard and probably sneak in at 6. Watch

    ————————————————————-

    If the Vikings have not figured out that NO game in this league is a “gimmie,” they have bigger problems than their record indicates.

    Look no further than the Bears yesterday at Soldier Field, Vikings fans, for how this game should be played.

    The Vikings, yesterday, soiled their fancy new home.

  37. The NFL needs to recognize the two worst teams each season with The Toilet Bowl! Let them play at season’s end and give the winner a chromed miniature toilet trophy. This year’s teams would obviously be CLE and SF. It would be great for their disappointed fans who have nothing much else to get excited about.
    ———————
    Better still, the NFL team that ends with the worst record should play the NCAA National Championship winner. That would settle all those debates that come up every year about this time.

  38. Just because a team gets blown out. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they are not playing hard. The Jets- Dolphins game was closely contested until the 3rd quarter. A blocked punt and turnovers led to a big swing in that game. Sometimes talent wins out. Effort can be judged in a team’s rushing attack and run defense. Are lineman blocking on offense and are defenders not shedding blocks and missing tackles. The Jets ran the ball real well against Miami and stopped the run. It’s their pass blocking and pass defense that was out matched. Missing 6 total starters on both those fronts.

  39. Anyone in the media or are the fans going to give McCarthy any credit for keeping his team competitive

    None at all. Everyone knows how this story ends.

    McCarthy will run his ship into another iceberg in January. He has mastered the art of Playoff collapse.

  40. aarons444 says:
    Dec 19, 2016 3:11 PM
    Anyone in the media or are the fans going to give McCarthy any credit for keeping his team competitive

    None at all. Everyone knows how this story ends.

    McCarthy will run his ship into another iceberg in January. He has mastered the art of Playoff collapse.
    —————————————————-
    Is it players who fail to execute or poor coaching. With the exception of Bill Belichek, who is not available, who would you want? Half the teams that were in the playoff last year will be watching from home this year. Meanwhile the Packers are in position to make their 8th straight appearance in the post season. I’ll stick with Mike for HC. Now Strength and Conditioning coach, thats debatable as it seems year after year the injury bug hits this team worse than most.

  41. …except that Kaepernick never looked in Moss’s direction. “That was my dad gum Super Bowl ring!” Moss shouted.

    Randy Moss, always a ‘team first’ kinda guy.

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