NFL: Normality returns to chaotic season with Dallas Cowboys blowing big lead over Green Bay Packers
A round-up of the major events and talking points in the NFL
After the madness of the previous few weeks, week 15 was almost a mirage of tranquillity in an otherwise chaotic NFL season.
Washington could have played for extra-time but didn’t, ‘Megatron’ looked human – dropping three in the Lions loss to the Ravens - and Dallas blew a big lead over the Packers. Normality, it seems, may have temporarily returned.
Naturally though, having struggled all season amidst a sea of bad calls, poor play and disheartened locker room, Mike Shanahan’s motley crew still found a way to lose, falling 26-27 to Atlanta.
With seconds remaining the embattled coach decided to go for the two-point conversion, which would have given his side a one-point victory. However, Kirk Cousins’ pass was picked off, condemning them to another disappointing loss.
Should we be surprised? Perhaps, but Washington’s futility has seen them lose plenty of games this season so it’s continued presence on Sunday hardly seemed extraordinary.
Turning the ball over seven times, and tying a franchise record by losing five of them, the Redskins (3-11) continue to heap pressure on to their embattled coach.
Reportedly on the hot-seat, Mike Shanahan’s chances of keeping the head coaching job are decreasing by the week, although publicly he remains defiant.
“You can’t win with turnovers, yet we still had an opportunity to win and that shows you how hard they fought.
“Those guys, normally, are great with ball security and don’t turn it over.”
In for the benched RGIII, Kirk Cousins' first appearance of the season injected some life into an offence that has struggled to this point, but against a Falcons defence considered to be among the worst in the league, it was hardly a ‘come and get me’ plea to quarterback-needy teams.
This wasn’t just a bad loss however, Washington dealt a King’s ransom to St Louis in the RGIII trade and this season’s continued funk has left the Rams looking at the second pick in next years’ draft – a pick they would otherwise be without having put together a so-so season in Sam Bradford’s absence.
Now that’s to put the kibosh on Griffin’s career in Washington, far from it, but something in Washington needs to change and needs to change soon.
Nicknames are a funny thing. Often there to bestow accolades onto others, or ridicule at any individuals whim (think ‘sick note’ Darren Anderton), Calvin Johnson’s is certainly hinting at his continued machine like efficiency.
But is it accurate?
Johnson is an impressive specimen, tall, athletic, strong and blessed with good football IQ, but like all other receivers – admittedly some more than others – he does drop a lot of passes and, of all the ones he has seen hit the turf, perhaps none were more important than those against the Baltimore Ravens.
Dropping two crucial third-down throws from Matthew Stafford, whose weekly decision to flip between the maddeningly inconsistent and perfectly poised continues, Megatron’s rare lack of poise ensured that at 7-7, the Lions are now in need of outside help if they are to make the post-season.
To the untrained eye, and even the trained to an extent, it’s as if the Dallas Cowboys are putting themselves in positions to win to toy with their fans’ feelings, before the inevitable late game collapse.
Their blown 23 point half-time lead against Green Bay on Sunday was, in an odd way, truly something to behold.
The Cowboys set a franchise record for first half yardage, racking up 332 yards en-route to a 26-3 lead.
They took a 12-point lead with less than ten minutes to play.
But it didn’t matter, as the Packers notched up five second-half touchdowns on five consecutive second-half drives before kneeling out the game.
Had Aaron Rodgers been playing, it’s doubtful that this would have even been a contest. Monte Kiffin’s defence have been awful all season and the loss of influential middle linebacker Sean Lee will do little to quell the catcalls in ‘the house that Jerry built’.
However, only months after removing Rob Ryan from the same position, it’s hard to imagine Jerry Jones sticking with a co-ordinator who seems incapable of matching even Ryan’s standards.
However, all is not lost. All Dallas has to do is beat the Redskins next week and they’ll have a chance, providing they beat the Philadelphia Eagles the following week – no easy task considering the explosiveness of the Chip Kelly’s offense.
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