Welcome to the Fifth Quarter, the only NFL recap column you’ll ever need. It’s the only one to provide a full day’s supply of Vitamin C, after all. Here’s what was going on around the rest of the league while you were selfishly focused on your home team and your fantasy players.
Many players appreciate, even revel in, the public-acclaim aspect of professional football. (Fact: 97 percent of such players are wide receivers.) But there are some who look like they'd rather be getting teeth removed than deal with all the non-football aspects of football. Left to their own devices, they wouldn't deal with the fans, the media, the external distractions; if they had their choice, they'd play their football in an empty, preferably sterilized stadium.
And the coaches are even worse. You get the sense that certain guys, like Mike Shanahan, would be happy playing the game of football like they used to play chess in olden times: by mailing plays back and forth.
So when someone has the audacity to offer an uncomfortable question to these guys, well ... it doesn't always go swimmingly. Here's Mike Shanahan suffering through repeated inquiries about his job status and the circus that is the Redskins organization before calling it a day (around the mark with eight seconds left in the video):
And here's Tom Brady, spending exactly 72 seconds taking questions:
In both cases, these guys are in messes partially of their own making. Shanahan has contributed to the toxicity in D.C., and Brady couldn't knock off the highly inconsistent Dolphins. Now, we could go on some nonsensical rant about how "these guys don't respect the media," but look, we know that nobody respects the media. We're fine with that. And we could gin up some way that this means the NFL's leading lights don't respect you, the fan, because they're not deigning to speak to you through the media.
That's all ridiculous. (Well, not the non-respect part. That's the truth.) The reality is, most NFL players and coaches, particularly Shanahan and Brady, don't say much worth repeating even when they're talking for 15, 20 minutes at a stretch. It's all "we've got to make plays" and "give a lot of credit to the other team" and "we'll get ready for next week" and other verbal rice cakes. Sure, it'd be nice to hear something more than bland, obvious platitudes from guys who don't think in such boring terms, but it's not going to happen.
We good? OK. I'm outta here.
... wait. I've still got the rest of the column to write. Shoot.
Running down the biggest stories of Week 15. We'll try not to catch you offsides.
• That's so Romo. Tony Romo has a well-deserved reputation for throwing crippling fourth-quarter interceptions during crucial games. On Sunday against Green Bay, in a near must-win game that could have returned the Cowboys to the top of the NFC East, Romo didn't throw one interception in the fourth. He threw TWO! And Dallas, in part because of those giveaways, squandered a 26-3 lead against the Packers and gave up five straight touchdown drives in the second half to Green Bay. After the game, Cowboys coach-for-now Jason Garrett didn't exactly fall on a grenade for Romo:
In presser, Jason Garrett throws Tony Romo under the bus: "It was a run call that he threw the ball on." #Cowboyscalamity
— Sean Jensen (@seankjensen) December 16, 2013
In very much related news, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones seemed to walk back his guarantee of future employment for Garrett:
Jerry Jones on Jason Garrett: “I was firm for one night at that time and that doesn’t call for me having to be firm every morning I get up."
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) December 16, 2013
Don't think too hard about that quote, for your own sake.
• Old Man Tony. One of the few high points of the Falcons this year has been Tony Gonzalez, who's still insisting he's going to retire at the end of this season despite the fact that every single team wants him to sign with them. On Sunday, Gonzalez topped 15,000 receiving yards, only the fifth player in NFL history to do so. The others: Jerry Rice, Terrell Owens, Randy Moss and Isaac Bruce. Matt Ryan is going to cry when Gonzalez rides off into the sunset.
• Fumbling follies. Look, the NFL is a tough game. The football is a tough thing to hold onto. That said, Sunday brought us two separate incidents that were among the year's best — or worst — in ballhandling performance. First, from the Falcons-Redskins game, a three-play sequence that featured three straight turnovers:
And next, the Buccaneers try to get a little fancy, and it costs them against San Francisco:
• Manning up, Manning down. On the same day Sports Illustrated named Peyton Manning its 2013 Sportsman of the Year, Eli Manning did this:
Ouch. Eli has thrown 717 interceptions this year. Or something like that. We may be low on that estimate.
• Heads up! Finally, we will never get tired of seeing this poor Dolphins miscommunication that left Brandon Fields lookin' silly:
NFL players! Sometimes they're as clumsy as you and me!
In which we recap every game in seven words. Ready ... go!
San Diego 27, Denver 20. Broncos are AFC champs ... wait, what?
Atlanta 27, Washington 26. Falcons need 59:22 to beat Kirk Cousins.
Chicago 38, Cleveland 31. Cutler is so very Cutler in return.
Indianapolis 25, Houston 3. Texans are good for ailing division leaders.
Buffalo 27, Jacksonville 20. Jacksonville officially eliminated from playoffs. Oh no!
Miami 24, New England 20. Tom Brady's gonna win this ... wait, what?
Minnesota 48, Philadelphia 30. Eagles pick a bad time to implode.
Seattle 23, New York Giants 0. You almost feel sorry for Eli now.
San Francisco 33, Tampa Bay 14. Bucs play a decent team, get waxed.
Carolina 30, New York Jets 20. After ugly start, Panthers could win division.
Kansas City 56, Oakland 31. Please, Jamaal Charles, stop scoring! You won!
Green Bay 37, Dallas 36. Romo's two INTs, terrible D kill Dallas.
St. Louis 27, New Orleans 16. Saints are surprisingly weak on the road.
Arizona 37, Tennessee 34. Because somebody had to win this one.
Pittsburgh 30, Cincinnati 20. Pittsburgh should've played like this in September.
Baltimore at Detroit. Both teams scrabbling for a playoff berth.
Champ: Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs. You came into the day feeling good about your chances in your fantasy football playoffs. Sure, your opponent was running out Jamaal Charles, but how bad could one guy hurt you? I mean, it's not like the guy was going to score five freaking touchdowns.
Chump: Pretty much every Cowboy this side of Troy Aikman, Dallas Cowboys. You're leading 26-3 at halftime. Your offense is humming and your defense is in shutdown mode. So what do you do if you're the Cowboys? Throw the car in reverse while you're still moving forward, of course. This was a hideous loss, perhaps the worst of the season, and it could end up costing the Cowboys a playoff berth. No excuses, none whatsoever.
Oh, we have a bounty here. First: kid, how did your parents pay $400 for tickets to a Falcons-Redskins game? StubHub that stuff for twenty bucks, max. Next: that lady is either a victim of a medical experiment gone horribly wrong, or tormenting her child to a life of frustration at the hands of the Patriots and Broncos. Finally: that Saints fan is just flat-out terrifying. Moreso than New Orleans on Sunday, that's for sure.
Got your own quality tailgate/party/fan photos? Hit us at email@example.com and share.
There's plenty of good writing every day on the NFL. Here are a few choice reads to keep you busy while there's no football. Because the other alternatives are talking to your family or doing chores, and nobody wants that. (Send us your favorite words of the week.)
• What's it like being an NFL beat reporter? Pretty cool, yes, but also some serious work. (The MMQB)
• What did Denver's loss do to longstanding playoff odds? Blew 'em over like a house of cards. (Football Outsiders)
• Knowshon Moreno has had a strange career, and running backs are going to be following in his footsteps in coming seasons. (Grantland)
• Who's going to be the next Bo Jackson? Russell Wilson? Or nobody at all? (Sports on Earth)
• Finally: yours truly traveled to FedExField and witnessed the horrors of Redskins Nation firsthand. (Yahoo Sports)
Each week, we’ll make a random Super Bowl pick based on trends, stats or general nonquantifiable gut feelings. One of these weeks, we’ll be right. Probably right after both conference championships.
Kansas City vs. Seattle. Thanks, Denver. Right when we figure you're a total lock for the Super Bowl, you've got to go hocking up that hairball of a loss at home against San Diego. Sure, it's going to be very tough for Kansas City to win three games on the road to get to the Super Bowl. But this season has so far been fairly by-the-numbers, which means that we're going to get the weirdness late. As for Seattle? Not even a meteor could stop this team.
Super Bowl picks, full season: Denver 5x, Seattle 4.5x, New England 4x, New Orleans 3.5x, Kansas City 2x, Carolina 2x, San Francisco 2x, Indianapolis, Green Bay.
And that's a wrap for this week's edition of Fifth Quarter. Got a question? Comment? Concern? Rant? Hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @jaybusbee. We’ll run your words here or in Thursday’s weekly letters column. For now, enjoy the week. It's not long 'til more football!
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Mike Shanahan
- Tom Brady
- Tony Gonzalez
- Tony Romo
- Peyton Manning