Week 11 Epic Fail: Chargers, Giants and Jets
Some football analysts like to celebrate success. The Cold, Hard Football Facts find more delicious joy shining the spotlight of analysis on the Epic Failures that stand opposite of every great performance or game-winning drive.
And, well, this being Thanksgiving week, it’s time to serve up a heaping plate of pigskin with the week’s most colossal gaffes and most pathetic, underachieving efforts from the weekend action.
There’s no shortage of contenders here in Week 11 of the 2011 season. So let’s get started with a distasteful holiday stew of miserable efforts.
Epic Fail: The San Diego franchise
We got a glimpse in the dark, gutless soul of the San Diego franchise last year, when the team topped the NFL in both total offense and total defense and was No. 1 in numerous Cold, Hard Football Facts Quality Stats – stats that have a direct correlation to winning football games.
Statistically speaking, the 2010 Chargers were a team that should have competed for a Super Bowl. In real life, they were a 9-7 team that failed to make the playoffs.
A good organization and a well-coached team would have fixed the problems and then stepped boldly into the brave new season cocksure, fighting trim and Super Bowl-bound.
Instead, the 2011 Chargers have regressed badly in all phases of the game. They lack confidence and fighting spirit and, at this rate, are basement bound in the AFC West.
San Diego’s 31-20 loss at Chicago Sunday was a textbook example of everything wrong with the team. The game was tied 17-17 in the third quarter then the Bears struck for two quick scores that proved the difference in the game.
The Chargers, naturally, did all the little things wrong that they always do to lose games. They surrendered long returns in special teams to Johnny Knox(notes) and Devin Hester(notes); Matt Scifres averaged a dismal 19.7 yards per punt; and Nick Novak(notes) missed a field goal that would have brought San Diego to within 17-13 at the end of the first half (granted, from 55 yards).
Most importantly, San Diego committed three costly turnovers on its final four drives – including a pair of INTs by Rivers on the team’s final two possessions.
Year after year, decade after decade, the Chargers field sexy-looking teams filled with a galaxy of offensive stars – from John Hadl and Lance Alworth back in the AFL days, to Dan Fouts and Kellen Winslow(notes) and an amazing collection of offensive weapons in the 1980s, to Philip Rivers(notes), Antonio Gates(notes) and LaDainian Tomlinson(notes) in more recent years.
Yet when push comes to shove, San Diego (a popular Super Bowl favorite heading into this season) always fails to live up to the hype. The organization claimed its only championship back in 1963, in the early days of the AFL.
And we got a glimpse into the reasons why the Chargers consistently struggle to live up to expectations with an Epic Fail performance here in Week 11 of the 2011 season.
Epic Fail: The N.Y. Jets defense
Here was the situation Thursday night: the Jets led the Broncos 13-10 late in the fourth quarter, with just 5:54 on the clock. Divisive young quarterback Tim Tebow(notes) and the Broncos took over at their own 5 yard line.
The Jets, in other words, had the punchless Denver offense right where they wanted it, pinned deep in its own territory, with an entire expanse of empty green ahead of it, and precious little time left to play.
Denver had produced only a field goal the entire evening (Denver scored its touchdown on a pick-six) and Tebow had struggled to connect on his passes all evening – and all season.
Meanwhile, Rex Ryan’s defense is supposed to be one of the best in football, certainly if bluster is any indication. The Cold, Hard Football Facts were also in New York’s corner: the Jets entered the game with a 67.4 Defensive Passer Rating – second in the NFL and a great number by the standards of the modern NFL. In fact, if you excluded their efforts against all-world QB Tom Brady(notes) of New England this year, New York boasted an unbelievable 53.1 Defensive Passer Rating.
Yet with the game on the line Thursday night at Denver, Ryan’s allegedly elite unit made Tebow look like a an All-State schoolboy quarterback darting through and around a physically overmatched group of kids from a smaller high school.
Tebow put the ball in his own hands for 11 of the next 12 plays and accounted for an incredible 92 of 95 yards on Denver’s game-winning drive in the final few minutes. He completed 3 of 5 passes for 35 yards and ran six times for 57 yards, including a game-winning 20-yard touchdown jaunt with just over 1 minute to play in which he was virtually untouched.
Tebow is widely criticized for what most pigskin “pundits” say is an inability to play quarterback at the NFL level. But with the game on the line Thursday night, one of the league’s elite defenses offered nothing but an Epic Failure in its effort to stop him from driving the Broncos 95 yards in the game’s closing minutes.
Epic Fail: The New York Giants
The G-Men had everything working in their favor heading into Week 11. Let us count the ways, shall we?
One – The 6-3 Giants were all alone in first place in the NFL’s Glamour Division, the NFC East.
Two – They were playing at home against the struggling division-rival Philadelphia Eagles.
Three – The Giants beat the Eagles 29-16 earlier in the year.
Four – The underachieving Nightmare Team Eagles entered the game with a dismal 3-6 record.
Instead of an easy victory that would have secured its lead on first-place, New York tumbled, 17-10, and was especially dismal with the game on the line.
The Eagles converted an incredible (and incredibly frustrating for Giants fans) 6 of 6 third downs during the monstrous drive. Cooper, the receiver who caught the game-winning pass, had scored just one touchdown in his two-year career before that moment.
A future that looked so bright for the Giants now looks bleak.
New York now shares the division lead with the Cowboys – a team that must play twice before the end of the season. Future opponents include the explosive Saints, undefeated Packers, and a tough inter-conference game against the stadium-mate New York Jets.
If the Giants fail to win the division, or fail to even make the playoffs, we’ll look back on that epic Philadelphia drive as the most Epic Failure of New York’s promising 2011 season.