Week 12 Epic Fail: Eagles, Johnson and Chargers
Most football fans and pigskin “pundits” enjoy watching stars on their ascension into the stratosphere of football success.
But the Galileo of the gridiron galaxy, the Cold, Hard Football Facts, take particular glee documenting the carnage when these bright stars crash back to Earth in a bright fiery display of Epic Failure.
And Week 12 of the 2011 season was a veritable Perseid meteor shower of pigskin, with no lack of falling stars and Epic Failures to chronicle.
Epic Fail: Philadelphia’s “Dream Team” defense
The preseason “Dream Team” moniker has become a lead weight around the neck of the Andy Reid era, likely to sink his long career as head coach of the Eagles. The phrase has also made mockery of the nightmare the season has become for 4-7 Philadelphia.
But the fact of the matter is that the Epic Failure of the Dream Team Eagles begins and ends with the defense. After all, it was the sudden binge on free agent defenders Cullen Jenkins(notes), Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie(notes) and Nnamdi Asomugha(notes) that inspired the Dream Team name to begin with.
And take a look at the fortunes of each unit this season:
• The Eagles are No. 3 in total offense (420.1 YPG) and No.14 in scoring offense (23.4 PPG).
• The Eagles are No. 15 in total defense (344.6 YPG) and No. 21 in scoring defense (22.8 PPG).
Philly’s 38-20 Week 12 loss to the AFC powerhouse Patriots merely reinforces the fact that, on a team with more issues than National Geographic, the biggest problems are on defense.
Rodgers-Cromartie did not play because of ankle injury, Asomugha saw limited playing time because of a knee injury and Jenkins and the rest of the defense were useless. They were torched for 361 yards through the air and another 104 on the ground.
Brady was sacked just once on 35 dropbacks, averaged 10.6 yards per pass attempt, one of the most prolific efforts of his Hall of Fame career, and the Patriots converted 6 of 11 third downs.
It was yet another Epic Failure for the unit most responsible for the Dream Team’s nightmare season, the under-achieving defense.
Epic Fail: Buffalo wide receiver Steve Johnson
There are always plenty of goats when a team’s season implodes the way Buffalo’s has this year. After a 3-0 start highlighted by a huge win over New England, the Bills are now 5-6 and in the midst of a four-game skid.
But one goat stood head and horns above the Buffalo crowd in Week 12: Steve Johnson.
The receiver hauled in a 5-yard touchdown late in the second quarter to lift the Bills to a 14-7 lead. But during his celebration, he pretended to shoot himself in the leg – mocking Jets WR Plaxico Burress(notes), he spent time in jail for shooting himself in the league in a New York City nightclub back in 2008.
Remember, this is the same receiver who blamed God because he dropped what would have been a game-winning pass against the Steelers last year.
Johnson was penalized 15 yards for excessive celebration. After a botched kickoff from their own 20 and another 15-yard Bills penalty, the Jets suddenly had the ball on the Buffalo 14 yard line.
Buffalo should have entered the half with a 14-7 lead. Instead, thanks largely to Johnson’s penalty, the game was knotted at 14-14. It proved a pivotal series of events in a game ultimately decided by four points.
But Johnson was not done yet. On Buffalo’s final drive, he dropped a pass for what would have been at worst a long gain and at best a game-winning touchdown. He had another chance to catch the game winner soon afterward, but Ryan Fitzpatrick(notes) threw the ball behind the receiver. Finally, on Buffalo’s final play, Fitzpatrick squeezed the ball between defenders at Johnson in the end zone, but he couldn’t haul in the pass.
It was a fitting series of Epic Failure for a player and an organization that has made a habit of them.
Epic Fail: San Diego’s special teams
No organization wilts more consistently in big games quite like the San Diego Chargers. And their 16-13 Week 12 loss at home to the Denver Tebows was another in a long and inglorious history of Epic Failures, in this case one orchestrated by special teams.
In need of just one big play and one or two competent plays, the Chargers wilted down to nothing, like spinach in a pot of boiling water. They once again did all the little things wrong to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
The biggest gaffes came in the kicking game and, of course, when it mattered most late in the game.
Novak missed again with just 2:36 left in the overtime session – and not once, but twice. His first attempt from 53 yards was blocked. But Denver had called a time out before the snap. So Novak was given another shot to win the game.
Naturally, he missed – once again wide right.
Given one last chance thanks to San Diego’s Epic Failures on special teams, the Broncos quickly marched into field goal position and Matt Prater(notes) kicked the game-winning 37 yarder with just 33 seconds left in overtime.