Mike Tanier's Monday Morning Hangover: Hot Teams and Baby Animals

Mike Tanier@@miketanierNFL National Lead WriterDecember 15, 2014

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

In this week's Hangover: Manziel Mania! Johnny Fever! All-access, 360-degree, 10-speed, 20-story, single-malt Johnny Manzilla stomping through the pleasure centers of your brain! 

Play-by-play Manzanalysis! Frame-by-frame Manziel film study! Subatomic stoichiometry of the exact molecular structure of Manziel makeup, featuring Manziel tachyons that travel backward through time to cause Tebowmania, Beatlemania and that thing where all the people in the village could not stop dancing.

This is not a cynical effort to get Manziel to the top of this week's feature. It is not bald-faced click trolling. None of this was pre-written on a snowy Thursday afternoon, I promise. I AM REALLY THIS STOKED ABOUT JOHNNY FOOTBALL!

Tony Dejak/Associated Press

Oh wait. Manziel got shellacked by the Bengals in a 30-0 rout? His 80-yard, two-interception performance does not even reflect how comically unprepared he looked for most of the game?

In that case...GIFs! Memes! Photoshopped babies taunting Manziel by making the "money" sign in his face! Articles with headlines like "Johnny Manziel's 2nd Interception Breaks Social Media," shared via social media! Images of Manziel laughing on the sideline late in the blowout. Laughing? LAUGHING!? BURN THE HERETIC.

Peyton Manning got knocked out of the game while trying to block on Sunday. The Seahawks eliminated the 49ers from playoff contention. Lions and Cowboys victories, combined with a Packers loss and Thursday's Drew Stanton injury, turned the NFC playoff chase into a wild sprint for the finish. Robert Griffin III returned for the Redskins, adding further subplots to their dense telenovela.

The Patriots clinched the AFC East yet again. Bill Belichick tied Curly Lambeau for fourth place on the all-time coaching victory list. The Broncos and Colts also clinched playoff berths. A lot went on this week.

Still, I could not resist the urge to lead with the debut of a hotshot rookie whose very presence on the field sets the whole football world abuzz, even if that rookie's own coaches seemed skeptical about his readiness (the Browns' game plan was Pop Warner-worthy). And it's not like my editors are going to stop me from writing about the NFL's most famously unaccomplished quarterback.

I feel sorry for all the writers who were assigned to dwell upon or analyze Manziel's performance for more than a few paragraphs: There is almost no meat on the bones of his bad decisions, bad throws and general cluelessness. I also feel guilty for all the time I spent talking about Manziel on radio shows and in columns over the last two weeks. I could have been Christmas shopping, hugging my kids or cleaning the rainspouts.

But Manziel was news, and he remains news. His terribleness makes better copy than ordinariness would have; a glimpse of excellence would have been nice, but a 180-yard, one touchdown, one-interception oatmeal afternoon would have been more disappointing in its own way than Sunday's spectacle of failure. For non-Browns fans, anyway. Everyone wants Manziel to succeed or fail on an epic scale. An Andy Dalton-like career would feel like a betrayal.

One game, even a bumbling mess of a game, proves little. Peyton threw three interceptions in his 1998 NFL debut and spent a month embarrassing himself. Troy Aikman threw two interceptions in a 28-0 loss to the Saints in his 1989 debut. Maybe Manziel will develop into Aikman. If so, get ready for a bumpy ride: Aikman lost his first 11 starts.

Fox broadcast

I don't want to be too cynical about Manziel Mania. If you cannot get excited about the debut of a Heisman Trophy winner who was a delight to watch during his college career, then why are you watching football at all? Manziel has the potential to provide both eye-popping highlights in the weeks and years to come, plus plenty of comeuppance, comic relief and other fresh meat for those who prefer rooting against him to rooting for him.

But Sunday was all buildup for an anti-payoff. The real entertainment came from Ben Roethlisberger, Russell Wilson and Tom Brady, and from the defenses that rose to shut down proven superstars like Aaron Rodgers. Manziel got much of the attention, but the real action remained where the real action almost always is: in places like Foxborough and Seattle.

So ends this week's episode of writing about Manziel for Manziel's sake. There may not be a new episode next week. But the show is only on hiatus, not cancelled.

Hot Teams and Baby Animals

While Christmas shopping late last week, I came across a calendar titled Hot Guys and Baby Animals 2015. The perfect gift for the sister-in-law who spends every day complaining about minor ailments on Facebook!

It's wonderful to live in a world where it's possible to not just indulge every whim but every conceivable combination of unrelated whims. There's no reason to partition off the id to keep our cravings from dripping into one another anymore.

A steak dinner followed by a striptease used to be the stuff of hush-hush bachelor-party naughtiness. Now, you can probably find a pictorial study at Barnes & Noble. Baked beans and beauty queens? Someone has probably started a blog; I am afraid to verify. The Hot Guys and Baby Animals folks have built a veritable publishing empire: Who needs brick and mortar when you have shirtless firemen and fluffy lambs?

The dueling-desire calendar concept caught on quickly here at the Hangover home office. Seeking to provide me with a similar thrill, my wife surprised me with Mopey Female Singer-Songwriters and Craft Beers 2015 for my birthday. January features Courtney Barnett and Stone Levitation, and I can't wait! My wife is not the bodybuilder-and-kitten type, so I returned the favor with Chunky Middle-Aged Writers and Poorly Trained Pit Bulls 2015. She gift-receipted that sucker for the 2015 edition of Folded Laundry.

BuzzFeed Sports @BuzzFeedSports

NFL iron man @RobGronkowski did the goofiest photoshoot with a fluffy little kitten http://t.co/PlsBQMBvr7 http://t.co/z9CfYwMsL8

I worried that I would have no way of relating these gags to the NFL (because we never veer off-topic around here) until Rob Gronkowski helpfully posed with kitty cats for ESPN The Magazine. Gronk posed with Justin Bieber a few weeks ago, so it's great to see him keeping better company.

The Patriots are clearly missing an opportunity to market their own Patriots Stars and Cuddly Critters calendar. Pirate Bill Belichick and a real parrot for October. LeGarrette Blount punching a groundhog for February. Tom Brady will have the chance to pose with over a hundred adorable animals once Gisele Bundchen gets her mitts on those pesky Dalmatians.

But that's not really what this segment of Hangover is about.

This segment of Hangover is about teams that won on Sunday thanks to strange combinations of elements. Any team can win with a great quarterback-receiver combo or running and defense. Sunday's playoff contenders opted for the more eclectic sweet n' salty approach of combining unrelated strengths (or strokes of luck) into satisfying victories.

No animals were cuddled during the making of this Hangover, but several playoff portfolios were strengthened, and a handful of teams discovered that they could win in ways that they may not have thought would be all that sexy.

Field Goals and Brock Osweiler: The Denver Broncos' 2015 Calendar

In the realm of spectacularly bad ideas, Peyton Manning throwing a block on a running play at the goal line is up there with reaching into the fireplace to adjust some burning logs with your hands. Manning tried to block for C.J. Anderson, and whamo! It appeared that the Osweiler era would dawn in Denver sooner than anyone anticipated, or wanted.

CBS broadcast

Osweiler attempted two passes, completing zero and getting called for intentional grounding on one. News that Manning (who was also coping with flu symptoms) would return for the third quarter brought such a resounding sigh of relief across the Rocky Mountains that it will destabilize weather patterns across the Great Plains for the rest of the week.

Manning threw a touchdown pass in the second half, but the Broncos' 22-10 victory over the Chargers belonged to the field-goal units. Conner Barth kicked five field goals, while Nick Novak (working with new holder Mat McBriar) bounced one attempt off an upright and had another one blocked.

The Broncos have now won two straight games in which Manning was only marginally effective and Anderson did not race to his rescue with a mammoth game (though he did have three rushing scores last week). That said, any calendar that features Osweiler in December would probably be obsolete by February, so it was great to see Manning back.

Offensive Superstars and State Governors: The Dallas Cowboys' 2015 Calendar

There is nothing unusual about Dez Bryant jawing with opposing defenders before a game then lighting them up for three touchdowns in a 38-27 Cowboys win. There's nothing unusual about a two-touchdown DeMarco Murray performance or Tony Romo winning an important prime-time game (that myth is so thoroughly debunked that I refuse to link to a justification) or the Dallas offensive line making it all possible.

The governor of New Jersey high-fiving it up with Jerry Jones in the owner's box? Now there's something unusual.

NBC10 Philadelphia @NBCPhiladelphia

Just in case you still don't know, Chris Christie's a Cowboys fan: http://t.co/sGb3GZmrGm #EaglesTalk #SNF http://t.co/sU3YD7EyK4

New Jersey governor Chris Christie is a lifelong Cowboys fan, so he got the seat of honor next to Jones that traditionally belongs to members of the Bush family. Christie's presence and rooting preferences did not go over well with Eagles fans, many of whom hail from New Jersey's 856 area code. (Giants fans weren't thrilled either.)

Former Pennsylvania governor-turned-Eagles analyst Ed Rendell offered a scathing condemnation of Christie's Cowboys fandom earlier in the week. "It indicates a basic inferiority complex," Rendell said on 97.5 FM in Philadelphia on Thursday, according to NBC10.com. "If you are a Jerseyite or a Pennsylvanian and you're rooting for the Cowboys, it means you're not secure in yourself and you wanted to root for a team that was a team in your youth that was a constant winner."

(Note: I used to agree with Rendell, until I realized that Eagles fandom simply indicated sublimated rage at the human condition.)

So a man who once served as president of the Democratic National Committee and a fashionable future Republican presidential candidate disagree about football. President Barack Obama would chime in, but his approval ratings are low enough without associating himself with the Bears.

Matt Rourke/Associated Press

Pudgy, polarizing politicians do not make great calendar models, so let's alternate pictures of Bryant and Murray with some images of sloppy Eagles turnovers.

Josh Huff mishandled a kickoff to start the game, starting an avalanche that grew into a 21-0 Cowboys lead. Brent Celek fumbled a reception that would have netted a first down during a late comeback attempt. Mark Sanchez delivered his two-interception quota. The Dallas defense did not play all that well, but the Eagles kept gift-wrapping opportunities for Romo and friends.

The Cowboys remain in the thick of a tight race for NFC playoff bye weeks; they are currently seeded third, but everyone has their sights on the Cardinals. The Eagles are suddenly a game behind the wild-card chase, shaking their fists at the 5-8-1 Panthers.

No matter who we feature, Rendell is not going to purchase this calendar.

Players Besides Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and Richard Sherman: The Seattle Seahawks' 2015 Calendar.

Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

If the Seahawks wanted to follow the truth-in-advertising approach to a calendar based on this season, Wilson would get January, April and October; Lynch would get February, July and November; Sherman would get March, June and December; Earl Thomas would get May, Michael Bennett August, and a crowd shot of the 12th Man would be the photo for September. Percy Harvin's picture would appear in the little block for April Fools' Day.

The Seahawks' 17-7 win over the 49ers reminded us that there are other players on the roster who sometimes do more than wait for the Big Three carry them to victory. The wide receivers actually played well: Jermaine Kearse (five catches for 78 yards) did more than run around and block, while Paul Richardson caught a touchdown pass and is starting to look like more than a not-so-scary screen threat.

Defenders Jordan Hill and Kevin Williams contributed to the pass pressure during another afternoon of chasing Colin Kaepernick. Wilson, Lynch and Sherman did their parts, but they did not look like they were surrounded by enemy ninjas all afternoon.

Wilson still absorbed five sacks and spent a lot of time running for his life, so no one wants to spend a month looking at Seattle's offensive line. But the Seahawks knocked their archrivals out of playoff contention, and with the Packers losing to the Bills and the Cardinals running out of smoke pellets, Seattle is one of the few NFC teams that is clearly getting better at the right time.

Trap Games and Unbelievable Dropped Passes: The Buffalo Bills' 2015 Calendar

Bill Wippert/Associated Press

Jordy Nelson's dropped pass at the end of the third quarter was the Odell Beckham Jr. touchdown catch of dropped passes. Nelson was streaking up the seam. Aaron Rodgers hit him right on the hands. Boink!

Watch the replay 99 times, and you will remain certain that Nelson will make the catch and race for an easy game-changing touchdown the 100th time. Nelson looked down at his hands after the drop. Rodgers looked on in bewilderment. That sort of thing just does not happen to them.

Rodgers, Nelson and the Packers offense spent most of the afternoon wondering what was happening. Rodgers was just 8-of-24 in the first half, with the Bills secondary cleaning up after their front four spilled Rodgers from his spot in the pocket.

Throw in a punt-return touchdown by someone named Marcus Thigpen, four Dan Carpenter field goals and a strip-sack safety by Mario Williams to ice the game, and the Bills defense and special teams made life easy for their offense, which took most of the afternoon off.

Calling this a "trap game" for Green Bay may be selling the Bills a little short, but the Packers did play like a road team coming off a short week that looked a little drained by some emotional recent victories. Trap or not, the 21-13 win kept the Bills in the wild-card hunt. Unlike the Dolphins, they are still poised to go as far as their front four can take them.

Blocked Kicks and Baffled Opponents: The New England Patriots' 2015 Calendar

The ESPN photo spread proved that Gronkowski can be covered by a kitten. Maybe the Dolphins should have signed a litter of kittens off waivers this week. Gronk caught just three passes, but they were 35-, 34- and 27-yarders in a 41-13 win. On one of the big plays, a linebacker named Jason Trusnik was covering Gronk up the seam. At least the kitten was cute.

Charles Krupa/Associated Press

In a fascinating but too late development, the Dolphins discovered on Sunday that it is legal to throw the football more than 15 yards downfield. Mike Wallace caught a 50-yard pass on the first play of the game—a triple-reverse would probably have been less surprising—and then later made an acrobatic catch for a 32-yard touchdown. Unfortunately, one Ryan Tannehill deep pass was intercepted, another bounced off Damien Williams' hands and a few others were just poorly targeted heaves.

Maybe if the Dolphins had tried a few more deep passes in the last three months they would have been better at it by Sunday. It's too late now: The Patriots have once again clinched the AFC East, and the Dolphins are settling back into their familiar .500 rut.

Yellow Flags and Drudgery: The Baltimore Ravens' 2015 Calendar

Whenever you see Ravens-Jaguars on the schedule, you know you are in for the football equivalent of cleaning up after a large dinner party. The Ravens did not disappoint, hammering out one of their ugly 20-12 victories. Baltimore committed nine penalties for 70 yards, but it felt like 19 for 170; every drive appeared to start with 1st-and-20 and end with either a punt or a missed Justin Tucker 50-yarder.

BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 14: Quarterback Joe Flacco #5 of the Baltimore Ravens scrambles during the fourth quarter of a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at M&T Bank Stadium on December 14, 2014 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty I
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The Ravens' offensive highlights were Torrey Smith drawing his 11th defensive pass interference penalty of the year (our calendar cover will be Smith clapping, with a bouncing football on his left, a yellow flag at his right and a complaining defender in the background) and a designed Joe Flacco sweep on 3rd-and-5 late in the fourth quarter to burn the clock.

Yes, Flacco ran a designed sweep. It went something like this:

There goes the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad steam locomotive leaving the depot, carrying coal, lumber, saints and sinners. Choo! Choo! Look at the pistons churn. Hear the steam wheesh. That train is gathering momentum. Small children and chickens are running beside it, waving goodbye and clucking. It's rounding the first bend. Chug, chug, chug! Soon—in about 15 minutes—it will gather up to its top speed of 11 miles per hour. Next stop, Ellicott City!

Old Coaches and Obscure Players: The Arizona Cardinals' 2015 Calendar

The Cardinals' transformation into a baseball team is nearly complete now that they have dipped deep into their bullpen for a 12-6 victory over St. Louis. Their best bet for dealing with the Seahawks and 49ers, then doing more than getting knocked out of the playoffs by their first opponent, may be to insert Logan Thomas at quarterback and embrace Tim Tebow tactics.

Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

Thomas is huge (6'6", 260 lbs) and can run: Mix options with a dose of quarterback power plays for two yards, and he may be able to float two bombs per game over the defense and manufacture some 14-10 wins. If they keep Ryan Lindley under center, the Cardinals are just getting weak-tea Drew Stanton, who was weak-tea Carson Palmer.

Of course, the Browns just turned to a semi-prepared scrambler to give them a short-term boost. Look how that turned out. Bruce Arians has gotten his team to this point by avoiding panicky decisions. Let's wait and see what he comes up with next. The baseball metaphor has been working well: Maybe he will platoon his passers.

No Julio Jones and No Ike Taylor: The Pittsburgh Steelers' 2015 Calendar

Most calendars are defined by what they display, not by what they chose not to display. But the Steelers are different. They got a huge break when Julio Jones, who suffered a minor injury late in the Falcons' Monday night loss, was deactivated on Sunday.

David Goldman/Associated Press

Robbed of his top deep threat, Matt Ryan still managed to complete 22 passes to Harry Douglas, Roddy White and Devin Hester, but the Falcons lacked the big-play capability to overcome the Steelers. Atlanta had to do a lot of scheming and rubbing to get receivers open, and Douglas and White settled for too many non-nourishing short tosses in the 27-20 Steelers win.

Pittsburgh was without veteran cornerback Ike Taylor, who has been a deep-touchdown dispensary when healthy this year. A forearm injury kept Taylor off the field, but he is unlikely to return to a starting role even when healthy.

Cornerback will remain a problem for the Steelers for the rest of the season and through the playoffs (they lead the wild-card race right now). But whatever Taylor's status, they cannot keep pretending that he can play the way he did five years ago, when he fit the keep-receivers-in-front-of-you Cover 3 role perfectly. The Steelers bent without breaking against the Falcons. They have "broken" more often than they should many times during the season.

But yes, this is a weird calendar. Can you imagine an Absolutely No Kittens calendar, with pictures of everything else in the world (monuments, landfills, hair dryers, Ike Taylor) but adorable felines? If "no kittens" also means "no Gronkowskis," such a calendar would be the perfect stocking stuffer for Broncos and Colts fans.

Also available from Hangover Calendar Publishing: Late Interceptions and Unexpected Matt Prater Heroics 2015 (Lions calendar); Winning Despite Ourselves Thanks to an Injury-Riddled Opponent 2015 (Colts calendar) and It's Not Raining: Photos of Chiefs Outrunning Raiders (contains almost no Jamaal Charles).

Trophy Case

Not everybody earns one, but everybody gets one!

Ref…er, Madness Trophy

(Awarded to the officiating crew that must have been smoking something.)

SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 14:  Quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks throws the ball during the first quarter of the game against the San Francisco 49ers at CenturyLink Field on December 14, 2014 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

There were two very dubious roughing-the-passer fouls on Sunday: one by the Steelers' Jason Worilds on Matt Ryan, the other by the 49ers' Nick Moody on Russell Wilson. Both were rough, painful-looking hits, but both appeared to be blows to the body by defenders who were not leading with the helmet. 

The Ryan penalty had no effect on the outcome of the Steelers-Falcons game, but the Moody foul on Wilson led to a Seahawks touchdown that put the contest out of reach two plays later. Ed Hochuli explained his decision to reporters on the Moody flag in the kind of legalese that makes fans throw their hands up at ever being able to understand a call.

"I felt he hit the quarterback [Russell Wilson] in the chest with the hairline [of his helmet]. It's a foul unless his head is completely up and would hit him face-on with his facemask, so that's why I called it." Have you ever heard the phrase "hairline of the helmet" before? Jim Harbaugh no longer has a hairline after that call.

We are getting close to the point where any hit on a quarterback that looks like it might smart results in an automatic flag. Of course, reining in some of the insanely complex and interpretive language surrounding illegal hits a) will be interpreted by many as a sign that the NFL does not care about safety, which is not an image the league wants to project when it is already piloting the Death Star through space in many minds; and b) goes against the NFL's policy of combating arcane legal language with even more arcane, possibly contradictory legal language.

Doug Farrar @BR_DougFarrar

If the NFL is going to penalize players for tackling other players in ways that just look like hard tackling, let's call it that.

No one wants to see quarterbacks get seriously injured by cheap shots. But we want to be able to tell a cheap shot from a great hit. It is starting to sound like even the NFL cannot figure out the difference.

Fantasy Leech Trophy

(Awarded to the fullback, tight end, fourth receiver or moonlighting linebacker who scored so your fantasy first-round pick could not.)

Tony Dejak/Associated Press

Rex Burkhead has a great tough-guy name: It's halfway between Bronko Nagurski and Max Power. He also had a great college career, rushing for over 1,300 yards as a junior for Nebraska in 2011.

His NFL role for two seasons, however, has been to serve as the first Bengals running back off the practice squad and earn the occasional touch during blowouts. So it was Burkhead, not Jeremy Hill or Gio Bernard, who sliced through an exhausted Browns defense to give the Bengals a 30-0 lead late in the fourth quarter.

At least it was not another Andy Dalton read-option touchdown. I don't think I could have survived a weekend where Dalton had more rushing production than Johnny Manziel.

Salvador Dali Melting Clock Trophy

(Awarded for the strangest clock management of the week.)

Instead of focusing on strange end-of-half or end-of-game decisions, let's marvel at the Ravens, who managed to turn a 49-yard Justin Tucker field-goal attempt into a 54-yarder by committing a delay-of-game penalty on 4th-and-1 in the fourth quarter. Tucker's slightly longer attempt bounced off the left upright.

BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 14: Kicker Justin Tucker #9 of the Baltimore Ravens kicks a 4th quarter fieldgoal agianst the Jacksonville Jaguars at M&T Bank Stadium on December 14, 2014 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

John Harbaugh is a former special teams coordinator, and the Tucker-Sam Koch field-goal unit has been together through nearly three full seasons, plus a Super Bowl run. They should be able to take the field and get the snap off efficiently.

The Ravens cannot afford to get sloppy on long field-goal attempts, which historically make up much of their offense. They can remain as sloppy as they want in all other aspects of football.

Mysterious Touch Trophy

(Awarded to the defender, lineman or specialist who got an unlikely carry or catch of the week.)

When you block for Devin Hester's kickoff returns, you must be ready to catch the football yourself: An opponent like the Steelers will see Hester deep, figure it would be crazy to let him be the difference-maker and start dribbling kickoffs to the blockers.

Falcons defensive end Cliff Matthews hauled in a short kickoff in the second quarter and immediately took a knee. After genuflecting for a second or two and not feeling satisfied that the world knew he wasn't going anywhere, Matthews fell to the ground in the fetal position. If those are his ball skills, it may have been for the best that he did not try to gain a couple of yards.

Kenny Rogers Trophy

(Awarded to the coach who knows when to hold 'em or when to fold 'em.) 

Frank Gore's 4th-and-1 touchdown from the 10-yard line against the Seahawks was everything the 49ers offense has not been for most of the season. It was a daring, confident call.

It played to their strengths: An I-formation run behind a tight end, with a pulling lineman to make for an even more powerful convoy. It got the ball into Gore's hands instead of trying to feature someone like Garrett Celek. It was 49ers-Seahawks football at its best: Two physical teams pummeling each other.

Unfortunately, Gore suffered a concussion later in the game. Carlos Hyde then suffered a back injury. When San Francisco needed more 4th-and-short toughness, it turned to fullback Bruce Miller. Miller converted one 4th-and-1 in the fourth quarter, but his second attempt got stuffed.

Dec 14, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore (21) breaks a tackle by Seattle Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas (29) to score a touchdown during he first half at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Spor

Third-string running back Alfonso Smith weighs 208 pounds and may have been the better choice for a tough yard than a fullback with 19 career carries entering the game (also: Kaepernick handles the ball pretty well), but there are no clear solutions when the two top running backs are in the locker room.

In other fourth-down news, let's compare and contrast how the Giants and Redskins handled a pair of 4th-and-short situations:

The Giants faced 4th-and-1 at the Redskins' 14-yard line in the first quarter, figured they were all out of tomorrows and plunged fullback Henry Hynoski into the line for the first down. That set up the first of three Odell Beckham touchdowns, an ordinary play by Beckham's standards which only required him to swivel his body 180 degrees in midair and snatch a suddenly arriving pass.

The Redskins faced 4th-and-2 at the Giants' 36-yard line in the third quarter. Robert Griffin was playing fairly well in relief, mixing scrambles with short passes and creating a little space for the Redskins running backs. Griffin lined the troops up, but Jay Gruden called timeout, presumably to decide which play had the maximum chance of humiliating Griffin.

Instead of executing something that emphasized run action or the rollout threat, Griffin dropped into the pocket and looked downfield with his usual latter-day Trying to Read Street Signs in Tokyo comprehension. The resulting strip-sack ended enthusiasm for the "Griffin reborn" storyline before we could even brainstorm headlines.

In summary: Give the ball to Frank Gore, give the ball to a fullback if you have the element of surprise/no other options, and if the best play you can think of is a dropback pass by a quarterback you have lost all faith in, you may want to consider punting.

Last Call

One last look around the league in Week 15.

Redskins Lose Call, Lose Game, Lose Argument, Just Generally Lose at Life

Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

Griffin, subbing for the injured Colt McCoy (it's not a Redskins December unless multiple quarterbacks are placed in as much jeopardy as possible), scrambled for an apparent touchdown. After further review, the officials ruled that Griffin lost control of the football as he leapt across the goal line, resulting in a touchback. The Washington bench went bonkers, and Santana Moss earned an ejection for jawing at an official.

Did you know Moss still plays for the Redskins? I didn't. I assumed that he had crossed over to the London Fletcher side of the valley and was now a disgruntled, recently retired former star consigned to the alumni chapter of the franchise's never-ending soap opera.

Maybe he is in some sort of larval stage, consigned to sit on the bench in a knit cap, getting angrier and angrier at the organization until he is ready to hang up the spikes and begin blowing his stack on radio shows. If that's the case, Moss' oven thermometer popped when referees reversed Griffin's touchdown.

If you ever find yourself wondering why so few young prospects develop for the Redskins, remember that the team keeps 35-year-old receivers with seven receptions on the bench through three-win seasons instead of giving those roster spots to eager youngsters. Also, the team traded all of its draft picks for a quarterback it hates.

More Terrible Teams Brawling, Because the Alternative Would Be More Unwatchable Football

Anything the Redskins can do, the Jets can do sadder. Eric Decker appeared to score on an 81-yard catch-and-run. Titans defensive lineman Jurrell Casey jawed at Geno Smith during the review, then took a swing at the quarterback.

Several Jets linemen ran to Smith's defense, and a messy scrum broke out around midfield. Decker was ruled to have stepped out of bounds before scoring. No one was ejected from the game, not even Casey, because there is no greater punishment than having to continue playing in a Jets-Titans game.

The Jets won 16-11, making it much easier for the Titans to select Marcus Mariota ahead of them in next year's draft.

Tony Sasquatch

Tony Siragusa's fashion choices are a frequent Last Call topic, but wearing a fur coat in the Meadowlands took matters to a whole new level. But perhaps that wasn't Siragusa at all. Perhaps it was the Jersey Devil.

The Jersey Devil was known to prey on chickens and small barnyard animals in the 17th and 18th century. It's not hard to imagine a hungry Siragusa sneaking onto a farm and munching on the shank of a still-living sheep.

SB Nation @SBNation

Tony Siragusa is wearing a bear pelt with a zipper http://t.co/mHXElDuDaX http://t.co/cAhD1uEnDw

Six-day firearm season for deer hunting in New Jersey ended on Saturday, so Siragusa was safe on Sunday. In the future, however, he may not want to wear something brown and furry when venturing into the Jersey wilderness (or even East Rutherford) in December.

You Can Total Cam Newton's Truck, but You Cannot Break His Goofiness

Mike McCarn/Associated Press

Just days after a scary auto accident, Cam Newton was back to his version of normal. Newton's back injury prevented him from playing, but it did not stop him from running onto the field and making his usual assortment of silly motivational gestures during the Panthers' 19-17 victory over the Buccaneers. It was a repeat of the season opener, when he spent an awful lot of time on the field in a narrow victory over the Buccaneers for a guy in street clothes.

Newton is America's Goofy Nephew, undeniably talented, much tougher than he is given credit for, but a little too easygoing for those who think courage and dedication mean a nonstop scowl. Newton's on-field fist bumps with Derek Anderson can look a little unnecessary, but after Tuesday I was happy to see him walking.

Most fans agree, though one fan showed up at the game dressed as a car-crash victim. A nametag indicated he was supposed to be a character from an insurance commercial, but, well, why would someone suddenly dress as a character in an insurance commercial when the starting quarterback was just in a car accident?

Pete Blackburn @PeteBlackburn

Panthers Fan Goes To Game Dressed As Cam Newton, Car Crash Victim http://t.co/K8wp4gqR4w http://t.co/WjeJOLgZAr

Bad taste is not a mortal sin; I just wonder about the thought process of anyone who would assemble such a costume. Sure, the idea pops into your head to dress as a crash victim, once you realize no one was seriously injured. Maybe a dark part of your heart chuckles for a few seconds.

But what about the four days you spend thinking and planning the costume? What about when you are applying bandages and fake blood to your head? Hanging a fake steering wheel around your neck? Do you think: You know, Cam's crash did not even look anything like this. And you know what? Some of the other 50,000 people in the stadium may have lost loved ones in violent car crashes. Perhaps this is not a good idea.

A close friend would certainly talk anyone out of such an ill-advised costume. But people who find recent car accidents hysterically costume-worthy are generally short on close friends.

Cowboys Bus Egged by Eagles Fans Before Game

NFL Network @nflnetwork

VIDEO: Cowboys team bus got egged in Philadelphia http://t.co/UDt6EUgGn7 http://t.co/hY2iLBqlUM

Really, wouldn't "Cowboys Bus Not Egged by Eagles Fans" be the real story?

If the Cowboys were really smart, they would egg the bus themselves before leaving the hotel. Eagles fans would figure the damage had already been done, and it would give Jason Garrett something to do.

Mike Tanier covers the NFL for Bleacher Report


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