Bad penalties, bad decisions, bad coaching. And bad losses.
Bad penalties, bad decisions, bad coaching.
And bad losses.
They occurred all over the NFL on Sunday. The Jaguars , Cardinals, Chargers and Falcons all will be shaking their heads the way their fans are about how they blew games.
At least the Panthers went down gambling to win, missing a 2-point conversion — the pass play would have worked but Cam Newton missed a wide-open receiver in the end zone. The others either made suspect choices or played not to lose.
And, naturally, they lost.
"This is as tough as it gets," Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell said after his bunch blew a 16-0 lead to Pittsburgh and lost on a last-second touchdown by Ben Roethliberger. "There are going to be some games you definitely lose and you'll definitely win. But when it comes down to that last play, and you're on the losing side of it, those hurt, especially in a situation where we're a desperate team in need of a win."
And a team that got too many field goals, yet got comfortable with that 16-point edge. Jacksonville stopped being as aggressive as it had been earlier in dominating the Steelers, and pretty much dropped from postseason contention at 3-7.
"If people are in here and they're content — not saying anybody is — but if people are content with losing and things not going right," star cornerback Jalen Ramsey said, "then that's not the type of guys you want on the team and that's not the type of environment you want to have."
The environment might be worse in Arizona, where first-year coach Steve Wilks saw his club make several critical errors down the stretch. That led to a 23-21 loss to Oakland, of all teams — the Raiders were the only team with just one victory heading into the weekend — that never should have been a defeat.
A dropped pass by running back David Johnson hurt. An unnecessary roughness penalty against Cardinals tight end Jermaine Gresham cost 15 yards and stopped the game clock. On the next play, Johnson ran 57 yards for what was sure to be the clinching score, only to have the play called back on a holding call against tight end Ricky Seals-Jones.
Two plays later, the Cardinals punted. The Raiders drove 63 yards against a modified prevent defense and won as the clock expired on Daniel Carlson's 35-yard field goal.
"It was just a dumb play by me," Gresham, a nine-year veteran, said after the game. "I turned around and saw my guy on the ground. We're not coached to that. We're not taught that. They didn't bring me in here to do that, and it was stupid. I cost us the game."
Not entirely, but he helped.
The Chargers had plenty of culprits, too. Their six-game winning string ended when a conservative defense couldn't prevent Denver from going 86 yards in 1:51 for Brandon McManus' winning 34-yard field goal as time expired.
Los Angeles made mistakes throughout, hardly looking like a wild-card front-runner. Philip Rivers threw two interceptions and on a third-down play on LA's final drive, he seemed to panic and threw the ball at a receiver's feet. That led to a punt, but also gave Denver more time for its final drive than it should have gotten.
The Chargers committed 14 penalties, including 10 in the first half. Mike Badgley, who made three field goals, also missed an extra point. Denver won 23-22.
"The crucial mistakes that we've been able to stay away from, we didn't today," Rivers said.
Championship candidates avoid those, especially against a weaker opponent.
Atlanta has had plenty of reasons to struggle, particularly a slew of early-season injuries that have worn on a good roster. But the Falcons had won three straight before a poor performance in Cleveland, and they exacerbated their issues with a difficult-to-watch showing late in a 22-19 loss to Dallas on Sunday.
Four of the team's six losses have come either on the opponent's final possession or with the Falcons denied on their final opportunity. Simply put, the Falcons have folded under pressure.
"It's aggravating at the end of the day," said cornerback Robert Alford. "... We did do some good things today. We can't just hold our heads down. But at the end of the day we've got to learn to finish games."
This time, the Cowboys had little difficulty moving 51 yards to Brett Maher's winning 42-yard kick.
If your team is going to lose late, at least do it the way Carolina did — going for it, not backing off or making egregious errors.
"When you make some errors we made today in critical moments, you open yourselves up to get beat, and that's what happened today," Rivers said. "We had every opportunity to close it out, and we just didn't get it done."