Another stupid week, but this time one game was significantly more stupid than all the rest. In fact, nearly half of this column focuses on the stupid Packers and stupider Steelers.
The stupidest policy
That would be the policy that allows coaches to challenge whether or not a team gained possession of a loose ball in the end zone, but not anywhere else on the field of play. See, the Steelers were screwed Sunday when the officials penalized Pittsburgh after it blocked a Green Bay kick, and the penalty itself gave the Packers a fresh set of downs. Because the foul — an illegal batting call against Ziggy Hood — took place while possession was still deemed to be in limbo, the ball stayed with the Packers. And because the action unfolded outside of the end zone, Mike Tomlin wasn't able to challenge the ruling that his team never gained possession.
In reality, the call was botched because Ryan Clark clearly gained possession for Pittsburgh before even attempting a lateral to William Gay.
The league has a problem here, and it applies to the rules regarding what is and isn't a reception. Rules and policies shouldn't change based on where the play takes place. A catch in the end zone should be called just like a catch at the 45-yard line, and a play that is reviewable in the end zone should be reviewable at the 30-yard line.
This is just another example illustrating how overly complicated and nuanced the NFL rule book has become. Not enough plays are reviewable, and the line between reviewable and non-reviewable is too random and confusing.
On Sunday, it nearly cost the Steelers in a big way.
The stupidest coaching decision
Man, the Steelers were lucky to win that game. Later, another stupid moment nearly cost them big time. With 1:35 to play in a tie game, Pittsburgh had a 1st-and-goal on the Green Bay 5-yard line. The Packers had just a single timeout, which meant all Tomlin had to do was take three knees before attempting the game-winning field goal from extra-point range with less than 10 seconds to play.
Instead, the Steelers ran the ball into the end zone — something the Packers seemed more than willing to let happen. That gave Green Bay about a minute and a half to come back down the field to tie the game with a touchdown. The odds of missing that kick after three kneeldowns were about two percent. The odds of allowing a touchdown after giving the Packers the ball with 90 seconds to play were much, much higher. It was a nonsensical decision, but the Steelers got away with it when Green Bay failed to score on its final possession.
In normal conditions, playing for the stop and a FG yields only about a 1% chance of winning for the defense, which essentially is the chance of going to overtime based on a botched FG. But getting the ball back with 1:30 to play down by 7 equates to about a 9% chance of winning. That assumes a 50% chance in OT and about an 18% chance of a successful TD drive to get there.
The stupidest penalty
But do you want to know why Green Bay was even in that tough situation — one in which they were better off letting the Steelers score? They had held the Steelers to a field goal attempt with 1:51 to play, but Nick Perry was called for encroachment on the kick. Automatic first down. That might have cost his team a victory. How do you let that happen?
Man, so much stupidity in that one game.
The stupidest personal foul
On a third down in the second half of a one-score game, with his team's season on the line, Cowboys safety J.J. Wilcox decided it would be a good idea to fully launch himself into Santana Moss at this moment:
The rookie admitted after the game it was a foolish play — one that literally handed the Redskins three points the Cowboys nearly didn't get back.
The stupidest fourth-down play
Time to criticize the quarterback having the best season in NFL history. Peyton Manning is far from stupid, but I don't understand why you'd throw a two-yard pass on 4th-and-4:
The stupidest fourth-down decision
You're the Baltimore Ravens. You're down 20-0 in the fourth quarter. You've gone for it on fourth down twice already in the second half. You have a 4th-and-5 in the red zone…and you decide to attempt a field goal? The Football Gods made sure Justin Tucker missed for the first time in like 254 tries.
The stupidest personnel-related coaching decision
I don't care how bad regular left tackle Charles Brown was in Week 15 against the Rams, you can't bench the guy in favor of a rookie out of Arkansas-Pine Bluff 16 weeks into the season, especially for a massive road game against a very good, aggressive defense. Sean Payton did exactly that, though, going with Terron Armstead for his first career start on Drew Brees' blind side. Armstead was solely responsible for two sacks and five pressures, according to Pro Football Focus.
I know, we have hindsight on this one. But that was a stupid gamble from Payton.