The best NFL failures are often ones that seemed well intentioned at the time. A year and a half ago, the league approved a rule change to make extra points more difficult by increasing the distance on attempts by 15 yards.
And the NFL was absolutely right: extra points were way too easy, a rote procedure following a touchdown that was hardly ever noteworthy. Kickers had been making 99 percent of all PATs the five seasons prior to the rule change. At that point, there hadn't been a season with a success rate below 97 percent since 1988.
Ideally, a more difficult extra point would lead to more two-point tries, since those are generally more interesting plays, and that is happening this season, though only gradually. So if anything, fans should be hailing a week like Week 11, since it might encourage teams to be more daring after getting into the end zone. On Sunday, there were 12 missed extra points across the league, the most ever in a NFL week post-merger (the previous record was ten, set in 1985). And yet it turns out that fans are mostly annoyed by a more dramatic point after touchdown.
It takes a while to change conventional NFL strategic thinking, which is conservative by nature, until something is demonstrably effective, and then everyone does it. NFL fans are resistant to change, too—many also scoffed in Week 10 when there were more unsuccessful two-point attempts than normal. The league making extra points tougher and introducing defensive two-point scores are both positive developments and should make games more interesting, and yet fans mostly bicker, because sometimes we're responsible for making football dumb, too.
Of course, this is criticism the NFL is perfectly content to weather, because it isn't about legitimately important things like head injuries and domestic violence and bilking taxpayers out of money. Even the league's stodgy PR guy is cracking jokes in Trump voice about extra points.
I will say, because he could use the kind words, that on a day where kickers were roundly ridiculed, Tampa Bay's Roberto Aguayo was five-for-five, with four made field goals and one successful extra-point make. Granted, if justifying taking a kicker in the second round of the draft is possible, it's a feat that will require years of consistently good production and a few notably clutch successes. At least this is a start for someone who has been hounded for a situation that is more the team's fault than his own.
Not Only Are the Cowboys Winning, They're Making Good #Content
The Dallas Cowboys continued to roll with a 27-17 victory over the Baltimore Ravens. If the NFC East weren't the strongest division in the NFL this season, the Cowboys would likely be closing in on clinching it already. If I really wanted to concern troll, I could note that the teams that look the best in Week 11 are frequently not the ones that end up hoisting the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the season. But this team is fun enough that I don't even feel like being a hater, which is disturbing in its own way.
I mean, what is this? A team produced video that is actually amusing? This is indeed a strange universe. Granted, to fully understand the clip, you have to be familiar with four different player celebrations, and frankly the less people know about Cole Beasley pretending to pour hot sauce on his foot, the better. That said, just the visual of Ezekiel Elliott manically shoveling cereal into his face on its own is enough to make me laugh.
Dak Prescott Is Too Wholesome For This Franchise
I'm not going to go nuts and claim that Dak Prescott getting off the bench to make sure a discarded cup made its way into the trash proves he's a solid human. There are plenty of media people who are willing to do that for me, though. The legend of Dak is one of humility, mostly, and it involves tales of passing up Kanye concerts and declining a late show appearance during the Cowboys' bye week so he could spend time with his grandmother. These are all good, charming things, but if sports has taught us one lesson over and over again, it's that we shouldn't be too willing to accept the virtuousness of professional athletes at face value. I'm not saying Dak is secretly a scumbag or anything. I don't know the guy at all. You don't either. So maybe let's go easy on the dime-store psychology and myth-building just because he picked up a cup.
RIP FOX Parabolic Mic Guy
The Minnesota Vikings got back into the win column on Sunday following a four-game skid that now has them trying to fight off the Detroit Lions for the division title. Noted hardass Mike Zimmer reportedly gave the team exactly ten minutes to enjoy it before beginning preparation for Thursday's game in Detroit. They did discover their winning formula, however. No, it's not getting defensive and special-teams scores—it involves sacrificing a poor microphone operator during player introductions. If you're going to be bowled over by a NFL player, the 329-pound Linval Joseph is not the one you'd pick, unless you were hoping to be erased from existence.
Luckily, Bernie Beaudry is just fine. If he weren't, FOX wouldn't have been comfortable showing the replay repeatedly—or at least I hope they wouldn't be. Either way, aside from broken glasses and a bloody nose, Bernie seems not much worse for the wear.
Jared Goff, Already Elite at Not Delaying the Game
For a guy who just tied Tom Landry for the second most losses of all time by a NFL head coach, Jeff Fisher is an optimist. And why not? With the amount of job security he has, there's little reason to feel anxiety about anything. When asked to assess the first career start of quarterback Jared Goff, who only passed for 134 yards on 31 attempts in the 14-10 loss to the Dolphins, Fisher had this bit of praise for him:
"He did a really good job," Fisher said. "No delay of games. He was in complete control in the huddle. He did a nice job on the line of scrimmage. I was disappointed in the outcome of the game, but you could see the light—there's light there for him."
No delay of games. That's tremendous. Goff will be guiding this franchise to 7-9 finishes for years to come.
Steve Smith, Accomplished Empty-Nester
The veteran Ravens receiver hauled in his 1,000th career reception on Sunday, making him just the third active player to reach that figure, along with Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. What's even greater about that is Smith's children are old enough to appreciate it. Hell, if any of Smith's kids play football, they could even be his teammate if he hangs around a few more seasons. That's the trade-off of being a teen dad: extreme difficulty in the early years but snappy humblebrags later on.
This Week in Woebegone Browns Stats
Falling to 0-10 on the season and being mathematically eliminated from playoff contention is bad enough. What's worse is that the defeat came at the hands of Ben Roethlisberger, an Ohio-raised quarterback the Browns passed on in the 2004 draft. With the win, Roethlisberger notched his tenth career victory in Cleveland, which ties him with Derek Anderson for the most wins of any quarterback, including those who have played for the Browns, since the franchise returned from the dead in 1999. At least their cross-state rivals in Cincinnati aren't faring much better. The Bengals fell to 3-6-1 with a loss to the Buffalo Bills, and they lost running back Giovani Bernard and quite possibly star receiver A.J. Green for the season to injury.
Fan of the Week
Sure, with Tony Romo firmly ensconced on the bench, some people might give you a hard time for wearing a Romo jersey, and even more grief for being an oddly shaped full-kit wanker for Romo. But you know what? Tony will likely leave Dallas for good in a few months. The Cowboys fan base has embraced him for a full decade now. Let them work through their emotions with the impending departure, especially since, knowing Cowboys fans, they'll only get increasingly nutty as the weeks go on.
Five Winners Who Covered Their Bloodline in Glory
1. Kirk Cousins, the Washington Football Team. Though there are still plenty of weeks left to screw this thing up, Cousins' performance against the Green Bay Packers Sunday night left many people thinking the quarterback had effectively cashed in on his gamble to play the 2016 season on a one-year franchise tag deal. Cousins appears to agree, given how he was shouting and chest-beating at general manager Scot McCloughan on the field immediately after the game. He did ball out there, dropping several dimes on deep passes while accumulating 375 yards and three scores to outduel the lagging Aaron Rodgers.
2. Xavier Rhodes, Minnesota Vikings. Sooner or later, Rhodes is going to start getting credit for being one of the NFL's top corners. If frustrating Odell Beckham Jr. and holding him to a career-low yardage total earlier this season didn't do it, perhaps getting two picks, one of which he returned 100 yards for a score, in a win over Arizona will get him the recognition he deserves.
3. Landon Collins, New York Giants. His game-clinching interception was on a desperation throw by Jay Cutler in the final minutes, but that's not to take anything away from the Giants safety, who had an excellent game overall, posting six tackles and giving up just one catch on four targets in the victory over the Chicago Bears.
4. T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts. He might have got away with some subtle offensive pass interference on the touchdown throw that snuck through the hands of Titans cornerback Perrish Cox. But condemning that push would be pretending that being able to get away with such fouls isn't an important part of being a receiver.
5. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys. It would have uncomfortable for Dallas to have Tony Romo give that emotional concession speech last week only for Prescott go out there and stink it up on Sunday. Thankfully, after a little bit of a slow start, Dak turned it on, throwing for 301 yards and three scores while not turning the ball over against the first place team in the AFC North.
Five Losers Bathing in the Hard Water of Infinite Shame
1. Blake Bortles. If he weren't fated to lose his job after this season, it would be tempting to name this section after Bortles, who threw his tenth career pick-six in just his 40th game as a pro. The loss to the Lions was, however, the second straight game where Bortles had an interception carom off the foot of one of his players, so that will be a neat trick to impress teammates on the sideline next year. Meanwhile, let's give it up for the Jags for forcing a first-quarter turnover themselves and thus avoiding another humiliating NFL milestone. I'm trying to find positives here.
2. Nelson Agholor. Be it agonizing drops or an illegal formation penalty that negated a touchdown, Agholor was doing his best to drive home the Eagles' very evident need for help in the receiving corps. Also, he serves as a helpful reminder of how Chip Kelly's personnel moves set the franchise back several years.
3. Sen'Derrick Marks. Kudos to the Jaguars for getting multiple players on this list. It's the little things that must be appreciated when a team is clinching its ninth straight non-winning season. Anyway, Marks jumped offside on a fourth-down hard count in Detroit as the Lions were trying to kill the clock with a four-point lead and two and a half minutes left in the game. That Marks is the most experienced Jags defensive lineman is simply the extra flourish of cruelty that Jacksonville fans have come to expect.
4. Alex Smith. The Kansas City Chiefs are 5-7 since 2014 in games where Alex Smith has thrown an interception, which shows just how little margin for error their ball control offense has with Smith at quarterback. On Sunday, he threw a pick, and it was a doozy. Smith was intercepted in the end zone with Kansas City trailing 12-10 early in the fourth quarter. Tampa scored on the ensuing drive to make it 19-10, and the best hope the Chiefs had from there was a desperation lateral play that failed to cross midfield at the final whistle.
5. The Baltimore Ravens corners. Shareece Wright and Tavon Young gave up 140 yards and two touchdowns on 14 catches spanning 17 targets. Baltimore came in with the No. 1 rushing defense, and though Ezekiel Elliott posted 97 yards, at least he had to work for it on 25 carries. To pull an upset in Dallas, the Ravens would need a good performance out of their secondary and they most definitely did not get it.
As for Tonight …
That's right, the NFL is so aggressive in its international outreach, it will actually allow players to show up at your so-eerily-clean-it-might-be-a-model home and let you cook local cuisine for them. That's what I call football being family.
It's about as awful a political climate for the NFL to have a game in Mexico, but at least the matchup is not bad? Actually, it has the potential to be pretty good, depending on whether Houston can get a decent performance out of Brock Osweiler. Both the Raiders and the Texans come into Monday night's game in sole possession of first place in their respective divisions, and Oakland is one of the few feel-good stories of 2016.
The Raiders are coming off a bye and will likely be greeted by a Mexico City crowd that largely supports them. Oakland and Houston have a larger Mexican following than most NFL teams, though Oakland certainly has the advantage by virtue of existing for longer than 14 years.
The elevation at Estadio Azteca is 7,280 feet above sea level, considerably higher than any NFL venue. Coupled with the warnings about air quality due to pollution, conditioning is bound to be a big talking point. That would seem to favor Houston just because they rely on playing a slower game in general, though when you consider that Brock Osweiler is roughly 80 feet tall, perhaps he'll suffer the effects of high altitude worse than most.
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