The Saints may not have known it at the time, but Monday night’s game against the Lions was lost during a one-minute sequence late in the second quarter.
With Detroit leading 21-3, Drew Brees delivered a back-shoulder pass to Brandin Cooks for a 29-yard touchdown. Replay showed that Cooks was actually down at the one-yard-line. The points were taken off the board but in a way, the Saints actually caught a break. By running another play, the Saints could still score a touchdown while burning precious seconds off the clock. That would prevent another Lions score before halftime.
Of course, because this is 2015 and the Saints can’t catch a break these days, this seemingly perfect scenario went haywire quickly. Tim Hightower plunged into the end zone for a touchdown only to have it called back on an illegal formation penalty. Senio Kelemete was positioned on the line of scrimmage but failed to report as an eligible receiver. That backed the Saints up to the six-yard-line.
Things got even stranger when Detroit pulled a Chris Webber by calling a timeout they didn’t have. After the non-timeout, New Orleans lined up for fourth-and-goal at the one-yard-line. Rather than boot a short field goal, the Saints rolled the dice by going for a touchdown. Marques Colston corralled a one-yard touchdown on the ensuing play but it was quickly erased by another illegal formation penalty, this time on Jahri Evans. The flag ended the half but more importantly, it ended any chance the Saints had of winning.
That’s not to say they didn’t try. New Orleans exploded for 252 second-half yards and cut Detroit’s lead to 28-20 with 10:06 remaining in the fourth quarter. Joique Bell stalled the comeback with two big plays including a one-yard touchdown that stretched the lead back to 15 with 5:24 left on the clock. Bell also contributed a 36-yard run that would have ended the game had Matt Prater been able to make a chip shot field goal from 38 yards out. The Saints’ rally eventually fell short as the Lions captured a 35-27 win.
Both quarterbacks made a bit of history on Monday night. Matthew Stafford completed 22-of-25 passes for an 88.0 completion percentage. That’s the highest in team history for a single game with a minimum of 20 passes. He also passed Joe Theismann for 66th on the all-time passing yards list. Meanwhile Drew Brees hit a few milestones of his own by going over 60,000 yards for his career and reaching 4,000 yards passing for the tenth year in a row. Only Dan Marino, Peyton Manning and Brett Favre have gone over the 60,000-yard plateau. As for the streak of 10 straight 4,000-yard seasons, that’s one record Brees has all to himself. A whopping 231 of his 341 passing yards Monday came after halftime.
For the second straight week, Golden Tate collected two touchdowns. In a bizarre twist of fate, Tate has reeled in more touchdowns over his last two games (four) than Calvin Johnson has catches (two). Johnson has been listed as questionable on the injury report the last two weeks with an ankle injury and has not looked close to 100 percent. With Megatron as the decoy, Tate has been able to dominate with 15 catches on 16 targets over the last two games. On the bright side, Johnson did reach 1,000 yards receiving with his one catch Monday night. He’s hit that threshold in each of his last six seasons.
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Odell Gets One-Game Ban
If you’ve listened to sports radio or turned on a TV in the last 24 hours, you’ve probably heard your fair share of Odell Beckham hot takes. I guess it’s my turn to fan the flames.
Beckham, as you may have heard, was suspended one game for his reckless behavior Sunday against Panthers cornerback Josh Norman. With Concussion coming to theaters this week, Beckham picked a pretty bad time to ram a player with his helmet.
Regardless of whether the suspension was warranted, I think we can all agree Beckham and Norman (to a lesser degree), behaved poorly on Sunday. It was a letdown for fans who were expecting to see two of the best players in the league go head-to-head. Instead, the Beckham/Norman matchup turned into a full-on UFC battle. Norman is known to be an instigator but it was surprising to see Beckham stoop to that level. Beckham’s overnight transition from fan favorite to villain has been jarring to say the least.
There’s plenty of blame to go around. Tom Coughlin’s decision to let Beckham keep playing even while he was hurting his team with costly personal fouls wasn’t exactly top-notch leadership. 2015 has been a horrible year for refs and that narrative isn’t likely to change after Sunday’s debacle. The game got out of control and instead of putting a stop to it, the refs watched like the rest of us while Beckham unraveled.
In the wake of Deflategate and other reduced punishments, it’s quite possible Beckham’s suspension will go away on appeal. From a business standpoint, why else would anyone tune in to watch the 6-8 Giants on Sunday Night Football? Beckham on primetime would be a ratings extravaganza. When he’s not slugging cornerbacks in the face, Beckham is arguably the league’s most entertaining player. But is that a good enough excuse to let him play?
Defenders around the league have to be feeling a lot better now that Beckham has finally been exposed. Beckham dropped a sure touchdown in the first quarter on Sunday and never looked the same. Norman got into Beckham’s head, revealing a fragile psyche that opposing cornerbacks will be sure to take advantage of in future matchups.
Of course, the Beckham suspension has serious implications for fantasy owners as well. Before Sunday, Beckham had reached 100 yards in six straight games while emerging as one of the league’s only sure things in fantasy. Now he might be absent for the most important game of the season. For the many (myself included) owners who rode Beckham to the fantasy playoffs and beyond, having ODB sit out Sunday’s game against Minnesota would be a tough pill to swallow.
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Quick Hits: Charles Woodson will retire after the season. He’s tied for sixth in the NFL with five interceptions. Not bad for a 39-year-old … Melvin Gordon suffered cartilage damage in his knee and will miss the rest of the season. He’ll finish his rookie campaign with 641 yards on 184 carries. Gordon didn’t score a touchdown in 2015 … Andrew Luck (kidney) has already been ruled out for Week 16. With Matt Hasselbeck also hurting, the Colts may turn to Charlie Whitehurst Sunday against the Dolphins. Punter Pat McAfee has also volunteered to play quarterback … ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported Monday that Marcus Mariota (sprained right MCL) will miss the rest of the season. However, Titans coach Mike Mularkey said Mariota has only been ruled out for Week 16 … PFF’s No. 1 cornerback Tyrann Mathieu tore his right ACL in Sunday’s win over the Eagles. He’s done for the year … Carson Palmer had to have his right index finger popped back in during Sunday’s win over the Eagles. He should be okay for next week’s game against the Packers … In reference to the team’s quarterback situation, coach Gary Kubiak said the Broncos are “starting from scratch.” Brock Osweiler has lost two in a row after winning his first three starts while Peyton Manning is close to returning from a foot injury … The Bills are calling LeSean McCoy (torn MCL) week-to-week, though it’s unlikely he’ll play again this year. Karlos Williams will start in his absence … Robert Woods suffered a groin injury in Week 15 and will likely miss the rest of the season. He’ll finish the year with 47 catches for 552 yards and three touchdowns … Denard Robinson sprained his left foot in Sunday’s loss to Atlanta. With T.J. Yeldon (MCL) also hurt, Jonas Gray could be in line to start against New Orleans in Week 16 … Suspended Jaguars receiver Justin Blackmon was arrested for DUI in Oklahoma over the weekend. Substance abuse issues have sidelined him since November of 2013 … Marshawn Lynch (hernia surgery) will not practice or play in Week 16. Christine Michael led the Seahawks with 16 carries last week and should see a similar workload Sunday against St. Louis … Ravens coach John Harbaugh benched Buck Allen for fumbling Sunday against Kansas City but apparently it was only a one-week punishment: “I have a lot of love and respect for Buck. No way is Buck going to be banished, by any stretch” … The Ravens finally placed Crockett Gillmore on season-ending injured reserve. He’s been out with a back injury … Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said Adrian Peterson “will be alright” after spraining his ankle in Sunday’s win over Chicago. It sounds like he’ll be ready for Sunday Night Football against the Giants in Week 16 … Ty Montgomery is headed for season-ending injured reserve. He’s been struggling with a high-ankle sprain for the past two months … NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports Danny Amendola (knee) isn’t expected to miss any playoff games. Of course, the final two weeks of the regular season are a different story … Former Ram Steven Jackson signed with the Patriots on Monday. He’ll be playing in the postseason for the first time in his career … T.J. Yates is done for the year with a torn ACL. The Texans added B.J. Daniels to give them some quarterback depth, though he’s mostly played wide receiver since getting drafted in 2013 … Andy Dalton has already been ruled out for Week 16. He’s week-to-week with a broken thumb … Kendall Wright hopes to return to practice on Wednesday. He’s missed Tennessee’s last two games with a pair of broken ribs … Shaun Draughn (knee) went for an MRI on Monday. Kendall Gaskins and Travaris Cadet would fill in at running back if he can’t go against the Lions in Week 16 … Chiefs coach Andy Reid expects Spencer Ware (ribs) to return Sunday against Cleveland. He was active for last week’s game against Baltimore but never saw the field … According to a Washington Post report, the Redskins are “sold” on Kirk Cousins as their starter for next year. They’ll either sign him to an extension or offer him the franchise tag this offseason … Coach Ron Rivera said the Panthers will not rest their starters Sunday against the Falcons. They’re the fourth team in NFL history to start 14-0 … Cowboys coach Jason Garrett announced Kellen Moore will start against the Bills on Sunday. Moore threw one touchdown and three interceptions against the Jets in his NFL debut on Saturday … Here’s some great news out of St. Louis. Stedman Bailey is back jogging one month after being shot in the head. He could be released from the hospital this week.