This Weekend in NFL Stupid highlights the dumbest decisions in football throughout the season. And in Week 1, there were plenty.
Assault on Cam Newton’s skull
Where to start here? Let’s list the many things that were scary stupid about the four illegal hits to the head that the Broncos laid on Cam Newton Thursday night in Denver:
1. The hits themselves were very stupid. That we can all agree on.
2. Even as the NFL ramps up awareness and protocols regarding head injuries and the types of hits that lead to concussions, three of the hits didn’t draw flags.
3. The one hit that did draw a flag didn’t really punish the Broncos because of an intentional grounding penalty on Newton. But should intentional grounding really apply when the quarterback throws the ball away in an attempt to avoid an illegal hit?
4. How in the world — in 2016 — was Newton able to stay in the game after this happened?
Look, I get it. This game is very important, and there’s a chance that hit didn’t shake Newton up as much as it appeared. He did pass all of his concussion tests afterwards. I realize players don’t want to be forced to leave a game in a big moment, and I understand why coaches without medical degrees don’t want to have to make those calls.
But the league has spotters in place for these exact moments. The protocol failed when this happened to Case Keenum last year, and it failed again on Thursday. Now the league is investigating. It’s clear the spotters don’t want to hijack games unless they’re absolutely certain something’s amiss, but plays like these have to meet their criteria. Maybe the solution is to stop games entirely in these situations, with medical timeouts giving players a chance to return without missing snaps if indeed they’re OK. It’s not easy, and there isn’t a simple solution, but this was silly.
Other Stupid Things from Week 1
** This defensive pass interference penalty, which essentially cost the Saints a Week 1 victory.
That ball might have been catchable if Jalen Richard were eight feet tall. Maybe.
** This fake punt from the Cleveland Browns, which featured the punter inexplicably located at the line of scrimmage.
Kind of a tip-off, Hue…
** This moment, in which Cowboys receiver Terrance Williams had to decide whether to sprint out of bounds to give Pro Bowl kicker Dan Bailey a 60-something-yard field goal attempt to win the game or to try to score from 47 yards out.
He, um, made the wrong choice.
** Lions receivers also failing to understand how NFL clocks work. You’ve got 12 seconds!
Tell him, Matt.
** Jim Caldwell’s decision not to call a timeout with 1:15 remaining in the fourth quarter. His Detroit Lions had all three timeouts left and the Colts had just run a first-down play in the red zone, with the Lions leading by six. In a situation like that, you use your timeouts on defense to preserve clock in case the opponent scores. The clock is no longer a factor for the opponent.
** Chuck Pagano’s decision to call a timeout with 1:15 remaining in the fourth quarter. Yes, Caldwell was bailed out by Indy’s head coach, who inexplicably opted to stop the clock right after that first-down play. The Colts scored two plays later, but they left too much time on the clock and Detroit was able to drive for a game-winning field goal.
** The fact that this is a major penalty.
He threw the ball in the air, guys…
** This wimpy fourth-down play with the game on the line in Jacksonville.
Come on, man! Throw it beyond the sticks!
** And finally, all of the Chiefs fans who left Arrowhead early on Sunday. Never, ever leave early when your team is trailing the San Diego Chargers.