Ian Hartitz’s Week 14 fantasy football fallouts: Nullified touchdowns, missed big plays and more

Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) reacts after the game against the New York Jets at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Estimated reading time: 12 minutes

Week 14 has come and gone, as 13 NFL games brought joy, laughs and tears. Today, we’ll focus on the latter sadness and break down just how close some came to achieving fantasy football glory.

What follows is a breakdown on all the “sheesh” moments from Week 14. I’ve watched every game and used PFF’s backend tools to help determine instances when:

  • Pass-catchers did receive an accurate pass that should have resulted in a score or big gain, but the ball was dropped
  • Pass-catchers could have scored or picked up big yardage with a more accurate pass
  • Players scored or picked up big yardage, but the play was nullified by penalty
  • Ball carriers managed to get all the way to the one-yard line, but didn’t score
  • Other random shit happened that tilted fantasy football managers of all shapes and sizes

But first, the single “sheeshiest” play of Week 14 goes to …

Minnesota Vikings WR Justin Jefferson

Yes, Jefferson’s 11-223-0 performance is more than impressive enough on its own. Also yes, he almost added an additional 32 yards and a touchdown to that total when he managed to fend off three defenders down the sideline on what should have been a 71-yard touchdown.

Why are we sheeshing? Because the referees blew the play dead early, leading to Jefferson’s electric catch-and-run score only counting for a 39-yard gain.

The Vikings scored fairly quickly afterward, although they would have theoretically had an extra 51 seconds on the game’s final drive had the officials simply let the play continue. Sheesh.

Jacksonville Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence was absolutely balling on Sunday

The Jaguars didn’t have any problems scoring enough points to take down the first-place Tennessee Titans on Sunday, but just realize Lawrence’s pass-catchers continued to not exactly make his life overly easy. Still, three consecutive throws in the third quarter demonstrated that the 2021 NFL Draft’s No. 1 overall pick is more than capable of overcoming some sheeshy moments.

Don’t overly blame Zay Jones for his inability to haul in that beautiful potential 40-yard touchdown, as he probably should have drawn a pass interference penalty. The same goes for Marvin Jones, who did pick up a flag-induced first down despite his respective inability to haul in another dart from Lawrence.

Still, the Jaguars’ ascending second-year quarterback joins Josh Allen as with a league-high 28 dropped passes this season. Sheesh.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Tom Brady had a rough day at the office

There were not one, not two, but three different examples of TB12 missing an open enough receiver to believe that the Buccaneers should have scored six points on the play. Overall, Mike Evans (nine yards out), Scotty Miller (44) and Julio Jones (69) all did their job in creating more than enough separation to receive a catchable pass, and yet here we are sheeshing thanks to a trio of underthrows.

Brady’s arm hasn’t resembled 2015 Peyton Manning this season, as the quarterback has actually been more prominent in this column due to overthrows in recent weeks. Still, Sunday’s performance showed a lack of pin-point accuracy when the Buccaneers certainly needed it to compete with the prodigy Brock Purdy.

Unfortunately, these underthrows weren’t the only sheeshes that Brady was involved in last week.

Touchdown! Wait, why is everyone walking back to the line of scrimmage

Penalties are obviously called for a reason, but there isn’t a more chaotic few seconds in the minds of fantasy managers between their player scoring a touchdown on a play with a penalty and the foul being announced.

Buccaneers WR Mike Evans hasn’t scored in nine long games. His previous career-long scoreless streak was just six contests while the long-time stud No. 1 receiver never went more than two games without catching a touchdown from Tom Brady in 2020 or 2021 (including playoffs). Alas, Evans and Brady weren’t rewarded with six points upon connecting for a blown-coverage-induced 66-yard touchdown due to a holding penalty on OT Donovan Smith. Note that Smith was also responsible for nullifying a five-yard touchdown to Chris Godwin last week.

The only other nullified touchdown of the week went to Jaguars WR/returner Jamal Agnew, who had a 98-yard house call on a kick turn wiped out by a holding penalty. Sheesh.

Dropped touchdowns

There were five plays that featured an official PFF drop on what would have otherwise been a touchdown:

  • Dallas Cowboys TE Dalton Schultz dropped what should have been a 15-yard touchdown just a minute before halftime.
  • Cleveland Browns WR Donovan Peoples-Jones dropped a four-yard fade on fourth down that should have cut the Cincinnati Bengals’ lead to one score with 5:29 remaining in the game.
  • Jaguars WR Zay Jones had a potential 25-yard touchdown in his hands, but he failed to complete the process of the catch while attempting to also simultaneously get into the end zone. Making matters worse for Jones was that he dropped another shorter pass on the very next play, forcing the Jaguars to kick a field goal.
  • Titans WR Nick Westbrook-Ikhine failed to corral a two-yard score in the back of the end zone despite receiving a well-placed ball from Ryan Tannehill. The good news is that Tannehill went right back to Westbrook-Ikhine on the very next play and this time the duo managed to convert the score.
  • Kansas City Chiefs TE Travis Kelce was open on the one-yard line and would have easily been able to simply turn around into the end zone, but an incoming Denver Broncos defender appeared to spook Kelce for just a second, leading to him dropping what should have been a 10-yard touchdown.

There were a few other borderline drops that weren’t official, but it certainly would have been a lot cooler had the pass-catcher managed to hold on. Specifically, Cowboys WR Michael Gallup (two yards), Browns WR Amari Cooper (four) and Buccaneers WR Chris Godwin (eight) probably should have held on to touchdowns that hit their hands but didn’t for one reason or another.

The latter unofficial drop was the most egregious of the group, as the only reason why Godwin wasn’t charged is that Russell Gage went on to catch the deflection and score himself on the very same play. The entire play was true madness, especially considering closer replay seemed to show that Gage was down just short of the goal line, but the officials thought differently.

Seriously, penalties are annoying, man

Sometimes the defense commits a foul that technically benefits the offense, but unfortunately, the penalty also prevented a potential big play from happening and producing fantasy points.

Three potential touchdowns instead went into the books as nothing more than a defensive pass-interference penalty:

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers WR George Pickens seems capable of catching just about anything, but Baltimore Ravens CB Marlon Humphrey interfered with the rookie enough to break up a potential seven-yard touchdown. The DPI penalty put the Steelers at the one-yard line, but Najee Harris scored the touchdown instead.
  2. Broncos WR Jerry Jeudy’s three-touchdown performance could have been even bigger with a slightly more accurate deep ball from Russell Wilson on what wound up being a 40-yard gain due to defensive pass interference. Jeudy finished that drive with a touchdown anyway – a perfect throw from Russ wouldn’t have lifted him to four-touchdown heights – but the yardage would have at least helped him clear 100 yards on the afternoon. Note that Jeudy did seem to struggle to track the pass, as this didn’t seem to be a completely egregious miss on Wilson’s part.
  3. San Francisco 49ers TE Tyler Kroft earned a bit of separation in the back of the end zone for what had the potential to be an eight-yard score, but he had to settle for a DPI penalty and watch Brock Purdy score the touchdown on his own two plays later.

Pass-catchers who could have scored with a more accurate pass

The following players should have had a much bigger day at the office, but unfortunately, their respective quarterbacks weren’t quite up to the task for at least a moment. The following handful of players had to deal with some subjectively shitty near misses:

Cowboys WR Michael Gallup got loose deep downfield early in the Cowboys’ surprisingly tough win over the Houston Texans on what had the potential to be a 68-yard score. Alas, Dak Prescott wasn’t quite able to fully step into the heave and underthrew the ball. What should have been at least a chunk gain for 40-plus yards wound up simply being a sheeshy incompletion.

Buffalo Bills WR John Brown – yes, “Smokey” is back on the Bills – actually got behind stud New York Jets CB Sauce Gardner deep, but Josh Allen underthrew a potential 51-yard touchdown, giving Gardner time to catch up and break up the pass.

Carolina Panthers WR D.J. Moore wasn’t exactly uncovered in the end zone on a four-yard fade attempt, although Sam Darnold’s inaccurate pass never even gave him a chance to get a hand on the football.

It’s always a bit difficult to overly judge the Miami Dolphins QB Tua Tagovialoa’s deep ball accuracy to Tyreek Hill because of how fast the artist known as “Cheetah” truly is. Seriously, it looks like every target to Hill should be a touchdown sometimes. That said, Hill had potential 75- and 82-yard house calls fail to come to fruition when he couldn’t even get a hand on the pass. To be fair, it looked like Hill might have lost the latter target in the lights.

Both Philadelphia Eagles RB Miles Sanders and WR DeVonta Smith got open deep down the sideline on separate plays and received catchable passes from Jalen Hurts but couldn’t maintain possession. Neither was officially charged with a drop, but Sanders had a chance to haul in a 30-plus-yard gain while Smith only got one foot down inbounds on what would have been a 20-yard gain to the one-yard line. Smith could have perhaps even gotten the ball across the goal line, although it would have been tough.

Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins did his job by breaking rather wide-open downfield on what had the potential to be a 40-yard touchdown. However, Colt McCoy didn't have anything close to enough time to deliver an accurate ball due to extreme pressure. His downfield heave was intercepted.

Unrealized air yards are a helluva drug

PFF’s Josh Hermsmeyer breaks down the week’s top buy-low candidates with his handy-dandy air yards model. The following six players had at least 70 unrealized air yards in Week 14, meaning they had a ton of downfield opportunities, but failed to capitalize on them for one reason or another:

  1. Browns WR Donovan Peoples-Jones (114 receiving yards, 246 air yards = 132 unrealized air yards)
  2. Titans WR Racey McMath (118)
  3. Seattle Seahawks WR D.K. Metcalf (105)
  4. Titans WR Nick Westbrook-Ikhine (87)
  5. Dolphins WR Tyreek Hill (76)
  6. Chiefs WR Justin Watson (71)

Not the worst throw, but also not the best

Eight plays stood out that featured an off-target throw, albeit something close to perfection would have been needed to pull off the chunk-gain completion:

  • Jets WR Garrett Wilson looked like he was open for a 20-plus yard gain down the sideline on the Jets' last-ditch comeback drive, but Mike White‘s pass sailed long and out of bounds.
  • Bills WR Stefon Diggs managed to get his coverage defender to trip and fall on a slant route, only for Josh Allen to fail to deliver a catchable pass. Best-case scenario, Diggs jukes out the safety and goes 69 yards to the house. At a minimum, this should have been a solid chunk gain on an early third down.
  • Bills TE Dawson Knox got open on Buffalo’s final drive for a potential game-sealing 20-plus yard gain, but Allen failed to deliver an accurate pass. Incomplete.
  • Titans WR Racey McMath (lol) had a potential big gain down the sideline that Ryan Tannehill, unfortunately, sailed too long. Incoming safety help likely would have prevented a touchdown, but there were still 40-plus yards there for the taking.
  • Chiefs TE Travis Kelce had a step or two on his defender (surprise) downfield for what looked like a layup of a 35-yard gain; however, Patrick Mahomes lofted the deep ball just out of reach of his long-time No. 1 tight end.
  • Chiefs WR Justin Watson got a step deep and likely would have picked up a 30-yard chunk with a perfect throw from Mahomes, but the pass instead sailed long and fell incomplete.
  • Panthers WR D.J. Moore was open down the seam on what had the potential to be a 20-plus yard gain, but Sam Darnold was just a little late and lofted the ball perhaps a tad too much, leading to the throw getting knocked away at the catch point.
  • Seahawks TE Will Dissly was also the victim of a less-than-perfect pass down the seam, as Geno Smith failed to make a perfect throw on what would have otherwise been a solid 25-yard gain.

Good ball, no dice

Arizona Cardinals WR Marquise Brown got open deep for what would have been both a 20-plus yard gain as well as a crucial fourth-down conversion. The problem was that the artist known as Hollywood failed to haul in Colt McCoy’s deep ball despite his diving effort. Maybe not an “A+” throw, but definitely at least a “B.” Sheesh.

New England Patriots WR Nelson Agholor will undoubtedly be seeing plenty of GIFs in his mentions from Eagles fans after letting a potential 25-yard gain go through his hands in tight downfield coverage. The catch wouldn’t have been easy, but it would have converted a third down, and you would not be reading about it right now.

Just short. Sheesh

The following players were tackled at the one-yard line in Week 14. Note that sequences where a player was downed just short of the goal line, but later went on to score the touchdown themself on the same drive, aren’t listed:


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