The thrill of victory is intoxicating, but sometimes it's about the agony of defeat.
The seventh Sunday of the 2022 NFL season provided a series of letdowns, meltdowns and outright debacles.
So, let's rank the worst losses, Schein Nine style.
1) Bucs a complete no-show in Carolina
And yet, despite Carolina clearly and appropriately breaking it down to build it back up, the Panthers came out on Sunday and trucked the Bucs. What on earth was that?!
A true stunner. The Panthers woke up on Sunday as double-digit underdogs and went to bed as double-digit victors. Carolina, led by interim head coach Steve Wilks and third-string quarterback P.J. Walker, sent Tom Brady below .500 at this point of a season for the first time in 20 years. Staggering stuff. But given what the 2022 Bucs have shown us thus far, maybe we should stop being so surprised.
Brady looked pedestrian. Again. For the sixth time in seven games, he finished with a passer rating below 100. In fact, this was his fourth game with a sub-90 passer rating (81.2, to be exact). Per NFL Research, the 49 pass attempts where the most ever for Brady in a game without a touchdown. He looks ... like a 45-year-old. Did Father Time finally catch up with the G.O.A.T.? Sure looks that way. Of course, it's not all on Brady. On the game's opening drive, Mike Evans inexplicably dropped what would have been a 64-yard, walk-in touchdown. That sucked the life out of Tampa. Just ask Mike himself.
Meanwhile, what has happened to Todd Bowles' run defense this season? The team that just traded Run CMC piled up 173 rushing yards on 27 carries. That's 6.4 yards a pop!
I had my doubts about Tampa entering this season, but nobody saw this coming. Sure, at 3-4, they still sit in a tie for first place in the NFC South. So what? This team has far bigger goals than winning a moribund division. At the moment, the Bucs' point differential mirrors the amount of juice around this team: zero.
2) New week, new low for Green Bay
Green Bay is just lost on offense. There is no zip. No flow. Rodgers has not played well, and the back-to-back reigning MVP clearly doesn't trust his receivers. Romeo Doubs was targeted four times on Sunday; not only did the rookie fail to record a single catch, but he had a pivotal fourth-down drop in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, Matt LaFleur abandoned Aaron Jones late, and AJ Dillon is in the witness protection program. With how poorly the passing game is operating, how do those two backs combine for just 12 carries?
Joe Barry's defense hasn't come close to meeting expectations. Commanders QB Taylor Heinicke actually handed Green Bay a 14-3 lead with a bad pick-six in the second quarter. Instead of clamping down, though, the Packers rolled out the red carpet for Washington's fill-in QB. After that play, Heinicke completed 19 of 26 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns.
The Packers came into this season with legit Super Bowl hopes. At the moment, they don't even resemble a playoff team.
3) Colts swept by Titans (again)
Credit the Titans. I picked them to win. They are tougher. They have the better coach and defense. It's not particularly close -- which is also how you could describe Sunday's game.
Don't let the single-digit aspect of the loss fool you: Tennessee pounded Derrick Henry (30 carries for 128 yards) and controlled the tone and tempo of this game. There was never really a threat of Indianapolis winning, based on the ebb and flow. And for the second straight season, the Titans have swept the Colts. Will Chris Ballard ever lead Indy to an AFC South title? You have to wonder, especially now that the Colts (3-3-1) are again spinning their wheels at the game's most important position.
With two more picks on Sunday, Matt Ryan now leads the league in interceptions. Even more jarring: He's heading to the bench! Yep, on Monday, Frank Reich announced that the Colts are turning to Sam Ehlinger. Apparently, Ryan has a shoulder injury, but Reich said the team was planning to hand the reins to Ehlinger regardless.
"Right now, the move is for Sam to be the starter for the rest of the season," Reich said.
4) 49ers filleted by visiting Chiefs
I picked the 49ers to win this game. I was LOUD wrong.
It's easy to point the finger at Jimmy Garoppolo, and that red-zone pick near the end of the first half was indeed mind-numbing. But the 49ers' biggest problem on Sunday was the other side of the ball. San Francisco entered the day ranked first in yards allowed and second in points allowed. Kansas City put up 529 yards and six touchdowns. The Niners' purportedly elite unit got exposed by Patrick Mahomes on bombs and gave up a back-breaking first down on a third-and-20 when the game was still competitive. I love Kyle Shanahan and DeMeco Ryans. That's well documented. But Andy Reid and Co. coached circles around them on Sunday.
I still love the 49ers' upside, especially as they get Christian McCaffrey more integrated into the offense. But if this team is to reach the promised land, the defense must be stout. That was a humiliating home loss that dropped San Francisco to 3-4. Suddenly, the Niners are looking up at the Geno Smith-led Seahawks in the division standings. Wild.
5) Bolts fall to 'Hawks, fall behind Chiefs
Speaking of bad home losses and teams paling in comparison to the Geno-led 'Hawks ... Hello, Chargers!
Seahawks rookie RB Kenneth Walker III ripped the Chargers' run defense apart, rumbling for 168 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries. Pete Carroll's defense absolutely flummoxed Justin Herbert early, making this a come-from-behind-game all day, thus eliminating the run. That was big, because Herbert clearly isn't right since the rib injury he suffered in Week 2. Check out the numbers, courtesy of NFL Research:
- Herbert in Weeks 1 and 2: 72.0 comp pct, 7.5 yds/att, 6 TD, 1 INT, 112.5 passer rating.
- Herbert in Weeks 3 through 7: 63.7 comp pct, 6.2 yds/att, 6 TD, 3 INT, 84.2 passer rating.
Another bad loss for Brandon Staley, dropping the Bolts to 4-3. And now the 5-2 Chiefs have separation in the division standings.
6) Same old Lions
After starting the year with shocking success, the Lions' offense has crashed back to earth:
- Lions' offense in Games 1 through 4: 35.0 PPG, 436.8 total YPG, 4 giveaways.
- Lions' offense in Games 5 and 6: 3.0 PPG, 312.0 total YPG, 7 giveaways.
That last figure was especially crippling on Sunday, as Detroit (1-5) had a whopping FIVE second-half turnovers. That's how you turn a 6-3 halftime lead into a 24-6 loss. Divebombing QB Jared Goff accounted for four of those turnovers (two picks and two fumbles), but RB Jamaal Williams supplied the most costly giveaway, fumbling on first-and-goal from the 1-yard line when the game was still in question early in the fourth quarter.
I hate to say it because this seemed like such a fun, hungry group during Hard Knocks, but ... Dan Campbell's team looks totally disjointed.
7) Same old Browns
I expected Baltimore to win this game, but Kevin Stefanski's continued refusal to consistently ride this team's offensive engine, Nick Chubb, remains confounding. The league's leading rusher had six touches on Cleveland's first possession, an 11-play, 75-yard march that ended with Chubb hitting paydirt from 2 yards out. After that statement-making opening drive, Chubb received 12 touches for the rest of the game. I don't get it. In related news, Cleveland fell just short, losing by three points.
There have been too many "Close, but no cigar" games for the Browns in 2022. Baltimore's had a knack for blowing leads and playing its worst when it matters most, so it goes noted that Cleveland couldn't spook the Ravens in crunch time. The Browns just don't have it. Cleveland had chances to win this game, but continually shot itself in the foot. The final insult came in the Browns' final true possession. Cade York lined up to attempt a 55-yard field goal for the tie, but Cleveland was called for a false start. Some folks thought it was a phantom call, but I'm not really sure about that, one way or another. Bottom line: It was called. And consequently, Stefanski opted to keep the rookie kicker out for a 60-yard attempt, which was blocked. Of course.
Now the Browns are 2-5 with the hot Bengals coming into town for Monday Night Football on Halloween night. Could be a scary scene for the home team in FirstEnergy Stadium.
8) Same Nathaniel Hackett Broncos
Yes, Russell Wilson didn't play. But the Jets lost their best offensive lineman, best running back and most experienced receiver in the middle of the game. It didn't matter. Denver (2-5) barely made it across midfield after halftime.
"I'm sick of being up here saying the same thing over and over again," head coach Nathaniel Hackett said. "The opportunities are there. At some point we have to take it; there's no excuses. We've been in every single game. We have to win these games."
I keep waiting for Hackett to show a sign -- any sign -- that he can be a successful head coach. Play-calling? Game management? Fundamental execution on offense? There's nothing. It's particularly frustrating to Broncos fans when first-year defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero has that side of the ball playing at an elite level.
"When your defense is playing as well as our defense is, you shouldn't be losing games," fill-in QB Brett Rypien said postgame. "That's just point-blank, period, a fact."
Indeed. Denver's offense -- Hackett's calling card -- ranks dead last in scoring at 14.3 points per game. WOOF.
9) Same underwhelming Jaguars
Now, the Giants -- who improved to 6-1 -- are a much better team. But Vegas had the Jaguars favored in this one. And while the Jags, one year removed from the Urban Meyer disaster, are a more functional team overall, they're now mired in a four-game losing streak that's dropped them to 2-5.
Sure, Christian Kirk was tackled a yard short of glory at the gun. But Jacksonville wouldn't even have been in that situation if Saquon Barkley had just stayed in bounds during the Giants' preceding four-minute drill.
I keep waiting for Trevor Lawrence to flip the switch, but he continues to underwhelm, barely completing 50 percent of his throws on Sunday while posting a 74.8 passer rating. The No. 1 overall pick from a year ago -- a prospect widely touted to be a generational talent -- was significantly outplayed by Daniel Jones.