Colts fail after historic collapse: Coaching grades for NFL Week 15
The San Francisco 49ers, Minnesota Vikings, Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs and Dallas Cowboys clinched playoff spots in Week 15. The Vikings, Jacksonville Jaguars and Cincinnati Bengals overcame deficits of at least 17 points to win in Week 15, marking the first time in NFL history that three teams came back to win after trailing by 17 or more points in a single week.
The week before Christmas featured 12 one-score games and three contests that were decided in overtime.
How much of an influence did coaches have on the outcomes in Week 15? USA TODAY Sports examined the performances of NFL coaches. Here are their grades for Week 15:
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San Francisco 49ers coaching staff: A
49ers coach Kyle Shanahan called a clever double fake, and quarterback Brock Purdy sold it well. All the while tight end George Kittle ran a route down the middle of the field and Purdy hit him in the numbers for a 28-yard touchdown. The two fakes going in different directions left the middle of the field exposed and the 49ers exploited it for the first touchdown of the game against the Seattle Seahawks.
The 49ers defense also held the Seahawks out of the end zone through three quarters. Seattle scored its only touchdown with under four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. San Francisco’s top-ranked defense also held the Seahawks to just 277 total yards.
Niners defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans has his defense playing well and flying to the football. Linebacker Dre Greenlaw’s forced fumble and cornerback Charvarius Ward’s fumble recovery and return exemplify that.
The 21-13 win clinched the NFC West title for the 49ers and extended their winning streak to seven games.
Jacksonville Jaguars coaching staff: B
Doug Pederson and the Jaguars (6-8) are still in the AFC playoff hunt.
The Jaguars’ game-winning pick-six epitomized their 40-34 overtime victory over the Dallas Cowboys. Jacksonville kept battling despite going down 27-10 midway through the third quarter. Credit has to be given to the coaching staff and players for still believing.
On the game-deciding play, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott felt pressure off the edge. The pressure caused Prescott to rush a pass intended for wide receiver Noah Brown. The football was a little off target, bounced off Brown’s hands and intercepted by Jaguars safety Rayshawn Jenkins. Jenkins proceeded to take the football to the house.
Jenkins had 18 tackles and two interceptions, including the game-winning touchdown.
The Jaguars scored a season-high 40 points and gained a season-best 503 yards of total offense.
Kansas City Chiefs coaching staff: C
The Chiefs had no business going to overtime against the lowly Houston Texans (1-12-1), a club with the worst record in the NFL. But good teams find a way to win even if they aren’t playing their best.
Kansas City’s 30-24 win was the second time in as many weeks the team put at least 30 points on the scoreboard. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was 36 of 41 passing for 336 yards and two touchdowns, completing his final 20 pass attempts.
The win earned the Chiefs their seventh straight AFC West crown. They are tied with the Los Angeles Rams (1973-79) for the second-longest streak of division titles in NFL history, per NFL Research. But it still shouldn’t have been this close.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers coaching staff: D
The Bucs didn’t get an “F” grade because they actually led 17-0 late in the second quarter. However, Tampa Bay’s inability to stop the Cincinnati Bengals’ rally is why they end this week with a low grade. The Bengals scored 34 unanswered points. Any time a team blows a lead – especially of this magnitude – blame should be divided between players and coaches. The Bucs offense had four turnovers in the second half, all from QB Tom Brady (two interceptions, two fumbles) and the defense didn’t step up.
This a botched handoff between veterans Tom Brady and Leonard Fournette came in the midst of the meltdown.
Brady threw an interception on Tampa Bay’s next possession.
The Bucs dropped to 6-8, and Brady’s now lost eight games in a season for the first time in his 23-year career, via NFL Research. Somehow, they still lead the NFC South.
Indianapolis Colts coaching staff: F
The Vikings overcame a 33-point halftime deficit to win 39-36 in overtime for the league’s largest comeback. Consequently, on the other side of the field, the Colts had a historic collapse.
Indianapolis was outscored 39-3 in the second half and overtime, including 22-0 in the fourth quarter. After a third-quarter field goal by Indy to increase the lead to 36-7, the Colts were forced to punt three straight times. They fumbled the football on their next possession and then turned the ball over on downs after that.
The Colts offense managed 102 yards in the second half against a bottom-tier defense, while the Colts defense allowed 436 yards after halftime.
Colts players and coaches were mystified about how to stop a frantic Minnesota rally. It was an embarrassing collapse.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Tyler Dragon on Twitter @TheTylerDragon.