How COVID wreaked havoc on NFL in Week 12

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On Sunday, the NFL passed the two-thirds point of the regular season. When Green Bay’s beatdown of Chicago was done late Sunday night, the NFL was finished with 175 of its 256 regular-season games—68.4 percent—with five weeks to go. And zero games postponed to a possible murky Week 18 on Jan. 10—the Sunday on what currently is scheduled to be Wild-Card Weekend.

“I’m absolutely amazed that we’ve done as well as we have,” Bill Polian, the Hall of Fame GM and adviser to Goodell, told me Sunday afternoon. “The incredible adaptability that [league officials] have shown, and the clubs of course have cooperated tremendously. Who would ever think that you’d have virtual meetings? It’s just beyond anything we’ve had to do before. The fact that it’s gone as well as it has is incredible to me.”

Not sure I’d use “incredible” in an altogether great way. The spectacle in Denver on Sunday wasn’t really a football game so much as one of 256 the NFL had to get out of the way. And Ravens-Steelers might look great on the NBC marquee, but it won’t look so good in the ratings unless Baltimore finds some way to play a competitive game. Which I’m dubious about.

Four points about where the NFL is right now:

• You were warned. In May, I wrote about the wholly unfair season on the horizon. Not my idea; it was what I was being told by influencers in high places—league office, Competition Committee, one owner with sway. “I think you have to look at 2020 as an experimental year that is off-kilter,” one club executive told me after the draft. “It’s a litmus test in how we adapt.” If you want to have a season, another club official said, accept the fact that your team is going to have some hardships you can’t do anything about. Don’t complain about the things you’d normally complain about; be thankful there’s a season.

• The football’s been good, mostly. You know what’s struck me? Some of the best games have been played under pretty tough circumstances. Think, for instance, of Atlanta’s best game of the season (well, maybe till the rout of the Raiders on Sunday). The Falcons were 0-5, fired the coach and the GM, had the following week disrupted by some COVID cases, practiced only once, and went to Minnesota and routed the Vikings 40-23. Tennessee went 17 days without practicing during its early-season outbreak, and responded by beating Buffalo 42-16. New England had to fly to Kansas City on the day of the game in Week 4, without starting quarterback Cam Newton, and 40 minutes into the game, mighty KC was up by three. Scoring’s up, penalties are down. Players seem happier not beating themselves up as much in practice.

• Virtual football is weird, but it has its advantages. Juju Smith-Schuster told me last week his dog Boujee wonders why he’s home so much. He used to be gone from about 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. or so on weekdays. Now the Steelers do their morning classroom meetings by videoconference, with players home for them, and Smith-Schuster leaves the house around 11 for practice and he’s home by 2:45-ish. “Sometimes he looks at me like, ‘Why you still here?’ ‘’ Smith-Schuster said of Boujee.

Virtual learning hasn’t been as much of a chore as you think. “The little things for special teams, offense and defense throughout the week—that’s something we miss,” Smith-Schuster said. “But the thing with virtual that helps a lot—it gives us time to be separated, to stay at home in our own comfortable space, avoiding COVID and also gives us time to rest our bodies, or do treatment while we’re in meetings. As far as my teammates and how we like it, so far we love it.”

• The forfeit concept doesn’t seem like it’s going to be a part of the game. Lots of issues with it, even if a team suffers some positive tests by ignoring strict adherence to protocols. If a game’s not played, does the perpetrating team get a loss in the standings, and does its foe that week get a win just for having the good fortune of being on the schedule that week? If a game’s not played, by agreement with the players union, players are not paid that week; that’s not going to work. The NFL seems to believe a bit in Hammurabi’s Code this season: If the Broncos’ quarterbacks messed up in protocol behavior (they admit to being lax with mask-wearing in an off-day film session with one positive player in the room who they didn’t know was positive at the time), then the Broncos should suffer for it. That’s not the reason the NFL gave for not allowing Denver to push Sunday’s game back a day or two, but it’s a sort of eye-for-an-eye byproduct. The NFL said if the Broncos had enough able-bodied players, well, tough luck.


Earlier in the column I addressed the October letter to teams from Goodell. But the Denver-New Orleans game filled my email box with messages from (if I may generalize) ticked-off Broncos fans. Wrote Dan Wilson: “I’m hoping in your column this week you can give some insight into why Broncos fans were subjected to the travesty of what should have been a football game, but really didn’t resemble much of one. Why would the NFL reschedule other games but not this one? Why single out the Broncos?”

I agree that it would have been more equitable, without much of a downside except for inconveniencing the Saints, to push the game to Tuesday, when three of the Denver quarterbacks, had they continued to test negative, would have been eligible to play because they’d have tested negative for five days since last being in close contact with the positive player. The NFL moved the Baltimore game (twice) because the league said it wanted to get past the period that players would most likely test positive for the same strain of the virus that was sweeping the team. Dawn Aponte of the league’s football operations team told me Sunday that when the league approved 16-man Practice Squads, part of the reasoning was that the league “would not postpone or reschedule a game simply because of perceived or actual competitive implications—and that went all the way through multiple players up to an entire position group.”

Added Polian: “So it’s up to each club to make sure that they have enough players to cover any kind of occurrence that would take place. In this particular case, they [the Broncos] did have four quarterbacks, but if you’ll remember that [Bucs coach] Bruce Arians at the very beginning of training camp talked about quarantining one quarterback, keeping him out of the line of fire, so that he’s available in case this very thing should happen. Denver did not do that.”

Starting quarterback Drew Lock put the blame on his shoulders Sunday on social media for not being disciplined enough when the quarterbacks came in last Tuesday for some voluntary tape study. Masks were worn, but not all the time. Distance was fudged, the players not keeping six feet apart at all times, and it was clear from someone who watched the tape of the session, with the four quarterbacks in the room, that Lock and the quarterbacks were too comfortable with each other. Lock stepping up didn’t absolve him in the eyes of his coach, whose staff had to figure out a game plan with no quarterbacks, to play against one of the best teams in football. Not optimal. “I was disappointed on a couple levels,” coach Vic Fangio said. “That our quarterbacks put us in this position and that our quarterbacks put the league in this position. We count on them to be the leaders of the team and leaders of the offense and those guys made a mistake and that is disappointing . . . There was a failing there and that’s disappointing.”

Back to the Baltimore story. This was a fast-moving story, as you’ll be able to tell by looking at the timeline of the changing of the game—twice. The changes were due to the virus infecting several players and staff members, and then not slowing down in time to play either Thursday or Sunday in the league’s estimation.

Wednesday, 12:30 p.m., Pittsburgh: The NBC production meeting with the Ravens for the Thanksgiving night game was in progress. The NBC crew and staff in town to do the Thursday game were in a Pittsburgh hotel, in separate rooms on videoconference with the Ravens. NFL schedule czar Howard Katz called Sunday Night Football executive producer Fred Gaudelli, who was on the videoconference, to say the game was moving to Sunday because of more positives in Baltimore. Bummer. The Thanksgiving night game is a huge ratings draw and Black Friday ad hub.

Wednesday, 12:45 p.m. Gaudelli and Katz talk again, with the NFLer asking if NBC wanted to do the game Sunday afternoon. Gaudelli said he’d call him back. A few minutes later, Gaudelli tells Katz that NBC wants the game, but now he has to find a truck to do the game—the regular SNF truck would now have to leave for Green Bay to do Bears-Packers Sunday night, to, presumably, a bigger audience.

Wednesday, 3:05 p.m. Gaudelli gets a truck, gets his bosses’ okay and tells Katz yes, we’ll take the Sunday afternoon game. So now it’s a waiting game, Gaudelli and crew waiting in Pittsburgh now till Sunday, not just Thursday. Quiet time. Gaudelli and director Drew Esocoff eat takeout from Morton’s two nights in a row in a big meeting room, socially distanced.

Thursday, 8 p.m. “We’ve had some grim holiday meals over the years,” Gaudelli tells Esocoff, “but this might be the grimmest.” Add this to the festivities: Katz calls and says they’d have to move the game to Tuesday night for COVID reasons. Crazy time. More phone calls from Gaudelli to bosses. Early Friday afternoon, the NFL announces the game is moved to Tuesday, on NBC.

I’ve been told the Ravens are okay with taking their medicine. They’d prefer, of course, to switch the game to Jan. 10, but also realize they don’t have much of a leg to stand on, because reportedly it’s one of the coaches in the strength-and-conditioning area who may have violated COVID protocols with mask-wearing in the building and another protocol violation or two. They’re owning the problem.

A couple of other issues: The league told the Ravens late in the week that the virus was in its late stages . . . and then two more players tested positive Saturday and another Sunday. If today’s early-morning tests show any more player positives, I doubt the league would move to postpone the game, but it should seriously consider it; how could the league be sure the virus has run its course within the team if positives keep happening? Plus, no practice for so many unproven or inexperienced players bugs the team.

Who knows? Maybe this will be a galvanizing thing for the slumping Ravens and give them the spark they’ve been missing much of the year. We’d all be naïve to think the Ravens will be the last team to get hit.

Tonight, Seattle at Philadelphia, is game 176. Tomorrow in Pittsburgh, the league hopes, will be game 177.

Wednesday morning: 79 games left. Eyes on the prize. Eyes on 256, then 13 in the playoffs. Delays only mean more days to swab out positive tests. The 2020 season isn’t art. It’s an endurance test.

Read more from Peter King’s Football Morning in America column here.

Tom Brady vs. Patrick Mahomes: All-time QB matchups, records, stats

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Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes have gone head-to-head six times and each matchup has been both high-stakes and high-scoring affairs between the two legendary quarterbacks who have an even 3-3 overall record against each other. See below for a breakdown of the Brady vs. Mahomes rivalry.

Mahomes is currently in his fifth season as the Chiefs starting quarterback. The 2019 Super Bowl MVP signed a 10-year, $450 million extension in July 2020, which was the richest contract in American sports history by total value. Over the last four seasons (2018-2021), Mahomes has led the league in both passing yards (18,707) and touchdown passes (151). The 27-year-old looks to lead the Chiefs to their seventh straight AFC West Title. Kansas City is the only team to ever win six consecutive AFC West titles, which is tied for the 3rd-longest division title streak of any team in NFL history.

At 45 years old Tom Brady, who already holds 7 Super Bowl titles–the most in NFL history, is currently playing in his 23rd NFL season–one that many thought he wouldn’t see after an unpredictable offseason filled with rumorsretirement, and unretirement. But the greatest of all time is back–this time without the comfort of his longtime trusted TE Rob Gronkowski–and is not only facing the challenge of playing with a banged-up offensive line but is also adjusting to the turnover at the WR and TE positions from this offseason.

RELATED: NFL QBs with most Super Bowl wins – Where does Tom Brady rank ahead of Super Bowl 2023

Every past matchup between Tom Brady vs. Patrick Mahomes (3-3 overall record):

  1. Oct. 14, 2018 (Week 6) – Patriots defeated the Chiefs 43-40. Brady threw for 340 yards and 1 TD. Mahomes threw for 352 yards, 4 TD, and 2 INT.
  2. Jan. 20, 2019 (AFC Championship Game) – Patriots defeated the Chiefs 37-31, in overtime. Brady threw 348 yards, 1 TD, and 2 INT. Mahomes finished with 295 YDS, and 3 TD
  3. Dec. 8, 2019 (Week 14) – Chiefs defeated the Patriots 23-16. Mahomes totaled 283 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT. Brady had 169 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT.
  4. Nov. 29, 2020 (Week 12) – Chiefs beat the Buccaneers 27-24. Mahomes threw for 462 yards with 3 TD. Brady finished with 345 yards, 3 TD, and 2 INT.
  5. Feb. 7, 2021 (Super Bowl 55) – Buccaneers defeated the Chiefs 31-9 playing on their home field at Raymond James Stadium. Brady threw for 201 yards and 3 TD and was named Super Bowl MVP for a record 5th time.
  6. Oct. 2, 2022 (Week 4) – Chiefs defeated the Buccaneers 41-31 at Raymond James Stadium. Mahomes went 23-of-37 for 249 yards with three touchdowns and an interception.

RELATED: NFL QBs with most Super Bowl wins – Where does Tom Brady rank ahead of Super Bowl 2023

In an interview with NBC’s Maria Taylor for Football Night in America, Mahomes discusses the trademarks of a Brady-led team.

“First off, they take advantage of mistakes,” Mahomes said. “If you make a mistake on the field, if I throw an interception or if you fumble, or if something like that happens, he’s going to make you pay and get points on the board and then he’s going to manage the game.”

Mahomes also knows that while Brady has a knack for capitalizing on mistakes, he does not often make many of his own.

“He’s going to make some plays when he needs to make plays, but at the same time he’s not going to make that big mistake. So you have to go out there and play a near perfect football game to win. Another thing, he’s never out of it and I think that’s something I try to pride myself on as well is never being out of the game. So whenever you play against a Tom Brady-led team, you make sure you keep that foot down on the pedal and try to do whatever you can to finish the game off.”

Patrick Mahomes absorbs Tom Brady’s lessons

Despite the difference in age and experience, Brady and Mahomes are alike in their impact on the game.

“You want to not like Tom but he’s just like the best guy,” Mahomes said. “So it’s hard to not like him, but to be able to play in golf tournaments, and him give me kind of advice and stuff like that. I mean, he’s the GOAT. You want to learn from the best and it’s really cool to have that relationship with him.”

Even when Brady and Mahomes have faced off in high-stakes postseason games, the advice continues. The two met in the 2019 AFC Championship game, when Brady was still playing for the New England Patriots. Both quarterbacks delivered stellar performances, but Brady managed to lead the Patriots to an overtime victory.

Following this loss, Mahomes tells Taylor that he is upset and spends a lot of time after the game sitting in the locker room. But when Mahomes finally walks out, Brady is waiting for him.

“He could be celebrating” Mahomes said. “He’s going to the Super Bowl and everything like that, and all he said to me, ‘Hey, just keep doing it how you’re doing it. You’re doing it the right way.’ And as a young quarterback, you just go out there and play and try to have fun and do whatever you can to put your team in the best position to win.

But when the GOAT’s saying that, he’s saying you’re doing it the right way, it shows you that you are doing it the right way. And so that was big for me”

While Brady has not revealed all his football wisdom to Mahomes, the Chiefs’ signal-caller looks forward to learning more.

“He won’t give me all the secrets yet,” Mahomes said. “But hopefully one day I’ll get the secrets and can put those into my game.”

Patrick Mahomes embraces the Tom Brady mindset

While Brady and Mahomes are competitors, their respect from one another extends beyond the football field into their personal lives. Mahomes and his wife Brittany, have a young girl, Sterling, and are expecting a baby boy.

“You want to be able to be a family man and be with your family and you want to be able to do these different things, where you’re going into businesses and then helping out and shooting commercials and, at the same time, keeping football first.”

One of the biggest lessons Mahomes has taken from Brady is the importance of prioritizing football in addition to consistently improving at the game.

“That’s the greatness in Tom Brady is no matter how much off the field stuff he does, football is always the main priority and he makes sure to keep it that way,” Mahomes said. “And so you watch that and then at the same time you go back to him on the field and he’s always getting better. I feel like every single year he finds something he can get better at. And that’s what I want to do, is I want to keep getting better as my career goes on so that I can play hopefully, maybe not as long as him, but pretty long as well.”

RELATED: 2022 Sunday Night Football Schedule: TV channel, live stream info, NFL schedule

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How to watch Sunday Night Football on Peacock:

If you have access to NBC via your TV provider, you can watch Sunday Night Football on your TV or with a TV provider login on the NBC Sports app, NBC app, or via NBCSports.com. Check your local listings to find your NBC channel. If you can’t find NBC in your channel lineup, please contact your TV provider.

If you don’t have access to NBC via your TV provider, you can stream Sunday Night Football on Peacock with a $4.99/month Peacock Premium plan.  Sign up here or, if you already have a free Peacock account, go to your Account settings to upgrade or change your existing plan. 

Please note that selection of a Premium plan will result in a charge which will recur on a monthly or annual basis until you cancel, depending on your plan. You can cancel your Premium plan at any time in your Account.

RELATED: 2022 NFL Regular Season Schedule – How to Watch, Live Stream, Dates, Times, Matchups


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What are the longest field goals in NFL history and when were they kicked?

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The 2022 NFL season is upon us, and at a time when every point matters, field goals take on an added significance. Last season, Baltimore Ravens’ kicker Justin Tucker converted the longest field goal in NFL history at 66 yards. Trailing 17-16 to the Detroit Lions in Week 3, Tucker successfully kicked a field goal that bounced off the cross bar and through the uprights to give the Ravens the victory as time expired.

Tucker’s kick broke the previous record that was set back in 2013. Cardinals kicker Matt Prater was the previous record holder with a kick of 64 yards against the Tennessee Titans. Prater, who played for the Denver Broncos at the time, converted the kick at the end of the first half to pull the Broncos within one point heading into the locker room.

RELATED: How to watch Cincinnati Bengals vs Baltimore Ravens: TV, live stream info, preview for Sunday Night Football game

The next field goal record is 63 yards and it has been achieved six different times in NFL history, most recently by Brett Maher in 2019 when the Cowboys were hosting the Philadelphia Eagles. In his three NFL seasons, Maher has kicked one 63-yard field goal and two 62-yarders. The first kick in NFL history of 63 yards happened in 1970 when Tom Dempsey of New Orleans sent a 63-yard kick through the uprights.

There are another five kickers throughout NFL history who have converted a kick of 62 yards. Earlier this season, Prater kicked a 62-yard kick against the Minnesota Vikings that had room to spare. The field goal was kicked from the center of the Cardinals’ mid-field logo and put Arizona up, 24-23, at halftime. With two of the kicking records in NFL history, Prater has established himself as a kicking legend in the NFL.

RELATED: 2022 Sunday Night Football Schedule: TV channel, live stream info, NFL schedule

What are the longest field goals in regular season history?

66 yards – Justin Tucker, Detroit vs. Baltimore, Sept. 26, 2021

64 yards – Matt Prater, Denver vs. Tennessee, Dec. 8, 2013

63 yards – Tom Dempsey, New Orleans vs. Detroit, Nov. 8, 1970

Jason Elam, Denver vs. Jacksonville, Oct. 25, 1998
Sebastian Janikowski, Oakland vs. Denver, Sept. 12, 2011
David Akers, San Francisco vs. Green Bay, Sept. 9, 2012
Graham Gano, Carolina vs. N.Y. Giants, Oct. 7, 2018
Brett Maher, Dallas vs. Philadelphia, Oct. 20, 2019

62 yards – Matt Prater, Arizona vs. Minnesota, Sept. 19, 2021

Matt Bryant, Tampa Bay vs. Philadelphia, Oct. 22, 2006
Stephen Gostkowski, New England vs. Oakland, Nov. 19, 2017
Brett Maher, Dallas vs. Philadelphia, Dec. 9, 2018 (OT)
Brett Maher, Dallas vs. N.Y. Jets, Oct. 13, 2019

RELATED: 2022 NFL Regular Season Schedule – How to Watch, Live Stream, Dates, Times, Matchups

The longest field goals in playoff history do not quite match those of the regular season, but they are not far off. The longest kick in the postseason is 58 yards and two kickers have achieved the feat: Pete Stoyanovich of the Chiefs in the team’s 1990 Wild Card game against the Dolphins and Graham Gano of the Panthers before halftime of the team’s Wild Card game vs. the Saints.

What are the longest field goals in playoff history?

58 yardsPete Stoyanovich, AFC-FR: Miami vs. Kansas City, 1990
Graham Gano, NFC-FR: Carolina vs. New Orleans, 2017

57 yards –  Mike Nugent, AFC-FR: Cincinnati vs. Indianapolis, 2014
Wil Lutz, NFC-FR: New Orleans vs. Carolina, 2017
Greg Zuerlein, NFC: L.A. Rams vs. New Orleans, 2018

56 yards – Mason Crosby, NFC-D: Green Bay vs. Dallas, 2016


How to watch Sunday Night Football on Peacock:

If you have access to NBC via your TV provider, you can watch Sunday Night Football on your TV or with a TV provider login on the NBC Sports app, NBC app, or via NBCSports.com. Check your local listings to find your NBC channel. If you can’t find NBC in your channel lineup, please contact your TV provider.

RELATED: What to know about Super Bowl 2023 – Date, location, halftime performance info, and much more

If you don’t have access to NBC via your TV provider, you can stream Sunday Night Football on Peacock with a $4.99/month Peacock Premium plan.  Sign up here or, if you already have a free Peacock account, go to your Account settings to upgrade or change your existing plan. 

Please note that selection of a Premium plan will result in a charge which will recur on a monthly or annual basis until you cancel, depending on your plan. You can cancel your Premium plan at any time in your Account.

RELATED: 2022 NFL Regular Season Schedule – How to Watch, Live Stream, Dates, Times, Matchups


 Follow along with ProFootballTalk for the latest news, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2022 NFL Season, and be sure to subscribe to NFLonNBC on YouTube