DENVER | First, Emmanuel Sanders wagged his right index finger in the face of Rams cornerback Troy Hill . Now, he’s pointing it right at himself after Denver’s fourth consecutive loss.
After his taunt came back to haunt the Broncos, Sanders accepted the blame for Denver’s latest loss in a monthlong tailspin that has fans in the Rocky Mountains bracing for back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 1971-72.
“I guess this loss is on me,” Sanders said after the Rams escaped frigid Denver as the league’s lone unbeaten team following a 23-20 win Sunday over the Broncos (2-4), who became the first team in NFL history to allow a 200-yard rusher in back-to-back games.
Sanders thought he had a 44-yard TD catch from Case Keenum as he tumbled into the end zone in the first quarter. He sprung to his feet and wagged a finger at Hill.
Side judge Brad Freeman threw the flag, calling a personal foul on Sanders for taunting.
Ordinarily, the flag wouldn’t have mattered much because the 15-yard penalty would have been enforced on the ensuing kickoff and Brandon McManus, after giving Denver a 7-6 lead with an extra point, undoubtedly would still have booted the ball out of the end zone for a touchback.
Upon review, however, it turned out Hill had the last laugh, having touched Sanders before he crossed the goal line.
That put the ball at the 1.
The penalty pushed them back to the 16.
After runs of 1 and 5 yards, Keenum’s throwaway on third-and-4 brought in McManus for a field goal instead of an extra point and his 28-yarder cut Denver’s deficit to 6-3.
They never did get the lead and those four points would have made the difference in a three-point loss.
“Me, honestly, I feel like the league is getting soft,” Sanders said. “I’m having fun. I didn’t do anything crazy to the guy besides say, ‘Hey, I got you on that play.’ I pointed my finger at him. And they threw the flag.”
Sanders said he’s done that his whole career and has never been flagged for it.
“It was a great throw by Case, I came down with it, big play, emotions are high. It’s not like I walked up to him and head-butted him or something,” Sanders said. “But it cost my team. We lost by three points. I feel like we could have easily punched that ball in and gotten four (more) points. I guess this loss is on me.”
Vance Joseph, who fell to 7-15 as head coach, talked to Sanders on the sideline.
“He can’t do that,” Joseph said. “He knows that.”
Well, he does now.
“I don’t think I did anything too crazy besides point a finger and tell the guy, ‘Hey I got you on that play.’ I don’t see the penalty in that,” Sanders said. “But I learned from it and like I said, it cost my team. I’ve just got to keep chugging along and don’t do it again.”
The costly foul from a nine-year veteran came one week after Sanders’ fellow SMU alum, rookie receiver Courtland Sutton , chased down Marcus Maye at the 1 following a 104-yard interception return at game’s end, leaving the Jets safety with the longest such play without a score in NFL history.
“We played two of the best teams in the league, the Chiefs and the Rams, and the games came down to crunch time. And that just shows you what kind of team that we are,” linebacker Shane Ray declared. “We’re a great football team.”
Not at 2-4 they aren’t.
Even Fox play-by-play man Dick Stockton dissed the Broncos by beginning the telecast saying, “the undefeated Rams take on the Denver Nuggets.”
Other takeaways from Week 6 included:
CUTTING OUT COLIN
The 49ers posted dozens of photos on its website of past games against the Packers in advance of their Monday night game without at first including any of Colin Kaepernick, who set an NFL record for QBs by rushing for 181 yards in a playoff win against Green Bay on Jan. 12, 2013, threw for 413 yards in a season-opening win against the Packers in 2013, and led a winning drive in a playoff game in Green Bay on Jan. 5, 2014.
“We have fond memories of those games and that should have been displayed on our website,” the team said in a statement after adding images of Kaepernick. “This oversight does not properly reflect the appreciation our ownership and this team have for Colin.”
Tom Brady made light of yelling at Rob Gronkowski in an Instagram post following the Patriots’ 43-40 win over Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.
In the second quarter, the sideline microphones picked up Brady yelling at Gronkowski to stand up out of his stance, and Brady ended up calling a timeout on the play.
Gronk came up big in the fourth quarter with a stiff-arm that helped him gain 42 yards and set up a field goal that gave New England a 40-33 lead.
“Gronk, you can line up however you want if you keep stiff-arming people like that,” Brady said.
Al Riveron, the NFL’s senior vice president of officiating, acknowledged for a second straight week that officials goofed in not calling a running back for lowering his head and barreling into a defender.
In his weekly video, Riveron said Patriots rookie Sony Michel should have been flagged for lowering his head to initiate contact with Colts safety Clayton Geathers in Week 5.
A week earlier, Riveron noted that Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt should have been flagged for doing the same thing to Broncos safety Justin Simmons.
Although Hunt got away without a penalty, his illegal hit did result in a $26,739 fine.
Riveron defended referee Clete Blakeman’s crew, which didn’t flag Steelers receiver Justin Hunter for blocking Bengals DB Tony McRae beyond 1 yard past the line of scrimmage on Antonio Brown’s 31-yard TD catch from Ben Roethlisberger with 10 seconds left that gave Pittsburgh a 28-21 win on Sunday.
“The contact is initiated by the defender,” Riveron said on Twitter , “and therefore the receiver is not responsible for this contact.”
NFL rule 8, Section 5, Article 4 states: “Blocking more than 1 yard beyond the line of scrimmage by an offensive player prior to a pass being thrown is offensive pass interference.”
The rule book, however, doesn’t specify an exception for defenders initiating contact.
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