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Antonio Brown’s latest misdeed will only stick because it happened on TV | NFL

In a normal universe, we’d be solely focused on the final minutes of a drama-filled classic between the Buccaneers and Jets. We’d gush over Tom Brady’s game-winning drive that again ripped whatever semblance of hope remains in New York’s long-suffering fans. We’d marvel at Brady’s unmistakable precision with under two minutes, culminating in his cool-as-a-cucumber delivery on a 33-yard touchdown strike to Cyril Grayson that left not nearly enough time for Zach Wilson to respond. We’d question Robert Saleh’s decision to go for it on fourth-and-2 at the Bucs’ seven-yard line instead of kicking a field goal that would opened a seven-point lead with two minutes to spare.

Instead, this game will be remembered for a different brand of dramatic: Antonio Brown adding to his endless list of disturbing antics. In the third quarter, with the Tampa Bay offense on the field mid-drive, a visibly furious Brown removed his jersey on the sideline, threw his shoulder pads down, then cascaded across the end zone, tore off his tank top, threw the tank and a glove with vigor into a sea of Jets fans, then continued shirtless into the tunnel with one final peace sign before fading to black.

It was a scene so bizarre and rare that reportedly MetLife Stadium security thought the shirtless man was a fan and were about to tackle him until they realized it was the seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver. The game continued and, perhaps not coincidentally, the Bucs started mounting their comeback. Brown’s antics made a mockery of his team, of Brady who been his No 1 advocate – some might say enabler – and of course himself. Again. All because, according to Fox’s Jay Glazer, Bucs coach Bruce Arians asked Brown to come into the game.

It was too much even for Arians who moments after the game declared that Brown “is no longer a Buc”.

As Brown has personified like no other, you can get away with pretty much anything in the NFL if you have talent. You can be an accused rapist, rob a delivery truck, and fake a vaccination card. You can quit on your previous teams. Too many coaches, Arians included, believe it will different when they get a hold of a troubled player with natural ability.

But even Arians reached a point with Brown after the fake vaccination card stunt where he was unable to sugarcoat the situation by pretending Brown was a changed man, or that he would go to therapy, or that he deserved his umpteenth chance for whatever other reason. When asked about Brown’s return from suspension and how people would react to giving him yet another opportunity after Arians had previously said Brown only had one chance, the frustrated coach responded: “I could give a shit what they think, the only thing I care about is this football team.”

Antonio Brown
Antonio Brown gestures to the crowd as he leaves the field with Tampa Bay’s offense on the field during Sunday’s third quarter. Photograph: Andrew Mills/AP

Translation: Antonio Brown can help us win football games, full stop.

Well, Brown won’t be helping the Bucs anymore because, less than two weeks after his return from suspension, he finally found a rule to break that will be judged more seriously than his many graver off-field misdeeds. He quit on his team on live television. Everyone saw it, so unlike his other, more serious alleged acts, his enablers can’t hide behind lame excuses. This was not mutual. He was not provoked. No one is trying to extort money from him. Blah, blah, blah. Brown is, simply put, not a person who respects, well, anything.

He remains, however, a damn good football player. In his previous three games before the shirtless farewell in New York, he amassed over 300 receiving yards and three touchdowns. Brown figured to be a key contributor for the Bucs as they defended their Super Bowl title defense in the playoffs, especially with Chris Godwin out for the season. The loss of Godwin and necessary ousting of Brown will make the Bucs chances of a repeat much slimmer.

But at least the Tampa Bay locker room has rid itself of an immeasurable amount of toxicity. Hopefully, for the sake of all the people Brown has tormented, this will truly be the final straw in his NFL career.

Video of the week

A FedExField railing came crumbling down in Dan Snyder’s sorry excuse for a stadium but luckily Philadelphia quarterback Jalen Hurts, fresh off a 20-16 win that by day’s end lifted the Eagles back into the playoffs, was there to save the day.

MVP(s) of the week

Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase, Cincinnati Bengals. One glance at Burrow’s and Chase’s stat lines (446 passing yards, four TDs and no INTs for Burrow, 266 receiving yards and three TDs for Chase) and you might think they were still at LSU beating up on some hapless Division II patsy. Instead, this explosion of offense came against the Kansas City Chiefs, who have been one of the NFL’s stoutest defenses this season. Burrow and Chase put the rest of the AFC on notice that the connection we saw in spades during the middle of the season is back and better than ever.

The Bengals’ gutsy 34-31 win came after being down two scores down. More importantly, it clinched the AFC North for Cincinnati, an incredible feat for a team that finished in the division cellar last season. Burrow did give Bengals supporters a slight scare when he came up favoring his right knee and sat out for the game’s final play, but we’re all set to declare him healthy.

Stat of the week

Bill Belichick records his 20th season with at least 10 wins. It rained points for New England early and often in a dominating 50-10 win over the hapless Jaguars. With the win, Belichick tied Don Shula as the only coaches in NFL history to achieve 10 wins in 20 separate seasons. Belichick acknowledged the feat after the game though wasn’t exactly self-congratulatory, “Players win games … fortunate to coach a lot of great players,” he told reporters. “I’ve been lucky.”

Belichick returns to the postseason after a one-year hiatus, thanks in large part to the quick maturation of Mac Jones. Jones was again efficient, completing 22 of 30 passes for 227 yards and three touchdowns. Conversely, Trevor Lawrence was erratic and threw three picks. Lawrence has shown signs of living up to the hype this season though probably less than most expected. But it’s hard not to ponder what Lawrence’s rookie season would have looked like had he been under steady hands like Belichick and Josh McDaniels and not inside the Urban Meyer trainwreck.

Quote of the week

“I wasn’t good enough today. We weren’t good enough today. That’s why the result was what it was.” – Mike McCarthy, following Dallas’s 25-22 loss to Arizona

There were myriad reasons the Cowboys lost on Sunday but none loom as large as McCarthy’s horrific clock management. McCarthy had no timeouts left on the Cardinals’ final drive, thus was unable to challenge what appeared to be an obvious delay of game and, more importantly, a fumble. (The fumble occurred right before the two-minute warning, after which it would have been under automatic review. )

Elsewhere around the league

The Dolphins’ seven-game win streak came to a dramatic halt as the Titans shellacked Miami 34-3 to not only clinch the AFC South but move into the No 1 seed in the AFC (by virtue of KC’s loss). Ryan Tannehill was efficient against his former team, but the Dolphins truly had no answer for D’Onta Foreman’s 132 yards and a score on 26 carries. Tennessee’s defense continues to be a revelation. The Dolphins, like most Titans opponents of late, struggled to both run and convert big plays.

Trey Lance
San Francisco quarterback Trey Lance (5) hands off to running back Eli Mitchell (25) in the second half of Sunday’s game against Houston. Photograph: Terry Schmitt/UPI/REX/Shutterstock

Rookie Trey Lance succeeded in his second start of the season as San Francisco bested Houston 23-7. It was a ho-hum performance for Lance in the first half as the offense struggled to generate momentum. But he came alive in the second, tossing two touchdowns including a beauty to Deebo Samuel. Having the 49ers’ defense pitch a shutout in the second half was a nice bonus. Despite the win, Kyle Shanahan quickly declared that Jimmy Garoppolo, who is nursing a thumb injury, will reclaim his starter role as soon as he is healthy. The 49ers can clinch a playoff spot with a win next week or a New Orleans loss.

The Raiders’ 23-20 win over Indianapolis was the first time this season a team beat Indy after allowing Jonathan Taylor to rush for over 100 yards. Now the Raiders have a pivotal matchup against the Chargers in Week 18 with the winner clinching a wild-card berth.

Las Vegas’s win was also a nice punctuation mark on an afternoon in which the life and influence of John Madden was widely celebrated with a moment of silence in every NFL stadium.

The Rams’ offense struggled mightily against a beaten-up Ravens secondary but came alive late to give Los Angeles a come-from-behind 20-19 win over a gutsy Ravens squad. A win in the NFL is always a glorious thing but Sean McVay has to be concerned about Matthew Stafford’s propensity for throwing the ball to the wrong team. Sunday’s two-interception game marked the fourth time this season that Stafford has thrown multiple picks.

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