Last season, NFL players threw 395 interceptions. That may feel like a lot, but with 17 weeks in the regular season, that’s an average of only 23 interceptions per week.
OK, maybe that still feels like a lot. But you know what’s definitely a lot? There were 21 interceptions in the 1 p.m. ET slate of NFL games.
Maybe I’m too picky with my quarterback play (listen, even I’m upset I just wrote that), but it sure felt like the early afternoon quarterbacks were in a secret battle to see who could throw the worst possible interception. Honestly, if you’re looking for wild interceptions, you have your pick of the litter from this first slate (I promise I’ll stop).
It’ll be easier to show you than tell you. I have ranked each of the 21 interceptions—instead of just cherry-picking the good ones—in terms of general absurdity, and we’ll assess each from most “Oh, yeah, that’s an NFL play that happens sometimes” to “Which sport am I watching again?”
Have a bone to pick with my rankings? Well, you should pick on someone your own size.
Tier 4: Kudos to the Defender, That’s a Fine Play
21. Joe Burrow’s second INT of the day (picked off by Jaylon Johnson).
Let’s revisit Jaylon Johnson’s first career INT today.
Textbook bail coverage, squaring his hips inside and recognizing the curl quickly. He reads Burrow’s eyes and bursts well downhill to pick the ball off. That’s CB1 play right there. #Bears pic.twitter.com/usoG1c6yhL
— Jacob Infante (@jacobinfante24) September 19, 2021
That’s film study and great technique right there. Jaylon Johnson is expecting the stop route the entire way—watch how quickly he undercuts the route. He’s a great young player, and he just got Burrow on this one.
20. Trevor Lawrence’s second INT of the day (picked off by Patrick Surtain II).
Not the best throw, not the best competition from the wideout, but a nice finish to the play by Patrick Surtain II (whom the Jaguars had been picking on earlier in this game). We give the nod to the rookie here … Surtain, that is. Not Lawrence. (We’ll blame Lawrence for his other pick soon.)
19. Jacoby Brissett’s only INT of the day (picked off by Levi Wallace).
This is not the best play from Brissett. This ball needs more velocity and should be delivered more emphatically to the back shoulder, but kudos to Levi Wallace. This is excellent play recognition on a ghost screen. Jaylen Waddle is trying to clear him out while tight end Mike Gesicki is pretending to block for the screen before climbing upfield. Wallace reads it all in real time.
18. Justin Fields’s only INT of the day (picked off by Logan Wilson).
Here we have a good teachable moment for the rookie passer. Fields throws the drag route in rhythm at the top of his drop, and the picture sure does look clean when he makes that decision. But Cincinnati’s got a great call dialed up for the formation the Bears are showing in this down and distance—the Bengals are expecting the drag route, so Logan Wilson peels off his blitz and sinks into the window. Great defensive call here.
Tier 3: Shucks! Unlucky
17. Joe Burrow’s third INT of the day (picked off by Angelo Blackson).
This could be a Tier 2 pick, because Burrow shouldn’t be throwing this football, especially not with an unblocked rusher directly in his face. But watching your back whiff on pass protection and the ball fall into a defensive lineman’s mitts as you get planted yet again, after throwing consecutive picks … that sucks, man.
16. Jameis Winston’s second INT of the day (picked off by Jaycee Horn).
Listen, it’s the end of the fourth quarter in a 19-point game. I’m not gonna fault Jameis for Jameising … this time.
15. Jacob Eason’s only INT of the day (picked off by Jalen Ramsey).
This isn’t a “Shucks! Unlucky” because of the nature of the throw: The throw is late and bad. It’s a “Shucks! Unlucky” because the Colts were hanging around with the Rams, had a chance to win the game, and had to play backup QB Jacob Eason because Carson Wentz got his ankle twisted on the previous drive. This was Eason’s second career passing attempt.
14. Zach Wilson’s second INT of the day (picked off by Adrian Phillips).
Wilson gets a pass for this one. It’s an aggressive throw into tight coverage, but the ball hits his receiver on the hands. Even if he shouldn’t have attempted this pass, there are … other throws he shouldn’t have attempted.
13. Matthew Stafford’s only INT of the day (picked off by Khari Willis).
Definition of “Shucks! Unlucky.” The ball was tipped at the line of scrimmage and spun right over to Khari Willis. Don’t worry: John Wolford isn’t coming for Stafford’s job … yet.
12. Baker Mayfield’s only INT of the day (picked off by Justin Reid).
Here’s the Baker Mayfield interception and subsequent injury.
Seems like Anthony Schwartz gave up on his route, so it ends up being an overthrown INT.
Baker gets in on the tackle, and Justin Reid drove hard right through Mayfield’s left shoulder.pic.twitter.com/20MA6sTH2b
— Billy Heyen (@BillyHeyen) September 19, 2021
It was generally a good day in the office for Mayfield, who toughed it out after sustaining a shoulder injury when trying to make this tackle. Rookie WR Anthony Schwartz needs to finish this route with speed to make a play on the ball. Mayfield probably needs to try a little less hard; there are four other Browns who could make this tackle.
11. Davis Mills’s only INT of the day (picked off by Malcolm Smith).
I don’t really know what to do with this one. Davis Mills is a rookie third-round pick who was thrust into the starting role in a tight game against a good defense, and he’s on a terrible Texans roster. This ball isn’t accurate, but it’s not horrible. I just feel bad for the guy.
Tier 2: No No No, Can’t Do That
10. Joe Burrow’s first INT of the day (picked off by Roquan Smith).
This throw is kinda tough for Burrow, who’s looking to make a quick completion on third-and-short and ends up catching the teeth of a flooded zone. With that said, when you throw it directly at a guy and then get stiff-armed into the pylon as he scores, you have officially reached Tier 2 status.
9. Trevor Lawrence’s first INT of the day (picked off by Kareem Jackson).
I love the play design: Jet action from Laviska Shenault Jr., fake rollout from Trevor Lawrence, and the tight end comes across the formation and works back upfield. It’s a play that a lot of offenses run variations on, but the quarterback simply cannot be late to the throw here. Otherwise, the free safety will realize what’s happening, and … yeah.
Can’t do that.
8. Josh Allen’s only INT of the day (picked off by Xavien Howard).
Josh Allen hasn’t dominated early in 2021 the way he did in 2020, and plays like these are the reason why. This ball is both late and inaccurate. Stefon Diggs beats Xavien Howard off the line, but when Allen delays the delivery of the ball, Diggs starts to lean upfield, creating the window for Howard to undercut the route and catch the inaccurate pass.
7. Ben Roethlisberger’s only INT of the day (picked off by Trayvon Mullen).
Few quarterbacks in the league can get away with this. At this stage in his career, Big Ben is absolutely not one of them.
Tier 1: Nathan Peterman? Is That You?
6. Zach Wilson’s first INT of the day (picked off by JC Jackson).
It feels mean to put three of Zach Wilson’s interceptions in Tier 1, but his picks qualify. This pick honors the spirit of Nathan Peterman, in that it goes directly to a defender, even though that’s not the defender who ends up picking it off. Had this been Wilson’s only bad pick of the day, you could shrug it aside as a rookie brain fart and trudge on forward with Zach Wilson hype.
This was not Wilson’s only bad pick of the day.
5. Jameis Winston’s first INT of the day (picked off by Juston Burris).
Jameis Winston set an NFL record by throwing for fewer than 150 yards and still totalling five passing touchdowns last week against the Green Bay Packers. It made us all wonder if a new-look, improved, and post-Lasik Jameis was the rising star of the 2021 season.
And then he threw the most iconic, Tampa-era Jameis pick I’ve ever seen, including the awesome first half of the play—look at that pump fake! Iconic.
4. Carson Wentz’s only INT of the day (picked off by Troy Reeder).
Let’s be honest: This is DPI against Aaron Donald, and it is frankly appalling that it wasn’t called.
Nah, I’m just playing. Throwing a goal line pick on a shovel pass is the funniest thing I’ve ever seen.
3. Sam Darnold’s only INT of the day (picked off by Malcolm Roach).
Stop trying to make the shovel pass happen. It’s not going to happen.
2. Zach Wilson’s third INT of the day (picked off by JC Jackson again).
This interception must be consumed in two pieces. First, watch how confidently Wilson steps up and delivers this ball.
Then, watch where the ball lands. A masterpiece.
Tier 1A: The Fourth Interception Thrown in a Single Game by a Quarterback Today
1. Zach Wilson’s fourth INT of the day (picked off by Devin McCourty).
I have never seen “I have nothing to lose” so clearly embodied on the football field.