Monday, January 22, 2018

Yes. Let Him Catch It

Following yet another comeback, leading to yet another AFC championship, against yet another team ready to hand the Patriots the victory, much of the discussion had focused on just how the Jaguars gave the game away.

The obvious stat to look at is the one-sided penalty totals. While the Patriots only committed one penalty on the day, the Jags had to deal with several crushing flags. A delay of game, a couple defensive pass interference, and a drive extending personal foul for a helmet to helmet hit.

That last one seems to draw the most discussion. Some people are saying it's just another example of people trying to take football out of football by removing the big hits. Some claim that it shouldn't have been a penalty because the defender tried to lead with his shoulder. Others, including Seahawks defensive back Richard Sherman, had a complaint along the lines of "what do you want them to do? Can't hit the knees. Can't hit the head. What's a defender supposed to do? Just let the guy catch the ball?'

Yes. That's exactly what he's supposed to do.

Well, I suppose that first he's supposed to be in the proper position so that he can knock the ball away without making contact with the receiver. (Like Stephon Gilmore did at the end of the game.) Or, in such great position that the quarterback doesn't dare throw it in the first place. But, yes. Other than those two options, if you can't stop him legally, you need to let the receiver catch the ball. Then just wrap him up with a good clean tackle. Malcolm Butler is pretty experienced with this. If you can't defend the pass, tackle the runner.

But, being unable to properly defend the pass isn't an excuse to commit a penalty. 

It reminds me of the baseball pitchers who think it's OK to put a substance on the ball if it's just to get a better grip. After all, without a better grip it's harder to control their curveball. If they can't control it, that's a safety issue for the hitter. So, they use a little pine tar. But, you know what else would make it safer for the hitters? Not throwing a curveball you can't control. Your inability to do something doesn't make it OK to cheat.

Just like your inability to cover Gronk doesn't make it OK to commit a penalty.

So don't tell me, "What can I do? I have to hit his knees or his head." That's garbage. Instead of flying out of control trying to jar the ball loose, pull up, and make a clean tackle. The fact that you suck isn't my problem.

Just because something is hard doesn't mean you don't have to do it. The rules are the rules. Does this make it easier to complete a pass? Yes. Sorry. Does this mean you have to learn how to wrap a guy up and actually tackle him, as opposed to trying to knock him over? Yes. Sorry. Does this mean someone like Gronk might require a double team? Yes. Sorry.

It doesn't mean you're allowed to commit a penalty.

Monday, December 18, 2017

That’s How You Know the NFL Isn’t a Real Sports League

The Patriots defeated the Steelers last night to regain the #1 seed in the AFC. They accomplished this, in part, because of the proper application of NFL rules.


Yeah, I know. That sentence seems weird to me too. I’d like to think that most victories are because of the proper application of league rules. But, I digress. Because, you know exactly what I’m talking about. After the Patriots took a three-point lead with about a minute left in the game, the defense had a bit of a brain cramp. They allowed a slant play to gain almost 70 yards, giving the Steelers first and goal at the ten yard line. Then, on the next play they allowed Jesse James to stand wide open at the goal line. Then things got weird.


James got the ball, spun to the ground, lunged for the goal line and stuck the ball into the end zone. There, the ball wobbled a bit as it hit the ground. After a long review to confirm the score, everyone began to realize that maybe people didn’t think it was a completed catch. And, lo and behold, that was what the call was. The old “catch-not a catch” rule reared its ugly head. It was ruled that since James was going to the ground, he needed to complete the catch before lunging for the goal. He didn’t. Incomplete.


Two plays later another QB tried a goal line slant against the Patriots, and was picked off to snatch defeat from the arms of victory.


This isn’t the first time that this rule has affected a play, or a game. It’s one of the reasons that when asked about his catch in the Super Bowl, Julian Edelman said he thought he caught it, but nobody really knows what a “catch” is these days. But, even though it initially causes some confusion, most impartial observers agree that they have been properly applying a bad rule.


It’s the sort of bad rule that having instant replay forces you into sometimes. Where suddenly you have to define something like “a catch” not in terms of looking at it and just knowing he caught it. No, you need a frame by frame definition. Can the ball move at all? By how much? How many milliseconds before the knee goes down? I think most everyone seeing it at full speed knew it was a catch, but in slow motion knew it wasn’t. That’s sort of an annoying rule.

Like I said, though, it’s a byproduct of instant replay. Major League Baseball had a similar issue when they first allowed replay review. They had to define things like “a catch” Was it when the ball entered the glove? When it hit the back of the glove? Did the glove have to fold in around the ball? What frame of video showed the catch? They also had trouble with the “transfer” rule. When did a player drop a ball when trying to throw it as opposed to trying to catch it? MLB really botched the first attempt at the transfer rule. Basically the way they wrote it, throwing the ball back to the infield constituted not catching it.

But, because MLB is a competitive sports league, they looked at changing the rule so it made sense. Having seen it in action, they knew examples of what they wanted the rule to look like and changed the wording to match. It was so important to them that they made the amazing decision to change the wording mid season. So now a catch that looked like a catch was ruled a catch. 

So what has the NFL done about their catch rule? Absolutely nothing. 

Because they don't care. They're not a competitive sports league. Every year they become more like WWE. They're basically the live version of fantasy football. It's just something for people to watch and bet on. 

Because a competitive league doesn't suspend its best player for no reason. It doesn't take away draft picks if a team is doing well. It doesn't pick one team to be a villain just to help ratings. And, they certainly don't allow something as crucial as catching the football to be ruled so awkwardly. 

When do you do all those things? When you just want viewers. When you need something for people to talk about. When you need a Kylo Ren for every Rey. When you want controversy to rule the water cooler in the morning. Any controversy. 

So the NFL is thrilled this morning. They don't care that one of their best teams lost because of a screwed up rule. They don't care that it threw the balance of power in the AFC from one team to another. They don't care that one team basically grabbed a folding chair to smack the other team with. They just care that EVERYONE is talking about it today. 

The WWE should be so lucky. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

Is That More Like It?

It's amazing how things can change. Before the season opener, many fans (not just me) were actually hinting that this patriots team might just flirt with 19-0. Even after losing Edelman, they were just too loaded.

Then they went out and laid an egg.

My goodness, everyone did a 180. This team was overrated! We ignored their flaws! They're just not good anymore!

Now, it's possible that the team was overrated. After all, hard to underrate a team when you're predicting it to go 19-0. But, in theory, the loss to the Chiefs should have been shocking. It's the sort of thing that happens. Teams sometime just don'r match up well, especially early in the season. There's a reason Patriots teams seem to get better as the season goes on. Because they do. As the team gels and everyone learns their job, it's easier for them to do their job. So, Kansas City was the right team at the right time. At least from their perspective. 

But, give the Patriots coaching staff that much game film to work with, and they came up with some new plans. New ways to make their limited personnel work for them.

Then they went out and crushed the Saints.

So, which is the real Patriots? Of course, they both are. The Pats have excelled lately at changing their entire approach depending on the game. One week they'll air it out for 500 yards. The next, run the ball almost exclusively. It's what's so fascinating about this dynasty. You never know what you're going to see.

Other than lots of wins.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

We're On To 2017

It wasn't quite long enough, was it? I know I could have used some more time to bask in the glow of the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history. I could have watched those highlights a few more times. Heck, Do Your Job 2 just came out. I've only seen it once!

But, it had to happen. Tonight the patriots start the defense of their latest title. And, once again, they seem to be on the way to another one.

Spoiled brats.

Because, just how good is this team going to be? Pretty damn good. Maybe not quite as good as they were a couple weeks ago, but plenty good. I can't imagine picking against them any week they play. They took the team that won the Super Bowl, added Gronk, swapped Edelman for Cooks, and added a star cornerback. Yup. That sounds pretty good to me.

I remember prior to the 2007 season, the EEIdiots were doing their win predictions. Of course, it was hard to find a game they were going to lose. They finally decided that the team would lose a game or two because a team always loses a game or two. They didn't know which one, but there would be one, and it would be a shock when it happens. Which is, of course, exactly how it played out. 

That's where I am this year. They'll probably lose a couple games. Maybe their last game after wrapping up home field. Maybe Atlanta will catch them napping in their revenge game. Maybe there will be a few drops in some rainy game. Whatever it it, we'll be surprised when it happens. But, it won't happen a lot.

In fact, I say twice. Which puts them at 14-2 with smooth sailing through the AFC playoffs.

What do you think?

Monday, February 20, 2017

These Championships are Getting Expensive

I know. Poor spoiled New England fan. Your teams win too many championships. Boo hoo.

And, that's probably the proper reaction.

But, that doesn't mean that there really is something to think about. After all, if you're a collector, your team winning a championship means you'll be spending money. Even if you're like me and tend to shy away from big ticket items. I tend to go for mass quantities of cheaper items. Newspapers. Magazines. Soda cans and bottles. Which is why for this most recent Super Bowl win, I think I'm about done. I finally tracked down a commemorative Pepsi can. I could add that to the two Sports Illustrated magazines, program, and three newspapers. I love the newspapers and magazines especially since they really capture the moment. I like being able to put the championships into context like that. More than a t-shirt or autographed football can.

Plus, I've learned from all the practice New England fans have had. I tend to stay away from t-shirts now. For one thing, there's expensive. Plus, I amassed quite a few of them before I pulled myself back in. So, adding more is just excessive at this point. Besides, shirts calling out AFC champs, or even FOUR TIME CHAMPS just seem outdated now. So I make a real effort to avoid that sort of stuff. Unless, you know, it's cheap.


I've also learned how to find the things I do collect. I know which stores are open first thing in the morning that have a newspaper. And, which ones might have an early edition with a different headline. (Really mad I missed any "Falcons win" editions this year.) I know which stores get the magazines, and which have the cheapest prices. Its a skill. I don't want to miss anything just because I didn't know where to find it?

From, here I'll eventually add a picture to hang on the wall at some point. But, that's all that's left of my "regular" purchases. (Still love that I have "regular" purchases after my team wins a championship.) And, you never know what cool new thing will be out there that I've never thought of. But, hopefully I'll be able to keep the budget where it needs to be. Because, as I said, this can get expensive.

Which items are on your "must buy" championship collectible list?

Friday, February 10, 2017

Adding to the Championship Grid

After the last Patriots Super Bowl title, I realized that there were then nine champions for Boston professional sports in this century. If you had images of those nine titles, you could lay them out in a nice 3x3 grid. That would make for a pretty cool wall display.

But, they shouldn't be just any images. Sure, images of the first pitch and kickoff and tip off and puck drop of the championships would be neat, but pretty boring. And, not exactly important.

I felt that the grid should be made up of the seminal moment from each of the title runs. Either the most satisfying, or memorable moment of each title. Which images did I think should go into a grid?

2002 Patriots: Game winning field goal.
2004 Patriots: Game winning field goal.
2004 Red Sox: Foulke underhanding to Mientkiewicz.
2005 Patriots: Deion Branch catch.
2007 Red Sox: Papelbon jumping on Varitek
2008 Celtics: The new big three in action
2011 Bruins: Tim Thomas making a save
2013 Red Sox: The three players making the "safe" sign at home plate.
2014 Patriots: Malcolm Butler pick.

Those were the nine I would pick. Obviously, nothing is set in stone. Still wonder if a Victorino grand slam pic is better for 2013 Sox...but that wasn't in the World Series. Should that matter?

Anyway, we now have another one to add. I guess that means it can't be a 3x3 grid anymore. Have to go 5x2 or something. But, which image would you pick from Super Bowl LI? Some candidates jump to mind. Obviously the Edelman catch jumps to mind. What about James White driving to the end zone with the winning score? How about just about any picture of Tom Brady? (Well, ok, not the one of him diving to try and stop the interception return.) For me? As much as the Elelman pic would be a great one, and one that I definately want an autographed version of, I think the White score does it for me. Nothing means as much as the first ever overtime game-winning score. Never been a moment like that before.

Which one would you chose?

Which ten?

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

That is why We're Cocky

I'm still not sure I've come down yet. Sunday night was so over the top of anything I was expecting, I've been all over the place since then. What was supposed to be a cake walk became a thriller. It hasn't really had a chance to sit it. I've just been going through the motions. Watch the post game ceremony. Get out early to buy a newspaper. Two newspapers. A program. Watch video clips online all night.

But it's still not real.

Even though you always knew there was a chance, coming back from down 28-3 just requires such a perfect execution it's hard to really be comfortable with it.

Because, of course the Patriots were always potentially able to come back. I mean, really crazy territory, didn't they score three touchdowns in like three plays in the buttfumble game? It went something like pick-6, fumbled kick off returned, buttfumble return. Right? And, they came back against SF or Denver, or maybe both, where they just dominated the game for a chunk of time. Like the had a second gear in reserve. Scored three or four touchdowns by simply outplaying the other team.

Add to that the fact that when you really looked at it, Atlanta hadn't dominated the way the score would suggest. The pick-6 was skewing things. It wasn't completely far-fetched to think they could shut them down for a bit.

So, it was always a possibility. The clock just started to be more of an enemy than we might have liked. You started to do the math in your head. How many possessions are there time for? That's where the strip sack was huge. It made the math work again. All they had to do was do it.

So, that's why New England fans are cocky. It's not some sort of "In Bill We Trust" brainwashing. It's not some ego thrusting itself on everyone. We assume that the Patriots are going to pull it out, because they so often pull it out. It's like assuming that David Ortiz will come through in the clutch. Of course he will...he always does. Of course Brady will bring them back. He brought them back from 25 points down in the third quarter of the Super Bowl. The last time, he brought them back from down ten points in the fourth quarter to win the Super Bowl. That was after he brought them back from down 14 points...twice...in the AFC Divisional game.

So, the next time the Patriots are trailing, why would we worry?  There is apparently, nothing Brady can't do. 

It's not cockiness when you're right.

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