For a league that painstakingly stresses the importance of parity and an even playing field, the practice of home teams withholding replays from visiting coaches has been a curious tradition for as long as instant replay has existed in the NFL.
On one hand, the league wants there to be a legitimate benefit of a team playing on its home stadium. Though the practice adds a nice bit of cutthroat gamesmanship to each contest, it also means that plays that are incorrectly ruled by officials remain so because a coach never got an adequate view of a close play that might require a second look.
Denying a quick video replay to the road team is obviously not cheating because the league hasn't deemed it as such, but it does often leave fans of the visiting team feeling they got screwed by the league in some fashion.
This played a pivotal role in a big game Sunday when a 4th down drop by Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez in the second quarter of Atlanta's 20-17 victory over Packers was ruled a completion. It was not challenged by Packers coach Mike McCarthy, however, because his assistants couldn't get a video replay of the reception before the Falcons took their next snap. The Falcons would go on to score a touchdown on the drive. Do the math and you can see that it played no small part in the final outcome of the game.
That evening, Tony Dungy discussed his experience as a coach with home teams denying equal exposure to video.
With the amount of scrutiny that incorrect rulings receive from fans and the media, you would think that the league might be willing to curb this practice, lest such a situation swing an even more significant contest. Obviously, such situations don't matter inside the final two minutes of each half, but it's not like game-swinging plays can't occur outside crunch time.
Weighing a playful bit element of competitive imbalance against the resulting fallout that results from unchallengeable bad rulings is a tough one for the league to make. But unless the competition committee decides to revisit the issue later on, it appears the die has been cast on this matter. I'm all for the home team taking every advantage at its disposal within the confines of the rules. It's just comes down to whether the league is willing to take the brunt of the criticism that comes when the practice stops a significant officiating mistake from being corrected.
NFL Player Tweet Of The Week
I PRAISE YOU 24/7!!!!!! AND THIS HOW YOU DO ME!!!!! YOU EXPECT ME TO LEARN FROM THIS??? HOW???!!! ILL NEVER FORGET THIS!! EVER!!! THX THO...
Since God gets all the credit for athletic success, I suppose it's only fair that He gets some flack every once and a while when a player pulls an incredible blunder, as Bills receiver Stevie Johnson did in overtime at home against Pittsburgh. And the rest of the game as well, you could say. Dude did have five drops overall.
Bust on the studio team for the disdainful reaction to Johnson's emotional press conference, but the guy wasn't ready to be respectful of anyone's feelings when he was scrawling taunting messages on his shirt last week in Cincinnati. I'm sure the drop was agonizing for Johnson and he'll be coping with it for the rest of this season, but unless he puts it behind him soon, he could squandering what has mostly been a promising season for the young receiver.
Truth About Advertising
And here I thought the Halloween Snickers ad had the inside track for creepiest commercial of the year. It might not even end of being the most unsettling spot that has aired in the last month. Pond man takes it. And by it, I mean my nightmares from now until forever. He's like a sinister amalgamation of an Ent from Lord of the Rings and Moss Man, made more malevolent with the pragmatism of a corporate structure that demands results. There will be no tarrying. Pond man will kill with disturbing efficiency. Oh, and when he creeps into the white tub, he looks like one of those stupid imitation grass electronics charging stations that no one has likely ever bought, which is just annoying. But also terrifying.
Facepalms of Note
I'll give Jim Schwartz's Lions for battling valiantly against the Patriots on Thanksgiving. For three quarters, at least. And I suppose you can exclude Alphonso Smith from that mention. Either way, Schwartz put out enough fodder for a slideshow gallery of exasperated facial gestures. And this first one happened when the team was still in the lead, albeit wasting precious time to score before the end of the first half.
After the first long Deion Branch touchdown where he eluded Smith's tackle for what seemed like an hour and a half for making it to the end zone, the cameras cut to Schwartz, who you could clearly see mouthing "what the fuck is going on?" into his head set? I could spend all of Thanksgiving digesting that anguish.
An honorable mention goes to the Panthers sideline reaction to John Kasay missing a would-be game-winning 42-yard field goal against Cleveland. Running back Josh Vaughan looks like he's being possessed by the pagan spirit of defeat, who shockingly spared Jake Delhomme for what might be the first time in years.
Holy S***, Michael Vick to Brent Celek
Sure, that's an okay throw, if your idea of accuracy is jamming the football into an interstitial space so tiny that seems as though the football passes through four defenders like a glitch in a video game. Me, I'm more partial to the surety with which Jake Delhomme calculatingly directs the ball to former teammates in Carolina.
Justin Tuck May Retrieve His Jock From The Ground
The Giants rallied late to top the Jaguars to grab a win that it turns out they didn't need as desperately as they initially thought with the Eagles losing later in the day. Then again, not losing a third straight and being able to draw even again with Philly was a huge deal for the G-men. Nevertheless, hopefully Justin Tuck can locate the lower half of his body he lost on David Garrard's touchdown scramble yesterday in time for New York's stretch run. I have a feeling it could be vital.
Your Weekly Questionable James Harrison Personal Foul
I know I harp on this a lot, but how exactly are defenders expected to hit a quarterback? The late Thanksgiving game between the Jets and Bengals had another two atrocious personal foul penalties, one on a completely legal hit on Terrell Owens in the end zone that was deemed excessive and another routine hit on Carson Palmer that was flagged for 15 yards.
James Harrison was flagged for a hit again Sunday, which marks the second game in a row for him. And this, like the hit last week on Jason Campbell, is another incredibly iffy call. Yes, Harrison lowers his head some, but he has to to avoid striking Fitzpatrick in the head. You can't go low on a quarterback lest you open yourself up to being penalized because of the Tom Brady Rule and you obviously can't go high on them, either. So how is a pass rusher expected to hit the middle of a person's body without angling themselves forward for the hit?
It's impossible. It's like the league wants rushers to bound at passers with backs rigidly upright and arms outstretched for a bear hug. Which, obviously, is slow and an incredibly ineffective way to get to the quarterback quickly. It make the defense's job nearly impossible. Every offensive coordinator in the league might as well instruct their quarterback to throw the ball just before the rush gets to them. You're virtually assured of getting a flag almost every time.
A Delicious Bundle Of Gripes
- That Bucs corner Aqib Talib got into a profanity laced fight with a referee after the loss to Ravens is an amusing enough story for me, but that the ref told Talib that he played like shit makes it the best, really. And yeah, I realize it might be unfair given that Talib made an amazing between-the-legs interception of Joe Flacco yesterday. I'm willing to take obscene trash talk from a referee, fairness be damned.
- So with the latest taping opponents scandal Josh McDaniels has not only reignited talk of Spygate, but also his involvement with the Patriots cheating and whether the league should reopen investigation (it won't). Pretty bad stuff, but it does help steer focus away from Peyton Hillis piling up an additional 194 total yards and three touchdowns yesterday against the Panthers. But hey, that Brady Quinn does make for a more devilishly handsome benchmate, does he not, fellas?
- Jeff Reed was 0-4 from between 40-49 yards this season for the Steelers. Shaun Suisham was a perfect 4-4 from that range yesterday in Buffalo, including the game-winner in overtime. I'll drink to that.
- To whomever started the groundless Jon Gruden to Miami rumors: please stop toying with my emotions. Next you'll tell me Joe Theismann and Matt Millen are charting a three-person journey to the center of the sun with Chris Berman. Not nice.
-To my knowledge, it hasn't been absolutely determined that it was a suicide attempt that forced a 23-year-old to leap off the top level Soldier Field onto a nearby rooftop where he died, but either way it was a tragic sidenote for yesterday's action.