Well, the Super Bowl teams are set. The two Championship Weekend games taken as a pair were as exciting as they have ever been; both games went to OT and the way the two overtimes unfolded could not have been more different. Notwithstanding the nail-biting nature of the games, there is a cloud that hangs over all of this. There is an inescapable horror here:
- A completely botched call by the officials in the Saints/Rams game most likely determined the outcome of the game.
I am not going to bang on the officials for that horrendous call; it was an example of human error and until all the officials are replaced by AI robots, we will have to accept the fact of human error. Having said that, my experiences as an official in my younger days remind me that THE worst thing that can happen to an official is to realize he has blown a call and that blown call determined the outcome of the game. There must be several members of that officiating crew who are not happy with themselves this morning.
There is a bigger problem here than the mistake that was made and the bad feelings of some of the officials from yesterday. The problem is this:
- Instant replay was added to the game of NFL football to make sure that egregious errors such as the one from yesterday did not stand. Instant replay was NOT introduced to look at a million slow-motion replays to determine if the “ball moved” in the process of completing the act of catching a pass.
- The problem here is not instant replay or the technology; the problem here is the rule written by the Competition Committee to govern the “intrusion” of instant replay onto the game. Since this was a penalty call – or non-call – and was a matter of judgment, there is no provision whereby someone or something sounds an alarm and tells the officials on the field that they have just screwed the pooch – to steal a line from The Right Stuff.
- And, when the Competition Committee meets this Spring to consider rule changes/tweaks and finds this situation on its agenda, they must be very judicious to avoid over-reaction to yesterday’s horror show. The games would be made into travesties if every pass play had to be scrutinized for the presence of pass interference (offensive or defensive and called or not-called).
What happened yesterday is almost certain to result in a rule change. I do not know what that change will be – – but the Competition Committee needs to tread carefully. Normally, the committee meets in late March; that is a good thing; if the committee meeting were this Thursday, the chances for a wild over-reaction would be at least 80%. The NFL and the fans all need some time to decompress here.
I said that the two overtimes unfolded differently yesterday. The Saints won the toss for OT and took the ball. The Rams’ defense intercepted a pass and set up a long field goal for the winning score. In the other game, the Pats won the toss and took the ball. They then proceeded to take the ball down the field converting three third-down situations along the way to score a TD and win the game without giving Patrick Mahomes a chance to step onto the field. The fundamental difference exhibited here demonstrates the underpinning of the NFL’s OT rule. People on sports radio late last night were arguing that the rule is unfair because the Chiefs never got the ball in OT. While I do not think the OT rule is perfect by any means – and it is not the one I would write if I were Dictator of the Universe – those complaints are nonsense. There are 3 reasons why the Chiefs did not get a chance to put their offensive unit on the field:
- The Chiefs’ defense did not create a turnover.
- The Chiefs’ defense did not force a punt.
- The Chiefs’ defense did not hold the Pats to a field goal.
From those 3 reasons please note 2 important things:
- It was the Chiefs’ defense – part of the Chiefs’ team to be sure – that did not perform in a way such as to get the offense off the bench and into the game.
- Defense is part of the game of football.
The fact here is that the Chiefs lost the game because the Chiefs’ defense was not up to the task of doing what defenses are designed to do at the most crucial time in the game. This is not a “rules problem”; this is a “performance problem”.
With the opponents for the Super Bowl now set, we will enter into two weeks of hyper-frenetic bloviating about the upcoming game. We have a bunch of story lines:
- The “old QB” – arguably the GOAT – taking on the “upstart/young buck QB”.
- The QB taken as the #1 pick in the draft against the QB taken as the 199th pick in the draft.
- The sure-to-be Hall of Fame coach versus the wunderkind coach.
- Brandin Cooks with the Pats in the Super Bowl last year and with the Rams in the Super Bowl this year.
- Where was Todd Gurley for most of the NFC Championship Game? Is he hurt?
I will try to refrain from engaging in any of those sorts of discussions over the next two weeks and I most certainly will not pay even a shred of attention to the Pro Bowl Game next weekend. My focus on the upcoming Super Bowl will have to do with four things:
- How do the teams match up on the field?
- Are there any interesting/curious trends related to the game?
- Are there any interesting prop bets for the game?
- Am I still invited to the traditional Super Bowl party thrown by the person who arranges the logistics for our annual Las Vegas excursion?
Finally, Brad Dickson Tweeted out this great idea:
My idea: show war criminals episodes of “The Masked Singer” in lieu of waterboarding.
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………