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Are We Going To Blame The Refs?

Welp, that’s what everyone wants to do of course.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times:  You simply could not pay me enough to be an official in any sport.  Any place on the field.  At any time.  Etc.

These guys all have to make a split second decision on just about every play.  While we as fans get to see roughly 8,000 angles in instant replay in…well, an instant.

Most of the time, these guys actually do a pretty good job.  I often find myself amazed that they are able to see as many things as they are able to see.

I will say, some of these officials look like they are older than Jesus himself.  So maybe it is time for them to retire.  Some of the baseball umpires look like they can’t fit through many regular-sized doors either.  So maybe it’s time to introduce them to a treadmill, at the very least.

But they normally do a better job than we give them credit for.

Now, Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium was not one of those days.

But were they really to blame for the New England Patriots’ loss?

Unlikely.

Sure, there were some horrible calls against the Pats:  The N’Keal Harry non-TD.  The Stephon Gilmore non-scoop and score.  The non-defensive pass interference on Phillip Dorsett.  Something coming out of the Gilmore/Sammy Watkins “scuffle”.  The failed first challenge where even if the Chiefs were determined to get the first down, the spot was still a yard further down the field than it should have been.  The 5 yard penalty mark off instead of 10.

But we’ve already heard about all of those ad nauseam.

The Chiefs had some bogus calls too.  But we don’t hear the specifics about them.  Especially around here.

There were also several flags dropped and then picked up.  The one I remember most clearly is when Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes was dropped after the pass by Pats DE Chase Winovich.  First, it was going to be roughing the passer.  But the zebras decided to pick the flag up because “the defensive player went off to the side…”  Or something like that.  Then TV showed the replay and it showed Winovich landing right on top of Mahomes.

Yada, yada, yada as someone in Seinfeld would say.

The refs simply did not cost anyone the game, however horrible they were.

Was Gilmore truly going to score on that fumble pickup?  How do we know that?  Furthermore, that same drive was the Harry play.  Two plays after that missed call, Jakobi Meyers dropped a touchdown pass.

So they still should have gotten the seven either way.  If Meyers makes that catch.

They lost some time, sure.  But only 4 points (since they kicked a field goal).  Not 14, like some people want to think.  That’s how I’ve been hearing it anyway.

And for the people that are encouraged about the defensive play in the second half…we may have to pump the brakes on that as well.  We all could see Mahomes did something to his hand in the first half.  Apparently, it was causing him problems as the game went on.  So that tempers things a bit, I would say.

This all comes back to the offense…and in large part, the offensive line…again.  A week after giving Tom Brady seemingly plenty of time to throw against Houston, the same could not be said against KC.

Don’t get me wrong, Brady was not great in this game.  But the OL was atrocious.  The receivers other than Julian Edelman apparently could not get open.  When Meyers was open, he dropped a slew of passes.  Where is Mohamed Sanu, by the way?  The Dorsett early season hype train has jumped the tracks.  Harry played 2 plays.  Sony Michel was abysmal and would have been with or without a good line performance.  KC penalties and 2 trick plays helped the NE offense move the ball.  Not ideal.

You know who else we can blame even more than the offense?  COACHING!

Not one of Bill Belichick’s best games.  Or Josh McDaniels’ either.  Or whoever calls the defensive plays.

To wit:

*Questionable challenging the aforementioned spot.  Or offensive pass interference on that same play.  The odds of those getting overturned are low.  Not to mention it cost them when they didn’t have a challenge left on the Harry “TD”.  I know it’s hard to predict the future, but…

*Eschewing a 45 yard field goal on 4th and 7, presumably because kicker Nick Folk had his previous attempt blocked.  The 4th down play was unsuccessful.

*Going for a two-point conversion earlier than they needed to.  The try was unsuccessful.

*Attempting a punt block early in the fourth quarter and leaving no one back to return the punt.  The punt was not blocked and it ended up becoming like a 57 yard punt because it rolled quite a bit.

*Someone not telling Harry to get back on the field after the non-TD call.  We all could see Brady gesturing for him to get back on the field.  The next play was rushed and was a 5 yard loss on a run by James White.  Sure, the play we believe was also rushed because the officials apparently never reset the play clock after everyone ran off the field thinking it was a TD.  Maybe Brady was gesturing wildly for a play to be called.  Either way…

*Couple of conversions by the Chiefs on 2nd and 3rd and really long.

That’s more second guessing of Bill and his boys than I can ever remember doing.  Well, other than why didn’t Malcolm Butler play against the Eagles in the Super Bowl.  But at least that was only one move.

There were many reasons why the Patriots lost to the Chiefs.  The officials were just one of those reasons.

Some other brief thoughts on the game…and future:

*Part of me thinks Brady could have scored on his late run.  Now, there was a guy lined up to hit him for sure.  But it looked to me like he was laying up a bit.  And I didn’t see any other Chief defender in the picture.  I could be 100% wrong on both.  But I can dream, right?

*Time to give up on Michel?  Looks like he needs a better than average line and perhaps a better fullback than linebacker Elandon Roberts to do ANYTHING.  Everyone agrees he looked completely soft Sunday.  Playing Rex Burkhead more I would love.  But then he would just hurt sooner.  Can we finally get a real look at Damien Harris please?

*I’ve supported Meyers all year and I do believe there is something there.  And just last week, I said maybe it’s time to put Harry on ice.  This week, I’m thinking to scale back Meyers.  And force feed Harry against the next three opponents to see if he can be anything in the playoffs.  The Bengals, Bills and Dolphins should provide ample opportunity for that.  And maybe his confidence (and Brady’s in him) can skyrocket.

*I’m almost at the point where I want replay gone in all sports.  It seems to be more trouble than it’s worth.  But on the Gilmore and Harry plays, it is inexplicable that the refs did not let replay make their decision for them.  Heard something yesterday where the NFL is “going to look into things in the offseason”.  That kind of scares me a little bit though.

*Video scandal.  Here we go again.  I am not sure I have much to say until more stuff comes out.  But it would be extremely hard for me to believe that Belichick and anyone running “the project” would allow themselves to be put into this position after what they went through during Spygate.  It’s just inconceivable.  Belichick thinks he is smarter than everyone else and he very well may be.  But to act this smug.  Right in plain sight?  Taping the 1-12 Bungles?  I just don’t see it.  But the rest of the nation most assuredly has already made their judgment.  Let’s see what happens when all the info comes out.  But it’s not a good look, I will allow for that.

*One thing that can maybe help bury this video thing is if the team re-signed receiver Antonio Brown, like, right now.  Just think about how fast at least the local press will turn.  Perhaps the national press too.  Perfect timing, no?  Actually, I lifted this particular note from a comment I heard yesterday afternoon.  I never even considered it and even if I don’t really want Brown back on the team, it would be a typical shady move by a professional team.  Do it in the middle of the night when most people are sleeping or something.  Anyway, thanks for putting this thought in my head Craig F!!

On to the Thursday game:

New York Jets at Baltimore (-14.5)

The Buffalo Bills gave the Ravens a game last week.  Baltimore QB Lamar Jackson apparently has a quad injury.  Short week, anything can happen.  Especially if Le’Veon Bell plays, instead of going bowling like he did the night before he skipped last Sunday’s game against the Dolphins with the flu.  But hey, he bowled a 251, so the weekend was not all lost.  That all being said, I don’t expect “anything can happen” to happen here.  Although the Pats loss to KC may allow Baltimore to ease off the pedal a smidge in the race for the #1 seed, I doubt the Ravens will overlook the Jets with two potentially competitive divisional games next on the schedule.  Jackson may get some rest late, but that will be because the game will be well out of hand by then.

Baltimore 38, New York Jets 17.  

Week (against the spread):  9-7

Week (straight up):  11-5

Lock Of The Week (season, ATS):  7-7

Season (against the spread):  103-105

Season (straight up):  134-74

 

These Flags Are KILLING Me…

…and everyone else of course, right?

Big topic around the league recently.  Simply because all of these penalties being called in the NFL has somewhat affected “watchability” of the game itself…for the Blowhard anyway.  Especially the Dallas Cowboy/New York Jet game last week, where near the end of the game there were penalties called on SIX CONSECUTIVE PLAYS.  Believe me, I hate both of those teams so I had no interest in watching either of those clowns.  BUT, of course, I had the Cowboys in not one, not two, but THREE knockout pools.  (Thanks Jason Garrett!!).  Shame on me…but I digress…

Listen, officials could call pass interference, holding, illegal contact and several other penalties on EVERY play if they wanted to.  Doesn’t it seem like they actually ARE calling them on every play now though?

Yeah, yeah, every year the NFL Competition Committee hands down some “points of emphasis” for the officials to start clamping down on.  But by Week 6, a lot of those infractions that were called in the preseason and the early regular season weeks to get the players’ attention have been virtually eliminated.  Start out strong, then wane down as the season progresses.  Seems to happen every year.

Not this season, I don’t think.

Is it more than “point of emphasis” calls then?

I don’t know.

But what I do know is that the biggest change of the offseason was giving the head coaches the ability to challenge offensive pass interference calls.  Due to the atrocity that occurred in the NFC Championship Game last season.

But you know what?  They aren’t reversing any of those.  Or a fraction anyway.

So why bother with that rule now?

People are blaming everyone from the Commissioner to the Competition Committee, to the owners, to the coaches, to Senior VP of Officiating Al Riveron, to the refs themselves.  Who do I blame?  All of them!!  Let’s face it, they all have a role in this mess.  But where doe the largest piece of blame pie go?

Replay.

I know, some penalties cannot be even replayed and thus confirmed or overturned.  But because we have it available I feel like it is a root cause.  The officials have a split second in real time to make a determination on everything.  We as fans see 9,000 different angles of each play within seemingly a split second.

The fact that it exists just provides a little bit of pressure on the officials to “get everything right”, no?

I’m almost at the point where I don’t want replay in ANY sport.  It seems to be killing most sports.  “Killing” may be a bit strong.  But it’s putting a dent in a lot of them.  My opinion anyway.

These sports have existed for decades on human judgment.  And other than a few egregious calls over the last century or two, we all seemed to have lived with it.

You couldn’t pay me any amount of money to be an official in any sport.  No one likes you.  The players are all bigger and faster and stronger and all than they ever have been.  And it is IMPOSSIBLE to see everything.  Yes, some of the officials across the board are old and fat.  But it’s even tough for the younger and athletic ones to stay on top of stuff.

And now we have replay looking to see if a pinkie came off the second base bag or a skate was a fraction over the blue line or a there was a slight bobble while a receiver is heading out of bounds…etc., etc., etc.

Enough is enough.

I never thought I would say this, but we need to go back to the days of no replay and human judgment/error.  On top of that, we need to “let the boys play” a little bit.

And just deal with the consequences.

Couple of brief Patriot notes from the news of the week:

*Michael Bennett.  I guess we all should have seen this one coming.  Playing in garbage time.  Not playing much overall.  When was Mt. Bennett going to erupt?  Despite all the nice things he said about Bill Belichick and the overall program from the second he got here?

I have no idea what specifically happened with the defensive coach.  Furthermore, I have no idea why he isn’t playing much.  But most assuredly that’s what it was all about.

Do the Pats trade him?  Not sure how many suitors he would have or who will take half his salary.  Or what they could even get in return.  But I honestly don’t know if I trade him actually.

It’s a long season and injuries and other things happen (see:  wide receivers).  What’s the harm in giving him a little more time and seeing if he can get back on board.  And maybe by the playoffs he is making a huge contribution?

Would not rule that out.

Unless he becomes a complete locker room cancer.  That’s a different story.

But with the leaders in that locker room, I am not sure it will blow up to any more than this.

*N’Keal Harry.  Good to see Harry practicing (and Phillip Dorsett returning).  Now all we have to do once Harry actually gets into games is to convince Tom Brady to throw to him.

I do not think the wide receiver or overall “weapon” problem is as big of a problem as people are making it out to be.  I know, Brady does.  And he is the one who needs the weapons.  I will allow for that.

But think about it.  Harry and Dorsett come back.  Josh Gordon and Rex Burkhead eventually do too.  Ben Watson is now here.  Watson is no Gronk but is certainly capable of doing more than Matt LaCosse or Ryan Izzo…maybe combined.  Brady is now throwing to Sony Michel out of the backfield.  Jakobi Meyers should have earned some trust last week.  And of course Jules and James White.

That’s not all that bad, right?

*Demaryius Thomas.  Thomas thinks his time in New England was a waste of time.  According to comments he made to a New York newspaper this week.  Perhaps that is true.

But welcome to the world of not being a star buddy.  Demaryius isn’t used to being on the back end of the roster.  Yeah, I guess he is starting (or at least getting good playing time) for the Jets.  But…the Jets.  On the Houston Texans last year and the Patriots this year (without the injuries), he wasn’t the All-Pro receiver he has pretty much always been.

Not to mention he is just getting up to speed from a serious injury.

This roster juggling is what the end of the roster guys go through ALL.  OF.  THE.  TIME.

Just think about it from that angle Demaryius.

*Trade deadline.  The Pats will make moves.  Still have some time.  But bank on it.

Probably not left tackle Trent Williams from Washington though.  Williams has been holding out all year because he is upset with the teams’ medical staff.  Not about money?  Yeah, that has to be part of it too of course.

But the ‘Skins are inexplicably not taking offers for him.  Plus the haul and the salary will likely make it prohibitive for the Pats to pursue.

So stop dreaming about that, but be cognizant that help will be on the way.  And not just in the form of Isaiah Wynn.  That’s if Wynn can even be counted on.  Big “if”.

Now on to the game:

Kansas City (-3.5) at Denver

Thursday Night divisional games often go the opposite of how they really should.  Actually, a lot of the Thursday games are crapshoots.  This one should be no different.  The Chiefs and quarterback Patrick Mahomes do not look right.  KC has lost two in a row at home, no less.  Their defense is putrid.  The Broncos are “hot” as they have won their last two…albeit against the underachieving Chargers and Titans (or do they just stink?).  The Bronco D appears to be still serviceable.  So things seem to be trending in the Bronco direction here and they are at home.  And I’ll be picking them, right?  Wrong.  If KC loses three in a row I’d be shocked.  And ultimately Denver isn’t any good.  People across the country are starting to question the Chiefs.  Big mistake.

Kansas City 31, Denver 17.

Week (against the spread):  6-8

Week (straight up):  8-6

Lock Of The Week (season, ATS):  3-3

Season (against the spread):  46-46

Season (straight up):  59-33

Super Bowl wrap up

Ok, so it’s been almost a week since the game.  Tough to write anything when you are still flying high though.  And wanting to watch it again…and again, along with all the celebrations and postgame commentary.  What a game.  Almost another huge disappointment for New England, largely due to an improbable catch.  Thank you Mr. Carroll, Mr. Wilson and especially Mr. Butler for making a bunch of Patriots fans extremely happy.

But to all the haters out there, let’s face it.  The better team won this game.  They completely dominated the first half, yet were somehow tied at halftime.  Thanks mainly to an incredibly stupid end zone interception by Tom Brady, a deep pass caught by a guy no one had ever heard of and the Patriot defense falling asleep the last 30 seconds of the half (plus the dumb face mask penalty by Kyle Arrington that didn’t help).  Not to mention that on the first Seattle TD drive, on a 3rd and 6 on their own 34, Jermaine Kearse caught a 5.5 yard pass, errrrr…a 6 yard pass that gave them a first down, albeit getting a generous spot in the process.  I’ve watched it a few times.  He was short, at least from that camera angle.  And maybe the angle was the problem.  So be it, but surprised that more was not made of that.  Anyway, all part of the game, I get it.  But the Pats should’ve been running away with it at that point.  May have changed how the second half unfolded.

Seattle certainly had their moments.  From the end of the 2nd quarter to maybe the end of the 3rd quarter, they were on a roll.  Of course, that is when they got all their points, so that’s easy enough for me to say.  Can’t say enough about the New England defense.  They obviously stepped up when they needed to.  Beast Mode had over 100 yards, but it sure didn’t feel like it.  About 4 yards a carry…I consider that a “win” for the D.  Russell Wilson only had 3 scrambles…nice ones, but this Patriot team can be susceptible to mobile QB’s.  I thought they did a great job limiting him in that capacity.  Chris Matthews came out of nowhere, props to him and the Seattle coaches for taking advantage of his size.  But props also to the Patriot coaches for realizing that Arrington and Logan Ryan were not getting it done and changing up coverage assignments (and adding in Malcolm Butler as well).  Seattle doesn’t make defensive adjustments apparently, but maybe they should’ve taken note.  Once Jeremy Lane got hurt on his INT, his replacement, Tharold Simon got torched repeatedly.  Maybe an adjustment was necessary?  Maybe Brady’s stupid interception actually benefitted the Pats in the long run?

I remain a little shocked that the Pats only threw to Richard Sherman’s side of the field once during the entire game.  Did the same thing that Aaron Rodgers did when the Packers played them earlier in the year.  Even with Sherman a little banged up.  Didn’t think the Pats would be “afraid” of him as much as they were.  I was even more surprised that Sherman, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor were seemingly unaffected by their significant injuries.  Making hard hits, moving around freely…I’m sure they had some “help”, if you know what I mean.  But still…

You know who else I’d like to give some props to?  The officials.  By and large, they let these guys play.  The obvious calls seemed to have been made, for the most part.  Seemed to me they swallowed their whistles on the ticky-tack stuff.  You could’ve made cases for Seattle roughing the punter on the first Pats punt, Brady for intentional grounding on the play before his 2nd pick, Matthews slightly shoving Arrington on a long 3rd quarter catch, Butler tripping Ricardo Lockette late (although I rewound this one a bunch of times and it really was debatable whether Butler actually got his foot…seemed to reach for it though), Chancellor helmet to helmet hit on Julian Edelman in the 4th, etc.  Receivers and DB’s seemed to be using their hands more and getting away with it, Brandon Browner mostly, per usual.  Regular season, these are all probably called.  I like that they weren’t Sunday.  Although I hated that the ref picked Darrelle Revis in the end zone by not trying to get out of the way.  Give credit to the Seahawks for that one though…reluctantly…

Pete Carroll is getting a lot of heat for his goal line call at the end of the game.  Deservedly so.  I would’ve had run Lynch.  To me it was a no-brainer.  He gets a yard, no problem.  I’m not going with the 1 for 5 stats that he accumulated over the season on runs from the 1 yard line.  I am going with my eyes.  If you are going to pass, do a Wilson roll out, which allows him to scramble in if he had a chance.  Also to throw it out of the end zone if nothing is there. A slant over the middle?  Too many things could’ve gone wrong.  What if one of the fat D-lineman got a paw on it?  What if Lockette didn’t appear open at first and Wilson had to hold it and took a sack, since that appeared to be the one and only option he was locked in on?  Many other risks, topped off by of course, the INT that actually happened.  People have pointed to Lynch blowing by Jamie Collins and being open in the far corner of the end zone.  But I can’t point to that because it was a quick play and I believe Wilson pretty much had the ball out of his hands before Lynch completely broke free.  I am also not bashing Pete for passing, just the actual play.  Pete should also be hammered for his atrocious time out management on that drive.

You know who else should be bashed though?  Kearse.  Up 24-14 and at midfield, he dropped like a 30 yard bomb that would’ve put them inside the NE 20, late in the 3rd quarter.  Likely more points to come.  More clock to waste.  And more pressure put on the Pats.  Just an awful drop.  Seattle scores a TD there, the game may be over.  Not enough is being made of this.  But I thank Mr. Kearse for this, obviously.

One thing I also found somewhat amazing.  Seattle tight ends had ZERO catches.  More remarkably, they also had ZERO targets.  This one totally mystifies me.  The Pats were absolutely atrocious against opposing tight ends this year.  Did Seattle miss this fact on tape somehow?  Or did Pete even have them watch tape?  Not that Luke Willson or Tony Meoaki and whoever else they have are normally game changers.  But the Pats have faced similar TE competition this year and were eaten up.  Not sure why Seattle didn’t test them there.  I haven’t heard any analysis on this over the last week.  Not sure why not.

Also, did Butler need to take the ball out of the end zone after the pick?  Knee jerk decision of course, so hard to criticize actually.  But it was kind of hairy there at the end with the ball on the half yard line.  Not a lot of room to kneel down.  Take a safety, free kick, Seattle can do a play or two and then kick a game winning field goal.  This scenario was realistic folks.  Not enough was being made of this either.  Thankfully Michael Bennett jumped.  You still had a chance dummy…should’ve forced the Pats to make it happen from the half yard line.  Thanks to you too, Mr. Bennett.

Regardless of who you root for, the game was a classic.  So many twists and turns.  A few “defining moments”.  Players most have never heard of, like Matthews and Butler, stepping into the limelight huge.  Studs like Brady and Edelman (and Wilson early) making plays when plays need to be made.  Etc.  This piece probably would have had a different tone had the Pats lost.  Especially since I did feel they were the better team overall on Sunday.  Thanks once again for Mr. Butler.  Let’s hope this is not the last we have heard from the youngster though…

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