Friday 18 August 2017 / 08:32 PM

Airing it Out: NFL Week 4

It’s been two years since Seattle got the “real” refs back after stunning Green Bay with the infamous Fail Mary on Monday Night Football.

Last night the Hawks once again crawled into the league’s dog house by snatching another late-game MNF victory from the jaws of the Lions following a controversial no-call on KJ Wright for batting a live ball in the endzone during the waning minutes of the contest.

But to me, there’s more to the story than tweet fodder such as this compels us to believe:

Much of a referee’s job is to make judgment calls – and no matter how many times you watch the tape to try and determine whether or not Wright intentionally batted the ball (which he later admitted to doing as he did not know it was illegal), two facts are certain:

  • Kam Chancellor made one of the plays of the year by knocking the ball loose shy of the endzone in the first place. If Calvin Johnson holds on to the rock he scores the go-ahead touchdown and we’re not even having this discussion.
  • No Lion was in position to make a play on the ball when Wright makes contact with a ball that’s clearly on the verge of going out of the endzone on its own power.

Wright’s action had absolutely zero impact on the result of the play. Zero. None. And as much as some fans are bitching and griping about the supposed “free” win for Seattle, the reality is that just as many fans would bemoan such a ticky-tack call negating one of the most exciting plays of the first quarter of the 2015 NFL season.

Would the referees have been in the right to make the call? Sure.

But they were equally in the right to use their judgment to let ticky-tack rules slide when the action in question didn’t actually have any effect on the play.

If the team in question weren’t the Seahawks I think we’d see a much broader “let them play” attitude – but face it, when you’re at the top everyone else wants to knock you off your pedestal. It’s the same reason fans love to pick at the Patriots with a fine-toothed comb, living in the false illusion that “their” team never skirts the rules to gain an advantage.

To me the real issue here is that the NFL rulebook is a bloated mess only surpassed in bureaucratic bullshit by the tax code. There are so many obscure rules that quite literally the coaches, players and even the referees don’t know or can’t remember them all.

Fine, the Competition Committee needs to introduce new rules to protect players. Yes, I get this.

And I’m a big proponent of adding excitement to the game by pushing back kickoffs and introducing the brand-spanking new 33-yard extra point.

But when the rulebook is so convoluted that players cannot be expected to memorize it all, something’s gotta give. Let’s clean some of the garbage out and allow games to be decided by football and not ridiculous bullshit like teasing a grown man or taking your helmet off at the wrong time.

It was these same Lions that lost a couple seasons back after being assessed a 15-yard penalty for incorrectly throwing out a challenge flag.

Personally I’d always err on the side of letting the players determine the outcome of games – Coach Caldwell said he won’t be “crying over” the call and you shouldn’t either.

Unless you’re a fan of the (0-4) Lions. The only winless team in the NFL.

Tasty Tidbits from Week 4

The Broncos, Bengals, Panthers and Falcons all improved to (4-0) with the Cardinals falling at home to the Rams 24-22.

This means two of the league’s five unbeaten teams (New England, (3-0), was on BYE) come from what many considered to be the weakest division in the NFL.

I think it’s time we give credit where credit is due. Carolina and Atlanta have proven they’re more than just the best of the worst in the NFC South. These teams have now earned the right to be considered legitimate contenders.

Cam Newton is playing some of his best football ever. He’s tossed 7 TDs to just 2 INTs, averages 4.5 yards per carry (195 total rushing yards) and has found the endzone twice in just four games with his feet.

And the defense is dominating without the help of their best player, Luke Kuechly, who should be on the field in 2 weeks’ time when the Panthers take on the Seahawks.

For their part, the Falcons are fifth in the league in total offense and second in total points. Defense may win championships but this offense is going to win quite a few games.

Offensive Player of the Week

Second-year running back Devonta Freeman may have only ended up with 68 yards on 14 carries, but when 3 of those 14 touches go for touchdowns you deserve to win the Offensive Player of the Week.

Freeman scored from 16, 23 and 6 yards out to help the Falcons jump out to a 48 to zip lead on the Texans.

So much for Houston’s vaunted defense – JJ Watt called the effort “pitiful”.

Defensive Player of the Week

In all the controversy swarming around last night’s game, not nearly enough attention is being paid to Chancellor’s game (and perhaps season) saving punch.

While Russell Wilson would still have had time to run the two-minute drill to try and win the game, the Detroit defense had only allowed the Seattle O to score one touchdown all night.

In one shining moment Kam has proven how ridiculously valuable he is to this Seahawks defense.

While statistics are great for winning arguments and fantasy football, the true legends of this league are those who win games on single plays.

Team on the Rise

The New York Giants easily handled a good Buffalo Bills team to notch a 24-10 victory and improve to (2-2). Along with the Seahawks, the G-Men are the only other team to start off with a pair of losses and crawl back to .500.

New York is ninth in the league in points, has an absolutely terrible Niners team visiting the Meadowlands next weekend and plays in the shaky NFC East with an injured Dallas squad, an Eagles team that’s lost their way and a (2-2) Redskins club that just isn’t a real threat to do much more than win as much as they lose.

They’re tied for first place now but could easily take sole possession with Dallas hosting the Patriots shorthanded and the Skins visiting the Georgia Dome to take on the undefeated Falcons.

Could the Manning-Beckham show be headed to the playoffs?

It’s too early to tell but fans in the Big Apple are happy to see those two shitty 4th-quarter lose-from-ahead losses erased from memory.

Team on the Decline

It may be the recently fired Josh Scobee who’s on the decline, after missing a pair of 4th-quarter field goals to allow the winless Ravens to tie and then beat Pittsburgh at home on Thursday Night Football, but it’s no secret that the (2-2) Steelers did not expect to be two full games behind the division-leading Bengals just one-fourth of the way into the 2015 campaign.

Yes, Big Ben is out with an injury and “Old Man” Vick isn’t the same player he once was, but this roster has got more than enough talent to win games with Michael at the helm and the way they were unable to close against Baltimore was embarrassing.

And to imagine they actually traded a draft pick in April to acquire Scobee from Jacksonville.

Just in Case You Missed It

  • Miami’s slow start was disappointing enough for heads to roll. Coach Philbin has been fired four games into his 4th season with the Dolphins.
  • Indianapolis’s woes continued as they barely eked out a 16-13 OT win over the Jaguars. A win is a win and Matt Hasselbeck was playing in place of Andrew Luck but the Colts have a ways to go before they’ll pose a real threat in the AFC.
  • Chicago finally got into the win column and Kansas City continues to fall. A whopping 11 NFL teams currently sit at (1-3), including the Bears and Chiefs.

Games to Look Forward to in Week 5

Seahawks at Bengals –With the Arizona loss, Seattle is just one game back from the Cardinals in the NFC West after an awful (0-2) start, but wins against the Bears and Lions at home are hardly indicators that this team’s problems are fixed. Cincinnati is undefeated and one of the hottest teams in the league. Don’t be surprised to see the Hawks drop below .500 for the second time this year.

 

Rams at Packers –St. Louis is just (2-2) but both wins came over two of the league’s best teams. Their front four is relentless, providing perhaps the NFL’s most potent pass rush. Can the Rams put enough pressure on Aaron Rodgers to finally force an INT at Lambeau? Pull of the upset and St. Louis is right in the thick of the NFC West title race.

 

Cardinals at Lions –On paper this is an easy win for Carson Palmer and Co. In reality Detroit will be fighting and scratching to finally get into the win column.

 

Patriots at Cowboys –This is a huge test for Dallas. Beating the Super Bowl Champs at home without their two best players would be an enormous confidence booster that could roll over into future games.

 

[YouTube – NFL]

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Michael Airhart

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