Monday, November 17, 2008

The NFL Kisses it's Sister

Yesterday I went to see the Bengals play live and in person. There are a number of people in the world, a great many that are rolling their eyes and asking themselves “Why?” Yeah, I know, they suck. Can’t help it…I love football, and I’m a die-hard (actually die VERY hard considering the past 20 years) Bengals fan. So my Dad and I made the drive, all 20 minutes of it, traded our high-up seats and a $20 for a few that were pretty much right on the field, and sat outside on the coldest day of this fall season so far to watch the Bengals do battle with the Eagles. Worst-case scenario we see Donovan McNabb play ball.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, playing for the injured Carson Palmer looked solid for a half. Then in an effort to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, early success going through his reads and bad offensive play calling took hold. Fitzpatrick got locked into one side of the field, didn’t go through his checks, failed to see several blitz packages coming, and the coaching staff couldn’t figure out that running the ball right up the middle over and over (and over and over) just couldn’t get it done.

The defense was a totally different story. The greatest thing a pro athlete can do is play a year or two in Cincinnati, regardless of the sport. They’ll go on to be superstars as soon as they leave. So when the Bengals took the defense that forced a +25 turnover ratio in 2005 (yes the year they won the AFC North) and broke them into pieces, trading away some and not signing free agents for what they were clearly worth, the dark clouds came again. However, this year’s defense has played well about their pay grade. They held the Cowboys in check as much as anyone else has. They kept the Giants, a team with a fantastic 3-headed monster of a running game to few enough points to go to overtime. And don’t forget, we are talking about Super Bowl Champions a year ago. And yesterday they held the Eagles, a very prolific offensive team, to just 13 points with 1 fumble and 3 interceptions. That’s a hell of a day, and should be almost an open and shut win…unless your offense can only manage to put up 13 points as well.

There are a number of things I could say about the game yesterday from “who doesn’t go for it on 4th and goal on the 1, but then does go for it on 4th and 16 on the 35?” I could talk about missing field goals from 41 yards in overtime that would’ve won the game. But what really bothers me is the NFL’s rules on overtime as a whole. Sudden death? Really? So the flip of a coin could mean a hard fought game comes down to one or two plays and then it’s over? No good. The NCAA got this one right. One team scores, the other team gets one drive to match it, and so on and so forth, until one team stops the other. 2 overtime, now you can’t kick the point after…you have to go for two. Someone wins.

So after 4 hours of sitting in the COLDEST DAY OF THE YEAR, I found out that the NFL will allow a game to END IN A TIE! After an overtime period, with time winding down, still tied 13-13, Shayne Graham pushed a 41-yard field goal attempt wide to the right as time expired. Should he have made it? 41 yards out is not a gimme, but well within his range. So yeah, he should’ve put it through and won the game. But the clock clicked to 00:00, the score was tied, and football kissed it’s sister.

I hate sudden death overtimes. But I think that I can overlook sudden death overtime in favor or someone winning the game! The NFL meets annually to review rules and make changes. This year, for example, all facemask penalties will cost a team 15 yards. Also, there is no more force-out rule, so receivers must, under all circumstances get 2 feet down in-bounds with the ball or it’s not a catch. Good calls, both of them. But this off season, allowing a game to end in a tie really needs to be addressed by the league.

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