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Steelers-Pats, Part II
[Posted Wed. a.m.]
Kansas City Chiefs Quiz: Not easy. Name the seven to throw for 10,000 yards in a Chiefs uniform. Answer below.
I was in the Summit post office early Tuesday morning, long before it opened, to get some stamps from the dispenser, and you have to picture that there’s a gate between the 24-hour section and the main area, when it’s closed, and a janitor was doing his thing on the other side.
So a guy comes in as the machine is spitting out my stamps and he goes, “Bad call?”
I didn’t have to turn around to know what he was talking about. The janitor was wearing a Steelers sweatshirt. He said, “Bad call.” I chimed in, “Lousy rule...but correct call...” and the other guy agreed with me.
The three of us then proceeded to have a 5-minute conversation on the game, and how the Steelers didn’t lose just because of that one call, the awful interception by Roethlisberger, the interception of Brady that wasn’t, and everything else, and that’s what I meant the last time about the game being a real shot in the arm for the NFL.
It’s been such a godawful season, what with all the key injuries, the protests, some lousy play, but for once, in the showcase game of the year, there was authentic buzz when the league needed it most.
I mean Tuesday morning was the perfect example of this. Three strangers, brought together by a game two days earlier.
But we all also know that the problem is we can’t have that rule result in a similar type call in the playoffs! And that’s where we’re headed. We can all agree on that.
So what follows is some commentary from others. I know Steelers fans who are still sick to their stomachs by the whole deal and probably losing home-field advantage, which is huge in a probable rematch.
Ben Shpigel / New York Times
“The worst thing that happened to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday was that they lost, 27-24, to the New England Patriots, their longtime tormentors, the object of their obsession, the team they continue to chase.
“The worst thing that happened was that they bungled an opportunity to clinch a first-round bye and all but secure home-field advantage through the A.F.C. playoffs, leaving open the possibility that they could plummet all the way to the No. 3 seed.
“But what if...
“It was that the star receiver Antonio Brown, in the middle of another dominant season, had to go to the hospital after sustaining a calf injury in the second quarter, and it is unclear when he will be able to return.
“It was that a go-ahead touchdown with 28 seconds left was canceled by a bewildering catch rule that players seem to neither understand nor enjoy.
“It was the apparent confusion that snarled Pittsburgh’s final offensive play, an end-zone interception that silenced Heinz Field and sent the Patriots sprinting off their sideline in glee.
“Judging by the mood afterward in the Steelers’ locker room, where cornerback Artie Burns sat in front of his stall, still in full uniform, looking at everyone and no one, they all hurt the same. New England and Pittsburgh are both 11-3, the Patriots now own the No. 1 seed by claiming the head-to-head tiebreaker....
“The Steelers had been waiting 11 months for Sunday, ever since the Patriots flattened them in the AFC championship game in New England...
“Pittsburgh spent the off-season assessing the optimal defensive strategy to stifle Tom Brady and stressing the importance of facing New England this season in the playoffs – because it was going to happen, players said – at home, instead of at Gillette Stadium.”
And there was Pittsburgh, up 8 after three quarters, and by 5 with less than a minute remaining.
But Brady drove the Pats 77 yards for the go ahead score with 56 seconds remaining.
Then Roethlisberger connected with tight end Jesse James for what was ruled a 10-yard touchdown, until it wasn’t.
“What constitutes a catch seems to confound coaches and players, fans and commentators, every week. Even in a video released by the NFL Sunday night, the league’s senior vice president of officiating, Alberto Riveron, began his explanation of why the play was reversed – why it was incomplete – by saying, ‘As we can see here, Roethlisberger completes the pass.’
“He did. James, while lunging to his left, caught the ball around the Patriots’ 2-yard line. His left knee touched the ground, and as he extended the ball over the goal line, the ball came loose.... The rule dictates that the receiver must, in official parlance, survive going to ground. That is, James needs to maintain control of the ball through the entirety of the catch, which he did not.
“ ‘The ball hit the ground,’ the referee Tony Corrente told a pool reporter, ‘and that’s the end of it at that point.’
“From the officials’ standpoint, yes. But not from that of the Steelers, who remained equal parts livid and perplexed by a rule that, in practice, made little sense.”
But coach Mike Tomlin knows the Steelers also failed to neutralize the Pats’ Rob Gronkowski, who had 69 of his 168 receiving yards on the crushing late final drive, and they weren’t lined up properly on the last snap, scrambling to run a play rather than go for a field-goal attempt to push the game into overtime.
Jason Gay / Wall Street Journal
“It’s now Monday, but if you step outside for just a moment, you can still hear the screaming from Pittsburgh.
“THAAAAAAAT WAS A CAAAAAAATCH!!!
“Followed by 90 seconds of colorful but crude, hide-the-children cursing – at the game officials, at the NFL, at the inventor of instant replay, at the inventors of television technology in general, at the New England Patriots and whatever horribly unlucky cosmic else contributed to a beautiful, season-altering victory getting ripped from the mitts of the Steelers on Sunday.
“If you didn’t see it – and really, by now, you’ve watched it 300 more times than you ever watched your own wedding video – Pittsburgh appeared to have grabbed a momentous, last-minute, come-from-behind home win over New England....
“The referees signaled a touchdown....
“Then the Replay Overlords intervened, and what very much looked like a catch became...
“Not a catch.
“They’ll be talking about this one for years. Many people still don’t know exactly what happened.
“The ruling on the replay was that the ball did not ‘Survive the Ground,’ which sounds like the title of a Liam Neeson movie.
“BAD GUY: No! No don’t throw me off this roof, Liam Neeson.
“LIAM NEESON: If you don’t tell me where she is, you’ll never ...survive the ground....
“In the replay, it appears that the ball wobbled slightly when James lunged forward and his hands – and the ball – crashed to the ground.
“In other words...it did not survive the ground.
“RIP, Steelers game-winning touchdown catch.
“In the aftermath, football’s forensic scientists said the officials got it right – James did not have full control of the ball for the entire duration, and therefore it isn’t a catch. I know you’re going to mention running backs here, but the rules are different for runners crossing the end zone – a running back only has to get a millimeter of that ball across the end zone line, and can lose it immediately, and it’s still a touchdown. A reception, on the other hand, must be completely finished off for it to count as a score....
“See, this is a problem. The NFL’s standards for a reception have gotten downright kooky. According to the rules, the receiver must now:
“1. Make the catch.
“2. Place both feet in bounds.
“3. Hang onto the catch for the duration.
“4. Oven bake the catch for 30 minutes at 450 degrees.
“5. Take the catch on a three-day camping trip.
“6. Agree to pay for the catch’s college education – through grad school and a Ph.D. program.
“7. Present a handwritten note to the referee that details reasons for making the catch.
“8. Sing original composition about catch (OPTIONAL.)
“As you can tell, this is a fairly lengthy and complicated list of requirements. And that’s how you get an outrage like you have in Pittsburgh....
“You might think the NFL is embarrassed by what happened in Pittsburgh, that it’s yet another PR disaster for a league that’s had plenty of issues in 2017.
“Please! First of all, they think the officials got it right. Secondly, they have to be thrilled that this is what people are talking about on Monday, as the owner of the Carolina Panthers, Jerry Richardson, prepares to sell his team after allegations of workplace misconduct and a Sports Illustrated report that at least four former employees were paid settlements. Not to mention the NFL Network’s own sexual harassment crisis and the suspensions of several high-profile on-air commentators. Or the continued rash of injuries to high-profile players – the Steelers lost MVP candidate receiver Antonio Brown to a calf issue early in Sunday’s game.
“You want to yell about a catch that wasn’t a catch? That’s fantastic. Have yourself a ball!
“Just make sure it...survives the ground.”
Kevin Skiver / CBSSports.com
(The catch that wasn’t) has fans of 31 teams asking: Just what in the world is a catch? It seems like every few years – or even weeks – we get one of these calls. Why can’t we seem to get a definitive idea of what a catch is, and why isn’t the eye test good enough?....
“You’re going to see the words ‘by the rule’ a lot going forward, because a lot of these plays may look wrong but technically aren’t. And on these close calls, ‘technically’ is what matters....
“Here’s the bottom line: The rule is a necessary evil. What people seem to want is ‘catches should be determined by whether or not it looks like a catch.’ In theory, that’s great, but the components and mechanics of making a catch and a move don’t work. Wonky end zone rules don’t apply to catches – it’s not like breaking the plane as a runner where it’s ‘good enough.’
“The alternative is that these plays turn into fumbles when they’re outside of the end zone. Controversy begets controversy in some cases, and there’s no ‘easy answer.’ Fans want consistency, and they’re getting it, yet the reaction seems to be consistently negative.”
Mike Tomlin said after the game Sunday: “It’s really irrelevant how I feel about it. It’s not going to change the outcome of the game. I’m not going to cry over split milk and all of that crap and talk about replay. I ain’t doing it.”
As for the godawful final throw in the end zone, Roethlisberger trying to thread the needle between three Patriots defenders and Steelers receiver Eli Rogers....
Jarrett Bell / USA TODAY Sports
“It seemed like a no-lose situation for Ben Roethlisberger. Find a target in the end zone for a game-winning touchdown or throw the ball away and set up a chip-shot field goal to force overtime.
“But think again.
“These were the New England Patriots that Roethlisberger was trying to beat. It is never that simple.
“After Roethlisberger took the snap on third-and-goal from the 7, he began with a fake spike – And fooled no one on the other side. Uh-oh. The Patriots were ready for this....
“ ‘We saw it on film,’ (safety Duron) Harmon told USA TODAY Sports, referring to the fake spike. ‘It just goes to show what good film study will do for you.’
“There you have it. Pittsburgh (11-3) has been spectacular this season with its knack for winning in crunch time, but the Patriots (11-3) wore fresh AFC East championship gear on Sunday because they were better than the Steelers when it came down to executing situational football in the clutch....
“Situational football is Belichick to the core, a term that he preaches repeatedly as the ultimate swing factor. And with five rings and now 15 division titles with the Patriots, he should be taken at his word....
“The Patriots provided the Steelers a hard lesson for how it’s done in the clutch.
“They didn’t flinch.
“As Harmon put it, ‘You just have to keep fighting. Live to play another play.’
“Until it’s over. Which is situational football at its best.”
One sidebar...before he got hurt, Antonio Brown caught his 100th pass of the season, becoming the first player in NFL history with 100 or more receptions in five consecutive seasons.
--Sunday night, the Cowboys stayed relevant at 8-6, 20-17 winners over the disappointing Raiders (6-8) as Oakland quarterback Derek Carr fumbled the ball inches from the goal line with 31 seconds left.
Minutes earlier, on a fourth-and-1 from their own 39, an index card was used to determine that Dallas’ Dak Prescott had snuck over the first-down line, a play that then led to what would be Dan Bailey’s winning field goal.
Monday, Atlanta (9-5) held onto its playoff spot with a 24-21 win over Tampa Bay (4-10), as Devonta Freeman regained his old form with 126 yards on 22 carries, plus 5 receptions for 68.
Jameis Winston was terrific in defeat, 27/35, 299, 3-0, 130.5.
Playoff Picture...for the last spots I list their next opponent....
1. New England 11-3
2. Pittsburgh 11-3
3. Jacksonville 10-4
4. Kansas City 8-6 (Dolphins)
5. Tennessee 8-6 (Rams)
6. Buffalo 8-6 (Pats)
7. Baltimore 8-6 (Colts)
1. Philadelphia 12-2
2. Minnesota 11-3
3. Rams 10-4
4. New Orleans 10-4
5. Carolina 10-4
6. Atlanta 9-5 (Saints)
7. Detroit (8-6) (Bengals)
8. Seattle 8-6 (vs. 9 Dallas 8-6)
--The Jets are 5-9, on the way to finishing 5-11, yet there is a feeling of accomplishment it seems inside the team and organization. But as the New York Post’s Mark Cannizzaro points out:
“(It) feels more than a bit uncomfortable that many are celebrating the Jets for winning five games this season. It feels somewhat soft that they’re being praised for being competitive in all but two of their 14 games, including Sunday’s closer-than-expected loss to the Saints, who were 16 ½-point favorites.
“Since when do we dole out medals for trying around here?
“The fact is the Jets, who’ve lost seven of their last nine games, have benefitted greatly from the ridiculously low expectations placed upon them before this season.
“I never bought into the talk of the Jets going 0-16 or even the notion of them winning only one or two games. [Ed. I did.] Their defense had enough talent to keep most games close, and veteran Josh McCown, though universally dismissed as a player when he was signed, is a professional quarterback.
“Yet, when you listen to the Jets players – and even (coach Todd) Bowles now – you hear them referring to those low expectations and patting themselves on the back for surpassing them, winning more games than most expected them to.
“ ‘We won five games, so we surpassed your guys’ [media] expectations of going 0-16,’ receiver Jermaine Kearse said.
“ ‘They said we were going to win zero games this year,’ cornerback Buster Skrine said. ‘I know that everybody that watches our team play knows our team is growing. Our teams knows we’re a good team.’
“The Jets are in the complicated position of assessing who they are – an overachieving team on the rise with developing young talent or a team in need of a lot of help considering they’re 10-20 in their last 30 games?”
As Cannizzaro points out, it also boils down to the issue of the status of Bowles, who doesn’t seem to have a care in the world in terms of his job security. Yes, Bowles has done a good job keeping the team playing hard in virtually every game (Denver being a notable exception), but they’re 10-20! Why would you just give him an extension, which is where management seems headed? Maybe he is the right guy for next year, but is there someone better out there?
--The other team in New York, the 2-12 Giants, play out the string with Eli Manning at the helm; Manning, on Sunday, with the ninth 400-yard passing game of his career, thus proving he can still play, and he’s made it known he wants to stick around, with owner John Mara having told people he wants Manning back.
“Hey, I want to be back next year as well,” Manning said. “I love playing for the New York Giants, I love this organization, appreciate everything they’ve done for me, and I try to give back everything that I have to this organization and to this team.”
I’m guessing Eli does come back, but the new GM, who has yet to be announced, needs to build a wall in front of him due to Eli having zero mobility.
It’s just so stupid the Giants didn’t take this opportunity to give Davis Webb a look before they head to the draft with the No. 2 pick behind Cleveland.
--As for the aforementioned Jerry Richardson, the 81-year-old owner of the Panthers who is now being forced to sell the franchise, I read the Sports Illustrated report and what a disgusting pig.
But boy is he going to be wealthier than ever after selling the team and while his health isn’t good (he had a heart transplant in 2009), his heirs will cash in nicely on his misconduct, which is more than a bit screwed up.
--The New Orleans Saints are sending running backs Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara to the Pro Bowl – the first time in more than 42 years that two running backs from one team will head to the annual all-star game.
[The last pair of true running backs with 100-plus rushing attempts to make the Pro Bowl together was Warrick Dunn and Mark Alstott in 1997 and 2000 – but Alstott was selected as a fullback both times. Before that, according to ESPN and Elias Sports Bureau, it was the St. Louis Cardinals’ Jim Otis and Terry Metcalf in 1975. Otis was listed as a fullback but he had 269 carries for 1,076 yards. Before them, you had Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris in 1972 and 1973.]
The Steelers led all teams with a league-best eight selections, including injured linebacker Ryan Shazier.
Tom Brady was named to his 13th Pro Bowl, including nine straight.
AP Poll (Dec. 18...records thru Dec. 17)
1. Villanova 11-0 (45)
2. Michigan State 10-1 (15)
3. Arizona State 10-0 (5)
4. Duke 11-1
5. North Carolina 10-1
6. Miami 9-0
7. Kentucky 9-1
8. Texas A&M 9-1
9. Xavier 10-1
10. West Virginia 9-1
11. Wichita State 8-2
13. Virginia 9-1
23. Seton Hall 9-2
--No big upsets Monday and Tuesday, but last night Oklahoma’s freshman sensation Trae Young tied the NCAA Division I record with 22 assists in a 105-68 rout of Northwestern State, a record shared by Syracuse’s Sherman Douglas (1989), Southern’s Avery Johnson (1988) and Charleston Southern’s Tony Fairley (1987).
Young also became the first player in two decades to register at least 20 points and 20 assists in the same game, as he scored 26.
Young is now the D-I leader in both points (28.5 per game) and assists (10.2). The Sooners are 9-1 and ranked No. 17.
--And I can’t help but note that in Wake Forest’s 84-80 road win over Coastal Carolina (6-6) Monday, the Deacs improving to 7-4, Wake center Doral Moore was 4-for-4 from the field and has now made 52 of 61 attempts on the season, a staggering .852 percentage.
--The Lakers honored Kobe Bryant Monday night at the Staples Center, retiring both of his numbers, 8 and 24, joining nine other retired Lakers numbers and one Chick Hearn jersey.
“It’s not about the jerseys hanging up there for me, it’s about jerseys hanging up there before, without them I couldn’t be here today,” Bryant said graciously, adding, “It’s about embodying the spirit that exists in those jerseys up there...so that the next 20 years are better than the past 20 years.”
Well, as the L.A. Times’ Bill Plaschke wrote, “That’s going to be tough. That was one wild 20 years. There will never be another journey like it, one athlete spending his entire two-decade career with this city’s favorite team, seemingly all of Los Angeles bouncing up and down the court with him until the five-championship ride finally ended with his retirement in the spring of 2016.”
--You’ll likely see this item twice in ten days...Texas Rangers pitcher Cole Hamels and his wife, Heidi, donated a mansion and 100 acres of land in southwest Missouri to a charity that provides camps for children with special needs and chronic illnesses.
Pretty awesome. It also turns out that when Hamels was traded from the Phillies to the Rangers, the couple moved to Texas and never moved into the Missouri house.”
--World champion sprinter Justin Gatlin said Tuesday he was “shocked and surprised” at doping allegations made against his coach and an agent.
Anti-doping officials (specifically a unit of the US Anti-Doping Agency...Usada...) have begun an investigation into what the sport’s governing body called “serious allegations” concerning Dennis Mitchell and Robert Wagner, Mitchell a former world-class sprinter himself and now a coach.
The Daily Telegraph said Wagner, the agent, offered to “illicitly supply performance-enhancing drugs” to undercover reporters.
A video released by the Telegraph features a man the newspaper says is Wagner insinuating Gatlin is taking banned drugs, “just like every other sprinter in America.”
The Telegraph also said Gatlin’s coach, Mitchell, told reporters that athletes are using drugs that cannot be detected by tests.
Writing on Instagram Tuesday, Gatlin said he “fired” Mitchell “as soon as I found out about this.”
Gatlin, 35, said he is “not using and have not used” PEDs, adding, “All legal options are on the table.
The Telegraph said its journalists had posed as representatives of a film company wanting to make a sports film and were looking for a coach to train their star to look like an athlete.
Needless to say this doesn’t look good, as it was Gatlin who shocked the sport at August’s World Championships in London, beating Usain Bolt in the Jamaican’s final 100m race before retiring.
Gatlin, who has had serious issues with doping allegations before, serving a four-year suspension for a 2006 positive test, now has five years’ worth of official drugs tests to show “he has never tested positive for any banned substance,” his legal representatives told the Telegraph.
--Congratulations to the New York Islanders for gaining approval for a new Nassau County arena, next to Belmont Park, two years after moving to Brooklyn...a decision that hasn’t worked well for the franchise.
Top 3 songs for the week 12/20/69: #1 “Leaving On A Jet Plane” (Peter, Paul and Mary) #2 “Someday We’ll Be Together” (Diana Ross & The Supremes) #3 “Down On The Corner / Fortunate Son” (Creedence Clearwater Revival)...and...#4 “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” (Steam) #5 “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” (B.J. Thomas) #6 “Come Together / Something” (The Beatles) #7 “Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday” (Stevie Wonder) #8 “Take A Letter Maria” (R.B. Greaves) #9 “Holly Holy” (Neil Diamond) #10 “And When I Die” (Blood, Sweat & Tears)
Kansas City Chiefs Quiz: Seven to pass for 10,000 yards....
Len Dawson 28,507
Trent Green 21,459
Alex Smith 17,304
Bill Kenney 17,277
Steve DeBerg 11,873
Mike Livingston 11,295
Elvis Grbac 10,643
Next Bar Chat late Sunday...the Christmas special....