In two of the most memorable NFL Championship Games ever, we finally determined the combatants for Super Bowl LIII. The Los Angeles Rams will meet the New England Patriots, Feb. 3, in Atlanta.
This year’s NFL Playoffs reached its high point, Sunday, generating two exciting championship contests that required overtime to determine the winners. However, the 2019 road to the Super Bowl will never be remembered for that.
Instead, this year’s playoffs will be remembered — regardless of what happens in the Super Bowl — as the year of the screw up.
Whether it was Chicago kicker Cody Parkey’s game-ending kick pin-balling off the goalpost; Alshon Jeffery whiffing on a critical catch; immortal Adam Vinatieri missing a 23 yard field goal; the Saints’ Dee Ford lining up offsides, nullifying a game winning interception; Tom Brady earning a phantom roughing the passer call; or the refs — dear gawd — the refs, this year’s playoffs will be remembered for everything that went wrong.
The ultimate shaming, of course, is the pass interference “no-call” in the Saints-Rams game, a play that my 101 year old great grandmother, Myrtle, would have flagged correctly. [Mamaw would have tacked on the targeting call, too.] The Saints kicked a go-ahead field goal, but the Rams answered with one of their own to force the overtime.
Missing that call was criminal. However, in spite of cries for reforming Instant Replay, this is a crime that should go unpunished.
Thomas French, the Pulitzer prize-winning crime reporter for the Tampa Bay Times, told a group of us last year, that he secretly admires sports reporters. “You guys get to report on things that happen in real time,” he said. “We always have to tell the story long after it happened.”
And that’s the problem for the NFL. Despite wishful thinking, instant replay is not a grand jury hearing all the details of the case. It’s only a witness, and not always an unbiased witness.
In the Nickell Robey-Coleman interfering with Tommylee Lewis case, the verdict seems obvious, right? Well, what if in the course of reviewing the alleged interference, another crime was exposed? What if going unnoticed in live action, someone slugs someone in the face? Do you correct that oversight, too?
That will never happen, you say. Well, it did happen. During a 2017 Chicago Bears v Green Bay Packers contest, Bears head coach John Fox challenged a referee’s call judging that Bears running back Benny Cunningham was downed at the Packers two-yard line, although Cunningham extended the ball into the pylon for a presumed touchdown.
The Bears won the challenge. However, the referee also ruled, after the action was long over, that Cunningham lost control of the football before being touched down, and that he fumbled the ball into and out of the end zone, resulting in a touchback.
Still, there was good news. The Bears preserved a timeout. I doubt that the Saints would find that comforting.
John O. Marlowe spent most of his career as a “pine-time” player, and was football's first DH (dummy holder) for Wabash College in the late 1970's. New to the art of the sports beat writer, Marlowe has spent forty years – and nearly $11,000 – following Indiana high school sports.