Shades of #Dezcaughtit: Steelers can't survive the ground, Patriots capitalize

Shades of #Dezcaughtit: Steelers can't survive the ground, Patriots capitalize

Tom Brady's face said it all.

How. Did that. Just happen. 

The Patriots quarterback just watched the Steelers roll 79 yards down the field in two plays, punctuated by a Jesse James touchdown catch, to take a three-point lead with only seconds remaining in the game. And that was after Brady had just orchestrated a five-play 77-yard touchdown drive (with a two-point completion to Rob Gronkowski) to take a three-point lead with less than a minute left. 


But the James touchdown review was taking longer than expected. What was there to look at? Whether Brady realized it on the sidelines or not, after about a half-dozen television replays, people watching began to realize . . . Wait, was that a catch? 

The football was jarred loose by the Heinz Field turf, and James lost his grip on it. The replays were clear. Soon, referee Tony Corrente's voice sounded over the public address system: "The receiver . . . did not survive the ground."

And just like that, the #DezCaughtIt hashtag was re-born. That's of course in reference to the Dez Bryant catch that never was in the 2014 Divisional Round against the Packer -- the one Cowboys fans (and fantasy players) are still stinging over.

Perhaps stunned by the ruling, the Steelers seemed out of sorts after the break. 

Ben Roethlisberger completed a pass to Darius Heyward-Bey for three yards but was kept in bounds by a strong tackle from Malcolm Butler. That kept the clock running on the Steelers, who were without timeouts. 

Then all hell broke loose. Roethlisberger hustled his team to the line for an apparent spike, faked it, and threw into traffic to try to hit Eli Rogers. The pass was batted by Eric Rowe -- one of three Patriots who were close in coverage -- and picked by Duron Harmon to end the game. 

The boos -- presumably for the officials who ruled against them rather than the quarterback whose biggest mistake came on the final play -- rained down almost immediately. 

The hashtag #JesseCaughtIt doesn't have quite the same ring to it as its predecessor, but Steelers fans will be muttering something to that effect for the foreseeable future. Especially if the playoff seeding holds true and Pittsburgh has to travel to Gillette Stadium for the AFC title game for the second consecutive year. 


Is Bill Belichick sending a message to NFL refs with this RPO comment?

Is Bill Belichick sending a message to NFL refs with this RPO comment?

FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick knows better than to publicly criticize NFL officials.

But he seemingly found an opportunity to put a bug in their ears Friday.

The New England Patriots coach was asked about the challenges of defending the "run-pass option" (aka the RPO), a play in which a quarterback in a shotgun formation decides after the ball is snapped whether to hand off to his running back, throw a pass or in some cases keep it himself based on the post-snap movement of the defense.

Belichick responded by placing that challenge at the feet of NFL referees.

"The only problem (with) the RPO play in general is just the offensive pass interference: blocking downfield conflicting with the pass," Belichick said. "If it's a run, it's no problem. If the ball actually gets thrown, like what happened last week in the Houston game, it was called once."

Reading between the lines, it sounds like Belichick believes the Texans got away with some illegal blocking downfield last Sunday in their 28-22 win over New England.

Belichick makes a fair point: Offensive pass interference might be harder for officials to call if the decision to run or pass is delayed until the last second, like it is for an RPO.

You could say Belichick acknowledged that difficulty Friday -- or made an indirect plea to officials to keep an eye on pass-catchers blocking downfield.

"I would say any time you run that play, there's some degree of, 'Is there blocking downfield or not?' "Belichick said. "Sometimes there is, sometimes there isn't. It's a tough call for the officials. But that's sort of the complication of that play defensively."

Now is a good time for Belichick to make that suggestion. Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs ran RPOs on 20 percent of their snaps in 2018, per Football Outsiders, more than all but two NFL teams.

They haven't relied on RPOs as much this season but still are a heavy play-action team, which means more opportunities for wide receivers to make contact with defensive backs downfield.

The Patriots and Chiefs will have an experienced referee crew at Gillette Stadium led by 16-year veteran Jerome Boger. If Boger flags a Chiefs pass-catcher for offensive pass interference in Sunday's game, Patriots fans know who to thank.

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Patriots Talk Podcast: Why Tom Brady might consider playing for Chargers, Dolphins

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Patriots Talk Podcast: Why Tom Brady might consider playing for Chargers, Dolphins

Our Tom E. Curran laid out the hard truth earlier this week: There's a legitimate chance this is Tom Brady's final season with the New England Patriots.

But that begs the question: If Brady leaves New England and doesn't retire -- he just turned 42 and wants to play until he's 45 -- where will he go in 2020?

That hot topic came up on the latest Patriots Talk Podcast, where Curran was joined by fellow NBC Sports Boston Patriots Insider Phil Perry.

Curran and Perry both believe a number of factors would contribute into where Brady might play next, both on the field (style of offense, coaching staff, personnel, ownership, etc.) and off the field (best fit for his family, best fit for his TB12 business, weather, etc.).

Taking those factors into account, Curran and Perry speculated about a few destinations where Brady could land and made compelling cases for two potential front-runners: the Los Angeles Chargers and Miami Dolphins.

Here are their rationales for both destinations:


Perry: "They [Brady and wife Gisele Bundchen] have lived in L.A. before. Brady has family in California, northern and southern."

Curran: "His niece will be going to UCLA as a blue-chip softball recruit. That means Tom Sr. [Brady's father] and Galynn [Brady's mother] are frequently making the trip down already."

Perry: "This is a team that could be in need for a quarterback ... [and] could also be looking for a head coach. So, maybe if you're the Chargers, you're looking to hire Josh McDaniels, and you say, 'Hey Tom, we've got $50 million for two years, no problem.' "

"Mike Williams is a very nice deep threat, contested catch guy. ... Big market, great opportunity for TB12 if you're looking for those."


Perry: "I think it's a good culture. I think it's a team on the rise. I also know it's a team that is slated to have over $100 million in cap space going into 2020. You want me to rattle off some guys who could be available via free agency? Because it's kind of interesting. How about A.J. Green? How about Emmanuel Sanders? How about Randall Cobb? How about Amari Cooper?"

"You've got (former Patriots wide receivers coach) Chad O'Shea. You've got Brian Flores as the head coach. You've got Jerry Schuplinski, who worked with the quarterbacks quite a bit in New England and now has a significant role.

"On top of it ... Big market, warmer climate and a very health-conscious fanbase that might be into the whole TB12 idea."

Perry saved his most intriguing point for last: The Dolphins' owner, Stephen Ross, is an alumnus and generous donor at Brady's alma mater, Michigan -- and also is in the real estate market.

"Very high-end condominiums and townhouses is his deal," Perry added. "And it appears, from the surface research I have done, that Brady has lived in or at least purchased multiple units in Stephen Ross-owned and constructed buildings."

Curran and Perry pointed out that this is all speculation for now. But if Brady indeed leaves the Patriots, there are plenty of clues to suggest where he might end up.

Hear more from Curran and Perry on the latest episode of "The Patriots Talk Podcast," which drops every Tuesday and Thursday as a part of the NBC Sports Boston podcast network.

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