Hey, NFL: Just cut to the chase and ban the Patriots

Hey, NFL: Just cut to the chase and ban the Patriots

Remember when you were young and a situation in the neighborhood would arise in which somebody would be too good to play with? 

Like an older brother, for instance. You needed him for even teams. You didn’t need him taking the snap and walking down the middle of the field with the football, stiff-arming 8-year-olds into the Earth’s crust because he happened to be 12. 

Eventually, an announcement would be made. 

“OK, from now on, quarterback can’t run or stiff-arm into the Earth’s crust!” 

New legislation passed by fiat, play would resume and everyone would feel better about their chances for success on a newly-leveled playing field. 

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And then he’d do something else nobody else could do and you’d have to outlaw that. 

The NFL is the neighborhood. The Patriots are the big brother. 

Earlier this week, Jerry Jones’ offspring, Stephen, promised an “extensive going over” after “what we saw here” referring to the Patriots winning the AFC Championship Game on the first possession of overtime. 

(Separately, his Dad whined about Julian Edelman’s muffed punt being overturned.)

“What we saw here.” Like the country had just been subjected to something abhorrent that would prompt painful soul-searching. 

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Pearl-clutching over the allegedly broken rule has nothing to do with the rule. It has everything to do with the Patriots. 

Since 2012, the team that wins the OT coin toss wins the game 52.7 percent of the time. Pretty good indication the rule is working. 

In the playoffs, there have been eight OT games since the rule change and five of them ended with first-possession touchdowns. Sixty percent of the time? Sounds like a lot. Yes, until you consider the sample size.

In other words, if the Chiefs stopped the Patriots on any of their three third-and-10s the other day, the numbers would be right at 50 percent. In other words, the rule would be working like a charm. 

So why the hubbub? Because in two of the past three overtime games in the postseason, the Patriots were the team that did what the rule demanded. 

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There may have been times in the past two decades when the Patriots took a liberal interpretation of the rules and benefited. This time? How can you even allege it without being embarrassed?

Had the Chiefs won the toss and won the game, would football-watching America give a damn Tom Brady didn’t touch the ball? Nnnnnnnooooo. Brady and the Patriots already benefited from the rule when they finished off the Falcons in Super Bowl 52. What comes around goes around. 

If the coin toss is the issue, then do away with it. Let some in-game stat like total yards or turnover differential determine who gets the ball first. Let the kickers attempt 50-yard field goals until one misses. Have the fattest guys on the team race to the 40. 

But it isn’t the coin toss. It’s the Patriots. 

The NFL quietly tweaked their interpretation of the catch rule prior to last year’s Super Bowl. Why? Because, in large part, the Steelers lost to the Patriots during the regular season when the rule was correctly applied. Under the revised standard, a would-be Eagles incompletion was ruled a touchdown

Success!

The Patriots undressed the Ravens coaching staff in the 2014 playoffs with basic eligible/ineligible formationing. The Ravens cried and dropped a dime to the Colts about the Patriots and watching out for football chicanery. The NFL happily took up that cause, cost itself millions, made Tom Brady a martyr, got everyone in the league a look at Jimmy Garoppolo  and still wound up giving Brady the Lombardi. The NFL responded with a formation-based rules change.

Not success.

Bill Polian arm-twisted the Competition Committee to allow touching receivers to be conflated to holding receivers after the Colts lost to the Patriots in the 2003 AFC Championship Game. The Patriots beat the Colts in the 2004 AFC Divisional Round as well. 

Not success. 

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From the Tuck Rule  to vaulting the snapper on field goals to empowering officials to stop games and remove players if they perceive a concussive hit happened to adding defensive headsets after Spygate to saber-rattling about illegal line shifts, the rest of the teams are always looking for a chance to say, “From now on . . . ! ”

And they aren’t even embarrassed about it. They actually expect the league to step in and help them beat the Patriots. 

That, to me, was what Kansas City head coach Andy Reid was saying Monday when he wondered why officials didn’t warn Dee Ford that he was offsides.. 

It’s the team’s 22nd game of the season, Ford’s been in the league since 2014, he’s a first-round pick, it’s third-and-10 with 61 seconds left in a game deciding who goes to the Super Bowl and Reid thinks the officials should have intervened and told Ford that his goddamn torso was offsides?

Your Pro Bowl player can’t even get in his stance in the most important game for the franchise in 25 years and the officials hung you out to dry?

And this is from a head coach who is actually one of the good guys. You know that his head-coaching brethren, the GMs and owners all nodded sympathetically and wondered, “Where’s the warning?”

I’m just stunned nobody’s yet mobilized to get “pre-snap warnings” moved from occasional courtesy into a rule. 

Give it time. 

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4th quarter moments of the Patriots-Chiefs AFC Championship

4th quarter moments of the Patriots-Chiefs AFC Championship

Taking a look back at the crazy 4th quarter between the Patriots and the Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game.

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Patriots' defense creates its own kind of masterpiece against Chiefs

Patriots' defense creates its own kind of masterpiece against Chiefs

KANSAS CITY -- Does the Patriots defensive game plan against the Chiefs still rank as brilliant even after Kansas City hung 31 points on them in one half?

Im going with yes. The plan, which featured man-to-man, liberal pressure, double-teaming of Tyreek Hill and corners assigned to Travis Kelce, held the Chiefs back long enough for the Patriots to get the drop on them in the first 30 minutes. 

As with Bill Belichick’s game plans from the 1990 and 2001 Super Bowls, there came a point where the defense was solved and the gig was up. But the time bought by forcing a high-flying offense to crack the code was the difference. 

“They challenged us,” said Patrick Mahones. “They came up and played man. Not a lot of teams have this year. They put people in our face to see how we responded. The first half, we struggled. We couldn’t make anything happen. The second half, I feel like our guys took the challenge and they (Patriots) were doing the same things and we were just winning. You have to find ways to win one-on-one matchups and we found ways in the second half.”

Hill, who had (check stats) 12 catches for 266 yards and four touchdowns against the Patriots in two games was held to one 42-yard catch. 

“They doubled him on like 95 percent of the plays,” said Mahomes. “He made the one play with the deep one. Guys have to step up and I thought guys did. We put points on the board, we found ways to move the ball whenever we needed to. That just comes with how we played all season. Whoever gets their opportunity, they’re out there making plays.”

Because of the Chiefs second-half explosion, this game won’t hang in Belichick’s coaching Louvre, but it was a masterpiece in its own right.

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