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Saints should have been complaining about Donovan Smith’s holding

Mike Florio and Chris Simms debate how much merit to put behind the Buccaneers, who struggled for most of the game against the Saints, and assess whether Tampa Bay has turned the corner.

On Tuesday’s PFT Live, we talked about some of the blatant holding in which Buccaneers tackle Donovan Smith engaged during the final drives of Monday night’s win over the Saints. On Wednesday’s PFT Live, we looked at every play from those drives during which he held.

It’s amazing that he was flagged for holding only twice. It’s even more amazing that the Saints weren’t repeatedly and loudly losing their minds about it.

Chris Simms made the point during both shows that the players who had been held should have been complaining to the officials. At some point, coach Dennis Allen needed to be yelling and screaming at the folks in black and white stripes about the fact that “76 is holding on every f--king play!”

He was. And, hey, why stop if they’re not calling it?

So why didn’t they call it? Incompetence is the easiest explanation. The notion that the game was “rigged” becomes much harder to accept. NFL games ARE NOT rigged, even if it’s not unreasonable at times to wonder.

There’s a middle ground to consider. The NFL has been touting all year the number of close games and come-from-behind wins. The total close games for the year and the week have become the first item in each “Seven from Sunday” email that the league sends out.

This was the first nugget for the latest edition: “With two games yet to be completed in Week 13, there have been 85 games decided by a touchdown (six points) or less, the most such games through the first 13 weeks all-time. Ten of 13 games (76.9 percent) that have been completed in Week 13 have been within one score (eight points) in the fourth quarter and there have been 147 games within one score (eight points) in the fourth quarter this season, the most such games through the first 13 weeks in NFL history.”

Next, the league pointed out the 10-point deficits that were overcome this week (two to win, one to tie), the fourth-quarter deficits that were erased (four to win, one to tie), and the games decided by a touchdown in the final two minutes (two).

Tampa’s victory over the Saints fell into each of those categories. If the officials are aware (and they surely are) that the league likes having the inherent excitement that flows from unpredictable games that are never over until they’re over, will they be inclined to look the other way when one team is down by 13 points with five minutes to play and one of its offensive linemen is holding on every single play?

What may have started as simply as giving Tom Brady and company a chance to make things interesting necessarily became something more than that, once things got very interesting. The final result wasn’t predetermined, but the exciting finish was allowed to happen by officials who failed to throw flags.

Conscious or not, how isn’t it a potential explanation for what happened? One way to keep it from happening is for the players and coaches of the team that is getting held on every play to make so much noise as it’s occurring that it can’t be ignored.