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SOLUTIONS TO HORRIFIC NON-CALLS AND COIN TOSSES DECIDING NFL CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES PLUS SOME SUPER BOWL 53 THOUGHTS

Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

COIN TOSS DECIDING CHAMPIONSHIPS SOLUTION

We’ll deal with the coin toss problem first as that is the easier of the two to correct.  We saw it this past season in the Patriots-Chiefs AFC Championship Game.  If you watched the game, you pretty much knew before the coin toss that, whichever team won the toss would win the game by going down the field and scoring a touchdown.  That’s exactly what happened after the Patriots won the toss.

Frankly, the Patriots-Falcons Super Bowl was decided the same way.  Having attended that game in Houston in person, it was clear, after the Patriots had come back from a 28-3 third-quarter deficit that, if they won the coin toss, they would go down the field and win the Super Bowl by scoring a touchdown.  That’s exactly what happened after they won the toss.

So, what’s the solution?  Well, the NFL, at the end of regulation in regular season tie games, mandates a 10-minute overtime period.  If the game is tied after that 10 minutes, the game is officially a tie.

Obviously, in the playoffs, a game can’t end in a tie.  But to avoid the actuality of conference championships and even Super Bowls (see above examples) being decided by a coin toss, why not incorporate the 10-minute overtime into playoff games?  That is, no matter who wins the toss and no matter what the first team getting the ball does (especially if a now game-ending touchdown is scored), simply let the other team get the ball within the 10-minute time frame.

This would be a much more fair change to a playoff game.  While some may say player safety so you can’t do it, the reality is that, in playoff games, it’s simply wrong to let one team get the ball, score a TD and end the game.  Generally speaking, if these drives take four or fie or even six or seven minutes, the other team still has a chance to get the ball and tie or even win the game.

In this situation, the teams would only have to play a few minutes more to make it fair for both sides.  In recent years, we’ve seen both a Super Bowl and an AFC title game decided by a coin toss.

Make the overtime a 10-minute period played to conclusion and that anomaly would be eliminated (except in the incredibly rare case when a team had a 10-minute scoring drive).

This is a simple solution for a problem that has raised its ugly head in recent playoff years.

HORRIFIC NON-CALL SOLUTION

Every football fan knows about the horrific non-call in the Rams-Saints NFC Championship Game this past playoff season.  No real need to review it – Rams DB Nickel Robey-Coleman hit Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis well before the pass got there.  Yet, with two officials with a bird’s eye view of the play, no obvious pass interference was called.  Had it been called, the Saints get an automatic first down and they win the NFC Championship and play the Patriots in Super Bowl 53 (We’ll pass on the Roman numerals).

So, what can be done in this egregious, game-changing situation?  While many have suggested (and, yes, Sean Payton of the Saints is on the Rules Committee so this issue will be at least discussed) that coaches now be given one challenge on pass interference calls, that rule change would not solve the problem.

Why? Because suppose it was an egregious and obvious hold by an offensive lineman that sprung a runner for a game-winning touchdown?  Suppose a tackler obviously tripped a ball carrier and he came up short on 4th and 2?  Suppose there are not one, but two or even three egregious calls that were missed – the coach with the one challenge would be out of challenges and out of luck.

And while people will say these kinds of calls rarely happen, the point is they do happen and they do decide championship games.  Is it rare?  Absolutely.  But in those rare times when they do happen, there has to be some way to correct it on the spot.

Here’s one suggestion:  During the playoffs (since there is only one game at a time going on), have the guys in New York who are reviewing and deciding calls watch the game with an eye towards egregious misses of any kind by the officials, whether it be pass interference or anything else.  This would not be to review was his elbow down or did the ball come out one inch before the runner’s elbow hit the ground.

This would be about egregious calls like the one that sent the Saints home for the season.  The reason to let the review officials do it (as opposed to a challenge by a coach) is that it might happen more than once in a game (unlikely, but possible).  Again, it shouldn’t just be for pass interference, it could be for any egregious infraction (whether officials in the booth could reverse an egregious flag that was thrown should also be discussed).

While this issue is more difficult than fixing the-coin-flip-wins-the-game issue, by allowing the review guys this power in playoff games would avoid the embarrassment and unfairness of what happened in the Rams-Saints game.

THOUGHTS ON SUPER BOWL 53

DEFENSE, DEFENSE, DEFENSE — In a league that has changed the rules to help the offense, in a world where fans were excited by 54-51 and 43-40 games, the two defensive performances in Super Bowl 53 could well be the greatest defensive performances in the history of the Super Bowl.  While this writer picked the Patriots to win it all before the season, before the playoffs and before the Super Bowl (-2.5), I thought the “wild card’ in the Super Bowl was Wade Phillips.

After all, Phillips had shut down the Patriots in the 2015 AFC Championship Game while at Denver.  Everybody knows he’s a defensive genius.  Plus he certainly had the players to do it (Donald, Suh, Talib and others).

But Phillips was outdone by the defensive team of Bill Belichick and Brian Flores.  The reason to like the Patriots in this Super Bowl was simple: it was Bill Belichick, with two weeks to prepare, against Jared Goff.

The reality is that Goff is closer to Dak Prescott than, say, Patrick Mahomes.  Prescott seems to be a different quarterback when Ezekiel Elliot is running the ball well.  So, too, Goff is a much better quarterback (and his play action passes are much more successful) when Todd Gurley (and, in the playoffs, C. J. Anderson) is running well.  While virtually all quarterbacks are better with a good running game, Prescott and Goff are the two best examples of what some consider excellent NFL quarterbacks who sometimes seem to fall off a cliff when their respective running games are stopped.

Obviously, in the Super Bowl, Belichick took away the running game, dooming the Rams vaunted offense.

Not to defend the Rams and Goff, but the Rams offense took a noticeable hit when Cooper Cupp was hurt during the regular season.  While Belichick is famous for “taking away” your best player, he didn’t have to take away the best Rams wide receiver – injuries did that.

So Belichick (and Flores) shut down the running game, doubled Robert Woods (who’s good but is no Cupp) and singled (most of the time) star corner Stephon Gilmore on speedy Brandin Cooks.

It all worked pretty much to perfection.

In addition, the Patriots blitzed much more in these playoffs than they normally do.  They obliterated poor Philip Rivers of the Chargers by blitzing virtually the whole game.

And in the biggest defensive play of the Super Bowl, Brian Flores, after often bringing five to pressure Goff, brought six for the only time the entire game (some say he brought seven on that Gilmore interception play, but Van Noy (#53) drops back on the snap).  Goff rushed the throw (it looks like his back foot slipped) to avoid the free running blitzer (Harmon) and threw it pretty much right to Gilmore, who said it was his “easiest interception of the year.”

THE PATRIOTS OFFENSE SCORES LATE

The Patriots had moved the ball well early against the Rams but with very little to show for it (one field goal in the first three quarters).  A tipped interception and a missed field goal kept the Rams in the game as it was 3-3 after three quarters.  But as is the case in every Brady-Belichick winning Super Bowl (now 6), Brady led them down the field in the Super Bowl to win the game.

Julian Edelman was the MVP of the game with 10 catches for 141 yards (although he correctly said in the post game that “the defense was the MVP.”).  He’s unguardable one-on-one, especially on those jerk routes where he looks like he’s running a slant (or an out) and then he just breaks the pattern off and “jerks’ the other way.

But, on the only touchdown drive of Super Bowl 53, it was Rob Gronkowski, first on a wheel route and then on a 27-yard seam route to the two, that made the biggest plays.  Plus, once Sony Michel scored the touchdown and Gilmore made the interception, the Patriots really did, as Edelman said in the huddle as the Patriots started from their own five after the interception, “run it down their throats.”  The running game, which was really good on their first drive and then essentially shut down, overwhelmed the tired Rams defense to go 72 yards on the ground.

Then, on 4th and 1 at the Rams 23, Brady walked over to the sidelines during a Patriots time out and said to the debating Bill Belichick, “why don’t we just kick the field goal; a forty yarder and the game’s over.”

And that’s exactly what happened.

PENALTIES NOT CALLED

Well, one on each side stands out to me.  In the first half, Aaron Donald, who was really controlled in this game (especially during the game-winning TD drive when guard JoeThuney blocked him one-on-one as Brady hit Gronk twice), got to Brady after he had thrown a pass and literally threw him to the ground.  No penalty was called.  Anyone who thinks Brady gets all the calls all the time only needs to look at that throw down to see that line of thinking is simply untrue.

But a worse non-call arguably happened on the play before the Gilmore interception.  Goff, who made a perfect throw on this play, had Cooks with a step on Gilmore (who had safety help) near the goal line.  As Cooks went to catch the pass, Gilmore definitely grabbed his left arm and Cooks was unable to bring the perfect pass in with one hand.  A pass interference call that wasn’t called.

POWER RANKINGS

There seems to be no ranking for things like the smartest team, the best collective team, the most in-shape team and the mentally toughest team.  The Patriots are all of these things.

For them to start out as a 1.5 point underdog, just given the fact that they beat Kansas City IN Kansas City, was beyond stupid.  The spread quickly went to Patriots -1, -2 and finished at -2.5.  While this writer thought it would open Patriots -3, the books and their “experts” left it at -2.5 and, at least the ones in New Jersey, got slaughtered.

It was interesting to see that the ESPN Power Index, despite the fact that the Patriots were two-and-a-half point favorites, still gave the Rams a 52% chance to win the Super Bowl.

Sometimes people can’t see the obvious in front of them.  Once the Patriots beat the Chiefs in KC, it didn’t seem possible that Jared Goff could beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl.

HALL OF FAMER STEVE YOUNG

Young seems to see things more clearly than most others.  He was beside himself with praise for both Belichick and Brady.  He said that Belichick was “like Michelangelo” as he was “painting the Sistine Chapel.”  He said that Belichick ‘takes eleven intelligent defensive football players” and molds them into something greater than their parts.

He went on to talk about Brady as the all-time great.  He said, “when I played, we tried to figure out if it was zone or man and we had a play for each.”  He then explained that when Tom Brady figures that out today, “he has five or even ten plays for man or zone.”  Young sounded in awe about what Brady has accomplished.

FINALLY, WAIT TIL NEXT YEAR?

Well, most people thought the Patriots were “vulnerable” this year.  And they certainly weren’t as good as they’ve been in the past.  But their experience, their teamwork, their preparedness and their intelligence are simply better than all of the other teams.  On the one hand, if Dee Ford doesn’t line up in the neutral zone (actually, on the Patriots side of the ball), the Chiefs probably go to the Super Bowl.  But, on the other hand, somehow, some way, with all of the above and the greatest football coach ever, they find a way to survive, thrive and win the Super Bowl.

The doubters will be out next year as well.  But I wouldn’t bet against this team to do it next season.  They’re just that tough, physically and mentally.

© Copyright 2019 by Steve Kallas. All rights reserved.

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