Tuesday, January 13, 2015

7 comments MMQB Review: Now the Cowboys Got Screwed by the Officials Edition

Peter King detailed his crimefighting abilities in last week's TMQ when he took on a pickpocket who tried to lift his wallet, as well as focused on the Lions feeling they were screwed by the officials in their playoff loss to the Cowboys. Peter also detailed how the Rams were making a move to leave St. Louis and pushed the narratives for the divisional round games. This week Peter details how the Cowboys now feel like THEY were screwed by the officials, reveals he didn't really watch the Carolina-Seattle game (a West Coast team versus a team from the South? Who cares?) but he definitely has thoughts on the game he didn't see, picks the worst possible Goat of the Week, and has other thoughts on the playoffs he could be bothered enough to actually watch.

Peter starts the column off with a quote from Sun Tzu because, umm...., apparently destroying haikus isn't doing enough damage to Japanese and Chinese culture.

In the spring of 2004, after the Patriots won their second Super Bowl, I was working on a Bill Belichick profile for Sports Illustrated. The New England coach agreed to show me his football library, which is believed to be the single biggest existing collection of books about the sport. I was surprised to see on one of the packed shelves The Art of War, old and tattered and thin.

The Art of War,” I said. “Wow. You read that?”
“Yeah,” he said with a bit of a scowl. “I got something out of it. But, you know, ‘Don’t move your troops when the ground is muddy.’ I mean …”

Peter has probably told this story about Belichick's library five times in MMQB in the last decade. Why would Belichick not read "The Art of War"? Did Peter think Belichick would have Lee Child and Danielle Steel novels on his shelf?

And I imagine Belichick scowled because he disagreed with how giddy Peter sounded when asking this question. 

Belichick learned more than that. He and his top offensive lieutenant, coordinator Josh McDaniels, used one of the strangest formations in recent history three times Saturday night, and their usage was a key element (but certainly not the reason) why the Patriots will be hosting the AFC Championship Game on Sunday evening back at Gillette Stadium. It’s the stratagem of the weekend, the stratagem of the season.

The stratagem of the decade even. Perhaps the best stratagem in record history. INCLUDING THE TRIASSIC PERIOD.

This weekend was dominated by some heart-stopping football, by the first serious questions about whether Peyton Manning has played his last game … and by the rulings of referees Bill Vinovich in New England and Gene Steratore in Green Bay, and by the opinions and interpretations of Dean Blandino and Mike Pereira and Mike Carey. Decidedly not what the NFL wants on the best weekend of football all year, four elimination games in 31 hours with the NFL’s Final Eight.

Did a ton of people watch the games? They did? That's all the NFL really cares about. They can cover up or make the public forget about any other mistakes they make along the way.

Packers 26, Cowboys 21: “A bad rule, ruled correctly.”

That’s how one longtime NFL operative referred to the call that changed the course of the season for Green Bay and Dallas at Lambeau Field. And when the play was adjudicated by referee Gene Steratore under the hood in Green Bay, connected to NFL vice president for officiating Dean Blandino in the officiating command center in New York, they made the call by the exact interpretation of the rulebook. With just over four minutes left and Dallas trailing by five, the Cowboys made a strange call on fourth-and-two with the game on the line: a deep ball down the left sideline.

It's not strange, because Gregg Easterbrook says the best time to go deep is on fourth-and-short, unless the team wants to run the ball and "do a little dance," but only go deep if the defense isn't expecting your team to go deep, which the Packers should be expecting it because on a play like this the Cowboys are only going to run the ball or throw deep. So yes, this throw made complete sense.

Dez Bryant made a leaping catch over Packers cornerback Sam Shields. But as he landed the ball became momentarily dislodged. The initial ruling was a completed catch, gain of 31, ball down at the Packer one. Green Bay coach Mike McCarty challenged the ruling on the field. After a long review, Steratore emerged from the hood and said the call was reversed; Bryant hadn’t completed the act of the catch.

The ground can't cause a fumble, unless in this case where the ground can cause a fumble. It's complicated and it's not like the officiating made a difference in the game, and hey look, it's the Conference Championship games that should be exciting so let's talk about that.

America said the same thing. It looked like a catch. By my Twitter feed, a good 80 percent of the fans who opined said it was a catch.

Because few things are more accurate than what the majority of people on Twitter think. I like how Peter selectively uses opinions on Twitter as proof for something. When it comes to 80% of Twitter thinking he's a shill for the NFL or not liking something he wrote, well those 80% are just being Twitter bullies, but when 80% agree with Peter then this majority obviously is correct.

The vital and controversial part of this rule is that as a player falls to the ground in the continuation of the act of trying to make a catch, he has to maintain control of the ball when he hits the ground.

Bryant failed to maintain possession of the ball when he hit the ground while in the process of making the catch. The ball popped from Bryant’s grasp when his body hit the turf and momentarily left his grip. He caught it while on the ground without the ball hitting the ground, but by rule, that’s not important. Bryant would have had to possess the ball without it leaving his grasp when he hit the ground.

I get the rule. It's the rule. The ground can't cause a fumble. I understand that rule too. So if Bryant had the ball possessed until he hit the ground, then why can the ground cause an incomplete pass if the receiver possesses the football all the way to the ground after being touched with two feet in bounds? I understand if the receiver doesn't have possession or the football hits the ground, but Bryant appeared to possess it all the way to the ground.

Crucial point two: If Steratore and Blandino had ruled Bryant fumbled the ball while making a football act “common to the game,” they could have ruled the catch good and the ball down at the one. For instance, if they ruled he caught the ball and then extended both arms “while making a football act common to the game”—that is, while trying to extend the ball across the goal line, with the ball never being lost in his grasp—it would have been a catch.

You know what else is a common act to the game? Catching a football while jumping in the air and then landing on the ground. It just seems silly to me that an additional act other than catching the football is required to make this a good catch. If he caught the pass while trying to put the ball over the goal and fumbled it out, that's fine as a catch, but why does that mean Bryant had more possession of the football than simply landing on the ground with possession and two feet in bounds? Because he tried an additional football move? The assumption a receiver is making an additional football move, so he must have possession of the football is a bit shaky to me.

“That’s an incomplete pass by rule,” said FOX rules analyst Mike Pereira, who used to have Blandino’s job. “The rule is very specific. In the process of going to the ground, you must maintain possession. That’s what happened here. The ball hit the ground and popped out immediately.”

The rule was enforced correctly. What got me was that Bryant had the ball all the way to the ground and then it popped out a little bit. I think if the receiver has possession all the way to the ground and has been touched then he should be down. Maybe that's a bad idea.

Maybe there will be enough momentum for a revolutionary change—for a catch to be catch as soon as a receiver gets two feet down and possesses the ball clearly. The problem with that in the past, as another source said Sunday, is “the cheap fumble.” Think of what happens when a pass, a catch by a receiver, a thudding hit by a defender and a fumble all occur at lightning speed. Did the receiver actually have possession before getting whacked and losing control of the ball?

I don't know. That's what instant replay is for. I understand the idea of a "cheap fumble." In a situation where a receiver catches a pass and then gets hit, I think that's a different situation. That's a question of whether the pass was complete or not. If the receiver made a football move as defined by the NFL rules then this would be a fumble. If he didn't, it's an incomplete pass. In a situation where the receiver has possession of the football all the way to the ground, is touched and it's contact with the ground that causes the ball to come out of his possession then I don't see why it wouldn't be a complete pass.

With the anger over this call, expect debate to center on the either two feet down and possession constituting a catch (with the requisite likely rise in the “cheap fumble”), or a proposal that a receiver doesn’t have to maintain control when going to the ground after taking two steps.

Change the rule, don't change the rule, I don't care. I just think this was a situation where the catch was completed and the ball was jarred loose by the ground. Maybe it shouldn't be a catch, but I didn't think Bryant lost possession all that much. It's not like he lost possession prior to hitting the ground. I think if he maintained possession, had two feet down, and completed the catch until he hit the ground then it looks like a catch to me.

But understand one thing: These games are so close, and the calls made so agonizingly vivid and on a sword’s edge by replay technology, that you’re not putting the genie back in the bottle. There are going to be teams sent home by incredibly close calls now and into the future, because we can see these calls so well, and because replay is here to say.

Which is fine with me. It's better than not having the technology and the calls on the field being incorrect and deciding a game. I don't love the rule, but at least it was applied correctly. It beats the alternative.

It was not pretty watching Peyton Manning’s twilight. That certainly is what Sunday’s 24-13 loss to Indianapolis in the Broncos’ playoff opener looked like. And now, Manning, who turns 39 in 10 weeks, will have to decide whether he’ll return for a fourth season in Denver, and an 18th season in the NFL, in 2015. “I guess I can’t just give that simple answer right now,” Manning said after his 53rd game as a Bronco. “I’m processing it.”

It's not like this has been a mystery. Teams have pressed Manning's receivers and forced him to throw into tight windows before. It just looks really bad for Manning when a team does it well, which the Colts did. I personally thought that what we are seeing at the end of this year would happen two years ago. I really did. I thought the wear of the season would hurt Manning's arm in the playoffs and thought this right when he came back from his neck surgery with the Broncos. It took longer than I expected.

Manning threw a few balls late, or shy of their target. The crispness of a Manning march down the field wasn’t there. In his last 11 drives, two resulted in field goals; the rest, nothing. He had no zip on the ball. His downfield throws were consistently arced. He looked like, well, a 38-year-old quarterback.

Except for Brett Favre. He somehow managed to defy time and his arm velocity was still excellent. His decision-making wasn't affected as he got older either and that's not necessarily a compliment.

You couldn’t see this coming in the season’s first two months. In late October, we were talking about Manning playing two or three more years.

I literally had zero conversations with humans about Manning playing two or three more years. I don't know who "we" is. Maybe it's Peter King and his imaginary friend who he keeps in his front pocket with his wallet.

And maybe some of this is Thomas-related.

Because if Peyton Manning doesn't have his full complement of Pro Bowl receivers then how can he be expected to win games and play well?

This is what Manning told me about his future in August:

“I’ve always said that I’m only gonna do it A) if I can help—if I can truly help—and B) if I still enjoy, not the playing—anybody enjoys playing—but enjoy the preparation and the work part of it. Right now I’m still enjoying those things. I’ve heard Drew Brees and Tom Brady say that they have this target, like, ‘I’m gonna play until I’m 45.’ I’m not in that position, I think because of my neck injury. But I think the smart way to handle it is, every March, I do this physical and we take a look at it. It’s the perfect time, because it says, ‘Hey, everything looks good.’ And it also kind of allows me to go, Do I still wanna go through a lifting, offseason schedule again? I do my neck check, but I do my heart check as well, my desire check.

Peyton is like, "I'm going to sit down on March 10 and figure it all out from there on whether I want to retire or not. If I'm not retiring, I will immediately have to get in shape to shoot the 50 commercials that I do every year."

Then Greg Bedard detailed Manning's departure from the locker room and (apparently this is important) wrote:

“What struck me was how matter-of-fact everything was,” said Bedard. “It could have been a regular-season loss based on his reaction. There was no holding his head in his hands. No long stretches of staring off into space. No devastation. No sense of finality. It just seemed part of the process for him.”

Well it probably is a part of the process for Manning. He has lost a lot of playoff games and has been one-and-done 9 times in his career. He's used to this feeling by now.

Patriots 35, Ravens 31: Thank you, Nick Saban.

On Saturday night, in the third quarter against Baltimore, New England lined up four offensive linemen in their usual spots but with a running back, Shane Vereen, split out wide right, having declared himself an ineligible receiver before the snap, with a wide receiver to the right of him. A backup tight end, Michael Hoomanawanui, was in the left tackle slot, but he was actually an eligible receiver because Vereen, wide right, was not. At the snap of the ball, Vereen stepped back from the line and held his hands out for the ball, continuing the ruse. Hoomanawanui lumbered up the left seam, and quarterback Tom Brady hit him with a pass. Gain of 14, to the Baltimore 10-yard line.

The New England play could not have been more of a carbon copy if Alabama coach Nick Saban or his offensive coordinator, Lane Kiffin, had flown to New England last week to help offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels install it.

I feel like Lane Kiffin and Josh McDaniels would hang out though. Not sure why I feel this way.

There is no doubt in my mind, based on the duplication of the play, that the Patriots got this play from Alabama. And good for them. It’s perfectly legal, despite Baltimore’s protestations to the contrary, and though officiating czar Dean Blandino told me Sunday the league is going to examine the play (actually, the Patriots completed three passes, for 11, 14 and 16 yards on the three plays they ran), what rule can the NFL change?

It's not fair to come up with creative plays that confuse the defense. Of course Mike Shula has been calling plays for years now under the assumption that it's not legal to confuse the defense with creative play-calling, so I'm sure this rule change won't affect the Panthers at all.

Baltimore coach John Harbaugh protested the play because he thought the Ravens weren’t given time to “match up” after the Patriots made their switch. Here’s how the rule reads: “If a substitution is made by the offense, the offense shall not be permitted to snap the ball until the defense has been permitted to respond with its substitutions.

I timed the three plays in question to see if Baltimore had been unfairly disadvantaged by the Patriot ploy, using NFL Game Rewind as my resource. Playing the NBC telecast back, I clocked the amount of time between referee Bill Vinovich’s in-stadium announcement of the “non-eligible player” (it sounded like that was what Vinovich called the spread-wide faux fifth lineman). By my count, seven, 10 and seven seconds elapsed between the announcements and the snap of the ball.

Seven seconds isn't that much. I have to admit that, but by the third time the Patriots used this tactic I would hope the Ravens would have caught on a little bit better.

“The whole issue with Baltimore,’’ Blandino said, “is they felt they weren’t given enough time [to match up]. We will review the three plays, but it appears from a mechanical standpoint that the announcement was made properly, the defense was notified, and the proper mechanics were executed.’’

Then Dean Blandino waved his hand and said there was nothing to see here and immediately exited the Packers' party bus.

My feeling is Baltimore should have had a coach upstairs identify the New England weirdness as the announcement was made, and note that a tight end was playing left tackle. A coach upstairs should have the power to say in the headset to Harbaugh, “Call a timeout! New England’s doing something we can’t identify!” Or something like that.

If I remember correctly, these plays were all used on the same drive. So I don't have an issue with the strategy, but do have an issue with Peter suggesting the Ravens have a coach to identify the Patriots' weirdness. After the first time this formation was used, the Ravens didn't know the Patriots would use it again and there wasn't time to start handing out responsibilities for identifying when New England did something weird. Plus, burning timeouts every time the Patriots used a weird formation doesn't seem like the best use of timeouts. The Ravens could have handled it better, but I don't know if Peter's suggestion is realistic.

Five minutes later, McDaniels pulled out a call that—for the first time in my visits to the 13-year-old New England stadium—made the stadium shake noticeably. From the Patriots’ 49, Edelman, an option quarterback in college at Kent State, went in motion from right to left, and at the snap, Brady threw a backward pass across the formation to him. Edelman took a running step forward, baiting cornerback Rashaan Melvin on that side.

Edelman reached back and threw a good spiral (not great; a slight wobbler) 37 yards through the air. “I thought I overthrew Danny, but he saved me,’’ Edelman said. Not true. The throw was perfect, right on target. Touchdown. Tie game. Stadium gone mad.

It's nice to hear that Peter King attended one playoff game and has all of the details during that game, but couldn't be bothered to watch much of another playoff game. After all, it's only the defending Super Bowl champs playing.

But think about life without the imaginative calls Saturday night. Think of losing to the Ravens for the third time in six years in the playoffs. Think of the 10th straight year without a championship for the team of the generation. Think of the aging giants of the game: Belichick will be 63 next season, Brady 38. Would they ever have a better—or even another—chance to win a fourth Super Bowl?

Which is pretty much what Peter and other sportswriters have asked for 2-3 years now. While it may be true that Brady and Belichick don't have much time left, it seems like every playoff appearance for the last few years the question of "Will this be the last time for them?" gets asked.

Seattle 31, Carolina 17: The Enforcer shall lead them.

I didn’t see a lot of the Seattle-Carolina game,

And really, why would Peter watch it? There's no Brady/Manning/Rodgers playing, it's a West Coast team versus a .500 team, and it's not supposed to be a good game. There are three other games that had Peter's attention.

but what seemed to be the most impressive thing about it was the play of strong safety Kam Chancellor. The breadth of his talent was on display throughout, and it’s easy to see why the Seahawks feel they have the best pair of safeties in football and no other team is close for second place.

"I didn't see much of this game, but let me now comment on what little bit I saw and draw some conclusions on this small amount of information I gathered."

Klemko made a great point to me: “That Chancellor is the third-biggest name in the Seattle secondary behind Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas says more about Seattle’s roster than it does about the fourth-year safety, who turned in perhaps the game of his career here. Eleven tackles and an interception returned 90 yards for a touchdown were enough to fill a stat sheet, but he also did things that don’t show up in the boxscore that make you go wow. Chancellor hurdled the Carolina line twice on field goal block attempts, and he somehow made Mike Tolbert go backwards.’’

Making Tolbert go backwards is impressive. What's more impressive is Chancellor hurdled the line of scrimmage twice and on the second attempt the Panthers inept special teams coordinator didn't bother adjusting for the fact Chancellor was doing this.

Chancellor is a mild-mannered guy who is good buddies with Sherman but will never be confused with him in the press conference standings. In his postgame interview, he calmly assigned “all glory to God” …  and to his defensive line. He’ll be a tough assignment, along with his defensive mates, for Aaron Rodgers Sunday at noon Pacific Time in Seattle.

Thanks for your insights on this game, Peter. I know it's hard to watch four NFL games in one weekend, especially when they all take place at different times with no overlap, but I'm sure there were more important things you had to do.

In the wake of the Mueller report …

The 96-page report has been well-dissected in the four days since its release. But four points I think must be made:

2. There was one lie the league got called on. After the vivid TMZ footage of Ray Rice striking his then-fiancĂ©e surfaced, Goodell said the league had requested “from law enforcement any and all information about the incident.” Mueller found that this was just not true. As he wrote: “League investigators did not contact any of the police officers who investigated the incident, the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office, or the Revel [the casino where the attack took place] to attempt to obtain or view the in-elevator video or to obtain other information. No one from the League asked Rice or his lawyer whether they would make available for viewing the in-elevator video they received as part of criminal discovery in early April.’’

So Roger Goodell IS a liar then? I ask because this is a very basic part of Goodell's initial reasoning for why he suspended Ray Rice only two games. Goodell said he viewed the tape of the incident and talked to all parties. Then Goodell was like, "Well they wouldn't give us the tape." Now it's found out that the NFL didn't even ask for the tape. It's a simple lie that goes to the heart of why Rice was suspended for the amount of games he was.

4. It’s clear the league trusted Rice too much as a good guy when the discipline was handed out. I wish Goodell would admit why he was soft on Rice in the first place.

Yes, if only there were someone who could take the time to investigate this and ask questions. Maybe someone who doesn't get the story wrong initially and then completely back away from trying to report on the story can do some investigative reporting.

Not that it would make that much difference now, but it would shed light on how the league could go from a two-game ban to an indefinite one (which ended up being 10 games when Rice was reinstated in late November), just because a video surfaced that simply put an exclamation point on what was a scurrilous attack in the first place.

You answered your own question, Peter. A video surfaced and it looked bad. To protect the NFL's brand they decided that once the public saw Rice hit his fiance then they better suspend Rice for more games.

The Fine Fifteen

1. Seattle (13-4). Seattle safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor had 22 tackles, a pick, a forced fumbled and three passes defensed Saturday night. They dominated, particularly Chancellor.

From what Peter hears from other people who watched the entire game, they dominated. Sources say this is true.

4. Dallas (13-5). Just a guess, but I’m thinking Dean Blandino won’t be getting any more rides on the Dallas party bus.

For correctly enforcing the rules as set forth by the NFL?

7. Denver (12-5). One month ago today, who would have thought we’d be talking about a total reconstruction job of the team that John Elway so masterfully built?

Probably some people thought this. John Elway built the Broncos team to win now and the health of Peyton Manning was always the reason the Broncos were trying to win now. So if Manning gets hurt or retires, the team would probably start rebuilding in some small or big way.

Peter has a lot of difficulty getting out of his little NFL Insider bubble. Everyone doesn't think like he thinks or what he thinks. Denver's window was dependent on Peyton Manning being the Broncos' quarterback. When Manning retires or gets hurt, the strategy for the Broncos changes.

9. Carolina (8-9-1). Nothing to be ashamed of. The Panthers put up a good fight, and they should be well-prepared, with a rebuilt line and receiver corps, to make a run in the NFC South next year. 2015 will be a big year for Ron Rivera, who is 33-33-1 after four seasons as Jerry Richardson’s coach.

Shitty team or no shitty team, he made back-to-back playoff appearances. That's something the franchise had not done before. Every year is a big year for 50% of NFL head coaches. Job security comes and goes on a yearly basis. I would be interested to see Peter King write that 2015 is a big year for Jeff Fisher, who is 20-27-1 after three seasons as the Rams' coach. He won't write that though, because no Marvin Demoff client is going to put another Marvin Demoff client on the spot like that.

11. Cincinnati (10-6-1). Most important question the Bengals will answer this offseason for the future of the franchise: Who will be brought in to challenge Andy Dalton for the quarterback job? I’ll be clear here. Dalton shouldn’t lose his job because of the four straight wild-card losses. He has done a tremendous amount to help this team be a consistent contender. But it’s irresponsible for the team to not set up some competition at the quarterback position.

Yet again, I would be interested to see Peter write this about the Rams. They have had three seasons of no quarterback competition for a quarterback who hasn't made the playoffs once and has been injury-prone. But again, no Marvin Demoff client will second-guess another Marvin Demoff client. Peter King is a good boy and will stand down.

Maybe it makes Dalton better. Maybe it results in him losing his job. But it’s a slap to the fans to do business as usual this offseason.

I just want to read these words written by Peter King about the Rams. They would apply in that situation as well. I know, I know...Peter can't rock the boat too much with his agent's clients, but Rams fans have been slapped in the face by Jeff Fisher and the Rams organization for a few years now. Fisher is paid to do better than that.

12. Houston (9-7). I’d be doing a ton of homework on Jameis Winston if I were the Texans.

Sounds like they would have to trade up for him.

13. Arizona (11-6). I’d buttress the quarterback position by overpaying a third playable one if I were the Cardinals.

Maybe Shaun Hill will be available.

15. Buffalo (9-7). So … I just wonder about the fate of Jim Schwartz, who, by the end of this season, had built a top-three defense in Buffalo. What of Schwartz? What of his effective scheme? Why a defensive guy as head coach instead of the best available quarterback-whisperer? And who is the quarterback, while we’re on the subject?

It's January. Calm the hell down about who the quarterback is come September.

Defensive Players of the Week

Vontae Davis, cornerback, Indianapolis. With five passes defensed (the last of which should have been an easy interception against the declining Peyton Manning), Davis continued to solidify his position as a top-10 cornerback in the league. And I continue to ask: What was Miami thinking, trading him to Indianapolis in 2012?

They were thinking they wanted a second round pick for a player who had difficulty grasping the Dolphins' defensive system. The best part about this award Peter gives is that a picture of Davis accompanies the award in a sidebar.
Notice how Davis has his arm around Emmanuel Sanders before the ball has gotten there. So that's pass interference potentially, right? The officials didn't call this type of pass interference much in the Colts-Broncos games. Perhaps Sanders didn't flop enough to get the call.

Goat of the Week
Rashaan Melvin, cornerback, Baltimore. This feels almost cruel.

It sort of is cruel, Peter. Rashaan Melvin is an undrafted free agent who was basically starting for the Ravens because they didn't have too many other quality options. It's unfair to call him a "goat" because he wouldn't be starting at this point in his career if injuries had not decimated the rest of the Ravens secondary.

Melvin is a limited cornerback, picked up out of desperation by Baltimore with a month left in the season because the Ravens’ secondary was being wiped out by injury. He played credibly in several games, making some big plays last week to help Baltimore win the wild-card game at Pittsburgh. But on Saturday night in Foxboro he got lit up by Tom Brady as few corners have been lit up in recent times. The very ugly numbers, per Pro Football Focus:

Targeted: 19 times. Receptions surrendered: 15.
Receiving yards allowed: 224.
Touchdowns allowed: 2.
Quarterback rating allowed: 150.9.

Yikes. That is one burned evening.

Yeah, he got killed by Tom Brady. It seems cruel to call him the "goat" because it is cruel to call him the goat. Say that more was expected of him, but I don't know what else was expected from Melvin when going against Tom Brady in the AFC Divisional Round. There were no other goats on the weekend? None?

“If Christie is still a serious presidential candidate, it was a very peculiar performance. In fact, it made sense career-wise only if he was campaigning for a future job as a team mascot. Look at the picture, and it’s hard to imagine him giving a State of the Union address, but you can really see him dressed up like a bumblebee or a duck, bouncing around the sidelines and firing a T-shirt cannon into the stands.”

—Columnist Gail Collins of The New York Times, on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s awkward three-way embrace, caught by FOX cameras, with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and son Steven in the waning moments of the 24-20 wild-card win over Detroit.

Christie might be the only presidential candidate who may be able to look back on his career and say, “Rooting for the Dallas Cowboys cost me the White House.”

Whaaaaaaaaaaat? "The New York Times" is ripping a conservative who may run for President? No way, I don't believe it. Cheering for the Cowboys will cost Christie the White House, but Hillary Clinton setting up residency in New York, even though she had few other ties in the city, specifically to further her political career was just fine by them. I can't believe the "Times" would rip a conservative politician.

I know, it's a strawman argument. I just can't read anything the "Times" writes without sensing a bias. 

Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note of the Week

Stayed at the Renaissance Hotel in the parking lot at Gillette Stadium over the weekend, in the growing Patriots Place complex.
There are Belichickian reminders around the place. Understated sign on one of the entry doors to the hotel, complete with a Patriots logo, and on one of the shops in the mini-mall here:


He figures if everyone on the team worries about doing his job to the best of his ability, and all those efforts are combined, the Patriots have the best chance to win—rather than one unit wondering why another unit isn’t playing well, and maybe making suggestions, etc. It’s a mantra around the team,

It's a great mantra. It also helps to convince the players on the active roster to stick to doing their job when the other units on the roster do their job well. Success makes every mantra sound brilliant. Try to tell the Cleveland Browns defense to "do their job" while the offense has injuries and continues to lack direction. It's harder to stick to doing your job on a team when there are units on that team very clearly not doing their job well. As always, success makes everything so much more perfect.

Ten Things I Think I Think

1. I think this is what I liked about the playoff weekend:

a. The death of the Dallas-bought-off-the-officials storyline.

How about the Dallas-was-screwed-by-the-officials storyline? 

b. Andrew Luck, on the read-option, beating DeMarcus Ware around the corner for a would-be touchdown. Though it was called back, that was a heck of an athletic move by Luck.

It's a "sneaky athletic for a white boy" mention.

i. Amazing back-shoulder throw by Joe Flacco to Owen Daniels for his third touchdown. Perfectly executed. “Flacco doesn’t know the difference between playoff football and playing in the backyard,” Cris Collinsworth said on NBC.

That's great insight from Cris Collinsworth. Such brilliant words.

2. I think this is what I didn’t like about the playoff weekend:

a. Watching Peyton Manning struggle like a great pitcher who’s lost his fastball.

He's 38 years old. It had to happen at some point.

c. Carolina’s pursuit on the 90-yard Kam Chancellor interception return.

Apparently Peter King only watched Kam Chancellor for the little bit he watched Carolina-Seattle because he knows almost nothing else about the game that doesn't involve Kam Chancellor.

They did pursue him. They simply weren't catching him, but there were Panthers players who chased after Chancellor. But observations from a guy who says he didn't watch much of the game is always appreciated. The replay shows no one would have caught him, but a couple Panthers did chase Chancellor.

i. Denver in the postseason. 2012 divisional loss as a one seed, 2013 Super Bowl loss as a one seed, 2014 divisional loss as a two seed. In my opinion, the Broncos were too good to be 2-3 in the last three postseasons.

The Broncos did make the Super Bowl last year, so it's not like they are complete failures. Still, Peyton Manning is too good of a quarterback to have the career record in the playoffs that he does.

3. I think the earth shifts so fast these days in the coaching search business, but here are a few things I hear about the status of certain jobs:

I wonder if the same source that gave him the information on what happened in Roger Goodell's office between Ray and Janay Rice is Peter's source of this information?

a. Atlanta, after Rex Ryan went to the Bills (too much uncertainty in the Falcons organization to hire him, from what I hear), likes two NFC West defensive coordinators—Seattle’s Dan Quinn and Arizona’s Todd Bowles. I bet they’d hire Quinn if he were available right now, but knowing he might not be on the street for three more weeks might play into it.

I don't understand why the Falcons wouldn't wait three weeks to interview the guy they would hire right now if they could. They would really not hire the guy they want because they can't wait three weeks to interview him?

c. Denver, I believe, is not going to replace John Fox. I hear there haven’t been any talks internally to replace him. But when Jay Glazer, who is close to Fox, says Fox may not be around if the Broncos lose, and then they lose, my antennae goes up. 

He's gone. 

d. New England, I believe, will not lose offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. You never know if he’ll be the heir to Bill Belichick, but he interviewed in Atlanta and San Francisco. Not that either place would offer him the job—I hear nothing of the sort—but my guess is he would not leave New England for a place that didn’t have stability and a quarterback.

So McDaniels would go to Atlanta or San Francisco? The way that Peter words this confuses me. McDaniels wouldn't leave for a place that didn't have stability and a quarterback, but Peter isn't referring to San Francisco and Atlanta as not having stability and a quarterback I hope.

8. I think “Divisional Playoffs’’ is the worst name for any round of any postseason in any sport. What, “Interesting Playoff Weekend” was already taken? Should be “Conference semifinals,” at least.

I don't see how it matters at all. There are much bigger concerns in the NFL than the name of the second round of the playoffs.

10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:

c. Congrats to Boston on being the 2024 Summer Olympics nominee by the U.S. Olympic Committee. I can’t see the Olympics in Boston—just seems too small—but people would have a great time in the summer in that area, I can promise that.

If Boston ended up winning the bid for the 2024 Olympics then Bill Simmons and Peter King would state these Boston Olympics were the greatest Olympics ever.

d. Ohio State 37, Oregon 30. But my knowledge of those two teams would fit on the head of a pin. I watched their two bowl games, and Ohio State has that won’t-be-denied air.

Having very little knowledge of what he is talking about has never stopped Peter from opining before.

e. The NBA season is three months old and the New York Knicks have won five games. That Phil Jackson can sure build a basketball team.

The Knicks are terrible but was Phil Jackson supposed to turn it around in three months? I wish Peter King could answer that question. It would have been an incredible turnaround for Phil Jackson to have turned the Knicks around in three months.

g. First Joe Maddon. Now Ben Zobrist? Who are you, Rays?

Have you ever paid attention to the Rays? Ever? What about trading Ben Zobrist and not giving Joe Maddon the money he wants surprises you?

i. Beernerdness: Tried the Smoke and Dagger black lager Friday night—I’d never heard of such a beer, a black lager—

(Shakes head sadly)

The Adieu Haiku
So: Whither Peyton?
Over-under for his call:
I’ll guess March 7

You mean two days before his bonus that the Broncos have to pay him comes due? That's the day by which Manning will make a decision regarding his future? Don't go too far out on that limb, Peter.


Slag-King said...

It's not strange, because Gregg Easterbrook says the best time to go deep is on fourth-and-short,

Just a head's up, Gregg's TMQ today is gonna make you steaming mad regarding this situation. I certainly was, ready to go medieval on the computer screen.

Slag-King said...

Maybe it's Peter King and his imaginary friend who he keeps in his front pocket with his wallet.

I see what you did there! Thanks for the laugh!

I feel like Lane Kiffin and Josh McDaniels would hang out though. Not sure why I feel this way.

I always get these two confused when seeing pictures of either one of them.

For correctly enforcing the rules as set forth by the NFL?

My appreciation for Jason Garrett was raised another notch when he refused to blame the referees for the loss (of course he had an opinion that it was a catch). (Let's hope they bring in Jim Schwartz as Def Coordinator. He'd be a good fit with the no-name Cowboys.)

Watching Peyton Manning struggle like a great pitcher who’s lost his fastball.

What do you think of the report that he had torn quads? I can see how that really affected his accuracy and zip. It was painful watching him peter (pun intended) out of another 1 and done playoff exit.

Anonymous said...

"Carolina’s pursuit on the 90-yard Kam Chancellor interception return."

Who exactly is catching Kam Chancellor from behind? Ed Dickson? Byron Bell? Brenton Bursin fell down on his route, so I don't think it will be him. This is a really stupid criticism. Chancellor intercepted the pass in full stride, there was no catching him at that point.

As for the goat of the week...Peyton Manning played a pretty lousy game on Sunday. Joe Flacco threw an INT at the end of the Ravens-Patriots game. These guys make a lot of money and are fair game for things like this. Rashaun Melvin? He's only playing because the Ravens are so decimated at CB. What's even the point of having a goat of the week if you're just going to pick on the weakest players with the most tenuous positions? It's like picking on Ryan Lindley. Yeah he's terrible, but it's not his fault the Cardinals keep throwing him out there. He's just not good enough, and neither is Rashaun Melvin.

Bengoodfella said...

Slag, I haven't read it yet. I hope to later today. I think he's just trolling his readers at this point.

I was thinking about the front pocket where Peter keeps his wallet. I've come to the conclusion he was wearing a small fanny pack and didn't want to say it. Of course that would be obvious and he is clearly more deceptive with where he keeps his wallet.

I don't hate either guy, but I feel like they would be buddies.

I like how Garrett didn't blame the officials either. I'm still a little confused about his contract extension. I know the Cowboys had to do it, but wasn't he going to be fired for going 8-8 too much? Maybe he's found his way. I thought five years on the extension seemed rather long. I guess it's not like Jerry Jones isn't good for it.

I don't know if that's real or not. I know Fox leaked the story of his leaving to Glazer. That's glaringly obvious, so I think maybe someone from Manning's team leaked the quad issue. I'm not sure it would affect velocity but I've never had a torn quad.

Anon, Ed Dickson was running. It was an out pattern so there weren't too many Panthers players over there. I don't advocate being lazy, but it was a Pick-6. There was no getting around it.

Melvin was probably the worst of the week, but it feels mean to name him the goat. Maybe mention him, but he's a product of injuries, not a product of the Ravens thinking he is a quality NFL starter. I wouldn't expect Melvin to play well against Tom Brady. The same thing with Lindley. I know there are no excuses, but he was picked up off SD's practice squad. He was starting a road playoff game against a pretty good defense. He's less a goat and more a victim of circumstances.

I don't know who my goat of the week would be. I would say Cam Newton since he had two INT's and a fumble, but the Panthers recovered the fumble and one of his INT's was a famous "pass that's a punt" which Flacco was also guilty of and his WR fell on the 2nd INT. Honestly, I don't think there was a goat this week. Maybe John Fox. He didn't have his team ready and they lost a third straight home playoff game. That's probably a stretch though.

Slag-King said...

I don't know who my goat of the week would be.

How about the Broncos receivers? They have had some of the ugliest drops I've seen in a while (especially D. Thomas). They couldn't get open to save their life. It was just an all-around bad game for the offense.

Chris said...

I think Garrett probably would have been fired if he had lost to Detroit too. I think the win gives him at least another year or two, or 5 as the case may be.

A ton of people did watch the games except for Peter apparently since he couldn't be bothered to stick around for Carolina-Seattle.

I think in a way Peter saying that all the Ray Rice stuff "doesn't mean much now" is in a way also intended to deter any more people getting on his case for his piss poor reporting on the issue originally.

I'm not surprised Peter is flummoxed by the thought of a rebuild of the Broncos. Even if you pick Manning up in free agency you've still picked up a guy almost in his 40's who has been playing pretty much every single game since 1998 and has had multiple neck surgeries. That's a big risk even if it is Peyton Manning. Elway built the team to win now but that only really pays off if you actually win now. I'm not sure the Broncos should feel very confident of the future once Peyton hangs it up.

Snarf said...

I'm sort of hoping for a Pats/Seattle SB, if only so PK can talk about how wrong WE all were for writing off these two teams in OUR national football columns.