Posted: Monday January 16, 2006 11:58AM; Updated: Monday January 16, 2006 8:53PM
Want to argue about the NFL? Let's go ...
Making Sense Of The Madness
Still fired up from this weekend? A few quick observations, and then I'd like to hear your thoughts on one of the more unusual playoff rounds in recent NFL history.
1. Admit it, after the reversal of the Troy Polamalu interception, you thought maybe the league wants Indy to advance. Of course, there's no logic to that. If you spend any time with an NFL official, you know that's impossible. More realistically, officials seem a bit spooked by loud home crowds. And officials in all four games couldn't get pass interference right. But in the heat of the moment, I was ready to buy Joey Porter's conspiracy theory.
2. The better team lost Saturday night in Denver.
3. I think the Panthers will actually go away from Steve Smith at the beginning of the NFC Championship game against the Seahawks because Seattle will try to bracket him with three defenders. Just like the Steelers defied expectations by throwing early against the Colts. Then Smith will roar back, as long as the rain doesn't make passing difficult.
4. Jeff Triplette is the William Hung of NFL officials. You tune in to see him screw up.
5. Question: If Polamalu had laid on the ground for 15 seconds, gotten up and then dropped the ball, would the pass still be incomplete?
6. Anyone who did not stand up and yell after Jerome Bettis fumbled the ball in the final minutes of the Steelers' win isn't a football fan.
7. The Seahawks expect Shaun Alexander to play on Sunday. I can guarantee I'm angering a lot of people here, but I don't think it matters. He's not going up against the Rams, Cardinals, Niners or Texans, so what's he going to do? And don't tell me Alexander is the MVP, because Steve Smith received no MVP votes, proving the selection process and award is meaningless and irrelevant. Matt Hasselbeck is the key for the Seahawks.
8. If I'm John Fox, I'm not panicked about DeShaun Foster's injury. The Panthers were 6-2 when Nick Goings started in 2004. And it's not like Foster is Shaun Alexander or anything.
9. How fast is Dallas Clark? And how about Ben Watson closing in on Champ Bailey? They're breeding super-human tight ends out there.
10. Super Bowl prediction: Panthers 28, Broncos 24. Dr. Z nails his preseason prediction. SI rules.
-- Andrew Perloff (12:00 p.m.)
If New England was the better team in Denver, who was the better team in Indy?
-- Alex , Pittsburgh (12:14 p.m.)
In the heat of the moment?! I'm ready to buy Joey Porter's claim right now and I was rooting for Indy in that game. Whether they wanted Indy to win, wanted the game to be close, or just were hesitant to make calls against the home team, the officials were horrible in the Indy-Pittsburgh game. From the non-call on pass interference in the first half, to the no-call when Indy jumped offsides on fourth down, the interception overturn was simply the biggest example of one of the worst days of officiating this season. I can't believe the free pass the media has given the league on this issue.
-- Jeremy Scott , Arlington, Va. (12:17 p.m.)
How exactly did Ben Roesthlisberger get himself in position to tackle Harper? He could not have been more than 5 yards behind Bettis when the fumble occurred, yet somehow he was 35 yards behind the play when tackling Harper.
-- Mike , Pittsburgh (12:21 p.m.)
Why is it that everyone is saying that "the best team lost" on Saturday night? If the Patriots were the better team, why have five turnovers, why miss open receivers, why throw the ball right to Champ Bailey? The Patriots lost for a few reasons: they have no running game; they relied too much on Brady, hence his two interceptions; and they turned the ball over. What else do you need? Does that sound like the "better team?"
-- Chris La Flam , Denver (12:22 p.m.)
I don't see how you can say that the better team lost the Denver game. Weren't the Broncos favored? Didn't they have a better record? Didn't they beat the Patriots? You must be from New England.
-- Brad , St. Louis (12:28 p.m.)
Better Polamalu question: If he laid on the ground, never got up, was touched down by a Colt, would it have been an interception? Another question: Why make a great play and try to capitalize on it if they are playing college rules on an interception like that one?
-- Steve , Springfield, Mass. (12:28 p.m.)
Its amazing to me the inconsistancy on PI calls in the playoffs. What do you see the league doing to fix this? Peter King wants replay for PI calls. Is this as absurd as it sounds on its face? Also, Ben Watson blasting Champ Bailey at the 1-yard line was the best hustle play I've ever seen.
-- Rob Kelly , Chattanooga, Tenn. (12:29 p.m.)
The better team lost on Saturday night? I know that everyone is emotionally tied to the Patriots, but come on, enough is enough! It wasn't a last-minute fluke or a last-minute controversy. The Patriots were done after the Bailey interception. The 'Better' team made their own opportunities. When was the last time that you saw a kicker cause a fumble with a solid hit?
-- Randy Frederick , Elk City, Okla. (12:34 p.m.)
Give me a break with the Patriots being the better team. Any team that commits five turnovers is not the better team. So they had more yards, big deal. The pass interference penalty. Geez I don't see anyone saying the Raiders were the better team three years ago when the refs helped the Pats. Give me the same two teams in Denver 100 times and Denver wins 75/25. The "better" team -- who cares they aren't playing next week, are they?
-- Eric Kilber , Portland, Ore. (12:36 p.m.)
1. It's crazy to think Porter's opinion has any merit among league officials. There were calls in yesterday's game that went against the Colts, like the false start on the Steelers that didn't get called once the officials conferred that there'd be no foul on the play. And if you don't remember it, then you have selective memory because it was a key non-call in the game as well. Now if the Colts came back to win that game, would you blame Jerome Bettis, blame the officials or credit the Colts?
-- Charbel G. Balloutine , Toronto (12:38 p.m.)
Andrew, I said the same thing to my friends on Sunday after hearing the explanation of Polamalu's interception being overturned. Apparently you can catch a ball and lay down for an entire quarter and if you happen to use said ball as a head rest behind your helmet it's incomplete? Please. If that truly is a rule in the NFL, then I guess maybe the Cardinals do have a chance to win the Super Bowl someday.
-- Flynt , Allentown, Pa. (12:40 p.m.)
I have to agree with your first point. The refs in those games this weekend took the game out of the hands of the players. The calls in the Broncos game, especially the pass interference call against Asante Samuel, were just plain awful.
Secondly, the Broncos' first four scoring drives -- combined -- totaled 24 yards on nine plays. The better team definitely lost Saturday night.
-- David , Brooklyn, N.Y. (12:41 p.m.)
So the better team lost Saturday night, eh? I've seen others say nine out of 10 times, New England wins that game against the Broncos. Well, guess what? Two out of two times this season, the Broncos beat the Pats. You can blame injuries for round 1 or the refs for the rematch, but at what point do you run out of excuses? Denver's defense caused four of the five turnovers, and the Denver offense capitalized on them. The Pats were not the better team and did not beat themselves. Denver, the better team, won the game.
-- Todd , San Francisco (12:42 p.m.)
"The better team lost Saturday night in Denver?" What is the media's obsession with the Patriots? What is the difference between Brady's interceptions and Eli Manning's? I do not like Denver, but I have never seen a team win a game and not get credit for it like they have. Secondly: "The Seahawks expect Shaun Alexander to play ... " All I will say is this: Shaun Alexander was an underestimated back at Alabama who broke records. He was an unnoticed Ricky Watters replacement in Seattle who broke records, and now he is an unconscious underdog going to the NFC championship. My money's on the pride of Boone County, Kentucky this weekend.
-- Doug McClure , Florence, Ky. (12:43 p.m.)
Amen. Amen, Amen, finally somebody questioned what would have happened if Polamalu had just stayed on the ground. There have been many times near the end of a game when a pass was intercepted and the player was on the ground and stayed there. That play will go down in history as the immaculate deception.
-- Steve Mand , Danville, Va. (12:44 p.m.)
I have never been more disgusted in an NFL weekend. Being a Bears fan, you might think I was sick from that game, but you could see the defense was going to get shredded a mile away. What disgusts me is Jeff Triplett and his entire crew. If I was that incompetent at my job, I know I would see a pink slip come Monday morning.
-- Daniel Ortega , El Paso, Texas (12:45 p.m.)
How can you say the better team lost Saturday night, when the Patriots' ground game was nonexistent? Plus, did you ever think the reason the Patriots made so many turnovers is that the Broncos were quicker and forced them into mistakes? I've found that there's nothing different between a meteorologist and a sports analyst. Both can't admit when they're wrong.
-- Lance Bortzfield , Lancaster, Pa. (12:48 p.m.)
My grandfather has been telling me for years that games are fixed. Now I believe him. And I believe Joey Porter. The refs did EVERYTHING they could to take that game away from the Steelers. I was in shock when they called the field goal wide right. I couldn't believe they didn't call it good! Worst. Ref. Ever. And the Super Bowl will be Steelers 17, Seahawks 10. Bill Cowher and the Bus get their long-deserved Super Bowl, and it couldn't happen to two better football men. Dr. Z, as always, is wrong.
-- Matthew Cafaro , Gainesville, Ga. (12:53 p.m.)
You couldn't have said it better: "The best team lost in Denver on Saturday." Those Patriots! Went 10-6 and wouldn't even have made the playoffs if they played in the AFC West. What a team though! One magnificent display of playoff football! Leading 7-3 last week at half time against a Jacksonville team that looked like it might be able to win a High School State championship. What an incredible playoff contender the five-turnover Patriots were on Saturday! Tom Brady missing wide open receivers in clutch moments! Wow! Do teams get any better! Call off the rest of the playoffs and give the Patriots the Super Bowl championship simply based on past performances! What were the Broncos even doing on the same field as those 10-6 champions? Silly Broncos.
-- Chris , Visalia, Calif. (12:54 p.m.)
Is there enough tissues at the SI headquaters today? The first ones to jump off the Pats' bandwagon, and the first ones back on. They were never the better team on Saturday and Denver showed that. Aren't writters suppose to be unbiased?
-- Todd , Montezuma, Kan. (12:58 p.m.)
The Broncos beat the Patriots twice in a season and people like Perloff still think the Patriots are a better team ... I will just laugh it off and let the Broncos do the playing.
-- Karl , Denver (1:02 p.m.)
"Under the Radar." That's exactly where a veteran wild-card team led by a Hall of Famer was during its epic first Super Bowl title in 1998. No one picked the Broncos then. No one is picking them now. See you at the Big Dance, fellas!
-- Coe , Denver (1:05 p.m.)
That pass interference call was absolutely mind-boggling. Ridiculous. That ref should be fired. He should be crucified. Now I understand how South Americans can attack soccer refs. You make a call like that, that's the equivalent of an airline pilot showing up drunk. It's totally unacceptable. If you don't hate unions yet, this should convince you they do nothing but protect incompetent morons.
-- Ty , Albuquerque, N.M. (1:08 p.m.)
What about the Bears game? The best defense in the league turned into total waste allowing over 430 yard of total offense. How pitiful is that? I'm a Bears fan, and I still think we choked big time in that game. I don't care if everyone picked Carolina as Super Bowl favorites. Yeah, I think what they did yesterday lived up to expectations, but i think the Steelers are playing the best football right now. Didn't they beat a team that a month ago was three games away from history? That, my friends, is a choke job.
-- Mike , Villa Park, Ill. (1:08 p.m.)
The better team lost? Come on. If that doesn't show SI's East-coast, New England-loving, Brady-, Belichick-, and Bruschi-worshiping bias, I don't know what does. Denver beat New England because the Patriots lost their poise and the Broncos didn't.
-- Reed , Provo, Utah (1:09 p.m.)
I think the call reversal in the Pittsburgh game was beyond belief. I have never seen such an obviously correct call overturned. Just another example of politics interfering with sports. Let's let the players decide the outcome. How could anyone with eyes not call that correctly. P.S. I am not a Pittsburgh fan. I just don't like seeing that in such a great game.
-- Kent Murray , Oklahoma City, Okl. (1:11 p.m.)
Where were the referees who worked wild-card weekend? Bring them back PLEASE. Every game during the Divisional Playoff weekend was marred by BAD CALLS. Unfortunately for the Patriots they have no one to blame but themselves. We have seen it time and time again, the team the turns the ball over the most LOSES!
-- Pat , Holyoke, Mass. (1:11 p.m.)
Will the better team lose when the Seahawks advance to the Super Bowl? No, but the bigger marketing draw will. Alexander may not have proven himself in the postseason, but I will take him any day over a third-string running back and a one-dimensional passing attack.
-- Jake , Carnation, Wash. (1:13 p.m.)
Its hard to fault Joey Porter's conspiracy theory even after the heat of the moment. Reasonably, I don't really believe the NFL was trying to manipulate the game in favor of the Colts, but that interception reversal was one of the worst replay abuses I've ever seen. If that really is a rule in the NFL it has been ignored many times in many circumstances. The overall officiating for the Colts-Steelers game rates an F-.
-- Jerry , Jacksonville, Fla. (1:14 p.m.)
I think the Panthers will actually go away from Steve Smith at the beginning of the NFC Championship game. With that, it's going to be a long game against a good Seattle team! They need the ball in Smith's hand ASAP. HE is the backbone, the life, and the leader of the team. No matter if he has five catches for 23 yards in the first quarter. GIVE HIM THE BALL AT ALL COSTS -- and as early as possible.
-- Jordan , Michigan (1:16 p.m.)
Why does everyone think Carolina is such a good team? Sure, the Panthers beat Chicago, but they allowed a very shaky offense to score 21 points on them and the last drive was bad quarterbacking, not good defense. The Panthers dropped some winnable games during the season and I think Seattle will have no problem handling them.
-- Ashley W. , Oviedo, Fla. (1:17 p.m.)
"The better team lost Saturday night in Denver." Then the better team lost in the Tuck Game, too. It doesn't matter. Officials blow calls all the time. What separates champions from also-rans is how they respond to bad breaks. The Steelers won the game, whatever the calls. The Patriots -- a great team by any standard -- fumbled away several opportunities, even after that bad pass interference call.
-- Matthew , Avalon, Pa. (1:21 p.m.)
Thank you for finally puncturing the Alexander-armour. As a Skins fan, let me tell you that nobody was sadder to see him leave the game than me. If he had stayed in, Holmgren would have relied on him; he would have choked it up and the Skins would have won. When people in the media say the Hawks beat us despite losing Alexander, I retch every time I hear it
-- Tim MacKinnon , New Brunswick, N.J. (1:22 p.m.)
These Broncos fans must be out their minds. To even propose for one second that the Broncos outplayed the Patriots or that the Broncos "won" that game is ludicrous. Without getting into the merits of the horrendous officiating or the mind-boggling mistakes so uncharacteristic of this current Patriots incarnation, the Broncos were outcoached (as usual) and taken out of everything that constitutes "Broncos" football. Yeah, that running game looked real good. Jake Plummer made all the "right" decisions. Please. That defensive game plan did real well at holding the Patriots to only 400+ yards. Get serious. Without the Patriots handing you the game, the Broncos would have gotten waxed 31-10.
-- Jeff , Boston (1:24 p.m.)
When Jerome Bettis fumbled that ball, my fiance, who is just understanding how teams get a first down, stood up and yelled in shock as the ball came loose. You didnt need to be a football fan to stand up and yell when he fumbled -- you needed a pulse!!! That was one of the most shocking moments in a game that I have seen in a long time. Wow!!
-- Wyatt Genser , Hackettstown, N.J. (1:26 p.m.)
Wow, that must feel good to kick Alexander when he goes down with a concussion! I'm sure Steve Smith would have played through it, right? And the idea of a WR being MVP is laughable and I think you know it. Only the pathetic Bears' safties make that claim printable
-- Ryan , Los Angeles (1:29 p.m.)
How many more ways can Peyton show he just can't win the big one? The refs and the Steelers both did everything they could near the end to hand it to him, and he still wouldn't take it. My prediction? Manning gets hurt in Week 17 next season, and Jim Sorgi becomes your Super Bowl XLI MVP.
-- Jeremy Latzke , South Bend, Ind. (1:31 p.m.)
Of course the refs are out to get the Steelers. Remember that penalty and fine they received for that cheap shot that took out Carson Palmer? Oh, wait, that's right, there was none. If the guys covering the playoffs weren't so heartbroken about not getting to kiss Tom Brady's next Super Bowl ring, maybe that would be more of a topic.
-- Frank , Louisville, Ky. (1:35 p.m.)
I have been a season-ticket holder since the Colts came to Indianapolis. The really sad part of that game is that Nick Harper could have cut right to the sidelines and scored and the Colts would have won a game that they didn't deserve to win! Second-and-2, three timeouts, why not get the first down by the run and then go for it? Not rusty, huh? Bill Polian is a great football mind, but at least be man enough to admit they were rusty in the first half. Pittsburgh played great and deserved to win, but the Colts to me looked rusty!
-- Jim Wessel , Fishers, Ind. (1:41 p.m.)
Best team? Let's see ... Denver goes 13-3 against the best division in football. New England goes 10-6 against the worst. Round 1, Denver wins by eight after being up by 25 in the fourth. Round 2, Denver wins by 14 after being up 18 in the fourth. Yep, best team won.
-- David , Lafayette, Ind. (1:44 p.m.)
Until common sense is reinstated as a member of officiating crews, I don't think I can watch another NFL game. From the "tuck rule" to pass interference to half-baked refs blowing replay calls, nothing ever changes and the league won't even admit that there's a problem. Well, Tags, unless I hear of some apologies and corrective actions forthcoming, you can count me out.
-- William , Columbus, Ohio (1:48 p.m.)
Preface: I admit bias as a Patriots fan. I think a Broncos fan needs to admit that the refs helped. Firstly, I think that the Pats' turnovers in the second half all stemmed from being behind, which brings us to the fact that the Broncos only led because of the atrocious PI penalty. Secondly, the Broncos also took a lucky 50/50 bounce on the Champ Bailey fumble -- no one had an angle on the play, so it's basically a coin flip which way that call goes. My respect for Shanahan skyrocketed with his damn strong and gutsy play-calling at the end instead of turning into a clock-runner (with the Broncos also severely lacking a running game), but I think if either of these calls went differently, we would be seeing a playoff game in Foxboro this weekend.
-- Beck , Waltham, Mass. (1:52 p.m.)
The Steelers-Colts playoff was the best game I've seen in quite a while. It was sad to see such a poor officiating crew at this game. I do believe that the officials seemed to be doing everything possible to keep the Colts in it. I also agree the Pats beat the Pats. Denver doesn't stand a chance against Pitt unless the same officiating crew does the game.
-- Angelo Marino , Hollidaysburg (1:58 p.m.)
One thing stood out when I watched the Indy game yesterday: the Colts cannot play from behind against a good team. Other than the Chargers and Steelers games, the Colts never trailed against a meaningful team. And what happnened in both those games? The Colts looked like a shell of themselves. Yes, they were down big to the Rams earlier in the season, but its the Rams ... When the Colts are playing catch-up, James is taken out of the game and so is the rest of the offense. Indy, for the whole season, was used to playing with a comfortable lead, but was exposed when trailing.
-- Conway , San Diego (2:01 p.m.)
Can't believe how many homers are out there. Anyone who does not agree that the Patriots LOST the game (rather than Denver winning it) is delusional. Brady was one long bomb away from DOUBLING Plummer's yardage. The game reminded me a lot of the Baltimore-Tennessee game from way back. Tenessee dominates but turns the ball over four times and loses.
-- Dean , Toronto (2:04 p.m.)
Shanahan always outcoaches Belichick. He's, like, 4-1 against him since 2000. They nearly won the one they lost, too. Denver gave up a lot of yards on defense but not a lot of points. they refused to let New England in the end zone. Good teams win in spite of bad calls. Look at the Pittsburgh game that was the most biased officiated game in a long time. Every break went against the Steelers and they won.
-- Justin , Rio Rancho (2:09 p.m.)
Eli Manning never makes that tackle.
-- Chuck Pearson , Northford, Conn. (2:14 p.m.)
Steve from Springfield, Mass., hit the nail on the head. If a Colt player touched Troy Polamalu, it would have been an INT. That alone shows how terrible a call it was.
-- David , Miami (2:22 p.m.)
Pats fans are a joke. Earlier this year, the Pats beat the Dolphins despite being outgained by approximately 200 yards, largely due to a couple of ridiculous pass intereference calls and to the Dolphins' incredible ability to shoot themselves in the foot with stupid mistakes. Yet if I had dared suggest that Miami was a better team I'd have been laughed out of town, and probably justifiably so -- good teams capitalize on their opportunities and don't turn the ball over in critical situations. But now that the shoe's on the other foot and we're dealing with Saints Brady and Belichick, nobody can accept that the Pats were beaten by the Broncos fair and square -- for the second time this year. All those injured defensive players were back and yet the Pats lost anyway, so that most convenient of excuses was no longer available. Ah, well time to revert to that old chestnut of losers -- the better team did not win ...
-- Kris , Toronto (2:28 p.m.)
Any football fan knows that the Patriots gave away that game. The Broncos sure as heck didn't "take" it. Combine multiple (horrible) mistakes with awful, one-sided officiating and you get a Bronco win. A win is a win, but let's be realistic here, Broncos fans. The Pats don't deserve any compliments, but neither do the Broncos. They'll go the way of the other team that won while playing like crap (yes, the Skins).
-- Chris Roussin , Boston (2:30 p.m.)
I find it interesting that the only people who agree with Mr. Perloff come from the East coast. It seems that no matter how many people across the country disagree with you, a person in Boston writes it off to being narrow-minded or uninformed. Well, let me explain it nice and slow for you then. The Patriots lost, period, and that means the Broncos won. You can argue all you want that it was only by default but does it matter. NO. They play Sunday while the Pats will be preparing for the Pro Bowl, golfing or inflating the heads of their fans.
-- Scott , Colorado Springs, Colo. (2:42 p.m.)
As always, the Panthers fly under the radar. All media jumped on the bandwagon after Dr. Z and right back off after our Week 1 loss. We may not get the SportsCenter coverage of the Colts, Bears or Pats, but we will be playing again next week. Tom, Kyle, and Peyton get to watch from home.
-- Weston , Charlotte (2:51 p.m.)
Lets wake up, Broncos fans ... If New England hadn't had all the turnovers, there is no way, even with the bad call, Denver would have won this game. Denver's offense was to say the least, offensive. The Pats' defense was as usual incredible, and, yes, the Patriots didn't deserve to win the game with five turnovers, but with three they probably would have won the game anyway. Denver fans ... enjoy this week. You'll be coming up with your own excuses about three hours after the kickoff against the Steelers.
-- Curtis , Edmonton (3:08 p.m.)