NFL Playoffs & Historically Bad Calls Take Two

During each postseason every football fan dreads a moment where the game is decided by the referees and not the players on the field. We think back to “The Tuck Rule”, Mike Renfro’s catch/non catch in the ’79 AFC Championship, or Bert Emanuel’s catch/non catch in the NFC Championship. Yet yesterday for the 1st time since Referee Jim Tunney made the call after Renfro’s catch had a nationally televised audience yelling in anguish at a moment instant replay could have corrected.

Sean Payton dispairs over one of the most egregious non calls in NFL history.

Football coaches and players at all levels will tell you “The eye in the sky doesn’t lie” meaning the truth is always caught on film. It’s there for teams to study film against an opponent or the camera can catch what has been missed by the naked eye of an out of place referee. On Sunday we were stricken with two occasions that marred both conference championship games.

Which raises some questions for the NFL:

  • Why can’t penalties or missed penalties like pass interference be reviewed??
  • Why can’t a team challenge a play during the last two minutes of a ball game when it’s the most important time of the contest??
  • Why does the ruling in under 2 minutes to go take place in a backroom at the NFL’s offices and not an official on the field in the arena??

Lets take a look at the 1st in the NFC Championship. With just 1:49 to go in a 20-20 tie at the 13 yard line, Drew Brees faced a 3rd and 10. Brees threw toward the near sideline to Tommylee Lewis who had run a wheel route out of the backfield when… and here it is in real time:

Coach Sean Payton screaming at the official withstanding, there were several penalties that could have and should have been called.

  • Pass Interference: Robey-Coleman never turned to locate the ball colliding with Lewis before the ball arrived.
  • Personal Foul: Blow to the head of a receiver reaching for the football.
  • Illegal Contact: As Robey-Coleman hit Lewis at the 6 yard line, 7 yards from the line of scrimmage. You’re only allowed to chuck a receiver 5 yards downfield or under.

The fact we’re talking the final minutes of a conference championship game on the line and a Super Bowl berth at stake, this is one of the worst outcomes in the history of the league.  The fact you had Fox analyst Mike Pereira, who is the former Vice President of Officiating for the NFL right there expressing there could have been two of the penalties I just highlighted lent to a national televised audience despair with the situation. Let alone the emotional release of the Super Dome crowd who was witnessing “the great train robbery.” With booing you could have heard across state lines in Mississippi.

Our minds as fans were just coming to grips with the fiasco in New Orleans and the NFC Championship when the AFC Title Tilt reached the 4th quarter. With 7:05 to go in the game Kansas City held the momentum and a 21-17 lead when Chris Jones was flagged for a “roughing the passer” penalty. It was such a bad call both Jim Nantz and Tony Romo were in the middle of professing it was a phantom call when former NFL official Gene Sterratore offered this commentary:

Andy Reid should have been allowed to challenge that personal foul call!!

Now we have to talk about what needs to be done in this situation. First where has Roger Goodell been in the midst of one of the worst scandals in the history of the NFL?? His silence is glaring during a week when the league’s integrity is being called into question. With a Super Bowl on the line, these calls to put what many feel to be the match-up the league office wanted to see makes this the equivalent of the Black Sox Scandal in baseball a century earlier. If the Los Angeles Rams were to win down in Atlanta next Sunday, the NFL could wind up with it’s first champion with claims against it’s legitimacy.

There are several precedents that should have taken place. Goodell should have stepped in and had the final 1:49 of that game replayed. However he didnt and we have to guard the integrity of the game and remove the league office from the involvement of any contest while it’s going on. The league office controlling the official instant replay calls with 2:00 or under has always been a sore spot of contention anyway.

#1. The official in charge of the game to make any and all decisions need to be in charge of the game. Not some nefarious figure in the NFL office. What difference does it make to change a call in the 1st quarter if you’re derailed by an untimely call at the most important juncture of the game??

#2. Open Instant Replay challenges to three (per half) to all coaches and allow challenges at any and all times of the game. This needs to be opened up to challenge penalties called on the field and any 15 yard foul or defensive penalty that carries the weight of an automatic first down whether called or not called.

#3. The NFL needs to move to assigning officiating crews who have worked together all year to oversee playoff games. Not an all star crew. This way these officials know how to work together and communicate verbal and non-verbal along with confidently conferring with each official before making a big call in an important juncture of a playoff game.

The purpose of instant replay as an officiating tool is to get the call right. Ironically the day before these events, The Chancellor heard from Jim Tunney “The Dean of NFL Referees” about the controversial call in the ’79 AFC Championship his crew made on Mike Renfro’s catch/no catch that gave berth to the first incarnation of instant replay in officiating:

Here is what Jim Tunney offered as an explanation: 

That scenario offered finality in knowing Tunney and his officials made the call on the field that day. As a historian I’ve never been able to speak on the Steelers as Super Bowl XIV champions and I doubt I would be able to do so if the Rams win it next Sunday.

However we need to see changes and the NFL needs to guard it’s integrity by letting the officials and an instant replay official on-site make every call concerning any contest. Blown calls need to be reversed even when it comes to a penalty being called or reversing a call where a flag had been thrown. Too much is at stake here.

Thanks for reading and please share the article.

 

Nick Foles v. Carson Wentz – The Philadelphia Eagles Could Have a Problem

There comes a time when a team has to make a tough decision based upon an expected return on investment, ability to achieve goals, and prestige to the organization. Especially when it comes to selecting their franchise quarterback, what is more important – potential or demonstrated ability to achieve goals based upon experience??

As the final seconds ticked away in Sunday Night’s 16-15 Wildcard win in Soldier Field, it became apparent Nick Foles had saved the 2018 Eagles season. The magic carpet ride last year that concluded with a Super Bowl MVP and this uniform display at the Pro Football Hall of Fame seems to have been extended.

If the Eagles pull off another upset in the divisonal round against the Saints, Foles will have won his 5th straight post season game.

Now ask yourself a question: “What is the definition of a franchise quarterback?” He is a signal caller who can be counted on to lead his team to a championship and keeps his team in contention over an extended period of time. Preferably a 5-7 year window.

Yet when you think of Foles, he is thought of as a caretaker of the position until 1st round draft pick Carson Wentz returns from injury. By all accounts Foles was coming to the end of the line in Philly. He had been the dutiful soldier who stepped in and led the Eagles to a championship, then took his place behind Wentz again. He said all the right things but things will change with another berth in the NFC Championship Game.

How do you turn your back from a QB that leads you to multiple conference championship games?? I know Wentz was drafted in the 1st round of 2016 but there is no guarantee he has the moxie and cool to win NFL playoff games. Think back to another 1st round pick, Donovan McNabb, and the 3 straight NFC Chanpionship losses he had before breaking through in ’04. Would the Eagles have stayed with McNabb in those losses had they a Super Bowl winning QB to replace him??

Think back to 1992 when former Eagle OC Frank Reich quarterbacked the Bills to a 41-38 win in the greatest comeback in NFL history when they had been down 35-3 in an AFC Wildcard Game. He then engineered a 23-3 win in Pittsburgh the following week. Having lost 2 of the previous Super Bowls and HoF QB Jim Kelly healthy, Bills fans and local press were split 50/50 on whether they should stay with the “hot hand” of Reich going into the AFC Championship. After they won it, it was the 1st question Kelly was asked about by NBC and it followed him in the weeks leading up to Super Bowl XXVII.

Carson Wentz has yet to play in a playoff game. The closest he came was 2017’s 43-35 win over the Rams in the LA Coliseum when he blew out his knee. The Eagles did achieve homefield advantage with the win however Foles has eclipsed even that:

NFL records held by Foles:

  • Foles: 7 TD passes – 11/23/13 v. Oakland Raiders tied record held by Joe Kapp 1969 Vikings v Colts 9/28/69.  Also tied 4 others including Peyton Manning 2013 Broncos v Ravens
  • Foles: The only QB in NFL history to throw for 7 TDs and finish with a perfect rating of 158.3.
  • Set an NFL record with a touchdown to interception ratio of 13.5 with 27 TDs to 2 ints.
  • Tied the NFL record for most consecutive completions with 25 w/ Phillip Rivers in ’18 finale v Redskins.

Had Chip Kelly not sabotaged the Eagles in trading away DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Macklin he could have been doing this from 2013 on.

In the penultimate game this year against the Texans he inspired his team while throwing for a team record 471 yards to cement a playoff berth. This was delivered with their season on the line.

Did you know that both Carson Wentz and Nick Foles have now each played 40 games for the Eagles?? Guess who has the higher passer rating (93.2 -92.5)??

You also know that St Nick holds the Eagles records for highest passer rating (119.3/2013), the top two seasons for fewest interceptions and interception percentage…right??

Now keep in mind Carson Wentz won the Taylor Blitz Times Offensive MVP last season so this isn’t a knock against him. It’s just that Foles infuses juice into this team and he has rallied the offense where it sputtered some with Wentz coming back from injury. With Foles at only 29 years of age to Wentz’s 26, he has entered the realm of mature quarterback where the game has slowed down for him. In this day and age where you can’t hit the qb, he can play until he’s 40. He’s grounded and as he appeared in last year’s Super Bowl, the brightest of lights didn’t make him flinch. In fact he played better… just like these games down the stretch.

Foles threw for a team record 471 yards on the NFL’s 12th ranked team.

Eight weeks ago the Eagles suffered the worst loss for a champion in the 52 year history of the Super Bowl 48-7 down in New Orleans. Now they return to the scene of the crime in the divisional playoff round. If Nick rises to the occasion and pulls off this upset it may turn the tables and the team should keep Foles and trade Carson Wentz.

What about a trade of Carson Wentz to Denver for Von Miller and a #1pick if John Elway was serious about trading Von??

What about a trade of Carson Wentz to Tennessee for Pro Bowl DT Jurrell Casey and Marcus Mariota to be the backup?? Team DT Fletcher Cox with Casey to form a tandem to rival Donald and Suh out in Los Angeles.

What about a trade of Carson Wentz to Jacksonville for LB Myles Jack and a #1pick?? Or get Tom Coughlin to throw in CB Jaylon Ramsey??

Think of the possibilites of what would be available trading across conference to teams desperate for a franchise quarterback??

Nick Foles could have this on the table with a win this week down in New Orleans. Keep in mind he lost a tough game 26-24 in the Superdome to Drew Brees in 2013. In that game he was 23 of 33 for 195 yards 2 TDs and no picks. If he handled the noise and pressure of facing Drew Brees in his 1st ever playoff game, will he be nervous 5 years later as a reigning Super Bowl MVP?? I don’t think so…

Nick Foles… your mission should you choose to accept it…

Thanks for reading and please share the article.

The 2018 Taylor Blitz Times Defensive Player of the Year – Khalil Mack

With the NFL’s second season upon us we have to look back to the team and players who made the 2018 season. Keep in mind this blog is about defense and the unheralded players appreciated by the rank and file. Yet bookending a season where Taylor Blitz & The Chancellor was there for the induction ceremony for our 1st subject written for the PFHoF in Robert Brazile, it’s with great pride to announce the 1st 2 time Taylor Blitz Times Defensive Player of the Year in Chicago Bear Khalil Mack.

Mack made his presence felt the second he put on a Bears uniform.

Mack bested ’17 Taylor Blitz DoY Aaron Donald for this honor based upon his ability to show up in important games and the domino affect he has had on a division and a conference.

Dating back to a 2010 loss to the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship, the Bears were 2-12 against them while Aaron Rodgers and company won the NFC North 5 times. The Bears either finished 3rd or last in all 7 of those years.

The Bears trade for Mack and sign him on Sept 2nd and one week later & not in football playing shape introduced himself in week 1 on Sunday Night Football.

Mack dazzled a national audience becoming the 1st defensive player in NFL history to record a tackle, a sack, force a fumble, recover a fumble and return an interception for a touchdown in the same game. On one of his 5 hurries forced Rodgers into a sack that knocked him out for much of the game as the Bears forged to a 20-0 lead in front of a shocked and silenced Lambeau Field. His impact on that game far exceeded his 3 tackles, sack, forced fumble and TD on an interception return. Although they lost 23-22 to their NFC North antagonist, the mantle of dominance shifted to Chicago from Green Bay on that day.

Mack shifted the entire focus of opponents blocking schemes.

The following week against perennial NFC West force Seattle he terrorized Russell Wilson sacking him once, forced a fumble, 5 tackles and another tackle for loss. Yet with all the attention focused on Mack, the Bears integrated 1st round draft pick Roquan Smith into the lineup and the Bears chased Wilson into 6 sacks. A monster defense was born.

The affect both of these games had on Sunday night in primetime was immense. Not only did Mack infuse confidence and swagger into his team, opposing teams had to adjust their blocking schemes to accommodate him. Where was he lining up?? We even warned in our week 1 preview: All of a sudden the 2016 Taylor Blitz Times Defensive Player of the Year & NFL Defensive Player of the Year lands in an NFC North without a Pro Bowl Tackle and you don’t think it will be an issue??

The clincher was another big game where the 9-3 Bears, still battling for respect, hosted the 11-1 Rams and 2017 Taylor Blitz Times Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald. Where Donald was neutralized Mack had another 3 tackles, sack and forced fumble as the Rams #2 offense was held to 214 yards and 6 points. By far these were their season lows as the Bears announced they were for real. On two of Jared Goff’s 4 interceptions he was hurried by #52.

Mack’s performance has raised the NFL’s 10th ranked defense in 2017 to a ranking of 3rd while garnering 50 sacks. This also ranks 3rd. The Bears won the NFC North for the first time since 2010 and host the defending champion Eagles this weekend. They will do so with a terrorist to come off the corner in Khalil Mack.

For good measure the Bears won the NFC North with a 24-17 win over Green Bay in front of a frenzied Soldier Field. Mack had 6 tackles and 2.5 sacks as the Bears eliminated the Packers from the playoffs and soon after fired Coach Mike McCarthy. The changing of the guard was complete.

Mack finished with 47 tackles, 10 for loss, 6 forced fumbles, 4 recoveries and an interception for a touchdown. His best performances came against Chicago’s superior competition where Aaron Donald disappeared in games the Rams lost.

Taylor Blitz Times Defensive Player of the Year recipients:

  1. 2011 -D’Qwell Jackson: Cleveland Browns – Recorded 158 total tackles (115 solo) 3.5 dqwell-jackson-11sacks, 1 forced fumble with 2 recoveries and garnered 1 interception as the only light on a 4-12 team. The Browns were in the top ten defensively all year and finished 10th.
  2. 2012 –Navorro Bowman: San Francisco 49ers – Garnered 148 total tackles (98 solo) 2 sacks, 6 passes defensed, and 1 interception with a fumble forced. Was an All Pro force who outperformed his more celebrated All Pro teammate Patrick Willis. Starred on the NFL’s #3 defense and made the play of the year knocking down a 4th down pass to Roddy White on the last play of the NFC Championship Game. Sent the Niners to the Super Bowl.
  3. 2013 – Richard Sherman: Seattle Seahawks – He led the NFL with 8 interceptions, returning them for 158 yards and a week 4 TD against Houston that turned their season around. He also had 48 tackles, defensed 17 passes, recovered 2 fumbles and tipped Colin Kaepernick’s desperation throw into the game clinching interception in the NFC Championship Game.
  4. watt2014 – J.J. Watt: Houston Texans – One of the greatest defensive performances ever with 78 tackles, led the league with 20.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 5 recoveries returning 1 for a touchdown. Then had 1 interception returned 80 yards for his 2nd defensive touchdown. He drug a rebuilding Texan team to within a game of making the  playoffs with a 9-7 record in Bill O’Brien’s rookie season. May have been the greatest season by a defender in NFL history.
  5. 2015 – Thomas Davis: Carolina Panthers – The 6th best defense in 2015 & made it to Super Bowl L where Davis played with a plate in his broken arm just 2 weeks after the original injury. Toughness aside he garnered 105 total tackles (75 solo) 5.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 4 interceptions, and 2 fumble recoveries. Although his teammate Luke Kuechly garnered national media attention, the 4 additional sacks and 2 more forced fumble won Davis the Taylor Blitz Times Defensive Player of the Year Award.
  6. 2016 – Khalil Mack – Mack’s season has been transcendent as he collected 55 tackles (46 solo) 11 sacks with 5 forced fumbles. He’s recovered 3, returning 1 for a touchdown before we remind you he has 1 pick for another touchdown that also came in the win over Carolina. These are huge impact plays that decide contests not innocuous stats in the middle of a game without meaning or context. In the last 2 seasons he has 14 sacks that have come in the 3rd & 4th quarter of games.
  7. 2017 – Aaron Donald – Despite missing 2 games, Donald forced 5 fumbles in his 11.5 sacks and had 15 tackles for loss. Keep in mind he held out all of the preseason awaiting a new contract. Imagine had he been in game shape in week one??

Congratulations to Khalil Mack and his Bears have a big game with Philadelphia tomorrow… will he have another big game performance himself??

Thanks for reading and please share the article.

The 2018 Taylor Blitz Times Defensive Player of the Year Preview: Aaron Donald

When the Rams left St Louis to return to Tinseltown it was hard to think of a defensive team or dominant defensive player to rise from the ranks as one of the league’s best. Yet the reigning Taylor Blitz Times Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald is leading the league in sacks with 16.5 and has been the only consistent Ram defender this year.

Donald tracks down Russell Wilson

With all the high profile signings of DT Ndamukong Suh, Aquib Talib and Marcus Peters this defense was supposed to sprint to Super Bowl LIII with the balance of a potent offense. At times Suh has been handled by rival lines and not the force he’s been in years past. Talib has missed 8 games due to injury and Peters has been scorched over the last 7 weeks.

Even DE Dante Fowler’s play (2 sacks) has cooled after his mid-season trade from Jacksonville.

Although Donald was held at bay against Philadelphia and Chicago, he wreaked havoc against Detroit in the Rams last win 3 weeks back. Donald terrorized the Lion’s front line for 4 hits on Matthew Stafford, another 4 tackles for loss and 2 sacks and a forced fumble. That performance in a 30-16 win propelled the Rams to 11-1 and a 2nd straight NFC West championship.

The most disruptive DT since John Randle or Warren Sapp.

As Donald goes so go the Rams. One glaring stat that pops up is of his league leading 19.5 sacks, none have come in the 3 losses to New Orleans, Philadelphia, and Chicago. He did hit Drew Brees 4 times in a 45-35 loss however not enough to slow the Saints down.

Yesterday he set the single season team record after a 3 sack performance in a 31-9 win over the Cardinals. He left a lasting impression on rookie QB Josh Rosen. Yet will he show up to dominate the big game come playoff time??

He is the leader of an underachieving defense that began the season with Super Bowl aspirations. He has his sights on breaking Hall of Famer Michael Strahan’s sack record of 22.5. All that stands in his way is a 49ers front line that Donald killed garnering 4 sacks, 8 tackles and another 5 hits on QB C. .J. Beathard.

If Donald gets the record it’s going to be hard to not give it to him. He’ll be the first to win our Taylor Blitz Times Defensive Player of the Year in back to back seasons. Stay tuned.

Thanks for reading and please share the article.

The 2018 Taylor Blitz Times Offensive MVP Preview: Patrick Mahomes

Up until two weeks ago, the Kansas City Chiefs were sailing into uncharted waters. They were scoring at a rate of 37 points per game as they raced out to a gaudy 10-1 record. Patrick Mahomes was leading the most dynamic offense in the NFL that could score from anywhere. We hadn’t seen this lethal speed since “The Greatest Show on Turf” Rams earlier this century. Now what will happen as play calling will change as Kareem Hunt’s departure allows defenses to descend upon the young QB??

Before we made it to last week’s 40-33 win over the Oakland Raiders and last week’s 27-24 escape of the Ravens, the NFL’s biggest controversy saw the Chiefs release Kareem Hunt amid domestic violence allegations.

Of course Mahomes was masterful completing 23 of 38 for 295 yards and another “ho-hum” 4 touchdown performance against the moribund Raiders. But that is Jon Gruden’s tanking organization. Against the Ravens #1 ranked defense, Mahomes had to put in a little more work connecting on 35 of 53 aerials for 377 yards, 2 scores and an interception.

However the next 2 weeks provide a daunting task as Mahomes faces the L.A. Chargers (8th in defense) in an important AFC rubber match before taking a trip to the Pacific Northwest for a rugged game with the streaking Seahawks. Each of these present formidable challenges for the first year starter although he’s really had a season for the ages.

Aside from Hall of Fame legend Kurt Warner, no 1st year quarterback in NFL history can match Mahomes performance. With 3 games to go he already broke Warner’s single season record of 41 TDs for a 1st year starter with 43. With 4,300 yards he has a legitimate chance at 5,000 yards. Something Dan Marino didn’t do until his 2nd season as a starter.

Yes I know the rules have been relaxed but you have to give credit where it’s due. Look at Blake Bortles, Paxton Lynch, or even Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota…. have they shown this type of promise or command??

Mahomes has benefitted greatly learning from “The Quarterback Whisperer” in Head Coach Andy Reid. Keep in mind Brett Favre’s MVP seasons happened under his tutelage. Reid also drafted and developed Donovan McNabb where they went to 5 conference championships together and resurrected Michael Vick’s career.

The Chancellor and Andy Reid at The Gold Jacket Dinner 2018.

Outside of Kansas City many of us worried Coach Reid had over-invested in turning the franchise over to Mahomes. Yet he has shown maturity even in prime time games with the 352 yard 4 touchdown performance in a 43-40 loss to Tom Brady and New England. He starred again on the national stage with a 478 yard 6TD performance in a 54-51 loss in Los Angeles. Sure he threw 3 interceptions but only 1 other time in history can you find a 1st year starter tossing 6TDs in an NFL game.

However he does get the rubber match with the LA Chargers and the winner is in line for homefield advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. Mahomes gets this game at home however defenses are adjusting to the Chiefs without Kareem Hunt.

How will he perform in these last 3 games as a marked man?? As for Taylor Blitz Times Offensive Player of the Year he is definitely in the running and is one of the players who has clearly defined this season.

Thanks for reading and please share the article.

 

 

 

The 2018 Taylor Blitz Times Offensive MVP Preview: The Case for Drew Brees

With only 5 weeks to go in the 2018 NFL campaign, its time to discuss the best offensive players who have helped shape this season. This year seems like a changing of the guard as new faces have emerged to lead the next crop of superstars beyond the NFL’s 100th season. However a few holdovers aren’t ready to relinquish their stature atop the pro football landscape. So let’s take a look at a few:

Drew Brees – New Orleans Saints: One of the few accolades that has alluded record setting quarterback Drew Brees is that of league MVP. At the advanced age of 39 he benefits greatly from the rule changes which greatly reduces the punishment quarterbacks take, however he is completing a whopping 76.4% of his passes. He has already thrown for 3,135 yards 29 touchdowns to just 2 picks yet it’s a little bit more.

Think of how he threw for just 171 yards yet connected for 4TDs as the Saints completed a season sweep (31-17) over the desperate 4-7 Falcons. Practically ending their season. How about the 30 points put up while only completing 18 passes in a 30-20 triumph against the Vikings #3 ranked defense??

What about the ease with which he scorched the world champion Eagles 48-7 finishing 22 of 30 for 363 yards and another 4 touchdowns. It was the worst beating a defending champion has taken in the Super Bowl era. All this before the 45-35 drubbing that knocked the Rams down a peg and from the ranks of the unbeaten.

When he faced the NFL’s 32nd ranked defense, on the road no less, he put up a 22 of 25 for 265 yards and 3 scores in a 51-14 pasting of the Cincinnati Bengals. The next day the Bengals fired their Defensive Coordinator. Not only has he not thrown an interception in any of the games mentioned, he’s shown his growth as a quarterback. He will audible and lean on his running game. Something he didn’t do in previous seasons.

Do you realize Brees is on pace to throw for just 4,560 yards this season?? Yet the Saints are 10-1 and streaking toward the playoffs. That was never the case in all of his 5,000 yard seasons and if you go back to when he won Super Bowl XLIX, he only threw for 4,338 yards. His 2nd lowest over the last 10 seasons.

Either Coach Sean Payton’s play calling has matured or Drew Brees is having a season for the ages. The Chancellor thinks it’s a little of both.

However….out in San Diego where Brees used to call home… (to be continued)

Thanks for reading and please share the article.