Every team in the NFL gets bad calls that go for them or against them. Looking around the league, you’ll see NFL teams who have won or lost a game where the pivotal moment came not from either sideline, but from the team in black and white stripes. It happens, it’s the NFL, and it usually has a way of balancing itself out. Sometimes those calls take a game and make those few moments drastically shift the tide. In other games, those calls may be hidden amongst the weeds only to see a team just barely lose with moments left in the game making those prior moments key if you look at the game as a whole. Miami and thirty other teams in the NFL have both benefitted and lost out based on calls like these, and that is how things go as part of the natural course of an NFL season.
The thirty-second team in the mix, however, seems to get far more than their share of these breaks. The fans complain about how their team is the most hated team in the league, but sometimes there is a reason for that beyond success. If you look at teams like the Broncos, the Saints, the Colts, the Seahawks, etc – most true fans don’t hate those teams, but they do respect them. Those are teams that have made their own destiny, pulling out wins on their own merit seemingly every time. There are seemingly bad calls both for and against them, but those calls are handled with class and sportsmanship – for the most part.
Those bad calls are part of the game, and teams have to overcome them. It’s part of life, and it’s part of the NFL. I have a great deal of respect for the NFL and its officiating crews. At a certain point, however, if things get too far out of balance, it begins to hurt the game. Picture, for a moment, that the NFL is one enormous family. In the family there are 32 siblings, each of whom have their own friends (the fans) and way of doing things. Now picture that there is one sibling, no matter the situation, who starts receiving blatant favoritism. That sibling rarely gets in trouble (unless there is NO other choice… thank you, Spy Gate!), and generally is given all the breaks and advantages by the parents. There are teams we all “love to hate” when they’re good – such as the Dallas Cowboys or San Francisco 49ers. This is all part of a healthy NFL fan base that fuels the fire, the passion and the love we have for the game. There is that one team, however, that the unfair treatment has a tendency to sour us on as fans.
If you haven’t figured out who the team in question is here, then you’re obviously a casual fan and this article is not for you. Thank you for reading this far, and we hope you return to read more articles here in the future.
For those of you that stuck around, let’s talk about the New England Patriots for a minute. For years now, the NFL has changed rules based around what happens in New England. Fans of other teams have had to sit and watch as Brady complains to an official who threw a flag, only to see the official pick the flag back up and rule that there was “No foul on the play for <insert penalty here>.” We’ve watched as opposing quarterbacks, coaches and defenders have blatantly called timeout prior to a play, only to have the officials “miss it” over and over again, or catch it when a coaching assistant calls time out on a pivotal playoff short yardage play that is pivotal in deciding the game. I’ve watched and listened as their fans cry over a half yard in a game, ignoring the fact that time and again the team has received ridiculously generous spots after a play, akin to having a “ghost runner” advance the ball once the player was down.
We can go back to hundreds upon hundreds of examples. Randy Moss throwing defensive backs to the ground with the ball in the air. The timeout against Baltimore in the playoffs. Phantom calls, and no-calls, galore. The “tuck rule,” the rule about hitting quarterbacks following Brady’s injury (a rule, btw, that wasn’t mentioned following several similar hits made BY the Pats own Vince Wilfork), the games played surrounding the official injury report each week.
Watching yesterday’s game, let’s subtract some of the phantom points from two very specific calls. The first call in question was a terrible pass interference penalty on third and two from the New Orleans seven yard line. The ball from Brady sailed out of the right side of the end zone and without even taking Dobson’s poor hands into account was clearly an uncatchable ball. I don’t have a problem that they threw the flag, but it should’ve been picked up after the referees conferred and we should’ve heard the following: “There is no foul for pass interference on the play. The ball was ruled uncatchable. New England retains possession of the ball on the seven yard line. Fourth down,” but instead it became first and goal from the one yard line. That one call takes us down to 27-26 Saints if the rest of the game played out exactly the same, following what one would assume to be a successful field goal on fourth and two from the seven yard line. It doesn’t end there. On third and twelve from the New Orleans 13 yard line, the Pats received several key breaks on the same play. With the play clock winding down, Brees clearly signaled for a timeout. The referees didn’t see it, and the play clock expired. The referees didn’t see that either. New Orleans center snapped the ball, and Brees appeared to slow up, appearing to believe that one of the two happened before rolling right. Jimmy Graham beat the linebacker in coverage, who reached out and grabbed his jersey and shoulder pad and yanked before letting go and Jimmy Graham was obviously limping after being thrown off his route. The referees didn’t see this, either. Brees threw the ball where Graham should’ve been, interception by the Patriots Arrington, deep at the New Orleans twenty yard line. Are you kidding me? New Orleans held the Pats to a field goal, but at the very least assuming a New Orleans punt, that is a field goal that shouldn’t have occurred – which brings us down to 27-23 Saints, or even a 27-27 tie leading to overtime. There was New Orleans lining up to go for it on fourth and short, and the Patriots jumping into the neutral zone clearly prior to any movement by New Orleans players who were reacting to the Pats players jumping across the line. This resulted in New Orleans having to punt it back to the Pats, since the officials missed that as well.
I’m all for a level playing field in the NFL, and there are plenty of games that the Patriots win and have won based solely on merit. I also believe you make your own luck, and take advantage of the breaks that you get while having to overcome those that go against you. At a certain point, however, those breaks can become insurmountable and lead to a distinct unfair advantage for a team. When it is a very good team, which the Patriots do have, it can turn a very good team into a great team on paper due to its drastic impact on the outcome of the games that are played. It also can turn the team and fan base sour for the rest of the NFL, and hurt morale amongst NFL fans.
For the folks out there who have seen the Harry Potter movies, or better yet read the books, the NFL and the officiating crews are turning the Pats and their fans into the Dudley “Duddykins” Dursley of the NFL, while treating other teams akin to Harry Potter and his friends. This fan, for one, is tired of seeing “Duddykins” get special treatment, and believes there needs to be a change somehow, some way. After ten or more years of “Duddykins” getting special treatment, we’re over it, and it’s time the NFL did something about it. The sad part is, the players and coaches can’t say anything publicly without risk of a fine or other sanctions by the NFL. It’s high time for a change.
Fins up, folks!