If you are a fan of the New Orleans Saints of the NFL, you must be in a deep state of outrage. A golden opportunity to make a trip to the Super Bowl was taken away by a very poor call by one of the officials. Had that pass interference call been made late in last week’s NFC championship game, the Saints would have had the ball inside the Los Angeles Rams 5 yard line with a first and goal and 1:41 left. The Rams did not have any time outs left so the Saints could have run the clock down to the end, call a timeout, and kick a short field goal. The chances of them winning the game had the call been made were probably 99 percent. However, the call was missed, and although the Saints kicked the go ahead field goal, the Rams had plenty of time to march down the field and kick the tying field which they did at the end of regulation. A few Saints fans are even suing the league over this missed call. But lets settle down all you Saints fans and look at the big picture. Sure that call will go down as one of the worst ever in NFL playoff history, but there were plenty of other chances to win the game and not have to depend on the ref making a game deciding decision.
I find it rather interesting that a critical missed call just prior to the Saints final possession was not also heavily discussed. The Rams had the ball inside the Saints 10 yard line when a face masking personal foul was missed by an official. It was equally a puzzling missed call that would have given the Rams the ball at the Saints 2 yard line, first and goal and a great opportunity for go-ahead touchdown that would have put the Rams up by 4 late in the game. That was a huge missed call which really benefited the Saints.
After the go-ahead field that put the Saints up 23-20 with 1:41 left , why could the Saints defense not stop the Rams from marching down the field to kick the game tying field goal? Their defense did not do their job late in the game. The Saints won the coin toss at the start of overtime and immediately turned the ball over. They had plenty of golden opportunities to win the game after that blown call and failed to do so. If you are going to blame the refs, fine. But why not also blame your own team for not capitalizing on several missed opportunities. Maybe those fans who are suing the league over that blown call should also sue the team as well. They are just as responsible for the loss as the officials.
I can certainly understand why fans get upset with officials when a call is blown in such a big situation in a big game. I would be outraged as well. But let’s remember those referees are not machines out there who will always make the right call. The game is moving so fast that missed calls will happened. It is part of the game. A championship team should be able to withstand a blown call to win a game.
Unfortunately, it is always the refs fault. Never look at how your team missed several opportunities to lock the game up. If the Saints fans and players want to know the real reason why they lost the game, they should focus on their beloved team’s inept play rather than the men in officials uniforms.
The Green Bay Packers made big sports headlines this week when they fired long time head coach Mike McCarthy following an embarrassing home loss to the lowly Arizona Cardinals. The loss basically knocked the Packers out of playoff contention in what was supposed to be a very promising year. Many had the Packers going to the Super Bowl this year. At the center of this firing seems to be what role star quarterback Aaron Rodgers had in it. Reports are that McCarthy and Rodgers did not always see eye to eye on the play calling. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that their turbulent relationship was no doubt a huge factor in McCarthy’s firing. This big mess in Green Bay is very typical of what hurts many professional sports franchises in a couple of ways.
First of all, let this be clear, professional sports teams are run by their star players, not the coaches. A coach who cannot get along with his star player is doomed and will probably get fired. Add in a lot of losing and that process is expedited. Don’t let anyone fool you, Aaron Rodgers runs the Packers. In the off-season, the Packers thought so highly of Rodgers that he became the highest paid player in the NFL by signing a huge contract. With the exception of a few years, McCarthy’s tenure at Green Bay was a very successful one. I thought he was definitely an above average NFL coach. Funny how a guy with that kind of track record along with a Super Bowl title can all of sudden be thought of as a bad coach. McCarthy, as with many coaches, become the scapegoat when things do not go well as they are in Green Bay. You cannot fire the players or heaven forbid, the great Aaron Rodgers. The Packers organization will not even come close to finding a new head coach who is even close to being as good as McCarthy. Many pro sports franchises rush to fire a coach without giving good thought about a possible quality replacement.
Second of all, huge contracts are very toxic in pro sports especially the NFL. How are the Packers going to bring in good players to support Rodgers in the future? Their pockets are only so deep and I do not see where they will have the cash to bring in big time free agents. This happens so often in professional sports. A team views a player as someone who they cannot lose and will pay that player handsomely. The problem is that you have many other players to pay as well. This becomes even a bigger problem when the team is struggling and needs free agent help. The Packers are very much in this situation. Furthermore, why would you pay some 34-35 year old quarterback that kind of money? Rodgers might be past his prime and seems to be more injury prone than ever.
I know Packer fans are among the most diehard fans in the world, but I think they should be prepared for some lean times coming up in the next few years. Who knows, maybe this intern coach will save the season and a miracle will happen. The Packers are in a mess right now and unfortunately a good head coach became the scapegoat. Mike McCarthy was only a small fraction of the problems that organization is having now and they are experiencing what many franchises deal with, an aging star play who is tough to coach and salary issues.
In an effort to make the National Football League a lot safer, officials are cracking down on violent hits by players such as leading with the helmet when making a tackle. I can certainly understand the logic behind these new stricter enforcement of the rules. Head injuries suffered by players can be very serious and concussions can carry lifetime problems for many players. Another rule that is drawing some rather heated criticism from fans and players alike is the new enforcement of rules designed to protect quarterbacks after they release the ball. After a quarterback releases the ball, he is not to be tackled or hit. Doing so will result in a personal foul penalty to the defensive player. Are these stricter enforcement of rules really going to help the game and make players safer? In many ways, I say no.
Imagine for second that you are a big bruising linebacker. Your main task is to play defense and prevent the other team from marching down the field. A large part of playing good defense on the football field is putting a lot of pressure on the quarterback. During a play in a crucial moment in the game, you see the quarterback in the pocket ready to launch the ball downfield. You run full force at the quarterback in an effort to intimidate him and possible sack him behind the line of scrimmage. Just seconds before you reach his area, he releases the ball and you run into him. It is a personal foul penalty on you and may end up costing your team the game. Forget about the fact that a 300 lb linemen running at full speed probably needs some time to slow down and might accidentally hit the quarterback. The only way you can prevent this from happening is to run at half speed towards the quarterback and hope he does not release the ball. Not exactly an effective way to play defense if you ask me!
There appears to be much confusion about these new rules in the early season. The Green Bay Packers paid an enormous price when Clay Matthews was whistled for roughing the passer late in last week’s game. It appeared that he made a perfectly clean play on the quarterback however the official saw it differently. I saw many players get penalized for other rules violations during preseason games. It is great that the league is very concerned about the safety of its players, but at the same time, aggressive and hard play is a huge part of the game. Where do you draw the line? I would not want to be an official in today’s NFL. I can just see some team losing a big game because some official made a questionable late hit call on a player. There are so many gray areas to be worked out.
As a fan of the game, I love to see good hard-hitting football. I just hope these new rules do not take the enjoyment of watching football. I have a fear that the NFL and quite frankly, football at every level will turn into flag football. The confusion over these new rules are not only frustrating to the players, but the fans as well. Can we still maintain good aggressive play while protecting the players? I would hope so!
Throughout the course of NFL history, there have been some rather spectacular playoff games and moments that people are still talking about today. Who can forget that incredible immaculate reception during the Steelers, Oakland game in the early 70’s? Or the big catch during the Dallas, San Francisco game in the 80’s? Last year’s Super Bowl was one of the better and most dramatic post-season games that I have ever seen. And lets not forget the incredible play at the goal line during the Patriots, Seahawks classic Super Bowl in 2015. I thought I had seen it all until I sat down last Sunday and watched a playoff game that I will never forget. The Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints game will go down as one of the most dramatic playoff games ever and the ending might be the most stunning ending ever to a playoff game.
Before I go any further, let me just put out this disclaimer. I am a huge Minnesota Vikings fan so naturally, this post is easy to write about. Perhaps if they had lost, it would not be such a great game of the ages! But either way, the last quarter kept me on the edge of my seat. 4 lead changes in the last 3 minutes of the game. And then the play that everyone is talking about, the walkoff long touchdown pass. That play is now called the “Minnesota Miracle”. I have seen a few football games end on a long touchdown pass, but never with so much at stake. Prior to the pass, I was just hoping the Vikings would somehow get the ball down in field goal range. Things looked very dire for the purple at that point. The Saints had a one point lead and Vikings only had 25 seconds to work with along with a long distance to move the ball.
Whether you are a coach, player or fan, you never want to give up hope ever in a game. Perhaps the Vikings could throw a long pass downfield and get a pass interference call. A miracle was needed and it came. I will never get sick of seeing that final play. In many ways, the Vikings were extremely fortunate to win because the Saints defensive back made an epic mistake during the play. You could also question the roles of the other defenders during the play as well.
Maybe this play and win will be just the thing to erase the string of bad luck the fans and organization have had to endure for the past 50 years. Sometimes a win like that is precursor to a special moment for the team. You just know that it is your year. Regardless, as a fan, I will never forget the “Minnesota Miracle”. Those are the moments that you just crave for as a sports fan of a particular team. That game and play will still be fresh in my mind some 20 years from now. It is just nice to be on the good side of a miraculous play for a change. An even better thing for us Vikings fans would be seeing our team win the Super Bowl in a couple of weeks. Stay tuned. Now that one miracle has occurred, will winning the Super Bowl be another miracle in store for us?
It is widely believed by many that a career for your typical NFL player usually runs about 5 years. By the time most players reach 30, they are already contemplating retirement. The game is just to violent for your typical player to have a long career in the NFL. The human body is just not built to withstand that type of punishment for any long-term amount of time. A particular player during this year’s playoffs has really gone against that belief and is one of those freaks who has actually had a long and very storied career. His name is none other than Tom Brady, the quarterback of the New England Patriots. The fact that he is still performing at a very high level is one of the most amazing sports stories ever. And the guy is 40 years old! Sometimes I wonder if Brady is really human. The man is a total freak of nature!
I don’t know if Brady is still the best quarterback in the league, Aaron Rodgers might have surpassed him, but it is hard to argue that anyone else is better than Brady. If not the best, Brady is certainly the second best quarterback in the league and you could also consider him as being one of the better players in the league. In how many other leagues is a 40-year-old considered one of the top players? Most players reached their peak during the late 20’s and decline after that. By the time many players are 32, it is time to think about being a role player on the team. Here you have Brady at 40 still dominating the league; how amazing is that? In all my years of watching sports, I have never seen an athlete perform like that so late in his career.
Perhaps more athletes can learn from what Brady is doing and his habits off the field. He reportedly is very disciplined about taking care of his body and has a very strict diet. Maybe he has found something in the fountain of youth that other players can use. Sure, Brady has for the most part avoided any chronic injuries that shorten many players career, but his willingness to take his craft serious with that much discipline should be applauded whether you are a fan of his or not.
Brady says that he wants to play until he is 45, then retire. Heck, why not play until you are 50? He could probably still be somewhat effective even at 50. We are witnessing a very special athlete in our midst. Professional sports are supposed to be leagues dominated by young 20 some year olds. Brady is blowing that myth that players cannot play at 40. Maybe more players will realize that they too can play well at that age. Maybe 40 is the new 30 in the world of professional sports.