If you were like me this past weekend you were glued to as much of the NFL playoff action as you had the opportunity to watch. A quick run-down of the scores:
Colts 24, Broncos 13; Patriots 35, Ravens 31; Packers 26, Cowboys 21; Seahawks 31, Panthers 17.
Now, here are five thoughts on what we saw this weekend.
NFL Catch/Non-Catch Rules Are A Mess
The whole Dez Bryant catch/non-catch controversy at the end of the Green Bay Packers-Dallas Cowboys game Sunday afternoon highlighted the complete mess the NFL has made of the rules when it comes to figuring out what is/isn't a catch and what is/isn't possession of the ball.
There isn't a soul who isn't a Cowboys fan -- myself included -- who feels sympathy for Bryant and the Cowboys this morning. After Dallas was basically gifted a game-changing non-pass interference call a week ago against the Detroit Lions feeling badly for the Cowboys simply is not in the cards. And Cowboys' fans have no room for complaining.
Yet, that rule is awful. By every reasonable standard EXCEPT the way the rule is written Bryant caught the ball. Here is Peter King on the play:
To me, this is a classic case of: Hate the rule, don’t hate the ref. I agree that it looked like a catch, but by rule, it wasn’t. "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." Two other former officials — Mike Carey on CBS and Jim Daopolous on ESPN — were similarly decisive.
To me, identifying a catch has to be simplified. You can't take a catch away from a guy after he's had the ball for several steps or controlled the ball until he's 5 yards out of bounds. There's just way too much minutiae involved. It really shouldn't take a committee to be able to identify when someone has actually caught a football. It's usually pretty easy to figure out what is and isn't a catch -- until you actually start interpreting the rules.
Here is the official rule book explanation of the Bryant play.
The Peyton Manning Era Is Over
It is always said to watch a legendary player hit his expiration date. Sadly, I think that is what we witnessed Sunday when watching Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos fall to Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts. Manning had no magic when the Broncos needed him to engineer a comeback. His passes floated like slow-moving hot air balloons most of the day. The Colts challenged him to throw the ball down the field and, with one beautifully thrown exception, he couldn't do it. Manning went 1-for-8 on passes thrown 20 yards or more beyond the line of scrimmage.
Manning and the Bronco offense even got booed by the home crowd on Sunday. Manning reportedly hinted after the game that retirement is a consideration. It says here that's what he should do. There was a fear when the Broncos lost to the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl a year ago that Denver had missed its best chance, and that played out this year. I for one don't want to see Manning hang around and become only a shell of the legendary player he has been.
You Have To Give Bill Belichick Credit
As much as Bill Belichick is reviled by many around the league, including Giants fans, you simply have to give the guy props for how brilliant he actually is. No coach is better than Belichick when it comes to adjustments, both game-to-game and during the game. The perfectly-timed Julian Edelman to Danny Amendola option pass for a touchdown and the off-the-wall four-man offensive line formations New England came up with Saturday were just more examples. Belichick will take ideas from anywhere, and will pretty much try just about anything, in an effort to win.
Aaron Rodgers Is Pretty Good, Even On One Leg
If you watched Rodgers basically hop up and down the field on one leg, then spend most of Sunday's game against Dallas standing like a statue in the pocket you know the last thing he should have been doing Sunday is playing football on his injured quad.
In the fourth quarter, though, Rodgers was suddenly Rodgers again. He found a way to move just enough to give himself throwing lanes. After being off-target much of the game he was suddenly throwing darts into impossibly tight windows. He ended up 24-of-35 for 316 yards, three touchdowns and a 125.4 passer rating. Amazing.
Play-making Safeties Change A Defense
If you watched the games this weekend you know how much of a difference having a tremendous safety at the back end of your defense makes. Kam Chancellor was a huge factor in the Seattle Seahawks' victory over the Carolina Panthers, and not just for his very cool jumping over the offensive line effort to block a field goal. He had a game-clinching 90-yard pick six in the fourth quarter and 10 tackles.His Pro Football Focus score was +3.0.
Devin McCourty of the Patriots had an interception of Joe Flacco, two passes defended and surrendered just one completion in four targets, ending up with a passer rating against of a measly 5.2. He had a Pro Football Focus score of +2.3.
Apologies to Antrel Rolle, but the Giants don't have a game-changer like that at the back of their defense. Alabama strong safety Landon Collins might be available to them at No. 9 in the 2015 NFL Draft. And McCourty is a free agent.