16 Mar 2005
I can't decide if I like this idea or not. The NFL Competition Committee will recommend that blind-side plays on "unsuspecting" players -- such as Warren Sapp's block on Packers tackle Chad Clifton -- should be banished under the rules. On the one hand, I thought Sapp's play was bush league. On the other hand, the play wasn't over, and I don't want to see players penalized for playing hard until the whistle, which is what every coach at ever level tells every player to do. (Note: the first paragraph of this story incorrectly states that Sapp's hit was on a punt return. As the story correctly states later, it came on an interception return.)
Another play that pushed the committee into action came on a 2004 Monday Night Football game, when Broncos offensive tackle George Foster dislocated the ankle of Bengals defensive linemen Tony Williams who, under the new interpretation, would have been an "unsuspecting player" because the play was beyond him. However, there will be no changes on the controversial cut blocks that are allowed within the designated blocking zone.
Also under discussion this week is the specific "horse collar" tackle by Cowboys safety Roy Williams that broke the leg of Eagles receiver Terrell Owens. Williams injured four players with that specific technique, a committee member said Tuesday, and those incidents were still being debated by the committee. Although Williams has something of a reputation for going too far, I don't see how the league could make that type of play illegal. That would essentially tell defensive players that once an offensive player is past you, you might as well give up on catching him from behind.
The Giants and Ravens set a record in Super Bowl XXXV with 21 total punts. That record may well be in jeopardy. But in this battle of top defenses, Carolina's superior and more flexible offense gives the Panthers the edge.