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12 Jan 2015

Clutch Encounters: Divisional Round

by Scott Kacsmar

Each NFL season will feature at least 12,000 plays that look like a catch. After this weekend's Divisional Round action, I am more confused than ever about what a catch is supposed to look like. Subpar officiating was on full display this weekend, ruining at least one classic finish, and this was even without Walt Coleman, Jeff Triplette or Jerome Boger drawing an assignment. Some of the calls were so contradictory that I am not even sure Mike Carey continued his imperfect season for CBS by going against the ruling in Denver on a Josh Cribbs fumble.

What is a fumble? What is a reception? What is control? When these questions lack a simple answer, then the NFL has to go back to the drawing board with the rulebook and relieve some of the stress it is putting on officials to make judgment calls. Things need to be more black and white. Why can't they just go with "a catch equals two feet and possession?" Why is it OK for the ball to hit the ground if you do it in a certain way? That's the same nonsense that allowed the Tuck Rule to exist all of those years. Rules should be built around common sense instead of tricky language like "act common to the game" that is clearly open for interpretation. What counts as "enough of a stretch" for one referee may not be the same for another.

This week all four games had a comeback opportunity, though we had some pretty big surprises for which games produced the most and fewest points. Some quarterbacks learned the hard way how one pass can change everything in the playoffs.

Game of the Week

Dallas Cowboys 21 at Green Bay Packers 26

Type: 4QC/GWD
Largest Fourth-Quarter Deficit: 1 (21-20)
Win Probability (4QC/GWD starting with 10:10 left): 0.47
Head Coach: Mike McCarthy (14-37-1 at 4QC and 20-39-1 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers (8-26 at 4QC and 12-28 overall 4QC/GWD record)

We might as well get this out of the way first. Yes, I think Dez Bryant and the Cowboys were robbed of a spectacular catch on fourth down. The whole "complete the process going to the ground" rule has always been bunk and needs to be reviewed this offseason. Efforts like that need to be rewarded. When a receiver catches the ball, gets three feet down, changes his ball hand, and lunges for the end zone, that all sounds like a bunch of "football moves" that are "common to the game" to me. Why don't they just make "going to the ground" itself a football move and eliminate this nonsense entirely? We have a game where the ground can't cause a fumble, but it can cause an incompletion. That is not consistent.

Here's the famed "Calvin Johnson Rule" from ESPN:

If a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass (with or without contact by an opponent), he must maintain control of the ball throughout the process of contacting the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone. If he loses control of the ball, and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, the pass is incomplete. If he regains control prior to the ball touching the ground, the pass is complete.

After countless broadcasts have praised the officials this year for erring on the side of "reversal requires conclusive evidence" and not reversing many calls, they sure were quick to reverse this catch on Sunday. Given all the debate that has already been spewed over this call, how could anyone find this evidence indisputable and conclusive enough to overturn?

I don't see a shot that clearly shows Bryant having lost control of the ball with the ball touching the ground. I see the ball on top of his forearm, which lands first. If he lost control as soon as he hit the ground, then the ball would not have stuck with him the way it did on the roll. To me, he loses control when he's turning over onto his back, and then he regains control without the ball touching the ground. So why is that not a catch?

How did Lance Moore get a reversed call for his crucial two-point conversion in Super Bowl XLIV when his "process" was still going through a rolling motion (after he bobbled the ball) and the ball came out at the end? That's not completing the process.

What about that amazing touchdown pass from Andrew Luck to Donte Moncrief a week ago? Moncrief is going to the ground to complete his process, and after he bangs into the pylon, he lets the ball slip right off his hand before getting up. That all takes place in one fluid motion that should be considered the full process, no?

The frustrating part is that before halftime Randall Cobb was given a catch on a play where there was a conclusive angle of the ball bouncing off the ground as he tried to trap it. Notice how that call stood, but was not confirmed. How was that not conclusive evidence of the ball touching the ground, but there was enough evidence on Bryant's catch to overturn it?

This really did not feel right, nor did the other mistakes in the game, like at least three very generous spots, including two back-to-back catches by Jason Witten in the second quarter. For such an important game the officiating just did not live up to the already low standard.

Unfortunately this is what will be remembered best from this game, which easily could have been an all-time playoff classic with a better ending. Both teams played quite well with the running games delivering as expected. Both quarterbacks also stepped up, but Dallas really blew a chance to take control before halftime. One of those bad Witten spots was corrected, bringing up a third-and-1. Dallas should have probably run the ball, but Tony Romo fumbled the snap and forced a low-percentage deep ball. Dan Bailey missed a 45-yard field goal, but the play was negated by a penalty. Maybe that should have prompted Jason Garrett to go for it given the cold conditions. Bailey's ensuing 50-yard try was then blocked.

Green Bay got the bogus Cobb catch for 12 yards, but still had to overcome a sack with a huge 31-yard pass to Cobb that was poorly defended by Dallas. Mason Crosby made his 40-yard field goal, turning a potential 17-7 Dallas lead into just 14-10 at the half. That was a huge sequence, because the Cowboys were doing a lot of things right at that point in making this the slugfest of which Green Bay wanted no part.

Aaron Rodgers did not look like himself until that 31-yard gain to Cobb. In the first half he clearly did not want to leave the pocket with the injured calf and opened himself up to some bad sacks and a fumble in scoring range. DeMarco Murray also lost a fumble for the sixth time this year, leading to a Green Bay field goal. After Romo looked to be injured on a completion, you wondered if Seattle was going to get a gift next week with these injured quarterbacks, but both gutted out strong games with neither throwing an interception.

Rodgers really warmed up down the stretch with Dallas unable to generate a rush on him. With the Packers down 21-13, he started to find out that the Cowboys also had no answers for Davante Adams, the third receiver. On third-and-15, Rodgers threw a perfect strike to Adams and the Cowboys failed to make the tackle, giving up 30 yards after the catch for a 46-yard touchdown that made it 21-19. Given how Mike McCarthy kicked the ultra-rare extra point in this situation in the fourth quarter last year in Chicago, you knew he would kick again here with 1:41 left in the third quarter to trail 21-20. I think this is a more defendable call than the Chicago decision. Some teams get caught chasing the tie too early when you still have to score again anyway with the same goal of not letting the opponent score intact.

With the ball at midfield, Romo took some bad sacks where he tried to do too much to start the fourth quarter. Rodgers started showing much better movement in the pocket, and the Cowboys still struggled with tackling Adams and tight end Andrew Quarless. Rodgers may have saved his best throw for the red zone when he threaded the needle to tight end Richard Rodgers in the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown with 9:10 left. Of course Green Bay went for two there, but can you believe this offense is 0-for-9 on its two-point conversion attempts in the fourth quarter since 2010? Every play has been a pass too, including this fade to Quarless that never had a chance. Maybe the Packers should work more of a run threat in their two-point package. The miss opened the door for Dallas to take the lead.

Romo took a horrific sack to bring up third-and-11 when he had plenty of time to throw the ball away. The loss of 3 yards was bad enough, but it also left precious time ticking away. After coming up short, the Cowboys had no decision but to go for it on fourth-and-2 at the Green Bay 32 with 4:42 left.

Insert the fateful pass to Bryant down the left sideline. Unlike the end of the first half, I don't mind this deep shot from Romo. Bryant has made those catches before, and he looked to have made another one. After the dust settled and the catch was taken away, we had an officiating mistake on which everyone can agree. The clock should have been reset to no lower than 4:34 after the reversal, giving Dallas at least 28 more seconds to get the ball back. Would that change anything the Packers did? Hard to say, but someone has to be on top of that.

Instead, Green Bay only had 4:06 to burn with Dallas down to two timeouts. The Packers used a basic run-run-pass strategy in the four-minute offense, but were very effective. On third-and-3, Adams came up with yet another catch and very weak tackling on the outside (another theme from this weekend) led to a 26-yard gain. That put the field goal in play, but Dallas eventually forced a third-and-11 that was a must-stop situation. Rodgers' pass was actually deflected at the line, but Cobb still came down with the catch for the first down to clinch the win. It was just that kind of day for Green Bay.

How great of an ending would it have been to have a Dallas touchdown from the 1-yard line, followed by Rodgers' answer drive? There might have even been time for another Dallas drive with the way these teams were going. Instead we got a tipped-ball clincher and some kneeldowns. Ho-hum.

Green Bay now has to solve the Legion of Boom puzzle, but how about those Cowboys? It was a very successful season, but this one will sting for a long time. This was a team capable of going the distance, but you never know when the big call will go your way or not. That ending, and really the whole game, should save Romo from criticism for a change. He had a very interesting day with the sacks and fumbles, but was so sharp on his 19 passes. Naturally, Romo set a dubious playoff record: highest passer rating (143.6) in a loss.

Here's hoping the Rodgers from the second half can rest the next few days and show up on Sunday. If the referees don't interfere, maybe then we will get our controversy-free classic in the NFC.

Clutch Encounters of the Winning Kind

Baltimore Ravens 31 at New England Patriots 35

Type: 4QC/GWD
Largest Fourth-Quarter Deficit: 3 (31-28)
Win Probability (4QC/GWD starting with 10:10 left): 0.36
Head Coach: Bill Belichick (44-71 at 4QC and 59-72 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Tom Brady (34-29 at 4QC and 46-31 overall 4QC/GWD record)

The call in Green Bay and the somber ending in Denver almost make you forget just how great the weekend started with this unexpected offensive display. The Patriots became the first team in playoff history to erase two 14-point deficits, as John Harbaugh lost a road playoff game with a 14-point lead for the second time in his career. The Ravens did so many things well, but the Patriots always had an answer so that the game never got too far out of reach.

The first pressure point came on third-and-8 with the Patriots down 14-0 in the first quarter. The Ravens simply got too cute with their pressure. Rob Gronkowski legally knocked Pernell McPhee out of his way within 5 yards and was wide open over the middle for a 16-yard gain. He took off for 46 yards on the next play, and the Patriots were soon in the end zone. Only on a second-quarter drive when the Ravens picked up back-to-back sacks did the pass rush really deliver for Baltimore.

Watching the evolving playoff narrative for Joe Flacco on Saturday was interesting. After he turned a terrible Tom Brady interception into a touchdown before halftime and delivered a 35-yard bomb on fourth-and-6, Flacco had four touchdown passes in Foxboro and a 28-14 lead. Cue the comparisons to Joe Montana, the sterling touchdown-to-interception ratio in the playoffs since 2011 and all that jazz. We were living in a world where Flacco was the most trustworthy active playoff quarterback, for what that's worth.

Once again, the Patriots had an answer, though it was very unorthodox for the NFL.

That was the drive where the Patriots started using four-lineman sets and getting some receivers wide open, with Baltimore struggling to identify the eligible and ineligible players. Harbaugh even took a penalty on the drive to voice his displeasure with the tactic, which I think has a cheap element to it, but not an illegal one. Desperate times call for desperate measures, I guess. On their next drive the Patriots went with a more conventional trick: the throwback to Julian Edelman, who finally got to throw an NFL pass for a 51-yard touchdown to Danny Amendola. That looked even better than the trick touchdown to Randy Moss in 2007 against Pittsburgh in another contest where the Patriots ignored the running game.

That's what really sunk Baltimore in this game. Despite the Patriots putting the ball in the hands of their quarterback on 30 consecutive plays to end the game (34 counting kneeldowns), the Ravens still allowed three long touchdown drives in the second half. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees has to know the strength of this offense is not with the deep passes that have been the major weakness of Baltimore's secondary this season. Yet with the Patriots completely ignoring the running game and throwing short passes on every play with the backup center in, Pees still had his cornerbacks giving cushions to outside receivers, which often included running backs. Anyone playing this team should dare Brady to throw deep instead of allowing free releases to the receivers, but Baltimore was very protective of its corners, hoping they could make tackles in space.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, Brady was just 5-of-11 on passes thrown deeper than 10 yards downfield. In the second half he only attempted two such throws and was averaging 5.9 yards per throw against standard pressure (9.9 in first half). That's not a lot of field to defend, yet with the barrage of formations and tempo, the Ravens couldn't keep up.

Flacco finally made a mistake with a bad interception, but the defense made its one big stand of the half. Justin Forsett was great on the ground, but the Ravens may have made a mistake in the fourth quarter by taking him out after some big gains. After reaching the New England 7, Flacco threw two incompletions, though Owen Daniels had a shot at the third-down throw in the end zone. Baltimore had to settle for a 25-yard field goal, and we know how that usually plays out against New England.

Believe it or not, teams are now 0-4 in New England since 2008 after kicking a go-ahead field goal in the fourth quarter when tied. The 2008 Rams, 2011 Cowboys and 2012 Jets all went on to lose after New England comebacks. While Baltimore's drive consumed 7:52, you just knew that field goal would come back to hurt the Ravens.

New England's dink-and-dunk continued, with Brady picking out open receivers on each side of the field. Baltimore's best chance for a stop came on a third-and-6. Amendola, who played one of his best games for the Patriots, should have been tackled short of the sticks, but Rashaan Melvin failed to make the tackle, allowing Amendola to get just enough for the first down. Melvin is one of the emergency backups the Ravens have been forced to use at cornerback after putting five corners on injured reserve this year. He's not exactly built for this moment, and that's where Brady wisely knew to attack.

Melvin was in tighter on Brandon LaFell, and Brady broke a tendency with the deep ball. It was his 50th throw of the night, and he saved the best for last for the 23-yard touchdown with 5:13 left. LaFell had two catches all season on passes thrown more than 20 yards, but none were bigger than his third. That was also Brady's 46th playoff touchdown pass (his first game-winner), moving him past Joe Montana for the record.

Down 35-31, Flacco could have done wonders for his resume with an 89-yard drive to regain the lead. He had plenty of time (5:08), though he may have actually gone too slowly at first. Facing a fourth-and-3, Baltimore had to use a second timeout to get the right play call with 2:14 left. That basically put the game on that play, and Flacco delivered with a 17-yard gain to Daniels.

Remember, the Patriots have allowed one fourth-quarter comeback win at home since 2001, but Flacco was 41 yards away at the two-minute warning. The main goal was obviously to score the touchdown, but you have to be respectful of the clock too. You don't want to leave Brady much time when he only needs a field goal, so everything from screens to running the ball was at play here.

But Flacco is a gunslinger at heart, and with 1:46 left, he decided to heave a bomb to the end zone for Torrey Smith. However, Duron Harmon was there for an easy interception that basically crushed Baltimore's hopes. Why would anyone force a low-percentage pass there, when even a touchdown would have given Brady more than 90 seconds to at least set up one of the best kickers in the league for the tie? That's just dumb football.

In NFL history, road teams allowing 35-plus points are 2-82. Flacco was trying to pull off another 38-35 road playoff win for the Ravens, but that wasn't Rahim Moore out there this time. At least that day Flacco had every reason to be desperate with the throw. This was not that situation.

New England actually had to punt thanks to Baltimore's final timeout, giving Flacco one more Hail Mary chance. Devin McCourty did the right thing and knocked the ball away to end the game. While the Patriots allowed more points than expected, the defense succeeded when it mattered most with the red-zone hold and the huge takeaway.

Last week we talked about the Ravens succeeding with a one-dimensional offense, but the Patriots took things to another level. New England finished with 13 carries for 14 yards, the fewest rushing yards in postseason history for a winning team. Brady brought that total down with four kneeldowns, but he also came close to leading the team in rushing. The Patriots' running backs only had seven carries for 14 yards.

New England is just the 21st team since the 1970 merger to win a game with no more than 20 rushing yards. The Patriots already held the record for fewest rushing yards in a regular-season win in the Super Bowl era. The 1986 Patriots rushed for 2 yards against the Saints.

NFL Offense: Winning with Maximum of 20 Rushing Yards (Since 1970)
Tm Year Date Opp Result Team Att. Yds YPC QBRuns QBYds Runs Yds YPC
KC 1974 9/29/1974 @HOIL W 17-7 23 20 0.87 3 9 20 11 0.55
TEN 2008 11/9/2008 @CHI W 21-14 29 20 0.69 4 -1 25 21 0.84
DET 2011 9/25/2011 @MIN W 26-23 OT 19 20 1.05 1 -1 18 21 1.17
MIA 2013 9/8/2013 @CLE W 23-10 23 20 0.87 5 3 18 17 0.94
DEN 2010 10/3/2010 @TEN W 26-20 20 19 0.95 3 11 17 8 0.47
OAK 1998 10/11/1998 SD W 7-6 18 18 1.00 3 6 15 12 0.80
ATL 2013 10/20/2013 TB W 31-23 18 18 1.00 3 -12 15 30 2.00
LARD 1993 12/19/1993 TB W 27-20 23 17 0.74 6 -14 17 31 1.82
DET 2003 11/9/2003 CHI W 12-10 20 17 0.85 2 -2 18 19 1.06
NYG 1988 11/27/1988 @NO W 13-12 17 14 0.82 4 -2 13 16 1.23
CIN 2012 12/23/2012 @PIT W 13-10 16 14 0.88 0 0 16 14 0.88
ARI 2013 11/17/2013 @JAC W 27-14 24 14 0.58 3 -3 21 17 0.81
NE 2014 1/10/2015 BAL W 35-31 13 14 1.08 6 0 7 14 2.00
DEN 1972 10/22/1972 @OAK W 30-23 24 13 0.54 1 0 23 13 0.57
NYG 1986 12/1/1986 @SF W 21-17 19 13 0.68 3 -3 16 16 1.00
CAR 1999 12/12/1999 @GB W 33-31 13 13 1.00 4 8 9 5 0.56
MIN 2005 11/13/2005 @NYG W 24-21 21 12 0.57 0 0 21 12 0.57
CAR 2000 12/17/2000 SD W 30-22 15 11 0.73 5 10 10 1 0.10
IND 2005 1/1/2006 ARI W 17-13 10 11 1.10 4 0 6 11 1.83
MIA 2006 11/19/2006 MIN W 24-20 13 7 0.54 2 2 11 5 0.45
NE 1986 11/30/1986 @NO W 21-20 18 2 0.11 4 -7 14 9 0.64

This performance from the New England defense and running game will never work for a full championship run, but you have to applaud the offense for attacking Baltimore's major weakness with such ruthlessness. That adaptability has made New England the best team in the AFC this year.

Clutch Encounters of the Losing Kind

Panthers at Seahawks: Sneaky Close

Once this game slips into the annals of playoff history, the naked eye will view the 31-17 final as the No. 1 seed flexing its muscles at home against a team fortunate just to be there. However, this was a lot like the three previous meetings between these two teams in Carolina, with the game stuck in a one-score window for nearly 50 minutes. Three big sacks in the third quarter stalled promising drives and led to the Seahawks kicking a field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter to extend their lead to 17-10.

Carolina had a shot, but needed to do something the team has yet to accomplish in the Cam Newton-Ron Rivera era since 2011. The Panthers are 0-26 when trailing by more than three points in the fourth quarter.

We nearly had another officiating controversy after Newton slid on a scramble and drew a flag for an apparent late hit. Twenty seconds after the flag the referee finally announced there was no personal foul on the play. The call was correct, though there was never an explanation for why they changed their mind. On third-and-11, Newton threw a strike over the middle to Mike Tolbert, he of the Jerome Bettis weight class. Tolbert showed off some Bettis-esque hands too, with a bad drop on what should have been a first down.

For the fourth game in a row the Panthers literally dropped the ball against Seattle on a crucial drive.

2012, down 16-10 with 3:47 left: Newton short-hopped a fourth-and-1 pass in the end zone to a wide-open Ben Hartsock.

2013, down 12-7 with 5:34 left: DeAngelo Williams fumbled at the Seattle 8 and the Seahawks ran out the clock.

2014, down 13-9 with 0:26 left: After Russell Wilson put the Seahawks ahead in the last minute, Newton bounced a screen pass off the ground to Jonathan Stewart on fourth-and-25.

While Carolina failed to make those plays, the Seahawks closed as you expect the superior team to do. Despite the running game not producing much -- Marshawn Lynch was held to 59 yards, with one big burst for 25 yards -- the offense was productive thanks to a great night from Wilson. On third-and-6, Wilson found tight end Luke Willson, who caught the game-winning touchdown in Carolina earlier this season. Here the Panthers had a chance to tackle him at their own 46, but they got greedy and tried to rip at the ball. Willson broke free from that tackle and gained 21 more yards to put Seattle in field-goal range. Three plays later on third-and-10, Willson ran a simple slant for a 25-yard touchdown to make it 24-10 with 10:26 left.

On the night, Wilson was 8-of-8 passing on third down for 199 yards, three touchdowns and seven first downs. The only real blemishes were the two sacks, but that's fine given the other production.

Any hope remaining for Carolina evaporated when Kam Chancellor jumped a route in the red zone and returned the pass 90 yards for a touchdown to cap off his excellent game.

Rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin caught his second touchdown of the night to wrap up the scoring, but that only set a dubious record. Including the playoffs, Benjamin has five touchdown catches in the fourth quarter when trailing by at least 21 points, the most in NFL history. He broke his tie with Gary Garrison, who had four such scores for the 1972 Chargers. Interestingly enough, if you dropped the margin to at least 11 points, Benjamin would also have the regular-season record at five touchdowns, and this was his sixth. So it was an impressive rookie season, but also a masterful job of scoring in garbage time.

A better Carolina team in 2015 should be able to close the gap even more on the best team in the NFC, but we still need to see proof that the Panthers can close. Second prize is only a set of steak knives.

Colts at Broncos: A Denver Eulogy?

Peyton Manning's best pass on Sunday may have been the torch to Andrew Luck. The weekend's lowest-scoring game was an all-around stunner, with Denver's 288 yards of total offense representing a low mark in the Manning era, which could possibly end after 53 games. This is the only time in 28 home games (24-4) that Manning did not lead the Broncos to at least 20 points. It's the first time a Manning-led offense was held under 14 points and 300 yards at home since Indianapolis' 2008 opener against Chicago, which Manning played after missing the preseason due to surgery.

Surgery -- its scar always marks the origin story of Manning's arrival in Denver. Health -- the burning question of this season's final act. Father Time -- still undefeated and serving reminders of the preciousness of these opportunities. With his former team on the other side, including old friends in attendance like Reggie Wayne and Jim Irsay, Manning's last two drives felt like the slow march of a funeral procession as rain even started to fall on the muddy field. Only someone like Lars von Trier or Darren Aronofsky could pen such a script. Did we really just watch the end of the career of one of America's greatest athletes?

Something's not right about this picture. Not even three full months ago we were looking at Denver as the class of the AFC (possibly NFL) with Manning having as good of a start as he has ever had. October 22 was not that long ago.

We knew the Colts were a high-variance defense, but this was not the kind of opposing offense they have been able to slow down, especially on the road. Frankly, this game was so uncharacteristic of the Broncos that they really are the story more than the Colts' great effort to step up on the road. This week, Denver fans should be surprised to hear their team's eulogy.

For the first five minutes, Denver did everything according to plan. The defense forced a three-and-out. Manning hit a deep ball to Julius Thomas for 32 yards and finished the drive with his trademark 1-yard fade touchdown throw to Demaryius Thomas. These were the Broncos the underdog Colts were predicted to struggle with. For the next 55 minutes, the Broncos looked nothing like the team we have come to expect the last three years.

That 32-yard completion was Manning's second attempt and the longest gain of the day for Denver. The Broncos' second-longest play did not come until the game's final snap: a meaningless 24-yard completion to Demaryius that just put Manning over 200 yards and barely over 4.5 yards per attempt (4.59). Even the "struggling" December version of Manning averaged 8.18 yards per attempt.

The Broncos were supposed to be a better team this year, but most of the upgrades failed in a big way on Sunday. Ryan Clady's return at left tackle never solidified the offensive line the way it was expected to, and the Colts forced Denver's only turnover with an unblocked rusher (rookie Jonathan Newsome) blind-siding Manning for a fumble. The line opened few holes for C.J. Anderson to run through, especially on early downs, which led to too many third-and-long situations. Anderson had to create most of his own yards, including a brilliant effort to break multiple tackles in the backfield on fourth-and-1 to end the third quarter. However, Anderson only carried once more for 1 yard as the Broncos were behind two scores in the fourth quarter.

Jack Del Rio's highly-ranked defense failed to generate much pressure, which has been a common theme in the postseason. In 2012, the Broncos ranked first in pressure rate, but Joe Flacco had a good pocket in that shocking upset. Last year, the Broncos became the first playoff defense ever to force zero takeaways in a three-game postseason. Seattle's offense allowed the most pressure of any team in 2012, yet the Broncos never sacked or hit Russell Wilson in Super Bowl XLVIII. On Sunday, there was little pass rush generated against an offensive line that returned just two starters from Week 1's matchup. Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware were strangely quiet, which still might be better than having a noticeably bad game like pricey free-agent pickup Aqib Talib. He struggled to keep up with T.Y. Hilton, had a very costly holding penalty on third down and allowed the ensuing touchdown to Dwayne Allen.

Luck was not the one-man show we expected. His running game chipped in a respectable 26 carries for 78 yards. Luck was not in top form, but he played very well. His two interceptions will serve as fodder for people who only look at postseason pick totals, but those plays basically served as punts on third-and-long situations on a day where Pat McAfee was not a punting sensation. One of Luck's biggest plays was converting a third-and-16 for 32 yards to Coby Fleener in the third quarter with the Colts not yet in field-goal range. That led to a great touchdown throw to Hakeem Nicks on second-and-15 that put the Colts up 21-10.

None of Denver's units were able to make a real game-changing play. The special teams were the biggest weakness coming in for Denver, yet they may have played the best football for the Broncos on Sunday. Josh Cribbs seemingly fumbled on a big hit on a punt return, but replay reversed that call. After the officiating decisions this weekend, I have no idea if they got it right or not. I just know Denver failed to come away with a big break.

Even when Denver got the ball back with a 21-13 deficit in the fourth quarter, this did not look like an offense capable of driving a long field. The Broncos went three-and-out with Vontae Davis playing tight coverage on Emmanuel Sanders. That's when the Colts embarked on a drive that featured nine runs and two Jack Doyle catches to consume 8:14 off the clock. That drive was so reminiscent of the 2005 Steelers taking 8:06 off the clock against the Colts in another playoff upset. The Steelers actually punted at the end of that drive, but that was similarly effective in deflating Manning's comeback attempt. No one would have guessed this year's Colts could put together such a drive with Dan Herron and Zurlon Tipton against the No. 3 run defense.

It is most disappointing to falter in the playoffs when the strengths of your team fail you. Competing in spite of a bad team performance is something Manning has done better than anyone in his career, but he was a major part of the problem in this game. For some reason he fell in love with deep shots against a defense that was No. 6 in the league against deep passes (defined as passes thrown more than 15 yards beyond the line of scrimmage) and No. 30 against short passes. At least he picked the right side most of the time, but Manning continuously overthrew his receivers, especially Sanders. The overthrows were not a sign of arm weakness, but the inaccuracy was not what we are used to seeing. Manning finished the game 2-of-12 on deep passes, according to ESPN. Those failures contributed greatly to the Broncos only scoring 13 points.

To start the second half, Manning had a ton of open field ahead of him on a third-and-5 after escaping the pocket, but he still forced a deep pass to Sanders, who was unable to get both feet in bounds because of Greg Toler's defense. Almost any other quarterback would have run for that first down, but Manning still had the vertical play in mind. That quick three-and-out was costly, because the Colts added a touchdown to take a 21-10 lead and put the Broncos in desperate comeback mode. Once Manning went to a dink-and-dunk approach, the Colts showed off their man coverage and did not allow many yards after the catch. Per Mike Wells on Twitter, Vontae Davis admitted that the Colts were following Seattle's blueprint to take the Denver receivers out of the game. Why not? The Broncos have yet to prove they can execute well against press-coverage defenses. The best screens Denver set up all night were dropped by Demaryius. The short passes that were completed rarely did any damage.

When Manning needed to attack on a fourth-and-8 with 3:04 left, he threw short to Anderson, expecting him to make another brilliant run for the first down. He nearly did, but was clearly a yard short of the marker to practically seal the game. Even with 1:52 left in a 24-13 game, Manning was unable to get a score to set up an onside kick like he has done so often in the past.

Just how much will we have to talk about Manning in the past tense going forward? After the game he did not definitively say he was going to return for the 2015 season. There could be major changes coming in Denver with both the coaching staff and roster in free agency. Would a 39-year-old quarterback even want to go through that situation next year? I think the talk of his demise is an overreaction, and if given a full offseason to get healthy, he should be able to play at a high level more consistently next year. The real concern is if he has the durability to get through a full season anymore.

The end is rarely glamorous.

Season Summary
Fourth-quarter comeback wins: 66
Game-winning drives: 74
Games with 4QC opportunity: 143/264 (54.2 percent)
10+ point comeback wins (any point in the game): 45

Historic data on fourth-quarter comebacks and game-winning drives can be found at Pro-Football-Reference. Win Probability comes from Advanced Football Analytics. Screen caps come from NFL Game Rewind.

Posted by: Scott Kacsmar on 12 Jan 2015

53 comments, Last at 13 Jan 2015, 5:30pm by Scott Kacsmar


by RickD :: Mon, 01/12/2015 - 4:14pm

"Brady brought that total down with four kneeldowns, but he also came close to leading the team in rushing. "

Far be it for me to criticize hyperbole, but with 0 net yards rushing, Brady wasn't closer to leading the Pats in rushing than I was.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 01/12/2015 - 4:20pm

I'm assuming he meant before the kneeldowns, he was close to the team leader in rushing.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/12/2015 - 4:27pm

That's a generous reading.

Brady was "close" in the sense that he was only seven yards behind Branden Bolden. Or maybe he was "close to the team leader in rushing" in that he spends a lot of time with Bolden, they go to movies together, etc.

It's not really an important point. But it seemed a weird thing to say about somebody who got zero net yards.

by Eddo :: Mon, 01/12/2015 - 9:50pm

I know it's semantics, but I'd consider seven yards "close". If Bolden had 91 yards, and Brady had 84, that would absolutely be "close".

Brady was one moderate scramble from leading the team in rushing.

by SandyRiver :: Mon, 01/12/2015 - 4:38pm

Doesn't FO ignore the kneeldowns in their QB stats? Without them, Brady had 6 yd, the TD and a sneak for FD. Ironically, their leading rusher had exactly one carry.

by Scott Kacsmar :: Mon, 01/12/2015 - 6:33pm

Pretty sure kneeldowns are never counted in any of FO's stats. I often reference a team's non-QB rushing, and when applicable, what the QB rushed for minus kneeldowns.

Brady had six yards without the four knees.

by Perfundle :: Tue, 01/13/2015 - 1:52am

Brady had six yards without the four knees.

No wonder he's so slow.

by Not Jimmy :: Tue, 01/13/2015 - 12:24pm

Congratulations, Sir. You win.

- Anything is possible when you have no idea what you are talking about.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/12/2015 - 4:20pm

"Second prize is only a set of steak knives." And we're already hearing rumors that John Fox might win the third place prize.

by WeaponX :: Mon, 01/12/2015 - 4:57pm

Nice Dig @ Kelvin Benjamin. 2 TD receptions dang near a 3rd and nothing nice to say. Typical.
Sometimes I even trip myself out.

by Ryan :: Mon, 01/12/2015 - 5:18pm

Still waiting for you to trip someone else out.

by WeaponX :: Tue, 01/13/2015 - 12:43pm

Trolls and specials are immune, you may be waiting a while.

Sometimes I even trip myself out.

by peepshowmopguy :: Mon, 01/12/2015 - 7:23pm

Probably because Therold Simon is not that great of a CB, and Benjamin's second touch down was in what amounts to garbage time (down three TDs late in Q4 against the #1 DEF). I didn't find his game particularly noteworthy. Good but not great. You make it sound like he was burning Sherman left and right.

But you are trippin' hard on yourself so your delusions are understandable. I suggest you consider rehab. And take Johnny Manzel with you...

by Perfundle :: Tue, 01/13/2015 - 1:53am

Garbage time or not it was a great catch. So was his near-touchdown against Sherman where he barely stepped out of bounds.

by WeaponX :: Tue, 01/13/2015 - 12:47pm

His game was good but not great. He played pretty well vs Seattle in both contests regardless of who was in coverage. Not trippin, not delusional just calling foul on the KB bashing.

Sometimes I even trip myself out.

by NYMike :: Mon, 01/12/2015 - 5:10pm

Instead of wasting pixels on Dez's incompletion and Randall's catch, Scott could have talked about the real reason the Cowboys lost the game. The Packers converted nine of 15 third downs, not counting the final kneel-down. The conversion distances were 4 (TD), 6, 3, 8, 1, 3, 15 (TD), 3, and 11. The game winning drive was 8 plays, 80 yards and NO THIRD DOWNS at all. The last time the Cowboys stopped the Packers on third down was after Lang's personal foul, where they gained 10 yards on 3&16 with 8:29 left in the third quarter to set up a chip shot FG.

The temptation to ask whether he wants some cheese with that whine is strong in this one.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 01/12/2015 - 5:21pm

We have a game where the ground can't cause a fumble, but it can cause an incompletion.

The ground can cause a fumble. If a player slips and falls and loses the ball without any contact, he has fumbled. I've seen it happen several times, even when a QB slides if he doesn't slide feet first. If a player is touched while he goes to the ground and the ball comes out, the player is down by contact when the ball hits the ground.

I didn't see the Moncrief TD until now, but I'm not sure that should have counted either. However, he does get both feet then both knees down and slides out of bounds with what looks like possession. It's pretty hard to see in the gif if the ball stayed in the same place, but the ref is in pretty good position to judge and I'm guessing it was reviewed. (If it wasn't given a good review, that's an officiating error.)

by dryheat :: Tue, 01/13/2015 - 11:14am

Watching live, I thought the Moncrief TD was correctly called. It looked like he scored, then intentionally dropped the ball in order to start dancing.

by oaktoon :: Mon, 01/12/2015 - 5:31pm

Even with the fortunate deflection on the final pass to Cobb, Rodgers first playoff QB in last 25 years to go 9 for 9 in the 4th Quarter. For all his first half problems, the pass to Cobb that set-up the late FG after Dallas screwed the pooch was amazing-- 40+ yds in air-- right on money. Packers 2 pt strategy is even worse than their overall short yardage near goal line-- performance-- McCarthy is doing something wrong... The Peppers free agent acquisition paid off bigtime in the most important spot of the season... I agree we were spared a perhaps more fitting conclusion, but the way this catch is being described is reaching pretty humorous heights... Three steps?? Well no-- he lands (that's not a step) and then takes two steps while falling to ground. The "lunge" for the goal line might have been three or four inches, if that-- and the replay made the contact with the ground entirely clear. it was a textbook interpretation of a bad rule-- deal with it, Cowboy-lovers.

As to the rest of the refereeing performance the phantom spot with Witten was bizarre-- he was easily more than a yard short-- only a Dallas TO allowed the referees the chance to review it, deny Dallas the first down, and then set up the funky decision not to run on 4th and 1, which led to the blocked FG. But what about the initial PI on tremon Williams in the end zone in the 1st Quarter? horrible call-- ticky tack at best... Cobb's catch was 50-50 and the type that almost always goes to the original ruling...

And finally I'd simply say this-- game is 60 minutes. For about 45 minutes, dallas was the better team-- but after that, GB dominated and deserved the win.

by Ezra Johnson :: Mon, 01/12/2015 - 5:37pm

Yeah - and I love how Garrett wanted his time-out back after the spot correction. WHAT?!

by RickD :: Mon, 01/12/2015 - 6:52pm

Well it was kind of obnoxious for the officials to use Dallas's time-out to do a video review that they wouldn't have otherwise done, the result of which hurt Dallas. Does the league really want team time-outs to be used this way? Essentially they used a Dallas time-out as if it were an officials' time-out. Might have been nice to give Dallas their time-out back. Esp. because the purpose of the time-out may have been to discuss what to do with their first down. Which they no longer had.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 01/12/2015 - 9:22pm

Dallas should have known they got an unbelievable spot on the catch. I'm sure Witten knew; he ran the route and he's way too good a TE to not have known. Dallas should have rushed to the line to spike the ball. It would have forced GB to call the timeout. It would have only cost about five seconds or so, and there was still enough time for Dallas to score. Stopping the clock was a benefit to Dallas at that point and they knew it.

by Ezra Johnson :: Mon, 01/12/2015 - 5:59pm

For about 45 minutes, Aaron Rodgers' lack of mobility greatly hindered the team's ability to use the entire playbook. In the last 15 minutes, he ignored the pain and moved just enough to make the plays he needed to. There is no question who the better team is. To me, the rule makes perfect sense. In my opinion, there'd be many more non-catches called catches without it. That's the reason it was written in the first place.

by Scott Kacsmar :: Mon, 01/12/2015 - 6:49pm

I said three feet, not steps. There's a difference. Left, right, left. Should only need two for a catch and he immediately had possession upon the catch.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/12/2015 - 6:55pm

That's the part I don't get. It would have been a catch, except for things that happened after the catch. Different possession rules based on whether a receiver keeps standing or gets knocked over, even if he's knocked over after possession would have been established if the former standard were being used.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 01/12/2015 - 7:07pm

But he didn't have possession right away, Shields made him bobble the ball, so it doesn't even look like he has possession until that third foot. He also doesn't move the ball to one hand, he only has it one hand because Shields hit it and knocked it out of his grasp. In trying to regain control Dez pushes the ball onto his shoulder, it comes off the shoulder in one hand. The third foot happens right after that. Now I'm willing to say that he had control at that point, but at that point you are clearly in a going to the ground situation as well and the rule comes into play. I'll still call it a catch if the rule doesn't exist because it's foot, knee, ball and arm hitting the ground after that. Foot and knee is the same as two feet with possession I figure.

I was initially on the side of Dez made the catch and the Cowboys got screwed, the Packers should have won by driving the field in the last four minutes. Because I initially looked at it like you. Both hands, foot, foot, foot, knee, arm + ball for ground contact order. But the more I watch the replay, and really watch the ball and Dez's feet, the more I've changed my mind. What happened was Shields made a great play, and Dez almost recovered to make the catch anyway.

by peepshowmopguy :: Mon, 01/12/2015 - 7:59pm

Where is this "lunge" you speak of? It looks to me (especially in real time, and not slow motion) that the attempt to catch the ball transitioned to falling momentum as one single motion. He never plants his feet. His knees never bend. He never significantly changes his direction or angle other than his hips turning over, but that is not a "lunge."

If you can watch it in real time and orate the exact moment he began the "football move" AFTER he's met the requirements for a catch, than you might have a case. I've asked several people to do this and they all had different answers. I'm not arguing that the rule is clear or logical, but if the action isn't universally recognized as a "football act" how can you or the refs reviewing it rightfully call it as such.

Also this play is significantly different from the Colts play above because the WR controls the ball while taking two steps under his own power, then falls/slides to the ground with his left knee in front of him before the ball then comes out. In this case the fall/slide is considered a "football move common to the game" because QBs regularly slide this way. It's an act that even has its own set of rules. It differs because you can't distinguish the difference between the act/momentum of Bryant's catch and a separate "football move."

by PackerPete :: Tue, 01/13/2015 - 9:03am

And why does this version of a catch rule exist? Because the last catch rule caused so much controversy about what is a catch that this current rule was adopted. Despite all the grumbling about this rule, I've yet to read about a plausible alternative. And despite all the grumbling about the Bryant near catch, virtually everyone agrees the rule was interpreted correctly.

Let's talk about another significant referee development. Lang made a stupid play, plowing into a Cowboy defender on a short pass to Adams. No flag was thrown immediately. This led to a minor dust up, after which a flag was thrown and Lang charged with a personal foul. After the game, Lang stated that he spoke with an alternative ref (who was wearing a ref headset) on the sideline and the alt ref told Lang that the officials in the booth instructed the on field refs to penalize Lang. How in hell does that happen? Replay has never been used to overturn or to call penalties; why was that allowed in this instance? That penalty cost GB a potential four points and changed the game as much as Bryant's dropped pass.

by Ezra Johnson :: Mon, 01/12/2015 - 5:35pm

The relative efficiency with which the Packers moved down the field in the 4-minute drill tells me the call, even if wrong, wasn't the difference in the game. Even if the Cowboys converted the 2 after scoring, Pack would have tied at least. Second, the author is simply wrong when he says Cobb's ball touched the ground and Bryant's didn't. The opposite are true. I suppose that's why there are no handy gifs accompanying this article - because for one thing, it would have also shown Bryant pushing Shields as he launched into the air. Third - it was Bryant's own selfishness that cost him the catch. If he had "3 feet down," then why was he diving for the end line? Because the attempted catch had him falling to the ground. He did not come down with the ball and then dive for the end zone. If he hadn't been so eager to get the glory and go into his chest-thumping routine, maybe he would have come down with the football first and trusted his team to score from the one.

by Ezra Johnson :: Mon, 01/12/2015 - 5:42pm

Also, just to be clear - with Rodgers at anything close to full strength, this wouldn't have even been a ballgame.

by oaktoon :: Mon, 01/12/2015 - 5:53pm

The thing is that in the last two second halves-- after his return to field in Lions game, and yesterday-- Rodgers has been, for lack of a better description, vintage Brady/Manning- not all that mobile, but deadly accurate-- a killer in the pocket. he was able to slip slide just enough to make the TD throws to Quarless and Richard Rodgers, but no serious scrambling or running ability. So while a "key part of his repertoire" is missing, I'm not sure how much the Packers are actually suffering, other than the rustiness in the first half that I attribute at least in part to missing practice for nearly two weeks... My guess is that he will practice once before Sunday and given the compressed time period and the fact that a game was just played, he'll be more accurate ALL GAME in Seattle. And he'd better be.

The other way to say it is that his performance has gone from best in the history of the game-- which is the basic standard he has been setting in recent years-- to among the 4-5 best in history in game by playing at a Brady-Manning level... That's what the bad calf does...

by PatsFan :: Mon, 01/12/2015 - 6:00pm

So the injury took away his quantum transcendence?

by oaktoon :: Mon, 01/12/2015 - 6:45pm

If you say so :)

His best achievement of the day was the surprise dummy call "New York Bozo" which he unveiled yesterday-- much to the surprise of his teammates-- and why, i wonder, would he have chosen those words? Might it be a little sly dig at a Clown who is almost from New York who might have been attending the game dressed in orange?

No doubt in my mind about that.. None whatsoever-- this guy does operate at levels we rarely see for an athlete-- in every way....

by RickD :: Mon, 01/12/2015 - 6:56pm

I think in the first half yesterday Rodgers was being intentionally cautious with his leg. As it warmed up, he decided to push it a bit harder.

by iron_greg :: Mon, 01/12/2015 - 7:39pm

I don't think it's unreasonable to ask your DB's to tackle which is why I can't hate Pees for this game. On the other hand, it became obvious early on NE was going to 1 step drops (after halftime because BAL brought heavy 1st half pressure) and that alone should have brought an adjustment. The pass rush was never going to get home on that kind of quick passing and we needed it to matter by not allowing the short stuff.

The unfortunate part about a game like this is that no one will remember (or care) about Flacco's or Baltimore's performance which was better than damn near anyone else in the NFL could muster at Foxboro. Ultimately, even mediocre CB play and tackling sees them through comfortably. Instead he's disparaged for taking a risk after giving his team 31 pts on 4 TDs at the hardest place in the NFL to earn a 4QC.

But I'm sure the Colts will lose by 3 TDs again and we can make sure to excuse Luck's INTs as arm punts for another week.

by Athelas :: Mon, 01/12/2015 - 9:04pm

Those of us in NE will remember. Fans and analysts all thought Baltimore would be the most difficult matchup and they were proven correct.

The Ravens get the utmost respect from most around Boston.

by Staubach12 :: Mon, 01/12/2015 - 8:58pm

A better comparison to the Bryant catch would be this TD catch by Cruz


The Cowboys had plenty of other chances to win the game, and I think the Packers would have scored and won the game even if the Cowboys had scored there. But the inconsistency with this rule is pretty bad.

by NYMike :: Mon, 01/12/2015 - 11:12pm

Save me. The only thing the same is the position on the field and the fact it was a pass.

by EnderCN :: Tue, 01/13/2015 - 12:00am

The big difference is Cruz isn't bobbling the ball here. If Bryant catches that ball clean and Shields doesn't hit the ball making it shift around in his hands, it is an easy catch call. Since the ball is moving around until the final step it is a pretty clear non catch.

by EnderCN :: Mon, 01/12/2015 - 11:58pm

Your issue with the catch is pretty clear in the statement that he got 3 feet down. Dez Bryant got at most 1 foot down on that play and to be honest it might be 0 feet down. He is bobbling the ball pretty clearly for the first 2 steps and somewhere between the third step and launching himself is when he first establishes some sort of control and that is when the process of making the catch starts. That play is really no different than a diving catch where the ground causes the ball to fly out of his hands when he hits it.

If that same exact play had been him going out of bounds instead of him hitting the ground they would have ruled he didn't get 2 feet in and it would have been incomplete because the ball was moving around. It was a really good defensive play by Shields that may have saved the game.

by Scott Kacsmar :: Tue, 01/13/2015 - 3:28am

Watched it again and strongly disagree with Shields. He gave it a shot, but after what he did on the play, Dez still gathered the ball and got those three feet down. No clear bobble at all, and it's not a bobble to change ball hands. I've shown this plenty of times in the past with some Reggie Wayne catches.

by EnderCN :: Tue, 01/13/2015 - 10:00am

I don't know what to say then. The ball very clearly is moving around until Dez comes down to the ground, not sure how anyone could argue differently on that one. Maybe you could make an awkward case for him getting 2 feet down but definitely not 3.

I saw the replay once and instantly knew it would be overturned unless we got into some major screw up situation like the simultaneous possession thing with Seattle that got the refs their jobs back the next day.

by Lebo :: Tue, 01/13/2015 - 10:22am

I'd give Dez two feet and his right elbow being down after he secured possession and before the ball was dislodged by the ground.

by Led :: Tue, 01/13/2015 - 12:04pm

See the reverse angle gif here: http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/eye-on-football/24954813/dez-bryant-appears...

Bryant definitely has two feet down after he secures the ball. Whether he had control for the first step is too close to call. To me, switching the ball to one hand and lunging for the goal line is a FB move. The Cruz TD linked to above is not an exact parallel because there is no initial deflection/bobble, but if you run the tape from the point Bryant has possession they ought to be treated the same. Catch, feet, reach, ball comes out.

Shields does deserve credit for getting his hand on the ball. But, dayum, that was an amazing athletic play by Bryant even if didn't end up as a catch. In hindsight, he should not have gotten greedy and gone for the endzone, but that's just instinct.

I'm a Jets fan, by the way. But I sure would've loved to see Rodgers try to win the game with 4 minutes left. I will admit to a bias in favor of suspenseful endings to great football games.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Tue, 01/13/2015 - 12:30pm

Combining the reverse angle with the front angle, Dez doesn't have the appearance of control until after the ball comes off his shoulder. The ball comes off his shoulder about the same time he gets the 2nd foot. It's hard to say when he has control after it comes off the shoulder, because he didn't pull it off his shoulder, it bounced.

I still don't by the reaching because the ball is still basically where he caught it off of his shoulder when he hits the ground. I think control happened shortly before he took the 2nd hand off the ball, after it bounced off the shoulder. That happens right before the 3rd foot hits. Yes, I do think if you want to say has control and gets two body parts down and it's a catch, then it was a catch, because he appears to have control for at least one foot and then a knee.

Since control didn't happen until before the third foot, the whole act of catch rule comes into play, and the ball clearly pops up when it hits the ground. No catch. Was it an amazing feat of athleticism? Absolutely. If Shields doesn't hit the ball, and Dez's arm then control is there right away, the ball never hits his shoulder, he has the three feet, and it's a catch. If he doesn't take the 2nd hand off the ball, it probably doesn't move when it hits the ground, he maintains control, and it's a catch.

I think the game would have been better if Shields jumps a little differently and knocks the ball away, or if he doesn't make contact and it's a clear catch, the Cowboys score, but then lose because Rodgers would have led them to a FG or TD with the time left. Both of those make it a better story. Instead we get just enough defense to put the catch late enough in the sequence that a rule that is controversial plays a big factor.

Yes, I'm a homer, but I also think the "Fail Mary" was the correct call after watching enough replays of it. I like to believe I can be objective, even if that isn't true.

by Led :: Tue, 01/13/2015 - 12:43pm

I agree the "Fail Mary" was the right call, too! Except for the uncalled OPI, which was pretty blatant even for a hail mary situation. But I disagree about when Bryant got control of the ball. He secures it with two hands almost immediately after the bobble. Nobody's truly objective, but it sure sounds like you're analyzing the play in good faith. We just see it differently. That's life I suppose.

by EnderCN :: Tue, 01/13/2015 - 5:22pm

And I will say the fail mary is one of the worst calls in NFL history. A simultaneous catch means they both caught the ball at the same time, the Seahawk guy didn't put his hands on the ball until they were halfway back down to the ground. Complete misinterpretation of the rules by the scrub refs and even the NFL admitted that the call was wrong, so makes it hard to debate much.

I'm usually pretty generous to the refs because some of these things are really really hard to judge. But both of these were so clear cut by the letter of the law that I thought they were easy calls. Even if I hate that it isn't a catch, it isn't a catch. I also would have loved to have the game go down to Rodgers driving for a TD, makes a much better legacy win than talking about some ref all week.

by Scott Kacsmar :: Tue, 01/13/2015 - 5:30pm

Actually Tate made first contact with the ball and the NFL supported the call, though admitted OPI should have been called.

But I really don't want to go down that road again this week.

by PatsFan :: Tue, 01/13/2015 - 2:29pm

It's been long enough (15 years?) that I can't remember the rationale, but why did they change the from-the-beginning-of-time-to-a-decade-or-so-ago rule "if the ball touches the ground at all, it's not a catch" rule in the first place?

by duh :: Tue, 01/13/2015 - 2:55pm
by EnderCN :: Tue, 01/13/2015 - 12:06am

Just out of curiosity. How do you guys handle the play where the Packer's center snapped the ball before Rodgers was ready and they called it an aborted play instead of a fumble. Hard to call that a fumble, hard to not call it a fumble. Seems odd to just completely ignore it though.

by Scott Kacsmar :: Tue, 01/13/2015 - 3:28am

Pretty sure aborted snaps are counted for the QB on the DVOA page.

by Blykmyk44 :: Tue, 01/13/2015 - 3:05pm

I think that the argument that the Carolina vs Seattle game was closer than it looks and Carolina made a few costly mistakes is a little shaky when you consider that Seattle dropped two sure INTs and missed an easy block of a FG to help Carolina get 10 of their points.

Basically, each side can make an argument that they made costly mistakes that made the game seem closer than it appeared.