By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — I’m going to be honest with you folks: As soon as I saw Malcolm Butler argue that the football was loose in Austin Seferian-Jenkins’ arms, and as soon as the first replay confirmed the bobble I knew what was coming.READ MORE: Massachusetts Reports 1,734 New COVID Cases, 46 Additional Deaths
No, really. I did. There’s a receipt and everything.
I’m now going to continue my rare streak of honesty: The actual outcome of that play should not be the actual outcome of that play.
For one, the rule of fumbling out of the end zone is silly in and of itself. If you fumble out of bounds anywhere between your own goal line and the opponent’s 1-centimeter imaginary line, you keep possession. But if you fumble out of bounds in the end zone, you turn the ball over. Why? Because, ah, because the end zone is special and different. That’s why.
But secondly, this Seferian-Jenkins fumble/loss of possession/improper regain of possession just doesn’t make a ton of sense. It’s not the first time we’ve seen it; the call that robbed Robert Griffin III of a touchdown was arguably stupider. So, it was called correctly. But to anyone who watches and enjoys the sport on a regular basis, it doesn’t seem correct.
And after reading Tony Corrente’s explanation, it felt even worse. Corrente seemed to just be inventing some new terms — “he didn’t survive the recovery and didn’t survive the ground during the recovery” — while saying it was a “pretty obvious” call.
Yes and no, Tony. It’s only obvious because we’ve seen that bizarre call made before. But logically, it’s hard for most to fully grasp.
I actually did what any football enthusiast wants to do after a fun, one-possession game: I opened the rulebook! And I looked in this delightfully long book of rules to get a black-and-white explanation that I could then share with the world. I couldn’t do it. It’s not in there.
This was the best I could find, in Section 7, Article 3, Item 4 (a): “If a ball is fumbled in the field of play, and goes forward into the opponent’s end zone and over the end line or sideline, a touchback is awarded to the defensive team.”
There’s nothing there about “surviving the ground.” That must be in the deep rulebook that only officials get. Which is sensible, I suppose, but it’d be nice if everyone could understand such complexities so that we all believed the ruling was “pretty obvious.”
My point is this: People like sports because sports are great, sports are fun, and because competition is captivating. Nobody watches sports because they love to see rare rules come into play in critical moments. And if they do come into play, they should make sense to the majority of regular viewers. That’s all.
Nobody wants to spend hours (and days, or months?) after a game discussing the minutiae of the rulebook. That’s not what we’re here for. Yet all too often, it’s what we get.
Yee-haw! OK, let’s move on to the leftover thoughts from the Patriots’ 24-17 win over the Jets, shall we?
–What’s interesting about the Seferian-Jenkins fumble/touchback controversy is that we saw a quirky play at a pylon last year, when James White was ruled to have not gotten the ball across the plane of the goal line on a two-point conversion. Remember that? Had he gotten a foot down in the end zone, it would have been a score, but because his foot only passed through the end zone in the air without touching the ground, it was not a score. Sports! Rules!
Cursed pylons, I guess. Don’t try to score at a pylon if you’re on the Patriots or Jets.
–Before we get into the specifics, let’s take a second to look around the AFC — and the NFL, for that matter — to see where everybody stands. The Patriots, whom we think are good, barely edged the Jets to move to 4-2. The Chiefs, whom everyone crowned kings of the AFC, lost at home to the Steelers, whom we all believed to be dead and buried. The Dolphins beat the Falcons (huh?), the Broncos lost to the Giants (what?), and the Ravens lost to the Bears (OK?).
Basically … who is really good? Right now, the Eagles look like the best team in the NFL … which means they’ll probably get shellacked next week against the Redskins. Because right now, it’s illegal to be really good in the NFL.
So for as much panic and worry and criticism as there might be in New England surrounding the local football team, know that the Patriots are far from the only team struggling to function at a high capacity this season.
–That being said, oh me oh my, the Patriots’ start to this game defensively was a trainwreck. This was the type of showing you expect to see from the Bengals, or the Chargers, or any other team that puts together face-plants at a regular pace.
I wrote in my notes that the Jets’ opening drive “might be a low point in the Bill Belichick era.” That’s obviously an overstatement … but is it? You’ve got 10 days to devise a game plan for the Jets, and Josh McCown comes out and carves you up, converting four third downs and casually dropping a touchdown pass to Austin Seferian-Jenkins right in your eyeball? That is some rough stuff.
I’ll grant you that Jeremy Kerley made an utterly unbelievable catch to convert on third-and-6 and set up that touchdown. That’s just great athleticism. But that drive overall? Woof.
–Credit, though, to the defense for completely changing the story. Had things continued the way they started, it’d be Pink Slip Monday in New England. But instead, after allowing another long touchdown drive, the Patriots’ defense kept the Jets from scoring for the next 38:38. And even then, they held the Jets to a field goal.
Along the way they forced three turnovers — two interceptions and one goal-line fumble — while recording four sacks and holding the Jets to just 74 rushing yards on 24 attempts. Taken as a whole, it was a fine defensive performance. Considering it came after the disastrous opening 18 minutes, that’s pretty wild stuff.
–The NFL lost Aaron Rodgers on Sunday, and almost lost Tom Brady, too:
Robert needs to be a little careful there. Though a 30 For 30 about how the greatest quarterback of all time suffered a season-ending injury on a celebratory spike from Gronkowski would be some pretty captivating television.
–In terms of real ways Brady can get hurt, Corrente missed a pretty obvious headshot on Brady from Jordan Jenkins:
It was the type of violent, unnecessary hit to the head of the quarterback that the league has expressly outlawed, and it’s the type of hit that can leave a star player on the sidelines for several weeks. That’s not what the NFL wants.
With his diet and workout routine and brain games, Brady doesn’t so much believe he’s a candidate to suffer a concussion. But another hit like that and he may be forced to deal with reality.
–On that same play, Nate Solder made a textbook “Lookout” block on Kony Ealy, too. Which didn’t help in the whole protect-the-quarterback plan.
Overall though, the offensive line held up all right. Brady was only hit four times, taking zero sacks. He did seem to be eager to get rid of the ball quicker than he had been, which helped. It also might have led to a few bad decisions, like the attempt to hit Phillip Dorsett on a deep route in double coverage. Josh McDaniels might want to take that page out of the playbook and light it on fire.
(Playbooks are on iPads now, I know, but like, he’s not going to light his whole iPad on fire.)
–Speaking of McDaniels, don’t think a victory means we’re going to just forget about an inside handoff on third-and-15 from the 16-yard line. No we will not. That’s going in the ol’ memory banks. Or at least it’s getting added to a note on an iPad.READ MORE: Police Investigating After Woman Says Baby Was Found In Trash Can On Dorchester Avenue
–And, really, in the department of Zero Humans Defense, this play might have been the Zero Humansiest of them all:
Remember back when the Patriots wouldn’t allow teams to easily slide 50 yards up the field in a single swoop? You remember those days? Good times.
–Mr. James Develin made a tremendous play. It was a play where Mike Gillislee stood to gain about zero yards. Then Mr. James Develin got involved and basically used Gillislee as a human shield while barreling over every defender in his way:
It must be so awesome to have a Mr. James Develin by your side. We should all be so lucky.
–This isn’t really headline-worthy stuff, but the Patriots’ tackling on special teams was a big reason they won this game. They tackled ArDarius Stewart on the 12-yard line on the opening kickoff. They stopped Stewart at the 14-yard line on their first kickoff of the second half. They got Kerley for a two-yard loss on a punt return in the fourth quarter. They got him for no gain on the final punt — one where they drew a penalty on the Jets’ receiving team, too.
Special teams. They’re not going to make the highlights package, but they’re important.
–I always get a kick out of players who celebrate their plays, blissfully unaware of the yellow flag sitting by their feet:
I didn’t love that penalty call on Jamal Adams, if I’m being honest. He was trying to look back for the ball and play it, and he’s entitled to exist on the field. He just so happened to be in Gronkowski’s way. The fact that he’s a half-foot shorter than Gronkowski made it maybe look bad.
But the officials made up for it when they didn’t call pass interference on Darron Lee for mauling Gronkowski up the field. Plus, officials like to invent offensive pass interference penalties on Gronowski whenever they see fit, so it all kind of comes out in the wash.
–The Jets also pushed the limits of the mantra that “they can’t call it on every play.”
Against a team that throws it as often as the Patriots, it really is a smart strategy. The officials truly can’t call it every play.
–The Patriots also might have caught a break when the officials didn’t call one of those bogus roughing the passer penalties when a bare hand grazes a helmet or facemask:
You never know with that. Certainly, lesser infractions have drawn flags.
–For Tom Brady, it wasn’t a remarkable day. But I thought his best pass came with about 90 seconds left in the half, when he put the perfect loft on a pass to get it over a leaping Demario Davis:
And dropped right in the bread basket of a well-covered Danny Amendola:
–This little pitch and catch was nice, too:
–Dion Lewis had a heck of game. In particular, it was remarkable that he turned this situation …
… into a 10-yard gain.
He’s just so damn shifty.
–The Patriots were better in terms of discipline than they were against Tampa, but the penalty on Joe Cardona robbed of us from seeing maybe the most ridiculous punt of all time! The Patriots punted just before the two-minute warning from their own 20-yard line.
Allen kicked the ball from here:
And it just kept on going and going:
My goodness. Kicking a ball that far must be a real hoot.
Anyways, Cardona got called for an illegal snap, and the rekick was caught at the Jets’ 37-yard line. Boring!
–Malcolm Butler had an eventful day. He took a gamble and got burned by a perfect McCown pass to Kerley. He made a game-changing interception before halftime. He forced a fumble on what’s likely being dubbed the most controversial call of the season.
He also could have been ejected.
After the infamous fumble at the goal line, Butler was so adamant in his arguing with the official that he did kind of get his hands on the man in stripes:
He’s kind of lucky there, no? You never really know when it comes to officials and hands.
–This may take some people by surprise, because with a handful of bad drops and a couple of quiet games, there’s not exactly a Brandin Cooks Fever running rampant through New England. Yet after his 93-yard performance on Sunday, he’s on pace to record 1,259 receiving yards this year, which would be … a career high.
Interestingly, he’s on pace for just 64 receptions, which would be his lowest total since he caught 53 as a rookie in 2014.
Anyways, “on pace” numbers are subject to change every week. It’s just interesting that despite a handful of humongous plays and a few bad drops, the regional perception of Cooks might still be somewhat lukewarm. But he is producing.MORE NEWS: Owners Of Truck Company Charged In Connection To Crash That Killed 7 Motorcyclists