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Monday, December 10, 2018

Stories by Larry Brown:

Bucs center addresses sideline scuffle with Jameis Winston

Jameis Winston Ryan Jensen

Tampa Bay Buccaneers center Ryan Jensen addressed his sideline scuffle with Jameis Winston following the team’s 8-14 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.

Jensen and Winston got into a heated sideline exchange during the contest. Jensen could be seen pointing at Winston, whose eyes grew large as he said “one time” to Jensen in response.

Jensen downplayed the matter after the game, saying the two had cleared the air and the issue was a matter of competitive energy coming out.

The Bucs were up 14-3 in the game and ended up losing 28-14, so they had plenty of reasons to be frustrated. Winston was just 18/38 for 213 yards, 2 touchdowns and an interception. He rushed 5 times for 47 yards.

Matt Nagy livid after knocked down referee ruins trick play

Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy was livid after the officials ruined his trick play attempt before halftime on Sunday night.

The Bears had a 4th-and-1 at their 46-yard line in a 6-6 game with the Los Angeles Rams. They sent their punt team on, but then they had a massive shift where they sent off the punt team to replace them with their offense. It was a clear attempt to deceive the Rams before going for the first down.

Unfortunately for Chicago, the referees stopped the play because an official was knocked down by a Bears player running onto the field during the massive substitutions.

The Bears ended up punting the ball away after their play was screwed up.

Nagy was absolutely furious, telling the officials he had warned them about the play and blaming them for the problems. He was dropping a bunch of F-bombs on the sideline.

Why did Mike Tomlin hold Ben Roethlisberger out of game so long?

Mike Tomlin

Why did Mike Tomlin hold Ben Roethlisberger out of Sunday’s game against the Oakland Raiders for so long after his rib injury? That is a big question the Pittsburgh Steelers should be answering all week.

Roethlisberger did not come out to play after halftime with his Steelers up 14-10 at Oakland on Sunday. The Steelers said Roethlisberger had a rib injury and was questionable to return. Backup quarterback Josh Dobbs took over and went punt, turnover on downs, interception, and punt on his first four possessions, which spilled into the fourth quarter.

Then the Raiders got the ball at the 27 following a punt early in the fourth. Oakland went on a 14-play, 73-yard touchdown drive that took up nearly 8 minutes and gave the Raiders a 17-14 lead.

Finally after his team was down, Roethlisberger returned to the game with just over five minutes to go in the fourth. He promptly led the Steelers on a touchdown drive to take a 21-17 lead with just under three minutes to go. Pittsburgh ended up allowing a Raiders touchdown, and then kicker Chris Boswell slipped and fell on what would have been a game-tying attempt. Pittsburgh lost 24-21 to fall to 7-5-1, putting their playoff hopes in jeopardy.

After the game, Tomlin gave a head-scratching quote. He told the media that Roethlisberger “probably could have come in a series or so sooner” but did not because of the “rhythm and flow of the game.”

What the heck does that mean? Does that mean Tomlin was hoping Dobbs could lead the team to victory without having to push Roethlisberger back into action? Does that mean Roethlisberger did not feel ready to return earlier? Did Tomlin want to give Dobbs more chances to see what he could do?

The Steelers’ offense looked ineffective without Roethlisberger. He should have been put back in the game as soon as he was ready. This sounds somewhat like a baseball manager who leaves a reliever in longer than he should to try and steal outs rather than put their closer in for a long save.

The whole situation was badly mismanaged based on the information given to us by Tomlin. He and the team will have a lot of questions to answer, especially with their playoff looking shakier.

Jeff Driskel touchdown controversially overturned in Bengals’ loss

Jeff Driskel touchdown

Jeff Driskel and the Cincinnati Bengals lost a touchdown during Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers on a controversial overturned call.

With just under six minutes to go in the first half, Cincinnati was trailing the Chargers 14-3. The Bengals had a 3rd-and-goal at the 1 and ran a bootleg. Driskel tucked the ball and tried to run in for a score and appeared to do so. He dived into the end zone and the officials called it a touchdown. However, the scoring play was reviewed and overturned.

Here’s a look at the play:

In real time, it looked like a clear touchdown with Driskel rushing for a 1-yard score. There seemed to be little doubt. But on review, the officials overturned the call, citing a new league rule. The new rule treats head-first dives by a quarterback just like slides. QBs are viewed as giving themselves up and the ball is marked where their bodypart hits the ground.

NFL rules analyst for CBS Sports Gene Steratore explained the ruling in more detail:

And here is the explanation from the officials after the game.

As long as the ball was shy of the goal line when Driskel’s knee was down, then the overturned call was correct based on the new rule. And most fans probably hate the rule, just like they hated the excessive roughing the passer calls this season.

All of these rules seem to be aimed at protecting quarterbacks. They don’t want QBs getting hit. Whether a QB slides or dives, they want quarterbacks protected, which is why they enact these rules.

But then there’s a big loophole: Why are QB sneaks at the goal line allowed if they don’t want quarterbacks diving forward and taking hits? Maybe the league needs to apply some common sense to the inconsistency. There should be an exception for plays at the goal line, where a QB’s clear intent is to be a rusher and score, and when a defender should be allowed to hit them. No way this should have been anything other than a touchdown.

After the TD was overturned, Cincinnati had a false start that backed them up, and they settled for a field goal to make it 14-6. They lost 26-21.

Amari Cooper proves invaluable for Cowboys since trade

Amari Cooper

Few midseason trades in the NFL have been more beneficial for a team than the Dallas Cowboys’ acquisition of Amari Cooper from the Oakland Raiders.

Cooper had another huge game for Dallas, catching 10 passes for 217 yards and 3 touchdowns, including the game-winner in overtime on a tipped ball in Sunday’s 29-23 win over the Philadelphia Eagles. The game made Dallas 8-5 on the season and puts them essentially a win away from clinching the NFC East. And there’s no way they would be there without Cooper.

In six games with Dallas, Cooper has 40 catches for 642 yards and 6 touchdowns. He was a big factor in the win over New Orleans, catching all 8 of his targets for 76 yards. And then he was the difference in the Thanksgiving win over Washington with 8 catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns.

The Cowboys lost their first game with Cooper but have won five in a row since and seem destined for the playoffs. Giving up a first-rounder for 8 games of Cooper is paying off so far. And with the way he’s played, you have to figure both sides would be motivated to sign a long-term deal.

Steelers’ playoff chances in question after loss to Raiders

Steelers Chris Boswell

Three weeks ago, the Pittsburgh Steelers were a team on the rise and seemed like a lock to win the AFC North. They had won six in a row and were 7-3-1. Then they lost at Denver, blew a huge lead against the Chargers at home on Sunday night, and they lost to the Oakland Raiders on the road Sunday.

Now at 7-5-1, it’s fair to wonder whether Pittsburgh will even make the playoffs.

The Steelers host the New England Patriots next week, visit the Saints in Week 16, and then host the Bengals in Week 17. Only the game against Cincinnati looks like an expected win.

The Ravens, who are 7-6 and pose the biggest threat to win the AFC North, have the Bucs at home, Chargers away, and Browns at home to finish the season. They could realistically end up 9-7, which would edge Pittsburgh for the division if the Steelers go 1-2 over their next three. In that scenario, the Steelers would be battling the Dolphins, Titans and Colts (all 7-6) for the final wild card spot.

Pittsburgh’s game against New England next week is a must-win game for them. They need to go 2-1 over their final three to put themselves in a good spot to make the playoffs. With the Patriots coming off an embarrassing loss to Miami, New England will be no pushover.

Cowboys interrupt Eagles’ touchdown celebration

Cowboys Eagles celebration

The Dallas Cowboys interrupted a touchdown celebration by the Philadelphia Eagles during Sunday’s game.

Philly scored on a 2-yard touchdown pass from Carson Wentz to Alshon Jeffery in the third quarter to make it a 9-6 game in favor of Dallas. After the score, several Eagles players sat down in the end zone for what looked like would be a coordinated celebration.

Instead, several members of the Dallas defense — DeMarcus Lawrence, Antwaun Woods and Tyrone Crawford — got in and broke up the party. The Eagles never got a chance to complete their celebration.

From a team that has a player known for end zone celebrations, this comes across as petty. At least it’s keeping the NFC East rivalry heated.

Tom Brady admits to huge mental mistake in loss to Dolphins

Tom Brady

Tom Brady made an uncharacteristic mistake in the New England Patriots’ loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, and admitted after the game that he simply made a mental error.

The Patriots got the ball at the Miami 15 with 30 seconds left before halftime following a tipped/blocked punt. Brady threw an incompletion on first down and then completed a 13-yard pass to Rob Gronkowski on second down. The Pats used their final timeout after that play.

Then the Pats threw two straight incompletions to set up a 3rd-and-goal with 14 seconds left. After a timeout by Miami to set up for the critical third-down play, Brady inexplicably took a sack, which allowed the clock to run out in the half. The Patriots went from having a sure three points to getting nothing.

Brady said after the game that he mismanaged the play because he thought the Pats had another timeout.

That’s the kind of mental mistake rookies make or opponents make to give away games to the Patriots. You don’t see Brady do that.

Between that error by Brady and the miracle final play they allowed, the Patriots really earned that loss.