Boston’s Sunday Buzz-kill
Anyone who watched last week’s Patriots comeback—or either of the two separate come-from-behind grand slams delivered by David Ortiz and Shane Victorino of the Red Sox, to push the team to the World Series—is likely numb at this point.
So, with the Jets leading the Pats by a field goal late in fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium on Sunday—and considering New England had won six straight against New York—blood pressure stayed low, with New England couch-goers confidently muttering, relaxed.
“We got this.”
And, for a second, it looked as if maybe they did. Tom Brady drove down the field in regulation’s final possession to help Stephen Gostkowski knot the game with a field goal. 27-27. Overtime bound. Hmph, no problem—right? Blood pressure staying down.
And then came on of those classic sports buzz-kills. New England won the coin toss and failed to score in the first possession of OT. Then it was Geno Smith’s turn, and he drove enough to give Nick Folk a chance at a 56-yard field goal to win it—a kick that would tie his career high for distance.
The kick whipped wide, but then—oh, wait—a penalty flag. Blood pressure rising. And before anyone had the chance to figure out what had happened, Rex Ryan was galloping onto the field, fist-pumping.
Patriots’ defensive lineman Chris Jones was flagged for “unsportsmanlike conduct,”—good for 15 yards the Jets’ way. That set up a cushier 42-yard field goal for Folk, which, as his kick journeyed through the uprights, sobered-up every Boston sports fan. 30-27. Final.
Now, usually, when things like this occur—we rip the guy for making a stupid mistake, refer to him as a choice part of the male anatomy for a few days—and we forget about it. But this time, local fans could be left with a hangover that may stick around for a while.
A brand new rule as of this season in the NFL states that, on a field goal, “[Defensive] players cannot push teammates on the line of scrimmage into the offensive formation.”
Upon looking at video review, it appears that Jones did indeed fill this criteria—although doing so in a manner that in no way could have or did obstruct the kick—and became the first NFL player to ever be penalized for it. The first. The only.
New England head coach Bill Belichick said after the game, according to the Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe, “There wasn’t a push in the second level that required a flag.”
Also according to Howe, in his conference call Monday morning, Belichick took responsibility for the penalty—saying that the coaching staff should have addressed the new rule more seriously.
The question remains of why the official felt the need to call a penalty in the first place—if the push in no way obstructed the action of the play.
Referee Jerome Boger said to Patriots’ reporter Mike Reiss that “any push” in that game situation should result in a flag being thrown. “It could be with the body, not necessarily with the hand, but with the body into his teammate, into the formation,” Boger told him. “It’s any type of pushing action.”
That’s all well and fine, but the actual reason why a penalty was issued is still up for debate. When one examines that situation, as well as the ramifications of calling such a drastic penalty, common sense was clearly lacking there.
We know what the ramifications were: 15 yards of air that Nick Folk didn’t have to make his kick travel through. All things considered, though, that was the game.
The call was made purely based on logic. The official saw the definition of the penalty, and threw a flag. But, in order to maintain the integrity of the NFL, common sense should have made the official think differently. A small infraction of a rule that had yet to be issued to an NFL player should not give another team an advantage of that magnitude.
Losing to a New York team is never an easy thing to accept, but it’s a lot easier when a lucidly deserving winner is declared.
Whatever stance one takes on this dispute, one thing remains clear—New Englanders will be in some state of ardency over this. A hangover. An epic sports buzz-kill after everything that has transpired in Boston sports over the past week. The best we can do is keep that blood pressure down and relax for a while.
That is, well, until Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday.