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Monday, November 18, 2013

San Francisco Forty-Whiners

The New Orleans Saints defended the Mercedes-Benz Superdome yesterday in a clash of NFC powers. The Saints defeated the San Francisco 49ers, 23-20, ending with a 31-yard game-winning field goal by Garrett Hartley as time expired. Hartley nailed three clutch kicks in the 4th quarter to help rally the Saints from a 20-13 deficit and a host of self-inflicted wounds throughout the game.


If you have every played sports at any level, chances are that your coach has told you something to the effect of, “If you have to rely on the officials to win a game, then you’ve already lost.” Penalties coming late in close games, especially those impacting possession of the ball, are always pivotal. However, the overall play leading up to a pivotal call is what creates the possibility of a penalty call being pivotal in the first place. 

On third and long with less than four minutes remaining the game with the Saints trailing, 20-17, (interestingly, following a very questionable intentional grounding call against Saints QB Drew Brees) 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks clotheslined Saints quarterback Drew Brees with a forearm to the neck. The ball popped loose and 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis jumped on top of the ball. A flag was thrown immediately.

Had there been no attempted decapitation of Brees and the ball come loose and the 49ers had regained possession of the ball, the 49ers would have drained the Saints of their timeouts and had an opportunity to run out the clock to secure the win. Had the kill shot that knocked President John F. Kennedy’s brain out of the back of his head missed 50 years ago, perhaps JFK would have survived, won a second term and America may be different today.

They coddle these QBs so much that they should wear dresses. #smh 2


Brooks was livid following the game. He insisted Brees was given star treatment. He implied that the referees were serving up home cooking to the New Orleans crowd. He described the call as “bullshit”.
Similar whinery was present on message boards, online comment sections and social media. The same old argument about putting flags on the players was regurgitated repeatedly.

Rule 12, Section 2, Article 9, Subsection c of the NFL Rulebook states, “In covering the passer position, Referees will be particularly alert to fouls in which defenders impermissibly use the helmet and/or facemask to hit the passer, or use hands, arms, or other parts of the body to hit the passer forcibly in the head or neck area….”

The rule could be a caption under a photo of Brooks’ hit on Brees. Even before NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s head-injury reduction-focused tenure began in 2006, the league has had crystal clear rules about blows to the head of the quarterback and has prohibited clothesline tackles for decades. This isn’t a close call. It isn’t a judgment call. It isn’t coddling a star player. It’s a penalty. It couldn’t be more obvious.

In covering the passer position, Referees will be particularly alert to fouls in which defenders impermissibly use the helmet and/or facemask to hit the passer, or use hands, arms, or other parts of the body to hit the passer forcibly in the head or neck area…. 1


Defensive players complain weekly about officials having itchy trigger fingers with calling penalties for hits to the head and neck areas of defenseless players. They complain that the penalized (and often fined) contact happens in a split second. How can they make their tackles if they can’t hit?

The answer is simple. “You can’t.” The game is changing. The NFL began making significant changes to its rules involving head contact and dramatic increases in enforcement of rules already on the books regarding contact to a defenseless player in the 2011 offseason. It is 2013. We are in the third season of these rule changes. Players should know what the rules are by now.

While one may empathize with a defender being penalized and fined for head contact under the newer rules, there are not as many surprises now as there were two years ago when a flag comes out. If the places and manners in which a player can be hit have been heavily regulated and aggressively enforced, why would any reasonable person be surprised when a linebacker hammers a quarterback in the act of passing with a WWF move? A hit that resulted in Brees getting up off of the turf with a bloody chin?

The 49ers loss puts them 3½ games back of the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West race, all but assuring that the Niners are playing for a Wild Card berth instead of the division title. It was a close game, a tough game. Nobody wants to lose. No fan wants their team to lose this kind of game.

Still, the 49ers need to look in the mirror. The Saints practically handed the 49ers 14 points in the first half by fumbling a fair catch inside their own 10 yard line and fumbling an interception retuned inside the five yards line out of bounds behind the goal line, resulting in a touchback and the 49ers regaining possession.

The 49ers were stopped by the Saints’ defense repeatedly. The Saints moved the ball and recovered in spite of the critical mistakes and kept the score close before taking the lead. When you lose a close game against a Super Bowl contending opponent and point a finger at the game officials, three fingers are pointing back at YOU.

Dear Whiners Fan: "SCOREBOARD!"
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