Here are the five things that worry me about the Chargers in the wake of their second straight late collapse, the 23-20 overtime loss at Kansas City on Monday night:
I had scores of you write in to ask about the weird Troy Polamalu play at the end of the Patriots-Steelers game. With 19 seconds to play, Tom Brady was sacked at the Patriots' 19-yard line, the ball came loose, players rushed to the ball, and in the scrum, Polamalu came in and punched it toward the goal line. The ball flew out of the pile and skittered into the end zone, and it went out of the end zone for a safety. The replay assistant challenged whether the loose ball was recovered, but, as is the case with penalties like pass interference, replay cannot be used to determine whether the ball was batted. One of your emails about it:
ALL OF CANADA WANTS TO KNOW TOO.
Thanks, Calvin. According to Rule 12, Section 1, Article 8, page 71 of the NFL Rules Digest, the play clearly was an illegal bat and should have resulted in New England keeping the ball, getting one last shot at their own 32-yard line with eight seconds to play, trailing 23-17. The rule states: A player may not bat or punch:
(a) a loose ball (in field of play) toward opponent's goal line;
(b) a loose ball (that has touched the ground) in any direction, if it is in either end zone;
(c) a backward pass in flight forward by an offensive player.
The officiating crew -- led by referee Mike Carey, who, stationed in the offensive backfield, may have been closest to the play -- just missed it. The crew blew the call. The Patriots should have had one last chance. How would they have played it? My guess is Brady would have thrown a quick 12-yard out to someone along one of the sidelines, hoping to put the Patriots in position to throw a Hail Mary into the Steeler end zone. But that didn't happen.
Now onto more of your email:
ON THE BILLS IN TORONTO.
When I've talked to owners and league officials about the Buffalo-Toronto thing, I sense there are three ways of thinking. One: When the team is owned by someone other than Ralph Wilson, the bottom-line people hope the team is moved to where it'll make more money. Two: Traditionalists hope the team can always have a footing in Buffalo, perhaps in the 5-3 split between Buffalo games and Toronto games. Three: Some owners would love to see an NFL franchise in Toronto. So my real sense is that the league has a lot of mixed feelings about what to do in Buffalo long-term.
PLAYERS USE EVERYTHING.
Chris Long is a prideful guy; I know him to be so. But like every player, he hears criticism that he wasn't worth second-pick-in-the-draft money, and I am sure it fuels him. Some players I've known use it daily, hourly (Joe Morris of the Giants in the '80s -- I'm convinced -- would never have been the back he was without using the negative stuff said about him every day) and some have to be reminded about it by coaches or teammates. But it's fuel. For sure.
I'LL GIVE YOU AN AFC AND NFC CANDIDATE.
Detroit in the NFC (will be no higher than fifth seed) and Baltimore in the AFC. The Ravens can play great playoff defense and may well end up the sixth seed.
I think Bill and Chris Polian, in concert with Manning, would consider it, yes.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
I hear a lot of this, particularly about rooting for the fantasy team instead of the real team. I have a very good friend in New Jersey who has eight season tickets to Giants games and hasn't been to one in three years. Two reasons: He loves the man cave experience he has in his beautiful home, and he hates the in-stadium experience with his kids at the games, with drunkards ruining his day.
On the field, I think the game is very good. I would disagree about the quality of line play; even though offensive lines are getting quarterbacks hit, those things are cyclical, I believe. If teams want to protect their quarterbacks, they'll leave more tight ends and extra blockers in. But thanks for writing. I do see some of the same things you do.