We are going to switch up the play calling this issue, and hand out mid-season awards and see who has really been impressive this year.
But before that, there has been an underlining gripe running through the league this year: Referees.
What has been going on this year? Is it the year of the bad call? It seems every Sunday, in a critical game, there are crucial calls made that change the momentum of the game.
In Week 6 the Atlanta Falcons got a huge break in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter. The Falcons kicked a failed field goal, but New Orleans Saints Tony Bryant was called for defensive holding. The Falcons were then allowed to retry the game winning field goal again, this time from 36 yards, and kicker Todd Peterson nailed it, etching the Falcons to a 34-31 win.
New Orleans coach Jim Haslett was clearly upset after the game, using among other things four expletives to argue his point.
“It’s tough to watch that from the standpoint that as hard as we fought, as many good things that happened, and have it come down to a couple of calls,” New Orleans tight end Ernie Conwell said to news reporters following Sunday’s lost.
On a Monday night game in Week 5 at San Diego, the Chargers played host to the Pittsburgh Steelers. In the third quarter, another controversial call was made when San Diego punt returner Darren Sproles called for a fair catch, only to have the ball come out of his grip and into the air where a Steeler caught the loose ball. The referee then went into a minute-long explanation of how if the fair catch signal is made, and the ball hits the returnee, as long as the ball has not touched the ground, it is not a fumble and the returnee has the right to catch it in the air.
It appeared to be a fumble, but maybe everyone should pull out the Official NFL Referee Handbook, turn to page 595, section 3, clause 5, where it states fair catch rules.
It is not that the referees are doing a horrible job. You know the NFL doesn’t pick random people off the street to be a side judge. It is just difficult to watch games be decided on one call that can shift the game in the opposite direction.
“I know officials aren’t perfect and they make mistakes like anyone else, but it’s tough to swallow,” said Conwell.
Back to the Mid-Season awards. What a season we have had so far. Definitely unpredictable as always, seemingly as though each week was a random guess of who has been the ones to beat, or in the Houston Texans camp, who takes the beating.
The Dominant Force Award goes to the Indianapolis Colts. My, how things are clicking now in Indy. The off-season treasure map proved gold for the Colts, with free agent Defensive Tackle Corey Simon and an underrated secondary stepping up to the plate. Quarterback Peyton Manning and the offense have been for the most part unstoppable. How about the Manning-Harrison hook-up records shattering. But can the Colts take it all the way to Detroit this year? Stay tuned.
The “I-Have-the-Right-Pieces-but-Can’t-Win” Award goes to the Oakland Raiders. The Detroit Lions were trying to break through here, but they are still in rebuild mode. What happened in the East Bay? The Randy Moss factor is apparent, but his injury in Week 6 really shook up the camp. The Raiders looked off the charts in pre-season, but still could not be up to par in the AFC West division. The Minnesota Vikings and Randy Moss can’t win without each other. It’s like watching a bad divorce when both sides can’t live without one another.
The Goat Award goes to LaVar Arrington. The Washington Redskins linebacker who has had trouble with owner Dan Snyder has been labeled a “free-lancer” and is second on the depth chart behind Warrick Holdman. Warrick Holdman? Isn’t Arrington a first round draft choice? Yes and Arrington plays outside of the defensive schemes he is taught, so he gets benched. Another first round overvalued player.
The Comeback Player Award goes to Drew Bledsoe. After being ousted out of Buffalo for future Quarterback J.P. Losman (Who has been benched for Kelly Holcomb), Bledsoe was going to retire until a Parcells phone call led him to Dallas. He has been the best Quarterback to run the Dallas Offense since Troy Aikman. Bledsoe’s stats have been top 10 impressive so far, considering he is 33 years of age.
The Surprise Team Award goes to the Cincinnati Bengals. Quarterback Carson Palmer and the Bengals’ offensive firepower have been impressive so far. Not to mention the defense, that has stepped up led the league in turnovers, playing tough in the hard hitting AFC North. Wide Receiver Chad Johnson’s touchdown antics may prove worthy if the Bengals can keep up the pace in January.
Mid-Season Coach Award goes to Mike Shanahan. The Denver Broncos have been surprisingly good this season, especially in the AFC West division. Quarterback Jake Plummer and his relationship with Shanahan have been key to the Broncos offense producing positive numbers. Shanahan has been able to keep the Broncos defensive line healthy and fresh by rotating a total of 7 linemen. This is significant considering the Broncos play running backs LaDainian Tomlinson, Priest Holmes, and Lamont Jordan each twice a year.
Speaking of Tomlinson, he gets the Mid-Season Player Award. He is on fire and a crucial role in the Chargers’ offensive success this season. Not to mention he is on tap to breaking records held by another elusive back, Barry Sanders. It is no wonder why Tomlinson is picked first in all the fantasy drafts. He produces, and produces big.
Let’s get the refs some new contacts, and give credit to the AFC for dominating the NFL this year. The NFC is a conference in confusion.