Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The "defenseless" receiver penalty in the Patriots/Bills game on Sunday that really irked me

I'm not one of those people that thinks football should be all about violence and knock outs. I'm glad the NFL has taken measures to deal with the concussions caused by hits to the head.

There is nothing wrong with a nice form tackle that merely stops an offensive player from advancing the ball, and I certainly don't see what can be gained by simply hitting a player as hard as you can if he still holds on to the football or scores a touchdown.

Some of the most famous hits by the late Raiders safety "The Assassin" Jack Tatum were actual positive plays for the opposing team. Like for example his hit on Sammy White in Super Bowl XI that knocked White's helmet off. Despite the vicious-hit, White still held-onto the football, yet, Tatum stood over him in intimidating-fashion like he actually accomplished something. Or what about Tatum's brutal hit on Earl Campbell in the Astrodome. It was a pretty nasty smack on Campbell, and the bruising running back was knocked off-balance, yet, he managed to stay on his feet long-enough to score a touchdown.

A lot of defensive players will tell you that they like to soften-up their opponent and they'll sacrifice a huge gain if it pays off later. Okay, what if you give up three touchdowns while trying to soften your guy up? I guess if you don't give up a fourth, it's a win?

And I love it when a defensive back or linebacker talks smack after they nail a receiver who was concentrating on trying to catch a football. Big deal. It's easy to be tough in that regard. Maybe that's why Hines Ward is so hated and despised around the NFL. He simply won't take a defensive back's crap, and he gives just as much as he gets. A defender can't always handle that. Like Jerome Bettis used to say, "It aint no fun when the rabbit gets the gun."

Anyway, as I said, I have no problem with the league going to great lengths to reduce helmet-to-helmet hits and flagrant shots on defenseless receivers.

But, after watching Sunday's game between New England and Buffalo, I kind of understand what some NFL defenders mean when they say the new rules on safety are not easy to understand, and there are just way too many variables involved.

Late in the second quarter, New England receiver Wes Welker caught a pass underneath (what else is new?), and the Bills' defensive back came up to meet him. It looked like he was going to hit Welker shoulder-to-shoulder or shoulder-to-chest, but just as the defender lowered his shoulder, Welker ducked his head and the two players hit helmet-to-helmet.

The Buffalo player was penalized 15-yards for a helmet-to-helmet hit on a defenseless receiver, and it gave New England great field position. Fortunately, if you're a Bills fan (or Patriots hater), New England turned the ball over on the next play.

Had the Patriots scored on that drive, that penalty could have meant the difference in a very close game that Buffalo ultimately won at the end.

I believe in player-safety, but I also believe in proper judgement by officials, and anyone watching that game had to know that the helmet-to-helmet hit wasn't intentional, and it may have even been initiated by Welker.

You're going to be seeing a lot of these types of calls this year. Hopefully, it won't be the difference between a win and a loss.

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