Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Championship Weekend: Throw the Flag

By Robert Campbell

A Championship Sunday we won't soon forget would be an understatement. The Final Four that featured two overtime games for the first time on championship weekend and a spoonful of memorable moments may have been overshadowed, though. Here's a warning that's probably unnecessary. We're going to have to talk about the refs.

I remember an old Sports Illustrated back-page article a while back that said something like, "You know what I always wanted to know about NFL officials? ... Absolutely nothing." The column went on to describe an alternate reality where referees had entourages and dated Kardashian sisters, essentially alluding to the fact that the refs have become so entranced in the game, that they're now the actual stars. It was silly, but I always thought it rang true. And on Sunday, more than ever.

Los Angeles Rams 26, New Orleans Saints 23

The Superdome was unbelievably loud. And then it got louder. And then it got silent. Sean Payton can blame the referees all he wants, and his gripe is legitimate, but the Saints had a chance to stomp on the Rams early. They took a 13-0 lead into the second quarter, and realistically, it could have been 21-0 and a technical knockout before the Rams even moved the chains for the first time.

The Rams didn't do so until a fake punt that every fair weather fan watching could have called. It's not like they took off directly from there either, however, Jared Goff really put the team on his back and threw a couple Dilfer Dimes before halftime to keep his team in the game. Todd Gurley was obviously hurt, and if they are going to need him at full strength if they want to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.

Let's not look past the fact that Jared Goff was the better quarterback in this game. And that includes Taysom Hill, who for some reason the Saints decide to play quarterback on random third downs to run for two yards or fumble an RPO. Seriously, I love Drew Brees and acknowledge that he's one of the best to ever do it. But, he hasn't looked good since before that Thursday night game against the Cowboys in November. If his arm strength on Madden isn't lowered to Chad Pennington range, then I'm writing a letter.

You hate to see what happened at the end of the game. Remember, this was the same group of referees that the Rams were petitioning against prior to this game because of the teams' lopsided records when they officiated. Now it's the Saints petitioning for a rematch. On a side note, do petitions ever work? Everybody signs their signature on a numbered sheet of white paper, then nothing happens. I don't know how many petitions I've signed because I was trying to bang the girl with a cause. But, that's neither here nor there.

Yes, it was an obvious pass interference. Nickel Robey-Coleman even admitted his guilt. It was inexcusable, and Saints players, coaches, and fans deserve to be upset. Though, the Saints could have and should have still won the game. They could have made a stop. They could have scored in overtime and not given Legatron a chance. Either way, it was a tough way to end a great game. But, the ref didn't call a pass interference. And you know what that means? That means it wasn't a pass interference. The Rams are in the Super Bowl, baby.

On a side note, I love how today we hear about how there's some made up rule that Roger Goodell could have stopped the entire game and called the pass interference himself. You got to be kidding me with that shit.

New England Patriots 37, Kansas City Chiefs 31

You heard it from the GOAT himself. Tom Brady is the baddest man on the planet.

I guess I understand the hate, but I don't respect it. For anyone my age, this is unquestionably the best player we have ever seen take the field. And, truthfully, he's probably the best player anyone has ever seen take the field. So, you can root against him all you want, and you should if you're not a fan of New England, but you have to respect what this guy is and has done. It's absolutely remarkable. This is coming from a Giants fan, so I guess I'm a Brady fan because we got him twice.

If you thought the Rams/Saints game was good, this was even better. The Patriots picked up where they left off a week ago, and marched down the field for a beautiful first-drive touchdown. It was their defense in the first half that was truly impressive, though. I didn't see the Chiefs putting up a donut.

A White House McDonalds-spread halftime-inspired speech by Andy Reid woke the Chiefs up, and their offense exploded in the second half. Still, it's remarkable how Bill Belichik always has a game plan for the opposing team's best weapons. Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce were pedestrian compared to what they've been all season.

The back-and-forth action in the second half was unbelievable to watch. And it would have been over if Dee Ford knew where the line of scrimmage was. Though, we deserved some overtime action. Tony Romo sure didn't mind. Let's stop the hate with him too. Yeah, he's a little over-enthusiastic at times, but he is a great commentator. He knows the game so well, and (joke stolen from the Will Cain show), he's finally going to the Super Bowl. Him and Jim Nantz are the perfect duo to call the big game.

The refs were the center of attention in this game as well, though it wasn't for blown calls necessarily, just plays that hinged on the referees decisions. I think they got it right on the Julian Edelman non-fumble.

Here comes everyone trying to change the overtime rules now. I would love to have seen Patrick Mahommes, the MVP of the league, get to possess the ball in overtime, too. But, that's not the rules fault. That's the Chiefs defense fault. Stop blaming the game on a coin toss and the overtime rules when the Chiefs defense had many chances to stop the Patriots offense in overtime, and failed. And that's why New England is going to the Super Bowl. This feels familiar.

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