NFL Odds and Ends

* What a finish at Gillette Stadium, Sunday Night, eh?*

In case you missed it, the Pats, desperately trying to keep the game alive in the waning moments, seemingly converted a fourth down when Mike Gesicki caught a pass and, after quickly being corralled by tacklers well short of first-down yardage, lateraled to offensive lineman Cole Strange, who (with apologies to Chris Berman), rumbled, bumbled, and stumbled for a first down.

Or so it seemed. Replays confirmed Strange was juuuuuust short of the line to gain.* The Dolphins took over, took a knee, and won the game.

How did people react to the play?

Sportswriter and producer extraordinaire Jon Bois, who is very funny and one of my favorite Twitter follows, said, "the officials should have the authority to confirm or reverse a call depending on whether or not it was a cool play."

The top-rated comment on the Defector story about the game was, "I don't care if he actually made it, the lateral at the end of the game had the right vibes for a first down. Refs are such a buzzkill."

Back on Twitter, another sportswriter, Tim Ryan, wrote, "Every person involved in that replay reviews has never had a single night of fun in their entire lives. Miserable call."

Jon Bois was joking. The other two dudes, and the many, many others just like it, were not, I fear.

Now look. I promise I'm a fun guy. I'm also largely a go-with-the-flow guy. I once took a super in-depth personality test and it said my greatest strength was adaptability. When it comes to grammar and spelling, I'm a hardcore descriptivist.

Not only all that, but I had money on the Patriots at +3.5 (they were losing, and lost, by 7) and like any good Buccaneers fan, I hate the Dolphins.

I feel like it's important to establish my bonafides because WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH ALL OF YOU, OF COURSE WE SHOULDN'T GIVE HIM THE FIRST DOWN JUST BECAUSE IT WAS A NEAT PLAY. He didn't make it! I am agog that this idea seems to have traction.

I have written before in this space that, when it comes to matters of officiating, the single most important thing is getting it right. This matters more than tradition. This matters more than the pacing of the game. This matters more than distaste for robot umpires.

Why? Because it's a game, a competition. One where each participant sacrificed just a ton to be there, and they deserve to have the game decided by clearly-delineated rules, and where the adjudication, enforcement, and judgement of those rules are as clear and sensatory as possible.

You know what else? You're allowed to enjoy that play even though it didn't result in a first down! I did! I think players should lateral it more when they're clearly going down. Risky, sure, but I've seen Randy Moss and Warrick Dunn do it to great success. Don't put this on the refs.

Or more plainly, this isn't NAM. There are RULES. Mark it zero!

* I also took in the Saints/Panthers game Monday night. The Saints won, and CBS Sports called Bryce Young's performance a "flop."

But was it? I'm noticing some things in his play that are backed up by the numbers. The Panthers are last in the league in yards per completion through two games. Young has zero completions over 30 yards. How many long attempts does he have? I can't find that info, but I can find this info: he only has 8 "poor throws," which is a respectable t-14th lowest in the league.

In short, he's mostly dinking and dunking and presumably is mostly getting only dinking and dunking plays drawn up for him. But why? Panthers, did you trade up to pick up for the first pick in the draft to get yourself a Brad Johnson-style game manager?

And I say this even though like any good Buccaneers fan, I hate the Panthers.* But if Young is going to struggle as a rookie, and you're going to play him through that to get him acclimated, you might as well kick the training wheels off. Let him cook.

* Like any good Buccaneers fan, I like the Buccaneers. In Dan Graziano's fun overreaction/not an overreaction column which he does every week at ESPN, he posited whether the idea that the Bucs hot start means they are legitimate contenders in the NFC, and decided that yes, that's an overreaction.

I want to defend my team and say he's wrong, but I can't. Not yet, anyway. Yes, they beat Vikings but were easily out-gained by them; turnovers were the difference, and turnovers just aren't as reliable a metric as yardage. They did easily out-gain the Bears in their victory against them, but that was at home and the Bears just look awful.

That said, I will make one bold and positive Bucs prediction: Baker Mayfield will be good. I think Cleveland gave up on him too quickly. In 2020, he was in the top half of the league in QBR, Success Rate, sported a 26 to 8 TD/INT ratio, and led the Browns to an 11-5 record and their first playoff victory since before the Baltimore Ravens were a thing.

Yes, he regressed in 2021. 2022 I am giving him a pass on; he was fired by the team that he was supposed to be the savior for (and just a year removed from when he kind of was), and he had some nice moments with the Rams. Statistically, he's going to stay in the top half of quarterbacks all season. You heard it here first.

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