Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the NFL is becoming a game not determined by the 22 men playing the game of football, but the 7 officials on the field enforcing the rules. This last offseason, it was determined by the league that physical cornerback play should be modified. Apparently, we can call this the Peyton Manning rule, as his Broncos were smothered by the big physical Seahawk corners. The contact area is still 5 yards, as before, but the difference is there is absolutely no contact allowed now. A hand check as a WR runs by draws a flag, whereas before, a certain amount of contact was allowed.
The other new fun rule being strictly enforced now is illegal use of hands. Plays in the trenches, and DBs on the line frequently get in the grill of the guy in front of them to gain leverage. It was usually ignored, unless fairly blatant, like seeing the helmet pop off.
The biggest warning sign of the flag-fest we now see came during the 2014 preseason, when there were 97 illegal contact penalties, 165 defensive holding calls, and 212 illegal use of hands penalties. Now compare those numbers to 10, 39 and 28, respectively from last year’s preseason, and you’ll see why there is a huge outcry among coaches, players and fans about the flag-fest.
This issue is even more relevant now because some teams are seemingly targeted for these penalties, while other teams don’t get called. In the Seattle/Denver game, Wes Welker was blasted to kingdom come on the late interception. He was a ‘defenseless WR’ who got blasted with a hit where the DB left his feet to hit him high. No call. In the Chicago/Jets game, the Jet WR catches the ball, takes 2 steps, and gets blasted at the goal line on a shoulder-to-shoulder hit. The ref calls it hitting a defenseless WR. Huh?
The 49ers have had countless penalties called on them. None more terrible than the illegal use of hands vs Chicago on a 3rd and 9 from Chicago’s 21 yard line. The penalty was very minor. Very ticky-tack. But it altered the course of the game. Even worse, the Niners held Chicago to another 4th down on the same drive, only to get a 5 yard illegal contact penalty.
The problem is these minor infractions result in automatic 1st downs. The Bears got 7 1st down on penalties. And this doesn’t even address the wildly inconsistent personal foul rules that the 49ers have been dinged with. Anquan Boldin’s head-butt was stupid, but is that equal to blasting a QB with your helmet? Chris Culliver’s taunting call appeared to me to be Cully standing up too fast. Stupid ticky tacky calls, but this is the new NFL. Don’t play with emotion, or heart, or have fun, or celebrate a TD, or you will be penalized and possibly fined.
Which brings me to replay. The hit by Dan Skuta on Drew Stanton was a big hit that was vicious, and brutal. But, it was legal. Stanton hadn’t reached the ground. He was just starting to slide as Skuta came in for the hit. Due to the violent nature of it, he was flagged. On the very next play, Patrick Willis comes in amid a bunch of blockers and hits Stanton as he’s releasing the ball. Willis has his head up and does not use the crown of his helmet. A clean hit on the QB. He’s flagged for a personal foul. 2 blown calls. 30 free yards for AZ. I know we will get an apology from the league saying “Ooops. They got it wrong.” So, I suppose we will restart the game from that point in time. Right. Just like the NO game last year that ended up costing the 49ers home field. Gee, did that blown call change anything?
These egregious blown calls should be reviewable. Why? Because they alter the games and seasons. Will it drag out the length of games? Probably a little, but who gives a shit! The LEAGUE mandates 3 minute commercial breaks on every change of possession, every punt, every kickoff, and every turnover so we can get our fill of beer and boner pill commercials. Or that stupid-ass Geico lizard. Besides, if the games went on 15 miunutes longer, who would care? Not the fans. Shouldn’t it be about making the right call instead of flagging every goddamned play?