The curious case of the impact of "The Call"
Brady turned out to be Brady. On 4th and 10 from his own 20, he threw a laser to Gronkowski for 23 yds. 55 seconds later, Brady had one more shot to the end zone to win it for the Patriots. He threw a bad underthrown pass intended for Gronkowski who was being mugged in the most blatant way ever by Luke Kuechly, one of the best young defenders in the country. Kuechly had come into this game with the reputation (almost deservedly so) of being the heir apparent to Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher. He knew that the whole country was watching and he just couldn’t let Gronk catch the ball. So he did what a young player in his position would do. PANIC. He bear hugged the Tight End and made it impossible for Gronk to come back to the underthrown ball. Since the contact was initiated after the ball was in the air, holding call was not an option. Brady’s pass was intercepted by the Safety and the game was over. However a penalty flag was thrown immediately signaling a pass interference call. This would give Patriots an untimed play from the one yard line. However in a very bizarre turn the refs got together in a haste and picked up the flag. Game over. Patriots lose 24-20.
This morning the whole nation is debating whether the call was fair or not. I am very clear. Patriots were robbed of the chance to win. I don’t like people saying they were robbed of a win. It’s a 50-50 shot when you have just one play. So even if that call had stood, we would never know if Patriots would have won or not. I am not writing this blog to highlight the merits of the call or the decision to pick it up. This play and what followed can and will have huge implications vis-à-vis the playoff scenarios.
If Patriots had prevailed, they would be 8-2 going into a crucial match against the Broncos and if they had won that contest they would be 9-2 and would hold the tiebreaker against the Broncos. Now even if they win, they would still be half a game behind the Broncos and would have to count the Chiefs to exact revenge in two weeks but that would put the Cheifs in line to get the one seed anyway. So at best what Patriots can hope is for a second seed from now in for all intense and purposes. I actually don’t think that would happen. Patriots will lose the Sunday night game and that would put them in line to be a 3rd or 4th seed in the playoffs since I feel that they will still win the division. What that entails is a matchup of the Patriots with either the Chiefs/Broncos or the Jets/Ravens. NE would rather face the Jets/Ravens than the Chiefs or the Broncos since they would be vulnerable to the Cheifs Pass rush and Broncos high octane offense. I don’t see Patriots winning either of the games even at home. Jets and Ravens have had Brady’s number of late and know him and Bill very well. Also they have both won in big playoff matches at Foxboro in recent years. So if Patriots don’t get the bye, which this call has almost made sure off, I think Patriots will be out in the first round. Huge!!!!
This win also gave a lot of hope to the Colts to get the bye and play two playoff games rather than 3 if they want to go to the Superbowl. If Colts and Patriots had ended up with the same record, Patriots might win on the basis of strength of schedule and conference record (At this time they have an identical score on SOS but Colts have a 5-2 record in the conference as opposed to 4-2 by the Patriots). Andrew Luck will be favored to win at home, no matter who they face and that is a ticket to the AFC Championship game. Huge Again!!!!
Panthers have won 6 in a row and have a 7-3 record. They are only a game behind New Orleans who have played some subpar games this season. They lost to the Jets and the Patriots and almost lost to the Bucs and 49ers. The Panthers and the Saints play each other twice in three weeks in December. With only a game separating the two, this can be tricky for the Saints who just a couple of weeks ago were hoping to be No.1 Seed in the Conference and now can be relegated to No. 5. The Saints have lost the last two road playoff games to inferior competition in shootouts. They are not the same team on the road as they are in the dome. So this result could propel the Panthers to the top of the division and force the Saints out – If the Panthers are able to do it, they would be guaranteed the No. 2 Seed with a home playoff game. This is extremely HUGE!!!!!!
Seattle is very pleased with this result. They have a showdown with the Saints in two weeks on Monday Night Football. Before last night’s game, they must have been under a lot of pressure to win that game to hold on to the No. 1 seed. With Panthers in play big time for NFC South, they can breathe a little easier. They would root for the Panthers to win out from here because if both Seattle and Carolina end up with a 13-3 record, Seattle holds the tie breaker. With their remaining schedule, I don’t see Seattle ending up with a worse record than 13-3 and that is the best case scenario for the Panthers. So Seattle took another step in securing home field advantage without even playing in a game. For Seahawks die hard fans like me, this is HUGEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!
We have always been told that football is a game of inches. However it is also a game of chance where one call can make so many things happen. I think that the overall impact of this call by the refs is much bigger than just a loss to the Patriots and a win by the Panthers. I will be curious to see if it unfolds, the way I think it will.