The NFL had to be pleased with the two conference championship games recently between the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams and the Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots.
It’s the first time both championship games required overtime. TV ratings were good, the games were highly entertaining, so all is well, right? Well, not so fast, my friend.
Let’s review some of the recent happenings.
If you watched the latter part of the Saints / Rams game, you saw that the call that wasn’t made was a factor in the outcome. Saints fans think the no-call caused the outcome, but that’s not true. What is true is that the no-call was a bad one. And it is true that if the pass-interference call had been made, odds are good that New Orleans would be playing in the Super Bowl.
The use of replay to determine whether pass interference should be called may be coming sooner than later. The use of replays is like toothpaste. It’s hard to put back in the tube once it has been squeezed. The same is true with replay. Now that the cat’s out of the bag, replay will only expand going forward.
Nevertheless, the Saints’ inability to score touchdowns early in the game when they were dominating the action can’t be overlooked.
Why the Saints threw the ball late in the game instead of running it when they were already in field-goal range is a mystery. At the very least, the Rams would have had to burn its timeouts. Instead, they had ample time to drive down the field for a game-tying field goal.
The Saints also had an opportunity by winning the coin toss and getting the ball first in overtime. But an interception led to a game-winning field goal by the Rams.
The Chiefs / Patriots game was won by the team which played the best overall, but if Dee Ford hadn’t lined up off sides on what would have been another Tom Brady interception, the Chiefs would likely be in the Super Bowl. In fact, the post-game hubbub would have centered on Tom Brady’s three interceptions, including one in the end zone, instead of the greatness of the Brady and Coach Belichick dynasty.
The Chiefs didn’t lose just because of the Dee Ford penalty. Keep in mind Patrick Mahomes badly overthrew a wide open receiver that would have been a touchdown earlier in the game. Also, the Pats’ defensive line put relentless pressure on the K.C. quarterback throughout the night, while the Chiefs rarely laid a hand on Brady. And when they laid a hand on Brady, the Chiefs were wrongly called for roughing the passer.
Less than 48 hours after the loss, the Chiefs parted ways with defensive coordinator Bob Sutton. It’s ironic that if Ford hadn’t lined up off sides and the Chiefs had won the game, Sutton would be preparing to coach in the Super Bowl instead of being unemployed.
Belichick’s record speaks for itself, but if he’s such a genius, how did his defense give up 31 second-half points to the Chiefs after shutting them out in the first half? It probably speaks more to the potent Kansas City offense than it does to Belichick’s coaching.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes gives Kansas City Chiefs fans reason to hope for the future. One thing is for sure, if Coach Andy Reid doesn’t win a Super Bowl in his career, he’ll likely be tagged with the title of best coach to not win the big game.
The NFL needs to revisit the overtime rules. If the league is about entertainment, why wouldn’t it change the rules so both teams at least have an opportunity to possess the football? We saw what Brady did, but it would have been nice to see if Mahomes could have matched him.
Finally, if the two conference championship games showed us anything, it’s that the margin between the teams in the Super Bowl and the two teams who lost is razor thin.
Controversies aside, the NFL is still the king of sports entertainment.