The New York Giants did exactly what they wanted to do against the Patriots (see Tom Coughlin Makes a Gutsy Decision) and lost anyway. The great thing about great quarterbacks is that if they are kept close enough they only need 1 or 2 late drives to take over a game no matter what they’ve done or haven’t been able to do in the previous three quarters. Aaron Rodgers had the game in his hands yesterday and but for a missed call earlier in the second half, he would have been executing a game winning drive that only needed a field goal for his two minute drill instead of a desperate game tying effort that fell just short.
Tom Brady and the Patriots came very close to suffering the same fate when a beautiful fourth quarter drive run by the not quite as great Eli Manning ended with a hotly contested touchdown pass. Giants receiver, Odell Beckham Jr. caught a 5 yard TD pass and did a great job keeping his feet inbounds, but after his second foot got planted, young Patriots defensive legend, Malcolm Butler whacked the ball out of his hands. The official immediately signaled a touchdown, and then there was a long conference with the debate being did Odell Beckham Jr. maintain possession long enough to have been considered a runner. It seems kind of an interesting rule because when you think about someone scoring a rushing touchdown all they need to do is have the very nose of the ball cross the goal line. They often lunge themselves into the air with no regard for whether they stay inbounds or even whether they drop the ball or not. Once the ball crosses the line the play is over. A receiver on the other hand has to catch the ball, keep BOTH feet inbounds, AND THEN has to prove that he would have been able to carry on running and maintain possession even after both feet have been down. It’s a good rule and I understand the need to prove you actually had control of the ball, but it’s a fine line to walk for officials in deciding whether a receiver performed a “football move” after the catch. They made their decision and the Patriots looked like they were going to suffer their first loss. The ELI curse was apparently alive and well.
After video review, to have the call reversed by the rule was the right call and as a Pats fan I couldn’t be happier, but as a football fan I wonder if maybe they’re taking the “in the moment” human element out of the game a bit too much. The refs in this case made an immediate decision. They then conferenced. They maintained the original call after discussion. The video review is fantastic for finding out exactly where the ball was, or if a knee was down or that sort of thing – the more black and white issues. This touchdown ruling to me is more of an opinion call. To have the refs take their time to process on the field and get together to make a firm decision is all you can ask in these cases. To then make them go to the booth, sit through a video review and have someone overturn their opinion about whether someone was perceived to have been able to run with the ball after the catch with basically nothing more than another opinion is taking the game too much away from the field judges.
VIDEO: SB Nation
It might not have mattered anyway because Tom Brady threw his second interception of the game into the hands of rookie safety Landon Collins on the final drive of the game. The Patriots were saved again when Collins struck his head on the field, injuring himself and losing control of the football after he hit the ground. When you give Brady three chances he’s going to make something happen. Even with a 4th and 10 he calmly delivered a strike to the middle of the field for the first down to keep his team alive. He doesn’t even stop the clock by spiking the ball like most human quarterbacks. The first time he signaled for a spike he still attempted a surprise sideline pass to gain a couple of extra yards for his team. He overthrew the receiver but the point is no one else thinks the game in as much detail as the Patriots organization. It would have all been for nothing but for a video review.