Monday, October 21, 2013


A classier "Bitterness" blog post title, you may never find. Right?! Well, some day, down the road, the Patriots will play the Jets in the Meadowlands (MetLife Stadium, I guess), without a weird play/ call, indirectly involving a lineman's keester. Right?

Honestly, I am sure I am not in the minority hoping that is not any day soon. I mean who doesn't want more action involving bumping into linemen's backsides? It's okay, we're in the trust tree, you can admit your true feelings on the subject to me, even if you think you must hide this from your cohorts. Anyways, for those of you who missed the Jets-Patriots overtime, here is what happened:

The game was in overtime, which you probably figured out from the previous sentence, but I'm setting the scene here, so just go with it, will ya? The Patriots inconsistent offense already managed to not score on the opening possession which of course means all the Jets had to do was score some points, be it by touhdown, field goal or safety. So after a promising start to the Jets drive, they were stymied by the Pats defense just inside the 40, setting up a 56-yard field goal attempt for their kicker of lore, Nick Folk.

Folks' career long, according to my data is 56 yards, so conceivable under optimal conditions that he could drill home a game-winning field goal, here. Be that as it may, there are not a lot, if any, kickers you would have complete confidence in, in this situation. Al Del Greco, maybe. Point is, this is not a gimmie in any way, shape or form. Alright, you got the picture painted in your head? Good. So, continuing on. They're all lined up, ball is snapped, kick is up, and it is wide left. Patriots will take over with great field position for them to march into Stephen Gostkowski's field goal range and escape with the win, right? Wrong.

There is a flag on the play. Kicker was upright, so it was not roughing the kicker or anything in that realm. Did not appear to be a false start or offsides, so whatever could be the issue? Unsportsmanlike conduct. Unsportsmanlike conduct? I mean the players weren't hugging, singing "Kumbaya" or anything, but there was no indication of conduct that seemed in anyway unsportsmanlike. Enter the "Butt Shove" rule, otherwise known as NFL Rule 9.1.3 (b)(2). You see, Patriots rookie Chris Jones shoved the buttocks of teammate Will Svitek in order to propel (well propel may not be the most apt word) him into the Jets offensive line and you cannot do that according to the "Butt Shove" rule.

Unfamiliar with the rule? Well, here is what it says-

(b) When Team A presents a field-goal or Try Kick formation:
(2) Team B players cannot push teammates on the line of scrimmage into the offensive formation.

Interpreted and called correctly by the referee, Jets get a first down, move closer and Folk kicks a game winner from much closer.

A few things that interest me here (settle down Pats fans, your conspiracy theories are not amongst them). First off, is the fact this penalty exists. I am not insensitive to injuries, players getting hurt, etcetera, etcetera, and I fully understand the purpose of this rule being in the interest of protecting offensive lineman on kicks. However, are we going a bit far? Maybe (definitley) I am ignorant to the number of longsnappers that have been hurt because players used to be able to shove the butts of their offensive lineman all willy-nilly, but just seems like it was not that big of a problem. It's football people. Football. Not tiddlywinks. Nope, football.

Secondofly, are there any actual statistics that suggest this would actually decrease the chances of the kicker making the kick? I understand if you have a Varsity Blues scenario, where they clear the way for a Tweeter-esque player to come, more or less up the middle to block it, then sure, this would completely help you. (Yes, I am also aware that was a punt, not a field goal. Do not test my Varsity Blues knowledge!)

But there are not many special teams players in the NFL with Charlie Tweeter's skill set. Case in point, the fact that the Patriots have been doing this all season. How many kicks have they blocked? I wanna say none. Sure, it is tough to statistically say whether or not they have affected a kick, without blocking it, I suppose, but I would argue this has probably not aided in kick affecting, much. They have done this so often, that the Jets actually told officials to watch for this before Sunday's game started. So, this begs the question are the Jets the only ones aware of this rule? Or perhaps, are the Patriots the only ones breaking this rule? Could be both, but the fact is, it has not been called all season...on anyone.

It would be interesting, and by interesting I mean tedious and boring, to go through all kicks this season and see how many times it has been done. Clearly the refs were not eager to look for, or enforce, this penalty before Sunday. Perhaps the fact Rex Ryan and the Jets had earlier alerted the referees to the Patriots special teams chicanery, was what inspired him to send Folk out there to go for the win? I realize this was overtime, but 56 yards?! That's a long kick and if he missed, which for all intents and purposes he did, Patriots have great field position. I'm also curious as to whether or not the Pats did this on previous kicks in this game? The Jets certainly did.

So what made the referees all of sudden see this in overtime, on Sunday? We may never know (Rex Ryan shoves the $100 bills back in his pocket).

Seriously, the bottom line, is this was still no anti-Patriot conspiracy theory, nor can you fault the Patriots for giving it a whirl. It was the correct, somewhat obscure, call even though the Patriots and, most likely, other NFL teams have probably been shoving their linemen's butts throughout the season. As the saying goes, "It ain't cheatin', if you don't get caught." Well the Patriots got caught "cheatin'", if you will.* The Patriots did not really deserve to win that game anyways and should really learn by now that if (when?) they "cheat" they should not do it in the Meadowlands (Spygate anyone?) against the Jets.

*Cheating within the rules of the game that is. This is no more cheating than interfering with a receiver or roughing a passer, but I felt the quote really better hammered home the point.

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