No Perfect Endings, Just Luck

So you’re unfamiliar with NFL Rule 9, Section 1, Article 3 (b)(2) …

Patriots at Jets, overtime, Jets kicker Nick Folk misses a 56-yard field goal. Patriots prepare to start a drive at the New England 38-yard line. I find this amazing: “The 2013 Official Playing Rules of the National Football League” is 159 pages long. There is even a half-page for “Guidelines for Captains,” including options on the coin toss.

For the infraction called for the first time in NFL history Sunday, on the decisive play in a game that could have major playoff implications, there is one sentence. Twenty-five words.

The sentence is on page 51: “When Team A presents a field-goal or Try Kick formation … Team B players cannot push teammates on the line of scrimmage into the offensive formation.”

On the play in the Meadowlands, as the ball was snapped for the field goal, New England free-agent defensive lineman Chris Jones tried to shove another Patriots lineman, Will Svitek, through the gap between the center and right guard. Svitek almost squeezed through, but he was blocked by the Jets’ punt-team guard, Damon Harrison (actually a defensive tackle). The blocking didn’t matter. Once Jones shoved his teammate into the gap, the umpire standing behind the Patriots’ line, Tony Michalek, threw the flag. Correctly. “That’s a rules change for 2013 that a teammate cannot push a teammate into the opponent’s formation,’’ said referee Jerome Boger to a pool reporter after the game. “It’s any type of pushing action.”

There was some confusion—partially of the league’s doing—when Bill Belichick said after the game that the call was wrong because it didn’t originate from the “second level,” or area behind the line of scrimmage. And there are videos from earlier this season in which vice president of officiating Dean Blandino refers to “the second level’’ when he interprets the rule. As Mike Florio explained Sunday night on Pro Football Talk: “The problem is that the NFL previously has explained the new rule on its official website by suggesting that the rule applies only to pushes from the second level.’’

At NBC, a digest of rules is kept handy for the particularly prickly ones. And there’s no reference to a “second level” when discussing this rule. It is just as I have written it. The rule was included at the request of several offensive lineman and approved by the Competition Committee. The linemen, particularly the centers, felt the injury risk would go down if defensive players couldn’t cave in the centers by lining up right over them or having players be pushed into a huge scrum at them.

Without the call, New England would have had to go 30 yards to be in position for a field goal. If the game is tied after the first possession of overtime, the next team to score wins. With the penalty—which was absolutely the right call—Folk had another chance and nailed it.

Said Rex Ryan: “I was fairly happy about it. I was thinking, ‘It’s about time we got a break.’ ”

Said Jones: “The mistake was mine. I take it. Put it on my shoulders.’’

We will. And now, with the Jets and Bills winning Sunday, the AFC East is more of a horse race, with two games separating top and bottom.

***

Depressing Jacksonville note of the week

Jacksonville has played three home games this year and not scored a touchdown.

The Jags have scored 2, 3 and 6 points in their three home games: a safety, a field goal and two field goals … and lost by 26, 34 and 18.

The Jags do not play in Jacksonville again until Nov. 17, against Arizona. In the next three weeks, they’re in London (against San Francisco, in a surrendered “home” game), on the bye, and at Tennessee.

When is the last time an NFL team hadn’t scored a touchdown in its home stadium by the middle of November? In 1977, when Tampa Bay failed to score a TD at home until Dec. 18, in the final game of the season.

***

Requiem for Bum

It struck me on Saturday, reading Twitter, that many of you don’t know much about Bum Phillips, who died Friday night at 90. That’s not surprising. Phillips, the former Houston and New Orleans coach, was at his peak 33 years ago. I discovered how so many of you were lacking in Bum-know-how when I re-Tweeted the front page of Saturday’s Houston Chronicle sports section, headlined with “Luv Ya Bum,’’ and many of you were confused. One of you asked: “Doesn’t the Houston Chronicle have a copy editor?” No, no—the big slogan around the Houston Oilers way back then was, “Luv Ya Blue.” So there’s that.

I was too late to cover Bum Phillips as a coach—his last season was in New Orleans in 1985, my second covering the league—but I got to know him as a retired NFL coach, a Yogi Berra sort of character and father of Wade Phillips, who always loved being daddy’s boy. (Wade’s Twitter account is @sonofbum.) And I visited Bum in 1990 when writing about his son stepping out of his dad’s coaching shadow, which I’ll tell you about in a second. Bum Phillips was 86-80 in 12 years as an NFL head coach, but his best seasons came in a time of immense enthusiasm for the Oilers in Houston (1975-80), the last time the team truly captured the city before the franchise moved to Tennessee in 1997. In 1978 and ’79, Phillips got the Oilers to the AFC title game both seasons, only to find one of the great teams in NFL history in the way of Super Bowl glory. Phillips’ Oilers lost in Super Bowl seasons three and four for Pittsburgh, by 29 and 14 points, and a year later he was fired by owner Bud Adams.

It wasn’t just the winning. It was Bum himself—a Texan who wore Cowboy boots and a huge Texas belt buckle on the sidelines, and a 10-gallon hat when games were outside—who made the Oilers so attractive to the locals. The fans inside the decibel-friendly Astrodome made noise like today’s Seahawk crazies, and they waved these white and baby-blue pompoms so that sometimes when the cameras panned the stands it looked like it was snowing in there. And he said some fun things, after wins and after losses. He loved Don Shula. “He could take his’n and beat your’n, and he could take you’n and beat his’n.” (Pardon the spelling there. I don’t know how to spell “his’n,’’ never mind “your’n.”)

Bum Phillips remains a beloved figure in Houston. (AP)
Bum Phillips remains a beloved figure in Houston. (AP)

Check the Bum influence on Wade from a 1990 story I did on the rise of Wade as Denver’s defensive coordinator, when I visited the retired coach at his ranch near Houston:

Drive west of Houston for about an hour, until you run plumb out of town. Take a left onto a narrow state farm road across from the only restaurant for miles. Weave through a few miles of ranch road, past herd after herd of grazing cattle. Go over the one-lane wooden bridge and follow the dirt road to the end. Finally, with three ranch dogs nipping at your feet, walk into the metal-roofed arena where the cutting horses are being trained. Now, this is Texas.

Here a portly man wearing a cowboy hat and sunglasses sits atop a sorrel horse named Mr. San Powder. He’s watching a rider teach Sport Court, a 3-year-old chestnut, how to isolate a calf from the herd and keep it separate for a few minutes. “You put the horse out here without the other cattle so he learns to succeed,” says the man in the sunglasses. “You don’t want him to fail. You want him to win. So you get him some confidence first.”

Wade’s father, Bum Phillips, 66, pauses to spit tobacco juice. “You know,” he adds, “it’s like working with young players. Get ’em thinking too much, give ’em too much right away, and it confuses ’em. You’ve got to get ’em some confidence. You’ve got to train ’em right, teach ’em right. I’ve always said, You show me a good teacher and I’ll show you a good coach. Coaching is not how much you know. It’s how much you can get players to do.”

[When Bum coached high school football], the Phillips family—Wade was born first and then came five daughters—got a new lesson in Texas geography almost every year. Bum, then a high school and college coach, chased jobs from the Louisiana border to New Mexico. They moved from Beaumont to Nacogdoches to Nederland to College Station to Jacksonville to Amarillo to El Paso to Port Neches to Houston. “You grew up pretty fast in this family,” says Helen, Wade’s mom.

The most abrupt move of all came when Wade was in the ninth grade. The Phillipses were living in Amarillo at the time, and he was going to a junior high school right down the street from his house. He was getting good grades. He was playing all the sports. He had his first girlfriend. One morning, the principal sent for him, and on his way to the office, Wade looked out the window and saw a moving van in the driveway. His father, he soon learned, had quit his position at Amarillo High to take the coaching job at UTEP. Within an hour, Wade was off to El Paso, without even getting a chance to say goodbye to his girl. But he didn’t protest. No tears. No anger.

“When Daddy would ask if we wanted to go to the Dairy Queen, we wouldn’t want to,” says Wade, half in jest. “We’d be afraid if we got in that car he’d move us again.”

And this life lesson, from his father:

“When I was growing up, people thought bitching was coaching,” says Wade. “But players eventually turn off the guys who yell and scream. My father once told me, ‘Don’t coach the way you were coached. Coach the way you are.’ I don’t believe in coaching by fear. I believe in coaching by teaching.”

Think of that: You don’t see the yellers and barkers much anymore on the sidelines—or at least not as much as you used to. After the Texans lost narrowly Sunday, I asked Wade Phillips how he thinks his father should be remembered in football history.

“He was the ultimate players’ coach,’’ Wade Phillips said. “He had a real knack for making every player feel special, like they were so valuable. I never heard him once talk about winning. You play hard because your teammates are like a family. You owe that to your teammates. He always thought the scoreboard would take care of itself.’’

The greatest tribute I saw Sunday? Texans defensive stalwart J.J. Watt sacking Alex Smith and turning to the crowd and tipping an imaginary ten-gallon hat. For Bum.

“Yeah,’’ Wade said, struggling for words. “That was emotional.”

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399 comments
wavemkr
wavemkr

No it's not "odd" that you would give the award for Coach of the week to the Indy Def Coach.  Because the real winner is Monte Kiffin holding the #1 RB, McCoy to 55 yards and the much media vaunted eagles offense to 3 points.  But that would've required you to list a Cowboys coach, and as much as you hate the Cowboys that would be impossible, so that left you with the #2 Coach, so it's not odd at all, it makes perfect sense.  You're constant Cowboys Hatred made the determination.

wavemkr
wavemkr

Patriots lost and Cowboys won...... Peter the Patriots loving/Cowboys hating King must be having a horrible Monday :)


King, we need more Patriots coverage !!! LOL

DrColeKilla
DrColeKilla

Peter - love McCarver, dance at his retirement party, play a round of golf together, have a slice of his b-day cake.  But to "think everyone’s nuts for not liking Tim McCarver," is simply just slapping around those who don't share your effusive opinion of his broadcasting style.   

ProfessorGriff
ProfessorGriff

So Peter,


The NFL doesn't baby Tom Brady?  Which NFL have you been watching the past 7 seasons?  



LittleOne4u
LittleOne4u

Dear Peter, Part two

I have always respected your writting and insight into the sport arena.  Stories with a touch of experience and honesty in a world of 'more about me' is becoming a rare species on today's news headlines.

Having those thoughts in mind, I feel I am treated to the  Geriatric Ward when visiting the new website. I truelly am NOT, NOT draw to the big font and BIG pictures to each and EVERY article. DID i mention the BIG picture and CLICK on me PICTURE. 

If capital letters are screaming to shouting then  new design website must implies your readers are visually impaired and lack reading skills.

Yes, I understand WINDOW is your $$ backer. But please, must you sell the farm to write your stories? I hope we have not reach that point in journalism.

Thank you for reading this far down in the comments posted field. Most folks don't get past the first 10 responses. 

I hope refine the site to mirror more of your insight into sports and less of the marketing of windows software.

Cheers

P

Richard Long
Richard Long

$1,200 to spend the night in Indy.  And we talk about a bad economy 

Danny5
Danny5

hey Peter, what would be so wrong with a Denver at Cincy playoff game?  This is the same Cincy team that has beaten both Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in a awesome game at HOME and busted Brady's record td pass streak at HOME in beating New England.  I for one would love to see a Broncos at Bengals playoff matchup, think it would be a great game...

cfr
cfr

some things i know i think 1. whats said on the field should stay on the field. 2. hair tackles can break necks and should  be illegal, and horse collar tackles should be legal since a player is just bringing someone down by the shoulders.

skidoo
skidoo

What a sad state of affairs for Bear fans . We don't know how to act. Sure we've lost are share of games but we at least knock the snot out of folks now we score in the 40's and lose. Somewhere Papa Bear is shaking his head

M30
M30

"2. I think this is what I didn’t like about Week 7:

a. That wily, experienced veteran, Sheldon Richardson of the Jets, saying NFL officials baby Tom Brady. After less than two months playing real games, that is some quality opinion, Sheldon."  

Aww, how cute.  PK has to protect his man-crush against the big, bad rookie.  Just beg him for it, PK.  It's obvious.  

JesseReynolds
JesseReynolds

Page 5, #5: Why Whisenhunt was fired. Arizona decided to build from the outside in and now we are like a plastic surgery valley girl. Beautiful on the outside, empty on the inside.

carlburkhalter47
carlburkhalter47

Peter, why must you start every column with quotes from interviews you (and you alone -- oooh!) conducted immediately after a game?  The lead pages in your column aren't necessarily devoted to the prime stories of Sunday's games; it's as if the MMQB exclusive access is the determining factor.  

MVolzer
MVolzer

How about a jeer to Andrew Luck for that RIDICULOUS flop he took to draw a Roughing The Passer penalty on a Broncos lineman who barely even bumped into him. Manu Ginobli would have been too embarrassed to take a fall from that little contact. Don't try to sell me on it being a smart play or good gamesmanship, its bush league and cowardly. The NBA is handing out retroactive penalties for plays like that. I'd love to see the NFL set the example and hit Luck with a warning or fine to keep this sort of thing from becoming a trend.


Nathan16
Nathan16

Cardinals offensive line picks include a whopping 3 picks in the first 3 rounds. The o-line is 5 of the 22 starters (22.7%); add key non-starters like slot receiver, nickle back, and situational pass rusher and that's still 5 of the 25 most important players (20%). The Cards drafted half that many with only 3 of 30 possible top three draft picks. This trend improves throughout their draft picks with 13 of 70 (18.6%) possible draft picks before compensatory picks. However the lack of attention at the top of the draft is shocking. Compare that to their 7 defensive backs or 4 receivers taken in the top three rounds even through Boldin and then Fitz were already on the roster.

bayman
bayman

So, Sheldon Richardson isn't qualified to offer an opinion because he's only been playing real games for two months?  How many real games have you played, Peter?

gmartin711
gmartin711

Remind us please, how long have you been playing "real games"?  Or does your "real games" requirement apply only to actual NFL players and not to sportswriters?  Because if playing "real games" is a required qualification to have an opinion regarding NFL football, Sheldon Richardson is infinitely more qualified than you are.

Bottom line: that is some quality opinion, Pete.

maafla1
maafla1

What difference does it make how long Sheldon Richardson has been in the league?  He can see what is obvious even to a 10-year veteran, you can't breathe on Tom Brady without getting called for something.  Stop being a shill for the Patriots, Peter.  It's bad enough you shill for liberal politicians.

JamesAnthonyBryan
JamesAnthonyBryan

Big iffy calls? Both were correct calls. Timing may be iffy but refs are not supposed to take into account how much time is left when they make calls.

JamesAnthonyBryan
JamesAnthonyBryan

Jets win and you only have negative things to say? How about Rex outcoaching Belicheck for the second time this year?

beekay31
beekay31

For anyone who ever played baseball at a competitive level, McCarver is just annoyingly funny to listen to.

Mike N
Mike N

Classic Bum-

A reporter asked him why he took his wife on road trips and Bum said was too ugly to kiss good bye!

SteveLarone
SteveLarone

Coincidence is a funny thing. Jets are 4-3 but would be 2-5 without some big iffy calls that went thier way, on thier home field, on a year the giants are really bad, and on a year the SB is in NY. I really do think it is a coincidence (The jets did play well enough to win yesterday) but it will be interesting if they get any more "breaks"

boogah11
boogah11

So, Peter, YOU'RE the Tim McCarver fan???   If you actually enjoy this guy's ramblings (and they are truly ramblings in the way a 98 year-old grandpa rambles these days), then you must have truly enjoyed his "Cardboard Box" rant during game 5 of the ALCS where 'ol Timmy went ballistic over the fact that his birthday cake was delivered to the booth in....wait for it.....A CARDBOARD BOX!!!  http://www.sbnation.com/lookit/2013/10/16/4847134/tim-mccarver-birthday-cake-red-sox-tigers

DeeEmm1
DeeEmm1

It's not a huge surprise that there are more California Rams fans. This is where they're from, they should have never left. Plenty of folks out here in the LA area still wear the old Rams colors, it's like they know their team will come back someday.

unclebucsi
unclebucsi

I think everyone’s nuts for not liking Tim McCarver. I love listening to him. 

Wow.

CMFJ
CMFJ

"... the new boss not really caring about the narrative America had been obsessed with in the days before..."

The question I had leading up to the game: are people really as interested in this story as the sports media is?  I'm a Broncos fan and while it was a sort of interesting side story, it was fairly far down the list of what I wanted to read about the game.  Manning seemed embarrassed by the coverage and Luck clearly had no interest in the role the media had cast for him.  That didn't seem to really make any difference to the media, who plowed ahead and made inane proclamations before, during, and after the game.

One of my favorite moments was in a show earlier in the day when someone proclaimed that nothing like this - a beloved HOF caliber player that was not able to finish his career with his original team - had ever happened before.  He paused and then tried to sneak in a mention of Favre returning to Lambeau with the Vikings, clearly not wanting facts to get in the way of hyperbole.

Devilsreject97
Devilsreject97

@wavemkr Wait...what??? The Cowboys knocked out the starting QB for the Eagles = game over for anything at that point...

 Meanwhile the Colts defense beat the Broncos, a team that dropped 50+ on the Cowboys, and pretty much beat everybody else by double digits.... I'd say that's more impressive than a team getting beat without its #1 or #2 QB available..

cdizzle
cdizzle

@LittleOne4u I believe there's an email address to which you can address your feelings.  

Devilsreject97
Devilsreject97

@cfr LOL!

Yes, grabbing someone by the back of the pads and yanking down on them should be legal. You have no clue how harmful that is. That kind of tackle is what broke Terrell Owens ankle back when he was with the Eagles. Imagine me picking you up and just slamming you to the ground. That's what a horse collar tackle is like. If idiots want to wear their hair 2 feet long and sticking out of their helmets, it's legal to grab. When I played football, hair wasn't allowed to be outside the helmet. You either cut it or didn't play....

Devilsreject97
Devilsreject97

@MVolzer 

So a cheap hit on Andrew Luck shouldn't be penalized? The QB was no longer involved in the play, the ball was several yards down field, and the Broncos player knew the rules that a QB can no longer be hit at that point. The Broncos player was an IDIOT for even doing it. You want to get upset at Luck for the stupidity that a Broncos player showed? Hell, I'd wager Peyton would have flagged  his own player for that nonsense.....don't be so dense..

Mike26
Mike26

@MVolzer Why should he jeer Luck for doing something that Manning, Brady, etc. have been doing - and being rewarded for - their entire careers?  It's gamesmanship and he's just reaping the benefits that young players don't usually get in those situations.

unitcaptain11
unitcaptain11

@maafla1   Look up the definition of "liberal" in the dictionary.  You should be a liberal too.  Jesus and the founding fathers were 'liberals".


JamesAnthonyBryan
JamesAnthonyBryan

Big iffy calls? Both were correct calls. Timing may be iffy but refs are not supposed to take into account how much time is left when they make calls.

BillAbendroth
BillAbendroth

@DeeEmm1 Yeah.  The Rams will go back to LA, right after the Giants go back to New York.

DeeEmm1
DeeEmm1

@unclebucsi he's awful now. he used to be a great color guy that knew the stats, but the game passed him by years ago.

beekay31
beekay31

@CMFJ It's called lazy journalism.  Attempt to fabricate and steer a story so you can write what you want to instead of covering what is actually occurring.

rskins09
rskins09

@CMFJ    With all the unnecessary hype I thought it was  The Academy Awards II ...

CrystalWeeks
CrystalWeeks

@unitcaptain11 @maafla1 Actually, the founding fathers fought against unreasonable taxes which by today's standards would make them definitely NOT liberal.

SteveLarone
SteveLarone

Actually I thought the Raiders got jobbed. I also thought the Saints got jobbed last week, and yes, I think the Pats got jobbed this week.

humdrumdrumhumming
humdrumdrumhumming

@Supernaut @DeeEmm1

Yeah, because there's just so many Cleveland Rams fans overwhelming the website from their old folks homes, while polishing their WWII purple hearts, just to skew the numbers.



Team history


Jon8
Jon8

@DeeEmm1 @unclebucsi 

How did the game pass him by exactly?

Did the rules change and he failed to keep up?

Did the way the game is played change, somehow?

Did he become unable to see the field?

Did he become unable to express his thoughts?

BTW, I am not a McCarver fan, I am a Vin Scully fan, but I do not see how the game passed McCarver by!!

Jon8
Jon8

@rskins09 @CMFJ 

That little poison dwarf Costas was so obviously unhappy, at the post game, that he could not read from his script!

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