Keeping the Passers Protected

Ahmad Brooks' penalty on a late Drew Brees sack negated what would have likely been a game-winning play. (Dave Martin/AP)
Ahmad Brooks’ penalty on a late Drew Brees sack negated what would have likely been a game-winning play. (Dave Martin/AP)

And now, the rest of the story.

Three quick takes from the day:

1. Tony Corrente got the call right in New Orleans. With 3:18 left and San Francisco up by three in a crucial game between the Niners and Saints, linebacker Ahmad Brooks sacked Drew Brees and forced a fumble, which the Niners recovered. The problem was the sack, and the mechanics of it. Brooks clotheslined Brees on a hit that started above the sternum and finished with him forcibly sending Brees to the ground by contacting the neck with his forearm. Corrente called a personal foul on Brooks, gave the ball back to New Orleans, and the Saints went on to win with two Garrett Hartley field goals in the final three minutes. Emotional call, obviously, one that hurt the Niners grievously. But if you’ve seen nothing else in this league over the past three years, you’ve seen that officials are charged with protecting the quarterback above all others. And Corrente was protecting the quarterback. He did it wisely. Brees was tossed to the ground because of a forearm that finished on his neck. I thought the call was obvious.

2. Ozzie Newsome rested in Chicago overnight after falling ill at the Ravens-Bears game. Late in the Ravens’ loss at Chicago, Newsome, sitting in the second row of the press box at Soldier Field, felt ill and was transported to a hospital. “Ozzie Newsome did not feel well after today’s game, and a team doctor recommended that Ozzie not fly tonight,” a team statement said. It’s not thought to be a serious situation. I saw him before the game, and we spoke, and he seemed perfectly fine.

3. Washington tackle Trent Williams made a serious accusation against game umpire Roy Ellison. During the Philly-Washington game, Williams said Ellison called him a “garbage a–, disrespectful motherf–ker.” The league said it would investigate. That’s a stunning charge, and reporters in the Washington locker room afterward say other players backed up Williams’ account. There is some unpleasant byplay between players and officials during every game, but to say that what Williams is alleging has no place in the game would be an understatement.

* * *

The most important game in the NFC this year.

That would be 14 nights from now: Seattle—coming off its bye, plus an extra day off after its bye—playing host to New Orleans, which also will have some extra time off. The Saints play Thursday this week, then have the mini-bye before this game.

It’s certainly possible that Carolina could go 3-0 against the Patriots and Saints in the next six weeks. If the Panthers do, they’ll be in the chase for home-field. But for now, let’s assume Seattle and New Orleans are the top two prospects, particularly after losses by Detroit and San Francisco (to the Saints) Sunday. How important is home-field advantage in the NFC? Let’s examine the two prime contenders for the No. 1 seed—Seattle (10-1) and New Orleans (8-2)—over recent games. (I’m going to use New Orleans’ stats for this year only, because the absence of Sean Payton and the bounty scandal skews the 2012 numbers. But I’ll use 2012 and 2013 for Seattle, because the team has been basically the same for two seasons, without any football tornadoes ravaging the win-loss record.)

Team Venue Record Average Margin of Victory
Saints Home 6-0 17.3
Saints Road 2-2 0.25
Seahawks Home 13-0 17.9
Seahawks Road 8-6 4.3

One other point to make here. It’s about the quarterbacks—Drew Brees of the Saints in 2013, Russell Wilson of the Seahawks in the last two years. The dichotomy between home and road is marked. Wilson’s home/road rating: 117.0/92.4. Brees’ home-road rating this year: 121.2/84.6.

Seattle could win at New Orleans. New Orleans could win at Seattle. But the edge for the home teams in their noisy venues is so big that it will be a major factor in January.

* * *

(Sharon Ellman/AP)
Sam Hurd was sentenced to 15 years for drug trafficking last week. (Sharon Ellman/AP)

Beneath the surface in the Sam Hurd case.

I highly recommend the superbly reported Michael McKnight story on our site detailing the long, winding and drug-addled road that led Sam Hurd to a 15-year prison sentence last week. But McKnight, who worked on this story for 22 months, raised another point that’s more significant to today’s NFL, and that’s the recreational use of marijuana.

First, the rules: By NFL bylaws, all players are tested for recreational drugs once a year, sometime in a 16-week period between April 20 and Aug. 9. If a player tests positive in that solitary test, he is eligible to be tested at random after that. If he is clean, he can do recreational drugs, such as marijuana, without fear of the league as long as he doesn’t exhibit any aberrant behavior or get caught publicly (as with Dwayne Bowe last week). So the vast majority of NFL players are able, as long as they behave, to smoke marijuana at will after the spring/summer test. And reading the McKnight story, the overwhelming impression was Hurd was a mass user of pot—and he had friends in the league whom he supplied.

Three questions with McKnight about his story, and his impression of the pot culture in the league:

Me: Are there more Sam Hurds in the NFL, and if so how many?

Happy, and Forlorn

How did Sam Hurd react to receiving 15 years in prison for drug trafficking? Michael McKnight has details from inside the court room at Hurd's sentencing. FULL STORY

McKnight: I think there are more Sam Hurds in the NFL. I don’t think there are more athletes who are dipping their toes in the world of cocaine trafficking, but in terms of guys who somehow procure large amounts of weed and give it to teammates … I would estimate there are between five and 10 other players like that. Meaning five to 10 other NFL locker rooms have a guy in the room who … if marijuana is your deal, you find out within the first month or so that That guy in that locker over there, that’s the guy you want to go to.

And moreover, people in that circle don’t think they’re doing anything wrong. The feeling is that a great number of those teammates need it. Whatever players need to get themselves right for Sunday, you do it. Whether it’s prescription drugs or whether it’s a sex addiction or whether it’s five hours of massage therapy on Friday … whatever it is to get yourself ready for kickoff Sunday, you do it. And there’s not many questions asked on what that is. You just do it. So that’s how these guys look at marijuana. It’s a support system for the life of an NFL player, or at least a handful of NFL players, who manage pain, relieve stress and kind of get high and smoke with their friends at one of their buddies’ places after practice just to kind of wind down. It’s a stressful world they live in. That doesn’t necessarily condone that behavior, but it does help us understand it a little better.

Me: So you believe marijuana basically is a pain-killer for players?

McKnight: A lot of players suggest that marijuana is one way to heal their bodies and help them become more like the people we’re surrounded by in public life every day. It’s just a starkly different world than you and I live in.

Me: Why did Sam Hurd do it?

McKnight: There’s the $64,000 question. I would hope the story lays that out a little bit better than I can explain it to you. But it was a swirl of agendas and misinformation, misunderstanding. It was a guy who frankly allowed his head to get screwed on wrong. He allowed his addiction—what I think was more of a psychological addiction to marijuana than a physical addiction—to just cloud everything. Pardon the pun. But he had a need for large quantity of marijuana. It fueled his every day. His craving for marijuana overrode many systems in his psyche telling him Hold on, don’t do this. The evidence suggests that. The 19 hours I spent interviewing Sam Hurd in a federal detention center suggests that.

PREV 1 2 3 4 5NEXT VIEW AS A SINGLE PAGE
More from The MMQB
377 comments
BenderIrish
BenderIrish

Hey King, nice comments about the Colts. You do know they have had a terrible run of injuries and still win! Oh, by the way they've also beaten your #1, 2 and 8 of your top ten! Shut up!

Gs1
Gs1

Typical corrupt journalist. How about showing the picture the instant Brooks hit Brees? The split second before Brees subsequently started to duck. Not as clear as you say it is. An ethical journalist would have shown the sequence of photos & let the people make up their own mind. Even better yet, how about putting the pictures side by side with the more obvious clothesline on Kaepernick and contrast why one got called but not the other? Good thing you don't cover politics or the real news.

miltonmarkowitz
miltonmarkowitz

Dear Pete,

Talk about the Steeler prison attire. They did that twice last year. You would think the Rooneys would have learned a lesson and acquiesced to the Steeler Nation and burned the uniforms but there was too much retail inventory leftover and they refuse to take the markdowns. Hope we don't have to suffer another embarrassment next year and be subject to more public ridicule

son of lee
son of lee

the refs were so biased during the saints/niners game. from greer's hang gliding act when he basically hung onto the WR in mid air (injuring his knee as he came down), to vernon getting held in the endzone, to jed collins late hit on brown and kaepernick getting sacked by his neck. all of those calls were plain to the half-sleeping fan watching the game. if the refs called one of those plays...we may have a different outcome, but instead the only close call they choose is the game-defining penalty on brooks forced fumble.

son of lee
son of lee

what did you think about the sack on Kaepernick by HIS NECK? nobody is mentioning the back injury to tarrell brown caused by jed collin's diving-knee to his back sooo late after the tackle had been made. That absolutely should have been flagged, and should have pushed them back. Instead, they get a 1 yard TD plunge the next play.

gregc
gregc

You can repeat a lie all you want but that won't make it true. Brooks hit on Bree's was legal and it was wrong to reverse the play. That bad call took a sure win for the 49ers and turned it into a loss.

The refs got it wrong and Peter King is wrong too.

workinOvatime
workinOvatime

Can we please stop with the kaikus? It's like watching your dad say "hey dawg, how's it hangin??." It's embarrassing. 

EP1
EP1

I like how, now that he is winning, Cam Newton has seemingly matured and has grown since his days of sulking and being a bad leader (when he was losing). Just like how it was reported that Dez Bryant has matured because he bout PS4's for 4 people at walmart. ha... those are sure signs of maturity I tell you what! I hope the Panthers continue to play well, I really do. But lets see how mature Cam is when they either dont make the playoffs or they lose in them.

seamillguesthouse
seamillguesthouse

Again Peter King is full of himself saying that  the Drew Brees  call was THE RIGHT CALL. .../.CASE CLOSED .

Looks like a lot of former players disagree including quarterback Steve Young. 

Dolphins1972
Dolphins1972

beat Miami on a Thursday night. NO. The game was on monday. Glad that your beloved Patriots didn't have the refs on their side for the first time

Serena
Serena

So wait a second defenders can't tackle QB's around the knees, can't tackle them around the head and now according to Peter can't tackle them across the chest? 

Why not just red shirt them and make any contact with them whatsoever punishable by a 3 game suspension, that is what it is coming too if Peter thinks that the Brees sack was a justifiable penalty  

Drake59
Drake59

King claims that Brooks tackle was an "obvious" call .  His gross error of what is a penalty and what is not has been washed away with too many fancy buffets and a no host bars. That in no way was a penalty. Not even in this pathetic watered down version of NFL football. Tell Joe Montna and Kenny Stabler, Steve Young Roman Gabriel that is a penalty.. really a sickening call .. gutless and wrong.

mikep435
mikep435

i thoroughly enjoy peter king's columns but i frequently disagree with his opinions. I watched that sack of drew brees several times and it looked like brooks'  arm was on brews' collar bone. as a fan of good tough defense it seems to me that the rules are totally unbalanced in favor of the offense.

OK
OK

Goodell's Chief Spin Doctor: Patriots 20, Panthers 16

"With Shane Vereen’s return adding to the weaponry, I like Tom Brady to outplay Cam Newton, who has posted a couple stinkers in a row (56.5 completion percentage, one touchdown, three interceptions)."

The Game's Actual Result: Panthers 24, Patriots 20

Final Play: The White Quarterback throws the game's only interception in the Panthers' end zone. 

The White Quarterback, after starting 23 for 26, finished 6 for 14 with the game's only pick.

Passing Stats

Cam Newton

19 for 28, 209, 3 TD, 0 INT

The White Quarterback

29 for 40, 296, 1 TD, 1 CHOKE INT

Which Patriots will Goodell's Chief Spin Doctor blame for the loss?

The offensive line, for not protecting The White Quarterback?

The receivers, for not catching each of The White Quarterback's passes?

The running backs, for not gaining the necessary ground yardage to take the pressure off The White Quarterback?

The defense, for allowing the non-white quarterback to throw his third touchdown pass of the night with less than a minute left in the game?

The Patriots coaching staff, for failing to develop a proper plan for The White Quarterback?

Just who will Goodell's Chief Spin Doctor blame to defend The White Quarterback?

Sdwalt
Sdwalt

Lots of SF fans upset, if your team would have played better, you would have won.

djbake6798
djbake6798

As a Niner I understand the call (they way over protect the qb- especially superstars)- but what gets me is Brees didnt see Brooks coming and actually stepped towards Brooks and ducked (changing the target). I know it's a bang bang play and it was high and it was very violent- but it's football.

WillWillis1
WillWillis1

I'm unclear on why you have a section for Special Teams Player of the Week. Don't you and the other Hall of Fame voters teach us every year that there isn't a place in the game for special teams? 

NeedARealGM
NeedARealGM

"With 3:18 left and San Francisco up by three in a crucial game between the Niners and Saints, linebacker Ahmad Brooks sacked Drew Brees and forced a fumble, which the Niners recovered. The problem was the sack, and the mechanics of it"....and that, my friends, is why the NFL will never again be the great game it once was....like it or not, agree or not, the NFL as we know it is over. 

Mulva
Mulva

I disagree with the Ahmad Brooks call and Peter King's description of it. 

 Sure, a "clothesline" to the neck sounds like a personal foul, but it wasn't "clothesline". Brooks had his arm out to hit and WRAP UP Brees. He didn't propel himself or use his helmet as a weapon. He used the "heads up" method to try and wrap him up with his arm while his helmet/shoulde rpads were not used as a weapon.

I thought it was a bad call in real time, on replay and I still do even with PK's biased account.

And I'm a Broncos fan so no dog in the NFC fight...

KirkNewsted
KirkNewsted

I agree on the Ahmad Brooks call, but the niners should have kept the ball.  The penalty shouldn't affect possession.

KirkNewsted
KirkNewsted

"The more the NFL can hark back to a simpler day, a muddier day, the better."

But play a Superbowl outdoors in New York?  Never, says Peter King.  Hypocrite.

RomarioDelLago
RomarioDelLago

Had to to just laugh at Drew Brees sheer arrogance to act like he has a right (at all) to have some sort of "chip" on his shoulder over the NFL sanctions of his cheating team, the Saints.  Here's a chip for you, Brees, you whiner, YOUR TEAM CHEATED and got busted.  Stop whining, stop acting like you were the victim and play football fairly and honorably.


Pathetic cheaters. 

PWINGS
PWINGS

"....Week 11 made it clear again: The QB is sacred!"

Incorrect. The QB is NOT sacred. However, the ratings and TV revenues ARE sacred. Evidence: What were the TV ratings for Packer games before the Aaron Rodgers injury? What are they now? What were the TV ratings for Patriots games before the Tom Brady injury in 2009? What were they after? The NFL's protectiveness of the QB's is nothing more than protecting the "goose that lid the golden egg". Fans watch games to watch TD passes being scored. Fewer TD passes = lower ratings = reduced advertising revenue. This is the same reasoning behind tightening the rules protecting WR's downfield and limiting contact by DB's in pass coverage. Please don't confuse concerns over TV revenue with concerns over players health. They're not the same thing. They're not even close!

Jon8
Jon8

As I have said for many weeks, the Jets are overrated! I also believe the Panthers are overrated!

The Redskins and the Falcons need an off-season, top-to-bottom-overhaull!!

DavidMManzi
DavidMManzi

Doesn't anyone realize where the Steelers got their throwback uniforms? They stole them from the Three Stooges who wore them in the episode "Three Little Pigskins." But the Stooges wore them better. No contest.

SemperFiDTM
SemperFiDTM

You kill two flies, yet "relocate" a ladybug? Thats textbook speciesism Peter. For shame.

GustavoRodriguez
GustavoRodriguez

How in the world umpire Corrente saved  or protected Brees AFTER the bam-bam play was over?

Does the league think that kind of penalties will be preventing those kind of plays from happeningin?


rickberk
rickberk

Peter, you were in Grand Rapids and went to Ruby Tuesdays looking for local beer?  That's weak.  Should have gone to HopCats.  50 local craft brews on tap. You'd have been in heaven.

sedeibel
sedeibel

You find irony in the '10 things' section. See 1i where he says Colston is "terminally underrated" yet omits him from 1d. where he's talking about the great receivers. I'm thinking...he's underrated because of people like you Peter!! Not a media darling = underrated.

ReddickHarris
ReddickHarris

Mr. King, I read and enjoy your column all the time, whether or not I agree with you, which I do most of the time. I enjoyed your paen to Bailey and I shared your sorrow. I have shared my life with four rescue dogs, two of whom I have had to put down. I stayed with them until the very end and held them in my arms as they took their last breaths. Each one was/is different and brought so much pleasure to our lives.Thank you for sharing Bailey with us.

There is another rescue dog wanting for you.

I am a supporter of the Beagle Freedom project. You should check into it.

Thank you.

Reddick Harris


stianv83
stianv83

@Serena Look closely at Brooks' shoulder and where it is. In case you don't know your anatomy, the neck starts at the shoulders, and go up to the jaw.

mjhellund
mjhellund

@Serena Check your glasses and take another look at the photograph, ma'am.

Goon
Goon

@OK I'm sure you hear this a lot, but you're an idiot. 

JPG
JPG

@OK "The White Quarterback" - ?

Can we please keep racism out of the story.

Please.

Gs1
Gs1

@Mulva King also fails to mention the more obvious clothesline on Kaepernick that wasn't called. That was a true clothesline.


MatthewWayneWilson
MatthewWayneWilson

I think the Ninerz should be investigated for cheating after your coach praised a player for a hit on the QB that was deemed illegal. What's the difference between that and paying a player a few bucks for an illegal hit?

kingma183
kingma183

@RomarioDelLago  It is amazing how ignorant you are!! The Saints were not santioned for cheating.  Drew Brees is a man of incredibly high character, all he does is give back to his community, and last time I checked there is no report whatsoever of Drew not playing football "fairly and honorably".  Being upset about a call is one thing, but you have no right to make false accusations and act like you know the least bit of what you are talking about!

Jerkzilla
Jerkzilla

@Jon8 Jets aren't over rated, everyone thought they would suck this year.  They have played over their heads at times and played their way out of the top 5 draft pick they deserve.

cozmikrebl
cozmikrebl

@SemperFiDTM  To be fair though flies are hard to relocate unless you have a lot of time and patience. Sadly they are on my 'kill list' as well. Brown reclusive spiders residing on the ceiling on the other hand, those are fun to do battle with while trying to capture/release.

George
George

@rickberk True that

but then king wouldn't have been able to savor their healthy and super nutritious deep-fried four-way sampler.

Gotta' keep up that pk no-neck look, ya' know!

:D

Serena
Serena

@mjhellund Look where initial contact is made, what do you want the defender to do let Brees go when Brees' knees collapse?

OK
OK

@JPG

Only if your willing to overlook the blatant racism that is The NFL's Chief Spin Doctor at SI.

SportPage
SportPage

@kingma183 @RomarioDelLago Drew Brees lost any right to call himself  "a man of incredibly high character" when he first claimed there was no such thing as bounties in the Saints locker room, and then afterward claimed he knew nothing about it.

Jon8
Jon8

@Jerkzilla @Jon8 

If the Jets do not make the Playoffs, and I believe they will not, then they have flopped and Ryan should be fired!

kingma183
kingma183

@SportPage @RomarioDelLago and by the way obviously he would claim there was no such thing as bounties in the locker room if he claimed he knew nothing about it.  The only question is weather or not he was lying about it.  And I'm guessing you have no evidence suggesting he was

Newsletter