Picture it: Patriots are down with less than a minute left, and Tom Brady has a full slate of timeouts. We all know the drill -- the Pats march right down the field, score a touchdown on the final play and go home all happy to their supermodel wives and eat caviar off of those awkwardly tiny spoons.
But not so fast there, sparky.
Things sure looked like they were heading that way Monday night, when New England marched down the field, down 20-24 to Carolina. Brady took a shot in the endzone on the final play for Rob Gronkowski. The Panthers intercepted the throw, but hold on -- there's a flag! Eye roll. We all know this is on Carolina. And the replay shows Gronkowski certainly looked like he was being held. It should have been a penalty on Carolina, and since the game cannot end on a defensive penalty, Brady and company should have had one last shot at it. However, for some inexplicable reason, officials picked up the flag and signaled the end of the game. Brady and coach Bill Belichick were left scratching their heads.
Later, the explanation given was this: the ball was thrown short of the receiver, and therefore was not catchable, so there could not be pass interference. One might argue that the ball was not catchable because Gronkowski was being held, thereby inhibiting him from reaching the spot he needed to be to receive Brady's pass. On the other hand, I find it difficult to have sympathy for the Pats, who always seemed to get the benefit of all the calls in the years past. It's just the universe's way of balancing things out.
And if you go back to my column from two weeks ago and scroll down to the last bullet, you'll see a little ditty I wrote concerning Bill Belichick and karma. Belichick appeared to have run up the score on the Steelers, thus leading me to wax philosophic that at some point, bad karma would come back and bite him and his team. Sigh. It's tough being right all the time, but I suppose it's a burden I must bear.
In other news, the home crowd in Philadelphia finally had something to be less surly about (because we all know Eagles fans are never happy). For the first time since Sept. 30, 2012, the Eagles won a home game. Couches burned in the parking lot in celebration! No? Oh, that's just Morgantown, I guess.
And maybe there was couch-burning in Tampa, as the Bucs managed their second win in two weeks. Winning streak! I actually find it amazing that since big bully Greg Schiano told his team a few weeks ago they were "stuck with him," the team didn't quit on him but instead strung together two wins. Perhaps the winning takes some of the sting out of seeing Schiano's face on the sidelines each week, but I have to believe he's out of Tampa by season's end.
Also this weekend:
-- The stars by night, are whiny and fight. . . deep in the heart of Texas!
Texans star receiver Andre Johnson reached his boiling point on Sunday, blowing up on the sideline at quarterback Matt Schaub and walking off the field before the final seconds ticked off the clock. Johnson was supposedly upset because Schaub failed to get him the football in key moments at the game's end. Both players dismissed the argument, saying it was just out of frustration. Johnson's post game comments, however, were anything but reassuring when he said, "I have to play my contract out." It's quite odd to hear any type of grumbling from the 11-year veteran, but this doesn't sound very promising for the Texans. However, they have bigger issues at hand besides squabbling teammates. The Texans started 2-0 and many pegged them as a Super Bowl contender. Since then, injuries have taken out many key players and Houston has lost 8 games in a row. Next year, the team might be looking at a complete overhaul of the offense and defense.
-- This is tackle football, right?
A roughing the passer penalty on Ahmad Brooks of San Francisco negated a turnover and that would have given the 49ers the football at mid-field with a 3-point lead and 3 minutes left. Instead of a sure victory by the 49ers, the Saints continued to drive and scored a touchdown, winning an important game and sending the 49ers to 6-4 and somewhere in playoff no-man's-land. Brooks was called for the penalty because as he tackled Brees to the ground, his arm came up across Brees' neck. At full speed, it looked vicious. In slow-motion replay, it looked like Brooks' arm hit the top of Brees' chest around his collar bone. It looked inadvertent, but nonetheless, it was a penalty. While I get that plays like this will get a roughing call pretty much every time, it seems like it's getting to the point where players can't even breathe in the general direction of the quarterback without getting called for something. I understand everyone wants to protect the quarterback, and head shots should absolutely draw a flag every time.
However, you can't go at a player's knees, and if you don't hit him in that small window right in their chest, the officials throw a flag. That's an awfully tough task to ask a player, who is going at game speed and simply wants to make a play.
Brooks said his hit was more like a "bear hug" and as he drove Brees to the ground, his arm came up around his neck. At this point, players should just pretty much avoid going within five feet of the quarterback, lest it be mistaken for aggression and result in a penalty. I'm waiting for the day when sacking the quarterback becomes ancient history and at that point, they should just put a robot in the back field to hand off the football. Way to go, No Fun League.
-- I hate to break this to him, but "Ocho Cinco" is NOT how you say 85 in Spanish.
As if he hadn't learned enough from the failings of Chad Johnson after he changed his name to Chad Ocho Cinco, but then changed it back to Chad Johnson, 49ers safety Donte Whitner made a proposal last summer to legally change his last name to "Hitner."
He thought this was a great idea because he'd had some big game hits and perhaps thought he could strike fear into his opponents with such a menacing last name. However, Whitner, who is from Cleveland, recently withdrew his application to change his name until after the season because the Ohio judge would not allow the change without him being present.
Hopefully during the remainder of the season, Whitner will reconsider. Chad Johnson was unstoppable at receiver until he made the dreadful decision to change his name. And then he stunk up the field worse than a day-old dead skunk.
I suppose, however, that simply dropping the "W" in your last name isn't as huge a jump as NBA player Ron Artest took when he legally changed his name to Metta World Peace.
I'm not sure what's worse -- having a moniker like "Metta World Peace" or the suggestion my husband made to name any future child "Hope Love Peace Hershberger."
The biggest game on the schedule for week 12 is the Broncos visiting the Patriots on Sunday night. For most of his career, Brady has gotten the best of "He-who-must-not-be-named", although that was when the unmentionable QB played for the Colts. This game promises to be entertaining -- how will the Pats respond after losing to a tough Carolina team? And after knocking off the last remaining unbeaten team (Kansas City), the Broncos look to position themselves for home field throughout the playoffs.
Also this weekend, the last of the byes finish up with Buffalo, Cincinnati, Philadelphia and Seattle getting the week off. And finally, the battle of the Hershberger house will commence as the Browns and Steelers face off. One of us will be awfully cranky come 4:30 p.m., and it better not be me!
Until next week, hope, love and peace -- and enjoy the games, my friends!