The idea that Johnson is some sort of cyborg is not my own. Robert Mays of the Ringer proposed the idea back in October in an article examining the league’s best young running backs. The notion has been stuck in my mind ever since.
He never seems to show emotion on the field and he just handles business like a grizzled vet. But he is just a kid that has had all of the praise in the world thrown at him by fans, analysts, and coaches. He single handily won thousands of fantasy football championships (And lost some, but don’t have your championship in week 17, that is just ridiculous). He makes jump cuts small backs struggle with and runs receiver routes that big backs like LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi can only dream about.
The NFL’s ratings are down. We have heard excuses from the league about why that is, and they don’t pass the smell test. Blaming the election was convenient, but it didn’t make sense. It is not the first time the league has experienced an election and turnout in this election was 14 million people less than it was in 2008. The rarely televised protests of a handful of players are not the real reason either. The fundamental flaw that the NFL fails to address is that the NFL front office itself is spoiling the game.
What makes football fun is the speed of the players, the creativeness of the offenses, and defenses that are more sophisticated than ever. It is not the actual play that is hurting the league; it is the rules and the application of those standards.
I don’t try to hide the fact that I am a Cardinals fan, so forgive me for focusing on the calls that I saw during those games in real time.
Let’s start with the call that got me the most upset. The missed leverage call against the Seattle Seahawks. Blandino takes the opportunity to point out the officials got it right on the first time that Bobby Wagner jumps over the center and blocks an Arizona kick. But, he fails to address the second attempt that Jay Feely considered leverage.
In this tweet, Blandino does explain that you can’t use your hands or feet for leverage:
— Dean Blandino (@DeanBlandino) November 14, 2016
But he does not do one of his thorough example videos to talk about this.
— Richard Harmon (@RichardHarmon23) October 24, 2016
Wagner is using his hands to keep his balance, as the guard from the Cardinals tries to knock him to the ground. Jay Feely believes that is the exact type of leverage that the rule is trying to prevent.
When is a player defenseless?
Against the Minnesota Vikings, the Cardinals got called for three personal fouls on a single drive. A drive that ended up with points for the Vikings.
A hit below the knees on Sam Bradford in the pocket was the first call. A properly made call. The second call was against Patrick Peterson for pushing Sam Bradford to the ground while he was away from the play. ESPN wrote that the penalty is at the discretion of the officials if the player is away from the play and not expecting contact. The problem with that explanation is two-fold.
- Bradford was lined up at receiver and should be expecting contact.
- Earlier in the game Bradford did get the ball thrown to him, while he was lined up at receiver. He then threw the ball to the end zone for a critical pass interference call that led to a Viking touchdown. To not defend against this play a second time would have been insane.
No explanation was given by the league; just their mouth piece ESPN as a sub point to an article about two point conversions.
Then the hit on Diggs
Stephon Diggs was able to catch a pass in front of Patrick Peterson, but while going to the ground and fighting for more yards, he was hit hard by the safety. Tony Jefferson came in fast, and Diggs dropped his head as contact arrived. I would understand a personal foul call despite the fact that Diggs lowered his head; if he was indeed defenseless. But he had taken multiple steps and was fighting for yards, which means he had become a runner. That was the final penalty on that drive, and it put the Vikings into field goal range.
The QBs fumbling
We have to dive deep on this next set of calls, so stick with me. In the Texans vs. Broncos game, there was a fumble called on the field. Brock Osweiler who was untouched lost control of the ball as he tried to throw it and they called it an empty hand going forward. After review, they stayed with the call saying there was not enough to change the call.
Rule is hand coming forward w/complete control 2 be pass. It starts 2 come loose just as hand comes forward. Not enough 2 change. #HOUvsDEN
— Dean Blandino (@DeanBlandino) October 25, 2016
Then you go to the Cardinals game. The Cardinals have a play that Carson Palmer is wrapped up and throws the ball forward. The ruling on the field is a fumble and returned for a touchdown. Overturning the call was evident to everyone watching, including the announcers. It was not. Dean Blandino confirmed to Bruce Arians at halftime that the replay system had a glitch and that it should have corrected to an incomplete pass. I don’t have a tweet from Blandino on this because he only shows up if he is explaining why the call was right. Seems NFL Reddit agrees with me also.
— NFL on Reddit (@NFLonReddit) November 5, 2016
Finally the non-fumble call in the Eagles game. In both of the previous cases that we covered, the officials called the play a turnover and let the review process sort it out. In one instance it worked, in the second it failed miserably, but I understand the reason. However, in the Eagles game, it was called an incomplete pass. This change in the theory of letting replay sort it out was a deviation from what we have come to expect in the replay era. The play looks exactly like the Osweiler fumble, but because the call on the field is different, the call stands as an incompletion. Two situations that are the same, with two separate results.
What does it mean?
Dean Blandino is not a leader. He hides behind his twitter account and controlled segments on ESPN. He does not answer the tough questions, only the ones that he can expertly narrate to fit why his officials are great. Blandino is just another example of the failings of Rodger Goodell. We have watered down the rules to lowest common denominator, and it is making the product hard to watch.
Here is a super professional response to a fan. Blandino has to go.
— Dean Blandino (@DeanBlandino) November 20, 2016
Editor’s note: This does not even include the Seattle debacle. This could be another article just on that situation alone.
The better team traveling across the country, to face a 1-5 team in the early game is usually considered a trap. For the Arizona Cardinals, it is anything but that. The Carolina Panthers have ended the Cardinals’ season each of the last two years and they certainly remember how last December ended.
Three Key Matchups
I wrote an article covering some of the key matchups at Last Word on Sports that you can check out here.
Not included in the article is the Panthers’ quarterback. Cam Newton is a threat any time he is on the field. Going all the way back to his very first start in the NFL, he threw for 425 yards in a loss to the Cardinals. His daunting size makes him extremely difficult to defend and the Cardinals defense will have their work cut out for them. If Newton is unable to run the ball as effectively has he has in the past, because of his recent concussions it will help Arizona tremendously.
There is no shame in losing to a very good football team and the Panthers are still that. It is another big game in a brutal stretch for the Cardinals that they will need to prove they are still a contender. I still believe in this team and I am sure that each of the leaders in that locker room does too.
The Cardinals had a dreadful start to their season. Only 14% of teams to start 1-3 have made the playoffs and the Cardinals hope to join that select few.
Their win over a very bad 49ers team with back up QB Drew Stanton helped a lot. Pulling them one game away from being .500 on the season and giving them a win in the division was huge.
Importantly, Carson Palmer will be back for the Monday night showdown against the NY Jets. Todd Bowles knows a lot bout this team, but the Cards also know Bowles. This game could go either way. A defensive struggle that tests the Cardinals ability to close, or with extra rest this week the Cardinals could run through the Jets easily. Either way it is hard not to see an Arizona victory.
This will still be a big test for Palmer who has played below the standard he set for himself in 2015. Is time to bury those expectations created last year or can he prove it was just a slow start? Cardinals fans are hopeful for the later and fearful of the former.
I am in the Dominican Republic for the Monday game, so this will be my last post for the week, but I expect a big win. I am hopeful that I will get to make a fool of myself cheering for the Cards in front of some new friends.