It’s really too bad that what should have been such a great game – a one point decision decided as time expired in a rematch of the previous season’s conference championship – was instead clouded in controversy. As fans we should be gushing over the gritty performance of Torrey Smith, who lost his brother in a motorcycle the previous day but persevered and finished with six catches for 127 yards and two touchdowns. We should be talking about the return of Wes Welker (8 receptions for 142 yards, including a 59-yard out and up) or Brandon Lloyd‘s breakout game (9 receptions for 108 yards) as a New England Patriot. Even discussion about the Patriots having a losing record for the first time since the They Hate Their Coach game in 2003 is lacking. Sadly the overwhelming topic of conversation is about the officiating and the replacement referees.

 

Until now I have not considered the usage of replacement referees to have been as big a deal as others have; I figured that just like poor weather, it’s the same for both teams. But it is becoming obvious in not just this game but in others as well that the replacement refs are in way over their head. Teams are figuring that out and bullying them into actions that should not be made: case in point, the measurement on 4th and one. A team has a right to ask for a measurement, but the refs are under no obligation to bring the chains out. The end result was essentially a free timeout for Baltimore to decide what they wanted to do. It’s happening elsewhere too; NFL rules require a team to have a timeout remaining to challenge a play because if the call is not overturned you lose a timeout. Yesterday the 49ers were allowed to challenge calls with no timeouts remaining not once, but twice.

 

Sunday night’s officiating was incredibly inconsistent. There were several phantom calls that were made, and several blatant penalties that should have been made flagged but were not. The refs lost control of the game early in the first quarter and tings spiraled out of control from there. After a call went against the Ravens the crowd erupted into a very audible Bull$hit cheer, which surely got the notice of not only the NFL, but also executives at NBC and the FCC. After that it seemed to me as if the refs were intimidated by the crowd and the home team’s bench. From there on crucial calls went the Ravens way, allowing their drives to continue. Yes, calls were made on both teams – but the vital, important calls seemed to go only one way at the end. Home field advantage had taken on a whole new meaning.

 

Then there was the final play of the game. My first reaction (sorry FSU fans) was Wide Right! I watched the replay and thought that yeah, it may have just slipped inside the right goal post. Now today I see this play from another angle, and think they may have missed that call.

 

Which leads to the media and fans of other teams debating whether Bill Belichick should be drawn and quartered or burned at the stake in these faux debate sports gossip shows. It was loud. He grabbed his arm trying to get his attention. Gimme a break … give him a nominal fine and let’s move on.

 

 

If you’re interested in re-watching the Pats-Ravens game but neglected to record it, the NFL Network will be replaying the game Wednesday night at 9:00 p.m. ET.

 

 

Tonight on Monday Night Football the Green Bay Packers travel to the loudest stadium in the NFL, Qwest Field, to play Seattle. Not that their crowd needs any extra motivation, but do you think Seahawk fans watched last night’s game and took note of how the crowd in Baltimore was able to intimidate the replacement refs and influence the calls being made – and therefore the outcome of the game? I’ll be curious to watch tonight’s game and see if when the replacements lose control.

 

 

Without the benefit of having replayed the game yet, a few thoughts on Sunday Night’s game, other than the officiating.

– I was again underwhelmed by Rob Ninkovich. I watched him specifically on several plays to see if the recent criticism heaped upon him is warranted. I didn’t see any egregious errors, but I didn’t see him wain any of his one-on-one battles – at all. Maybe he just needs more time to transition from 3-4 OLB to 4-3 LDE. Or maybe the Pats need to think about someone like Trevor Scott, Jermaine Cunningham, or … yes, I’m ready to go there: Andre Carter.

– Yes, Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington did have a couple bad plays – but at first glance overall I thought they played okay. Their situation is sort of the opposite of Ninkovich’s; they’re better most of the time, but they get more notice because of a couple of plays – and because of the position they play.

– 34 running plays for 77 yards isn’t going to cut it. I know the ravens have a very good defense, but 2.3 yards per carry is bad – even if you remove the runs for negative yardage (-22 yards).

– I wouldn’t pin all that on the running backs though. Nate Solder is not as effective as Matt Light was last year at LT. Logan Mankins had some good plays, but overall he is not as good as he was before the ACL injury. Ryan Wendell is not as good as Dan Connolly was at center, and Connolly is not as good as Brian Waters was at RG last year. Sebastian Vollmer is noticeably down from where he was in 2009-10. Football is the ultimate team game, and when you have a drop in production at all five offensive line positions, that is going to affect production at running back and quarterback.

– As far as Josh McDaniels and the play calling goes, I’m going to reserve judgement until I watch the game for a second time. However, it does seem like the Pats offense is too predictable and too conservative. When it is obvious opponents are going to blitz the Pats often have trouble picking that up. Whether it is the scheme, the execution, the protection call – something needs to be fixed in this area.

– Can we put all the speculation and conspiracy theories about Wes Welker to rest now? And while we’re at it, can we end the talk about how whatever he does doesn’t count because he doesn’t catch balls outside the numbers?

– Nice to see Brandon Lloyd get in the groove. Nine receptions, 108 yards; Cary Williams was the Ravens leading tackler thanks to his not being able to keep up with Lloyd.

– The lack of a pass rush reared it’s ugly head once again. I don’t know if bringing another pass rusher once in a while (i.e., blitz) is the answer or not – but it sure does seem as if it wouldn’t hurt to give it a try once in a while.

– Towards the end of the game the Pats D seemed to be gassed, forcing the Pats to bring in backups to give players like Vince Wilfork a breather. Would it not make more sense to sprinkle in subs for a few plays during the course of the game, so your best players are out there for critical drives in the fourth quarter?

– Condolences to Torrey Smith, and congratulations on a big game under difficult circumstances – although you did get away with offensive pass interference on one of those touchdowns. His persevering and succeeding under difficult circumstances is what this game should be remembered for – but unfortunately that’s a forgotten sub headline.

 

 

Next up: the Buffalo Bills at The Ralph in Orchard Park. The Pats open up as 3½ point favorites and the over/under is 51. The Bills are now 2-1 but it looks like their running attack (178 yards per game, #3 in the NFL) has taken another hit: C. J. Spiller joins Fred Jackson on the sidelines, leaving Tashard Choice as their top running back. Early reports indicate Jackson may return this week, but I would be very surprised if he is 100% if he does get cleared to play. I would expect a high scoring game: the Bills have scored 28, 35 and 24 points in their first three games.

 

 

Darrelle Revis suffered an ACL injury Sunday and his season is over. I hate the Jets and it’s easy to dislike Revis for some of his comments about Bill Belichick and the Patriots, but I still feel bad him; I don’t want to wish injury on any player. As for the game itself – wow, that was horrible. Both quarterbacks completed less than 50% of their passes. Ryan Tannehill looked bad, missing his targets badly while Mark Sanchez was very indecisive.

 

 

Speaking of player injuries, did anybody notice that for the first time since 2006 the Pats played against Bernard Pollard and came away without a major injury?

 

 

Stats are for losers department: of the top seven performances in passing yardage in week three, five of those quarterbacks ended up losing. Perhaps this is a good example of why so many football purists detest fantasy football. Simple solution: change the scoring formula in standard FF settings to better reflect what quarterbacks had a good game or poor game rather than relying on passing yardage.

 

 

Welcome back to forgotten running backs: Jamaal Charles ran for a whopping 233 yards after running for just 90 in his first two games; think he’d like to play against the Saints defense every week? … Maurice Jones-Drew ran for 177 yards, which is 40 more than he ran for in the first two games combined … Darren McFadden ran for 113 yards against the Steelers after running for just 54 yards in his first two games … Mikel Leshoure ran for 100 yards in his first game back after a two-game suspension … on the flip side Chris Johnson ran for just 24 yards; he has a total of only 45 yards rushing (1.4 yards per carry) through three games.

 

 

 

 

September 24, 1967:
Traffic made their first live appearance at the Saville Theatre in London.

 

 

 

 

 

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