Week 12’s biggest calls
It’s a holiday week, so I can get away with this …
There were a lot of nice things that took place during the Week 12 weekend games, but also several naughty ones, including the end of my on-air streak of 38 straight times correctly predicting how reviews would turn out during FOX’s telecasts.
Let me begin with the streak buster …
1. Carolina at Cleveland
THE SITUATION: Carolina had the ball at 13:13 of the third quarter, third-and-6 at the Cleveland 28-yard line. The Panthers trailed 21-13.
THE PLAY: Carolina quarterback Jimmy Clausen attempted a pass at the sideline to Brandon LaFell that was originally called incomplete, with a penalty called on LaFell for illegal touch.
Carolina challenged the illegal touch ruling. The foul for illegal touching was reversed, but the pass remained incomplete as the referee ruled that LaFell did not maintain possession when he hit the ground. Carolina’s John Kasay missed a 46-yard field-goal try on the next play.
MY TAKE: My streak of correctly calling 38 straight on-air reviews ended. I thought, and still do think, that the pass should have been ruled complete.
Three things needed to be reviewed on this play. It was not illegal touching, as LaFell had not gone out of bounds. Referee Jeff Triplett then had to see if LaFell got both feet down in bounds. He did. And the final part of the review process dealt with control when LaFell hit the ground.
I felt he did have control. It is true that the ball moved, but did not move to the degree where possession was lost. In my mind, this should have been a catch.
One thing this proves is that replay involves human judgment and there will occasionally be disagreements. Carolina, by the way, ended up losing the game, 24-23.
2. Tennessee at Houston
THE SITUATION: Houston had the ball with 7:53 remaining in the game, third-and-8 at the Tennessee 41. Houston led 17-0.
THE PLAY: Houston’s Derrick Ward went around right end for 7 yards on a running play, but wide receiver Andre Johnson and Tennessee’s Cortland Finnegan started a fight away from the ball. Punches were thrown by both players, and both were called for unnecessary roughness and both also were ejected.
MY TAKE: I wouldn’t want to be Ray Anderson or Merton Hanks. Anderson is the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, and Hanks is the assistant director of operations, the person who issues most of the fines.
The league does not like to see fights on the field. The one-on-one fight between Johnson and Finnegan will be dealt with severely. For these two players, the amount of the fines may be the least of their worries.
There will be discussions about suspensions as well.
Finnegan is a repeat offender, and Johnson clearly delivered blows that connected. It’s not even a question of who started this, even though the two players almost came to blows on the previous play. The actions of both players were unacceptable.
I predict big fines, but no suspensions.
3. Pittsburgh at Buffalo
THE SITUATION: Buffalo had the ball with 4:46 left in the third quarter, second-and-10 at the Buffalo 20-yard line. The Bills trailed 13-0.
THE PLAY: Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick attempted a pass to David Nelson that was incomplete, but Fitzpatrick was hit by Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison, who was penalized for roughing the passer.
It appeared that Harrison came up underneath Fitzpatrick’s chin and led with his helmet, but the league will definitely look to see if there was clear helmet-to-helmet contact.
MY TAKE: Harrison is walking a fine line. If the NFL deems that he did make helmet-to-helmet contact, it would seem that it would have no choice but to suspend him. He’s already been fined $100,000 this season, and, in my opinion, the league can’t back off.
It’s time to send the ultimate signal to every player and suspend Harrison for his fourth illegal hit this season.
4. Green Bay at Atlanta
THE SITUATION: Atlanta had the ball with 2:20 left in the second quarter, second-and-6 at the Green Bay 26. The score was tied at 3.
THE PLAY: Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan hit Tony Gonzalez on a 21-yard pass over the middle on a questionable catch that gave the Falcons a first down at the Packers’ 5-yard line.
MY TAKE: This play was not challenged by Green Bay, but should have been. The ball clearly hit the ground and would have been overturned had coach Mike McCarthy thrown the challenge flag.
You could see McCarthy looking at the video screen in hopes of seeing a clear replay that would help him decide whether to challenge the play.
But that wasn’t going to happen — ever — when you are the visiting team.
The home team controls what is shown on the big screen, and this is considered acceptable home-field advantage. The Packers would do the same thing to the Falcons had the game been in Green Bay.
5. Carolina at Cleveland
THE SITUATION: Carolina had the ball with 10 seconds left in the game, second-and-10 from the Carolina 48-yard line. The Panthers trailed 24-23.
THE PLAY: Carolina quarterback Jimmy Clausen threw a 28-yard pass to Brandon LaFell that put the ball at the Cleveland 24. The replay assistant challenged the pass completion ruling, and the play was upheld.
MY TAKE: The most interesting part of this review was that the clock is not reviewable. The officials on the field ruled that LaFell was not touched before rolling out of bounds. The on-field ruling of the catch stood, which essentially ended the review.
The replay showed that you could make a case that LaFell was touched by a Cleveland defender before going out of bounds. In that case, the clock would have remained running and time would have expired. Instead, the Panthers attempted a 42-yard field goal by John Kasay that would have won the game. But the attempt went off the uprights.