A Patriots loss to the Jets is never easy to stomach, but itís all the more indigestion-inducing when it happens in the form of a third-quarter collapse followed by a game-changing penalty in overtime thatís sparked by a rule that only the folks in the NFL offices can seem to remember.
It doesnít matter whether any of us believes the unsportsmanlike conduct call on rookie Chris Jones should have been made. As itís been explained extensively by now, it was the correct decision and itís pretty cut and dry.
Itís easy to say, ďNew England would have gotten the ball back, moved into field goal range, and won,Ē given their experience and the great field position that waited but, really, who knows? Maybe Tom Brady would fumble for a third time of the game, or throw his second interception. Or, imagine the Pats just didnít move the ball. Itís not as if the offense had an easy afternoon.
Admit it; your biggest frustrations are two-fold:
First, itís annoying as all get-out and maybe a bit of bad luck that the Pats were the first team victimized by the rule, when itís an error thatís probably been missed by other teams in other games across the league for weeks.
Second, the timing could not have possibly been worse. We arenít harping on the refs or a rookieís mistake had it occurred in the first half.
Neither complaint is the fault of the rule. Like it or not, remember that the guideline exists because the players wanted it for their safety. Contrary to popular belief, it wasnít created in that moment merely to stick it to Bill Belichick, Brady, and the three-time Super Bowl champs.
Some might also argue that certain rules are just ignored late in games. Pass interferences arenít called the same way from the first quarter to the fourth. NBA and NHL officials tend to stop play less frequently in the defining moments of their respective contests. Should the Push Rule be any different? How would you have felt if the Tuck Rule never came to life?
Maybe the blame here really falls on Belichick and his players for not remembering or even being aware of the rule in the first place. Itís all well and good that Jones admitted that the rule skipped his mind, but is that acceptable? We spectators can scratch our heads, but is it tolerable that players had no idea why their team was in the wrong? Shouldnít coaches be drilling new rules into their players constantly, rather than just reviewing them briefly during training camp and moving on? And, shouldnít pleading, ďOops,Ē be deemed inexcusable when it results directly in a loss? Knowing the rules is as important as knowing the playbook.
They know now. The whole league does. But the damage in New England is done.
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Adam Kaufman is a writer and broadcaster who can also be heard regularly on 98.5 The Sports Hub, WBZ NewsRadio 1030, the national CBS Sports Radio Network, and broadcasting Boston College hockey games. The Massachusetts native is a Syracuse grad and a pop culture fanatic who offers a unique and entertaining look at your favorite Boston sports teams. Please don't hold his love for Jean-Claude Van Damme movies against him.
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