How does a team lose when its better designed and wins the turnover battle?
Usually, the answer is special teams and adverse officiating. Such was the fate
of Cleveland and Minnesota. The Browns dominated the Patriots and were +2 in
turnovers, but a penalty on New England's set up a successful onside kick,
which was followed by an arguable PI, that led to the winning touchdown. In
Baltimore, Jacoby Jones kick return for a TD temporarily rescued the Ravens
and, after Minnesota scored again, a penalty that negated what would have been
a game-securing interception.
Seattle defensive back Richard Sherman was not happy with the officiating in
San Francisco where the Seahawks lost to the 49ers 19-17 on a field goal in the
half minute. Afterward, Sherman said he expected to blow out San Francisco but
that the officiating, especially on third down, kept that from happening. While
one cannot point to any particular call that doomed the Seahawks, Seattle was
better designed, solid in the kicking game, and even in the turnover battle.
That's a winning formula way more than 50 percent of the time. There is still
no reason that any NFC team will get out of Seattle with a playoff win unless
the Seahawks provide some assistance.
Pittsburgh finished the game much better designed than Miami and got an
interception return for a touchdown but still fell to the Dolphins 34-28. The
result would have been different if wide receiver Antonio Brown's shoe size was
just a little smaller. Brown got half his pinky toe on the chalk before dashing
down the sideline for what would have been a winning touchdown. The officials
got that call right and what the Steelers really should be trying to figure out
is how a team with a patchwork offensive line ran for 186 yards.
Two years ago, with Rex Grossman at quarterback, Mike Shannahan's Redskins were
4-9 and outdesigned by their opponents by about 1.8 percent. Now his team is
3-10 and outdesigned by an NFL worst 5.85 percent after absorbing a 45-10
beating at the hands of Kansas City. "NFL" really does stand for
"Not For Long." (Archives