College Football

Monday, December 18, 2017

Sour Grapes N'at.

Catch or Nah? (Photo creds to NY Daily News)

The refs aren't to blame for the Patriots yet again getting the best of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Fans have made Many interpretations about Jesse James' catch that never was. For the most part, people are livid about the call. There are those who will blame the officiating crew for butchering the ruling, and some who defend the refs are still critical of the rule itself. But let's assume, for fairness sake, that it was the worst decision in the history of North American sports. It still wouldn't give Pittsburgh a free pass for how it blew what should have been a landmark win.

For 58 minutes, the Steelers outplayed New England. They led 24-19 with 2:23 left, and the offense faced a third-and-four. A first down would have almost surely put the game on ice. But it didn't happen. JuJu Smith Schuster fell one yard short of the sticks, and Pittsburgh was forced to give New England the ball with two timeouts and the two-minute warning to work with

On the first play of the next possession, Sean Davis had sealed the game. The Steelers safety was  in prime position to pick off Tom Brady and put a fork in the Pats. But it didn't happen. Davis dropped the ball, both figuratively and literally. The damn thing him right in the hands and New England drove 77 yards over the next 1:10 to take a two-point lead.

What happened over the last minute is what will dominate all local and national sports radio and TV talk shows over the next few days. I'm not going to analyze what is and isn't a catch in the NFL because frankly, I don't know anymore. What I am sure of is that, regardless of whether the officials got it right or wrong, the Steelers have nobody to blame but themselves for blowing a shot at the AFC's number one seed.

I know how sports fans think. We find it a lot more fun to cry conspiracy and blame outside forces when things don't go our way, then to break down other key elements of why it all went wrong. While it would be more than logical to talk about Davis' blown INT, the fake spike turned INT to end the game, or even Antiono Brown's dropped touchdown pass that unfortunately led to a calf injury, people will talk for days, possibly weeks, about the NFL rulebook.

The Steelers are my team. I want them to win every game they play and am frustrated when that doesn't happen. But what also irritates me is how hard it is for fans to say, "yeah, the boys got beat." There always has to be something that gives the bad guys an unfair advantage.

Whenever the Patriots beat the Steelers, there's always more to it than New England having a better day. After the 2001 and 2004 AFC Title games, New England won because they cheated. In last year's conference championship game, Le'veon Bell's injury was the reason Pittsburgh couldn't get anything done. Sunday, it was because of the rotten refs. The officiating didn't help Pittsburgh's cause. But neither did Pittsburgh's mistakes both before and after James' "drop". But believe it or not, every team benefits from a controversial decision at some point.

The Steelers are fine examples of this. Mike Refroe was totally in bounds in the 1979 AFC title game, and Super Bowl 40... well, there was a lot wrong with that. Fans can either look at the big picture and recognize that a 60-minute football game is never decided by one play, or they could talk about how Roger Goodell is behind all of the Steelers problems. I know which road I'm taking. 

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