Nine weeks down, seven to go. That is where we are at in the NFL season. There is still plenty of football to be played. This past week there was quite a bit to talk about. An NFL officiating crew once again botched a call on the field (go figure). Some teams made statements, both good and bad, in terms of how we evaluate them. There was also a player who had a career-game, to finally put a bad rookie campaign to rest, for good. Here are some of my observations from the week that was in the National Football League.
Officiating blunder is talk of Monday Night Football
The Seattle Seahawks defeated the Buffalo Bills on Monday Night Football on ESPN 31-25 in a spectacular football game. Unfortunately, the game won’t be remembered for the outcome. Instead, the talk of the game was the officiating blunder at the end of the first half. With Seattle ahead 28-17, Tyrod Taylor led the Bills into field goal range. Dan Carpenter came on to attempt a 54-yard field goal with three seconds left. Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman lined up on the left side, jumped offside and proceeded to attempt to block the kick. He plowed into Carpenter, but there was no penalty called on the play. There should have been an unnecessary roughness penalty called, but the officiating crew led by Walt Anderson botched the call. So the Bills moved up five-yards on the offside penalty. Carpenter nailed the 49-yarder, but that was waved off due to a delay of game that never should have been called. The refs did not reset the play clock as they should have, thus moving Buffalo back five-yards. Carpenter missed the ensuing kick. Longest three seconds, ever. Buffalo head coach Rex Ryan said of the call after the game “Ridiculous.” He’s right. The NFL wonders why viewership is down this year, well officiating is one of those reasons. Anderson and his crew should be fined and suspended.
Worst onside kick, ever
The Pittsburgh Steelers did themselves no favors by digging a 21-0 lead to their arch nemesis Baltimore Ravens. Ben Roethlisberger, who was 20-days removed from a surgery, got the call, and did what he could in the fourth to put his team in position to comeback. He threw for a touchdown and then rushed for one to bring the score to 21-14 with under a minute left. Pittsburgh was out of timeouts, so they had to attempt an onside kick. Kicker Chris Boswell attempted a rabona – which is a soccer-style kick where you kick behind your planted leg. Now, an onside kick has to go at least 10-yards before the kicking team can recover. However, Boswell’s kick went less than a yard before he booted it 30-yards downfield out of frustration, which is a penalty, that essentially ended the game. The Ravens were able to get the win and improve to 4-4, while the Steelers fell to 4-4. Pittsburgh is 5-12 on the road since 2014 facing sub-.500 teams, which is completely on head coach Mike Tomlin. Sure, the players have to perform, but the coach has to have them prepared to play. Tomlin is good, not great coach, and that stat against lesser teams proves that.
Melvin Gordon’s career day
Last season, Melvin Gordon was held out of the end zone for the duration of his rookie campaign. What a difference a year makes. On Sunday, Gordon rushed 32 times for a career-high 196 yards and a score. His touchdown was his 11th of the season, which leads the NFL. He also caught four passes for 65 yards. In the waning minutes, with San Diego attempting to run the clock out, Gordon busted open for a 47-yard run. San Diego won the game against the Tennessee Titans 43-35. Have yourself a day, Melvin Gordon.
Da Raiders are for real, ladies and gentlemen
If there was any doubt about the Oakland Raiders, that should now be put to rest. Oakland was able to come away with a 30-20 victory over the reigning, defending Super Bowl champion and AFC West rival Denver Broncos in primetime. Latavius Murray led the way with 114 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Oakland outrushed the Broncos 218-33. What is even more impressive about the win is the fact that midseason MVP candidate Derek Carr threw for just 184 yards and no touchdowns. There is still a lot of football to be played, but the Raiders are the real deal.
Here come the Lions?
Remember when the Minnesota Vikings were 5-0? Yeah, me either. Minnesota dropped a third-consecutive game 22-16 on Sunday to the Detroit Lions. After Minnesota took a 16-13 lead with 23 seconds left on a one-yard touchdown run by Rhett Ellison (who?), Matthew Stafford channeled his inner Barney Stinson and said “Challenge accepted.” Stafford led the Lions downfield with a 27-yard pass to Seth Roberts to set up Matt Prater’s game-tying, 58-yard field goal to send the game into overtime. Stafford and company won the coin toss and never looked back. Detroit marched down the field and ended the game on the opening possession of overtime when Stafford found Golden Tate for the game-winning, 28-yard touchdown. Tate deserves a lot of credit on that play, as he tiptoed the sidelines, stiff armed a defender to the ground and then flipped into the end zone to end the game. Don’t look now, but the Lions, winners of four of their last five games, are sitting in second place in the NFC North, trailing the Vikings by a half-game. If Matthew Stafford can continue his MVP-like play, this team can come away with a division title.