Maybe we should cry foul over NFL's plethora of rules

Posted: December 04, 2013

MY FAVORITE officiating moment Sunday came when ref Tony Corrente announced a pending review of a play that couldn't possibly have needed reviewing, then conferred with the booth and told us of "a miscalculation of the replay review system."

I think that's a deeper statement than Corrente intended.

Both the Arizona Cardinals and the Eagles exited Lincoln Financial Field shaking their heads over calls, non-calls, and the results of tortuous replay reviews. The Cards were a lot angrier, because they lost. Yesterday, Cards coach Bruce Arians told reporters he was sending tape of about 15 calls to the NFL, including the Matt Shaughnessy hold of Eagles tight end James Casey that prevented a last-gasp Cards possession.

Lotsa luck with that, Bruce, especially since by now nearly everybody has seen the freeze-frame of Shaughnessy with his left arm extended, yanking Casey's jersey.

Whatever Arians thinks that image shows other than defensive holding, he has company in the Fox announcing team of Kenny Albert and Darryl Johnston. I didn't hear the audio until I rewatched the game Sunday night at home, so I was unaware that Albert and Johnston had thrown a snit-fit over the call, Moose yelling "that's blocking, right there!" and Kenny opining that "it looked like Shaughnessy and James Casey had hold of each other." Uh, no.

Initially, I thought, from the way Shaughnessy's hand stayed on Casey, that he somehow got it caught in Casey's jersey or pads, which would still be holding, but unintentional. After watching the replay, I think Shaughnessy just didn't want to let go.

Maybe you (or Kenny or Moose or Bruce) still disagree with how I see it, but here's something I think we can agree on: The real problem here isn't with Tony Corrente or any other NFL zebra. The bigger problem is, either out of concern over concussions, or just wanting to codify every little nuance of the sport, the NFL has passed so many rules, the game has become impossible to officiate consistently.

This is where the Cardinals have an issue, where everybody has an issue. Did Bradley Fletcher interfere with Michael Floyd on fourth-and-5? If Roc Carmichael really interfered with Rob Housler a few minutes earlier, then, yeah. Very similar plays. Another similar play came with about 12 minutes left, when the Cards' Jerraud Powers yanked down Riley Cooper's right hand to keep Cooper from catching a first-down pass. There was no call on that one, just as there was no call on Fletcher/Floyd.

Could you say Tyrann Mathieu's ticky-tacky, inconsequential hold of Jason Avant, while Foles was trying to throw to DeSean Jackson, shouldn't have negated Patrick Peterson's interception? Sure. But make certain you give back to the Eagles Jackson's 54-yard punt-return touchdown, taken away because Kurt Coleman slung down Justin Bethel nearly 15 yards behind the play.

I think the officials are overwhelmed, with new, ever more difficult "emphases" every year. I also think replay is being stretched beyond what was originally intended, into "CSI: NFL"-level esoterica. The result is, nobody's happy, and everybody leaves thinking they were wronged, one way or another.

* DeSean Jackson has an outside shot at matching Mike Quick’s Eagles record of 1,409 receiving yards in a season, set in 1983. Jackson has 1,021 in 12 games, needs 388 over final four, 97 yards per game. He’s averaging 85 yards a game, is on pace for 1,361, which would be second all-time.

* Same thing with LeSean McCoy and Wilbert Montgomery’s franchise record of 1,512 rushing yards in a season, set in 1979. Shady has 1,088 in 12 games, needs 424 in final four games, 106 per game. He is averaging 90.67 yards, is on pace for 1,450, which would be second-best on Eagles’ list.

* The fourth quarter is the only period the Eagles aren’t winning. They're being outscored, 92-58, in the final 15.

* Roc Carmichael was on the field for two defensive snaps, was called for pass interference setting up a touchdown on one of them.

* Chip Kelly is adamant about not using a fullback, but when James Casey lines up in the backfield and blocks a rusher, as he did on Brent Celek's TD, he sure looks a lot like a fullback.

* Thirty-five-year-old John Abraham fooled Lane Johnson on the sack that forced a field goal in the second quarter. Johnson was not quite 10 years old when the Jets drafted Abraham in the first round in 2000.

* The Cards’ first two touchdowns came on third-and-20 and third-and-9. For all the progress coordinator Bill Davis has made, third-and-long is a lingering problem for the Eagles’ defense.

That Trent Cole was only waiting for the leaves to fall to start sacking quarterbacks again?

We never would have thought this possible after the Denver game on Sept. 29, but 15 teams now are giving up more points per game than the Eagles, who have their average down to 23.4. It was 34.5 through four games.

Granted, the messed-up Brad Smith-at-QB play didn’t affect Sunday’s outcome. And heaven knows, after 14 years of Andy Reid, we’re used to trick plays that backfire. But yesterday, in his second day in a row of defending a fumbled trick-play snap that blunted a drive after a great Riley Cooper catch and run gave the Eagles first-and-goal from the 6, Chip Kelly still didn’t seem to understand why he didn’t need to do that.

Chip gave us the old, “if we score on that, everybody says ‘what a great play.’ If you don’t score, it’s ‘what a stupid play.’ So, ‘what a stupid play.’ ”

Here’s the thing, though: Nick Foles, since taking back the QB job in the Oakland game was 10-for-17 in the red zone, as the Eagles were lining up at the 6. Do the Red Sox pinch-hit for David Ortiz to try to confuse the opposing pitcher?

Brad Smith, signed off the waiver wire last month, is good with the ball in his hands, as Chip said on Sunday? Ya know who else is good with the ball in his hands? Nick Foles. This offense does not need to trick its way into the end zone.

On Twitter: @Les Bowen

Blog: ph.ly/Eagletarian

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