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The penalty

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I want to discuss the penalty for the late hit on Patrick Mahomes at the end of yesterday’s AFC championship game, which I watched late last night on DVR (Remember when people said TIVO? How long ago was that? I think Depeche Mode was still on the charts). I haven’t read the contemporaneous LGM thread because I wanted to preserve my beautiful mind, so there’s no doubt some repetition here.

(1) If that play is in the first quarter, or during a regular season game, or any other time, the penalty is called 100% of the time. Hit a quarterback who already has both feet out of bounds these days, even if, as in this case, it’s kind of a semi-inadvertent oops I tried to pull back at the last instant and definitely didn’t really hit him more like pushed him type of contact, and the flag is going to get thrown.

(2) However. I usually hate the “let the players decide the game” nonsense argument that the refs ought to swallow the whistle and not call penalties they would normally call if it’s the end of a close game. (The most amusing example of this was the NHL of my youth — Hockey Night in Canada on Channel 9 from Windsor, which could be viewed on broadcast TV from Ann Arbor in the pre-cable 1970s — where you could commit everything short of a triple homicide in the last minute of a close game and no penalty would be called). It’s a dumb argument for reasons that are too obvious to elaborate. Oh OK this being the age of Trump: It’s a dumb argument because not calling a penalty you would normally call is just as decisive as calling it, as the end of this game illustrates perfectly.

That being said, I hated to see the game end like that, even though I had a mild rooting preference for KC, mainly because I love me some Patrick Mahomes, who I assume has an ankle the size of grapefruit this morning. (I assume he’s going to be even worse off in the Super Bowl than he was yesterday? I realize he has an extra week off, but a high ankle sprain is the kind of thing that would normally keep a player off the field for a month, and playing on it yesterday must have exacerbated an already bad injury. Chad Henne had better be ready to go, because I think the odds that he sees the field before halftime are pretty high. There are no doubt actually odds on this, as one of my brothers often texts me amazing prop bet opportunities in the middle of games. You can bet on whether a team is going to make a first down on this possession etc. We’re rapidly becoming a nation of degenerate gamblers).

Still, as essentially a neutral — a fan descriptor from soccer that has no equivalent in American — I felt like the penalty pretty much ruined the end of the game, aesthetically speaking, even though as stated above that penalty is called every time in the contemporary NFL if the player hit is the QB. (I guesstimate that it would be called 50% of the time or less if you had the exact same sequence except the ballcarrier was a running back. Then the inadvertent aspect gets taken into account. But if it’s the QB it’s an automatic call).

(3) Suggestion: For this situation they ought to make the same distinction they do between running into the punter and roughing him. In other words, 15 yards if you truck the guy but five yards if it’s this sort of inadvertent last instant pull up/push type thing.

(4) I feel really bad for the Cincinnati player, Joseph Ossai. Mahomes was obviously going all out to squeeze out the crucial last yards that would make a game winning FG attempt possible — and it must be almost impossible to completely pull up at the last split second when you’re trying to stop him from getting the corner. That makes it kind of an unfair/overly harsh rule the way it’s called these days, which is why the 5/15 yards distinction might be a good idea. OTOH I can understand why they have to do everything possible to protect QBs now, because otherwise you get what we got in the other game, where San Francisco was down to their 7th string QB and the game was de facto a non-contest as a result.

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