B/R's NFL FC Showdown for Week 1: Lions and Bengals and Birds, Oh My!
Hello everyone, and welcome to the inaugural edition of B/R's NFL FC Showdown, a new quasi-column here in the Bleachers.
I’m NFC Team Leader and Philadelphia Eagles Featured Columnist (FC) Lou DiPietro, and every Monday or Tuesday during the NFL regular season, I’ll discuss three hot-button topics from the NFL week that just was…but I’m not coming alone.
Each week, a different NFL FC will join me to play the Wilbon to my Kornheiser, if you will, and we’ll debate. I’ll always win, just like Tony K, but hey, it’s my column!
For the inaugural edition, I’m joined by fellow Eagles columnist Will Holt. In the slides that follow, we’ll talk about Calvin Johnson’s lack of a winning touchdown catch, the not-so-controversial quarterback controversy in Philly, and just how long the T.O.-chocinco Show will last in Cincy.
On with the show!
Calvin Johnson's Lost TD: Catch or No Catch?
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Perhaps the most controversial play of the week came near the end of the Chicago Bears win over the Detroit Lions. That's not a photo of the play itself, but the result is the same, so let's get to it.
With less than a minute left, Lions QB Shaun Hill appeared to throw a touchdown pass to Calvin Johnson.
However, the pass was ruled incomplete, because Johnson “dropped” the ball as he hit the ground and the officials invoked the following much-criticized NFL rule (as quoted by profootballtalk.nbcsports.com):
"If a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass (with or without contact by an opponent), he must maintain control of the ball after he touches the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone. If he loses control of the ball, and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, the pass is incomplete. If he regains control prior to the ball touching the ground, the pass is complete."
You’ve likely seen the video a million times…so what’s the verdict?
Will Holt Says...
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
That was a touchdown to me.
The rule has to be changed for one simple reason: Half the rules in the NFL are made so that the officials are basically able to make a judgment call.
If the officials wanted to follow the letter of the rule all the time, then holding penalties would occur on every other play.
The NFL has intelligent men on the field to make calls and to use their judgment, so if you’re going to allow it even one percent of the time, allow them to do that with all of the calls.
If the NFL wants to have rules that are going to be followed literally, then you have to change the rules enough so that idiotic things like this won’t happen again.
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Agreed 100 percent, Will.
The officials get 1000 points for actually knowing the rulebook and minus a billion for showing that at the most ridiculously inopportune time.
Everyone has seen the video; Johnson made the catch, had two feet, a knee, and an elbow down with possession, and should’ve scored the winning touchdown.
If he was juggling the ball, I could see it. But to call that in the end zone, an area where simply breaking the plane with possession of the football ends the play, is ridiculous at best and laughable at worst.
Even Mike Pereira, who was the Don of officials forever, has said the rule is sketchy. If that’s not a glowing endorsement for both the stupidity of the rule and its semi-selective enforcement, I don’t know what is.
This is going to be Tuck Rule 2K10, so maybe now it can be fixed, or at least amended to eliminate this end-zone idiocy.
And you definitely can’t mitigate this because it’s a call blown in Week 1: After all, if the Denver Broncos could’ve won any of their last three games in 2008, Ed Hochuli would be a saint in the Mile High City.
Vick Vs. Kolb: QB Controversy or Nonsense?
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Is there a quarterback controversy in Philadelphia?
Kevin Kolb struggled (again) in the first half of Sunday’s game against Green Bay before being lost to a concussion.
That’s demoralizing enough, but it’s exacerbated by the fact that backup Michael Vick nearly capped off his amazing relief performance with a game-winning comeback.
Andy Reid says Kolb is the guy. Of course, Kolb may not be cleared to play this Sunday, so the point could be moot until he’s healthy.
But still, the fans say, “We Want Vick!” and the media plays whichever side of the fence is listening that day.
So which side are Will and I on?
Will Holt Says...
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
As far as I’m concerned, there is no controversy at all.
Andy Reid stated that Kolb would be the starting quarterback against the Detroit Lions if he was cleared to play.
Yes, that looks unlikely now that he’s failed the second phase of his concussion test and won’t practice until at least Friday, but the notion is still there.
This controversy only exists in the minds of the fans and the media. I can understand why each debates this topic back and forth, but at the end of the day, the coach makes the call and he has made his decision.
To go a step further with this topic, why would Reid start Vick? The Eagles invested too much time and money in Kolb to jump ship after one half of football against the second-ranked defense from last season.
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
I commend Andy Reid for sticking to his guns. Really, I do.
But the problem here is that because Donovan McNabb, the most successful QB in franchise history, was banished via trade and not free agency/injury/retirement, then any failure by Kolb falls squarely on Reid.
Yes, the Packers have a great defense.
Yes, it was only Week 1.
Yes, Kolb can only get better.
And yes, the team will likely take a step backward with him at the helm as they adjust to a “new” regime.
But the biggest negative from Kolb’s performances in the preseason was his poor decision making—and Kolb had that in spades even before the concussion.
He forced way too many throws and could’ve been picked off about six times. I’d like to call it nerves, but the guy made two starts last season and has been in the league for four years; he should be a little more acclimated.
Compound that with the fact that Vick was maybe one play away from engineering an insane fourth-quarter comeback against that same second-ranked defense, and naturally, the fan base is going to jump on the bandwagon.
I can’t blame them. As a fan, I want to see the quarterback that gives my team the best chance to win. Right now, that’s Vick, and if he has a stellar game in Detroit, the calls will only get louder.
I can live with the Eagles “reloading,” much as the Pack did in choosing Aaron Rodgers over Brett Favre, but “rebuilding” is unnecessary—and exactly what’s in store if Kolb fails.
The T.O. and Ochocinco Show: Who Snaps First?
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
For all the bluster that Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco have provided since the Bengals signed T.O., things sure don’t look rosy in the River City.
Based on hard numbers, it’s clear that Ochocinco is still “1A” in Carson Palmer’s mind, as the former Johnson had 12 catches for 159 yards and a touchdown—more than a third of Palmer’s totals in the first two categories (34 completions, 345 yards).
Owens did okay (seven catches for 53 yards), but slot receiver Jordan Shipley had a better game with 82 yards on only five grabs.
Since the day the 49ers let Jerry Rice go, Owens has been the top guy everywhere he’s gone. Now in Cincy, it appears he’s a clear No. 2 at best and part of a rotation beyond Ochocinco at worst.
Owens is nearing the end of his career, and he’s a notorious malcontent; Ochocinco, meanwhile, is in a familiar scenario, having shared the spotlight somewhat with T.J. Houshmandzadeh for several seasons.
While neither has pulled a Randy Moss and cried in public yet, which one will snap first?
Will Holt Says...
That depends on how good (or bad) the Bengals are.
Stats don't mean a damn thing between these two players, and numbers will never rip Ochocinco and T.O. apart. Losing games is the only thing that will cause these two players to combust.
T.O. may come out and say, "I need to get more touches," but he will only say that if the team is not winning games and he feels it will help Bengals improve.
The same is true about Ochocinco. If T.O. has a field day next week against Baltimore and Ochocinco is nonexistent, there won’t be a peep out of the Bengals locker room as long as Cincy wins the game.
Keep an eye on this relationship, though, if Cincinnati drops a couple games in a row. The good news for Bengals fans is that I don't think that will happen this season.
No, it’s going to happen, and it’ll be Owens who blinks first.
Both of these guys can handle losing. They’re the living incarnation of what Woody Harrelson said to Wesley Snipes in White Men Can’t Jump: they’d rather lose pretty than win ugly.
Why else would Ochocinco stay in Cincy his whole career? Or Owens voluntarily sign with Buffalo?
Both of these guys are stat monkeys, but the alpha male is definitely T.O. This is a guy who, on multiple occasions, let his ego override the advice of doctors and played in games he had no business being in, a guy who bitched and moaned because he wasn’t getting the ball while part of a Philly team that had just gone to the Super Bowl the year before!
Ochocinco may be eccentric, but not only has he always gotten his numbers, he’s done it while “sharing” the spotlight with another good-to-great receiver (T.J. Houshmandzadeh). Owens has never had to do that, and as soon as he did in Dallas, he hated it.
Owens is a notorious malcontent coming off his worst full season in a decade. He’s 36, going on 37, and has slowed down a step—in everyone’s mind but his own. His ego isn’t ready to accept that he’s not an elite receiver anymore; he’s still very good, mind you, but not the Owens of even a few years ago.
Instead of accepting it, he’ll cry the minute he feels slighted.
Another couple weeks of Ochocinco being Ochocinco (and Owens being an afterthought in the offense), and you’ll hear “Ocho-Uno” cry like the bitch he is.
And besides, if that first half performance in New England is any indication, then I’d say that the Bengals’ chances of their fourth winning season since 1990 are pretty slim.
So Who's the Winner?
Jasper Juinen/Getty Images
That man right there knows a thing or two about winning.
Now, let's see if you, the reader, are like Rafael Nadal!
In my mind, I'll always win the debate because it's my show. But it's not my call, it's yours.
Who had the best arguments this week? Was it me, or did Will steal my thunder?
Leave your vote in the comments section, and I will tally them up until Sunday morning. I'll keep a running tally of wins and losses throughout the season, and we'll see who's standing come January!