Wednesday Morning QB (Divisional Weekend)

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The road to the Super Bowl continued with the divisional round as the top teams in each conference finally got involved in the action. The New England Patriots and Denver Broncos played host to the AFC Divisional games while the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks played host in the NFC. Overall there were little surprises on the day as most of the home teams took the win and proved why they earned home field advantage. The only team to bring a surprise to the weekend was the Indianapolis Colts. They were able to get the win in Denver as they shut down Peyton Manning in what looked like the poorest showing of his career. The games set up a great conference championship weekend as the top teams in the NFL face off with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. Despite the games ranging from great to boring it was not the players or the teams that took focus in what is becoming more common in these playoffs. It was the referees that took the focus this weekend much like it did for much of last weekend. In both playoff rounds there has been a major game-changing play that has been influenced by the referees. Depending on which team you cheer for it may not be a big deal or it could mean that there are significant problems in the NFL. During wild card weekend it was the Dallas Cowboys that got the advantage from a call against the Detroit Lions. During the game the Lions were beginning to march downfield and may have been able to score and push their lead further ahead. They got stuck on a fourth-and-1 until an incomplete pass to Brandon Pettigrew gave them some life. That pass was determined to be a pass interference penalty that gave them a first down and a new opportunity to score then it was all taken away. The referee picked up the flag and announced that there was no penalty on the play forcing the Lions to punt and giving the Cowboys a chance to go ahead. They did just that and took the immediate momentum from that none call and turned it into a touchdown that won them the game. The NFL admitted they got the call wrong but the damage was done and the Cowboys were moving on after a referee changed the game. To the delight of many Lions fans the Cowboys were on the other side of a controversial call on divisional weekend. Against the Packers, the Cowboys were leading almost the entire game until Aaron Rodgers led a fourth quarter drive to put the Packers ahead. Not giving up the Cowboys began their own drive to take back the lead and a fourth down pass to Dez Bryant seemed to put them in perfect position. It was a spectacular catch where Bryant high pointed the ball and fell at the 1-yard line. Then Packers’ head coach Mike McCarty challenged the play claiming that when Bryant fell the ball fell out which would fall under the always controversial Calvin Johnson rule. Under that rule a wide receiver must “complete the process of the catch” as they are falling the ground. Bryant’s catch fell under that rule as he did not land while in control and the ball came out constituting a non-catch. The referee reversed the ruling on the field and the catch was called back forcing a turnover in a play that changed the game. The call was the right one by the rule but for many the rule makes no sense and should be changed. After the Divisional round that rule might be changed but it was still controversial call and was the talk of the weekend. After eight great games and some fantastic plays the talk of the NFL is the referees. That may put a tarnish on these playoffs especially if another call makes a big influence on the championship games. Referees do their best work when they are invisible and make no impact on the game itself. That gets tougher in these games when the referees are changed from their regular groups and put together with other referees that have performed well in the season. The best referees in the game will be a part of the next three games and for the NFL they are hoping that means a lot less talk about the referees and a lot more talk about the games. There are only four more teams left and none of them want to be on the wrong side of a controversial call as all hope that they simply play their way to Arizona.

Fifth Quarter:
(Thoughts on Divisional Weekend)

Ryan staying in New York
Not too long after Rex Ryan was fired from the New York Jets he found a new job in the same state as he moves north to Buffalo where the Bills will welcome him and hope he can lead to the success he had at the start of his time in New York City

Fox out in Denver
It didn’t take long for the Denver Broncos to change course after a poor showing in their divisional round loss to Indianapolis as VP John Elway and head coach John Fox could not agree on the path of the team costing Fox his job as the two sides parted ways

LeBeau Done in Steeltown
In one of the more shocking coaching changes in the NFL, 10-year defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau decided to leave Pittsburgh as one of the league’s greatest defensive minds is now a free agent

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